Jack Eichel turning heads with Team USA

Jack Eichel has made a strong impression at the world junior championship. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

Jack Eichel was in eighth grade when the Boston Bruins played the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. He had to watch the first two Bruins losses from a hotel room in Quebec because of a school trip.

He was back home in Massachusetts in time to watch the series turn in Boston and become one of the best Stanley Cup finals in recent years, culminating in a Game 7 win for the Bruins that he watched with his dad.

It created the kind of moment that cements a Massachusetts native as a lifelong hockey fan.

“He’s probably the closest person in my life. We always watch hockey together,” Eichel said of his dad during a phone call earlier this week from Sweden. “I’d never seen [a Boston Stanley Cup] in my lifetime. He was young when they won it with Bobby Orr.”

It was also around this time that Eichel realized he was pretty good at the sport. Like, make-a-living-at-it good. Those watching him now, suggest his impact on the sport in the United States could be much more than just earning a paycheck.

When Eichel was younger, he was encouraged by his father to play lots of sports and not specialize too much in just one, advice Orr himself would appreciate. Eichel played a lot of baseball, dabbled in lacrosse.

A few years ago, the 17-year-old started homing in on the sport that has taken him to Sweden, where Team USA is attempting to repeat as the world junior champs.

“I realized I could do something with this game,” he said. “I decided I was going to play juniors with the junior Bruins, was the youngest guy in the league. At the end of it, started to get attention.”

That attention is starting to build at a faster pace, and for good reason.