Two things stood out to me about Mikey Eyssimont last night.
The first thing is key to the recent waiver claim sticking on the San Jose Sharks’ top line with Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier. “Iceman” made his claim at the top spot with two primary assists in a 4-3 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils.
Apparently Eyssimont’s nickname is Iceman
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 17, 2023
No one is harboring any illusions that the Los Angeles Kings’ 2016 fifth-round pick, who made his NHL debut last season at 25 for the Winnipeg Jets, is going to become a point-per-game player, even next to Hertl and Meier. But if he can distribute the puck effectively to his star linemates and occasionally make a high-end play of his own, keep the chains moving, so to speak, and not hold back his linemates, that would be the beginning of an argument to keep him on the top line.
That’s what he did most of last night.
“He’s done a good job. Ever since he got here, he plays with pace. You can tell that he’s got some hockey sense in him,” Erik Karlsson said. “That’s why he’s playing where he’s at in our line-up, and hopefully, he can continue to do that and keep building on what he’s been doing well.”
The second thing that stood out to me about Eyssimont is key to him staying in the San Jose Sharks’ line-up.
He’s dogged on the puck, disruptive on the forecheck.
“He’s brought a ton of energy. He throws his body around,” Nick Bonino said. “Great pick-up.”
We saw both of these elements — effective puck distribution and dogged puck pursuit — shift after shift last night.
Off the draw, Eyssimont (21) beats Nolan Foote to the puck and hands it off to Karlsson (65) (0:02). On the rebound (0:07), Foote has a chance to make a play, but Eyssimont crashes into him, and Hertl (48) jumps in. Eyssimont comes out with the puck (0:10) and gives it to Meier (28) at the point. Karlsson hands it back to Eyssimont (0:17).
This is subtle but important: Brendan Smith (2) and Erik Haula (56) collapse on Eyssimont, two Devils on one Shark, but Eyssimont is able to find the open man Meier. The Devils are running around, and Meier is able to identify another open man in Karlsson. If not for a puck bobble, Karlsson has a fantastic chance.
Preceding the Meier goal, Eyssimont is on top of Ryan Graves (33). Graves hands his problem off to Damon Severson (28) (0:02).
Stop here: The puck is behind one side of the net, Severson on the other side of the net, and Eyssimont is coming from the corner. Look at the distance that Eyssimont makes up to pickpocket Severson.
Hertl does a good job of battling through four Devils (0:05) to get the puck to Meier at top of the key. The Swiss winger fires and Vitek Vanecek (0:15) kicks it to the corner. In a foot race to the puck, Eyssimont starts from behind Graves and beats the New Jersey blueliner.
It’s awkward, but Eyssimont is able to get the puck to Karlsson at the point, who returns it to his winger (0:17).
Here’s a high-end play: Eyssimont finds Meier sneaking behind Vanecek, easy goal.
Eyssimont is all over Nico Hischier (13) on this shift.
On the wall, Eyssimont helps Hertl on Hischier (0:01). Hischier manages to get it to point man Dougie Hamilton (7), who kicks it forward.
Here’s another skill play by Eyssimont: He gets the puck through Hamilton to Meier racing ahead (0:07). Meier does the rest.
And here’s another example of Eyssimont’s puck pursuit: The winger tracks down Hischier (0:14) from behind and forces the Devils centerman into a turnover.
Now in OT, Eyssimont is all over Tomas Tatar (90).
Off the draw, Eyssimont almost causes an OZ turnover (0:02).
On the other side, Eyssimont bothers the Tatar to Hamilton hand-off (0:11). It’s 2-on-1 counterattack with Nico Sturm (7).
Then Eyssimont takes an extra whack at Vanecek and Tatar throws the pest down (0:21).
“I’m gonna finish hard at the net every time, whether it’s overtime, first period, whenever. If you try to come at me, I’m gonna give him one, and let him take a retaliation penalty,” Eyssimont said. “We ended up both going, but I thought maybe I could have got away with it. Maybe head back to our bench with a power play.”
From waiver claim to first line, you can make all the jokes about that, and what that says about the San Jose Sharks’ depth. But if Eyssimont can keep doing this, he’s going to find a permanent place in an NHL line-up.
“A little bit of everything. He plays with pace. He’s got some skill. Plays with an edge. Makes a helluva play in overtime. They just weren’t able to capitalize on it,” head coach David Quinn said. “But I really liked what I’ve seen so far.”
“So far” is the key phrase. That’s always the question – any player at this high a level is capable of a great game here and there. Players are often waived because they can’t keep it up.
So who is Mikey Eyssimont? We’re about to find out.
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