Thursday, May 20, 2010
Comparisons and Projection: Jordan Eberle
Although small, and not necessarily fast, Eberle is able to be effective using elusive skating, smart puck management, and great hockey sense. Although originally drafted for his goal-scoring ability in the WHL with the Regina Pats, Eberle has emerged as one of the smarter players in junior hockey. His uncanny ability to read plays, find openings, and protect the puck have helped him turn into a stud of a prospect. Although not a world-class shot, his wrist shot is quick and accurate, and more than effective given the tricky stickhandling and skating he employs while moving in for a shot.
His ability to play along the boards may surprise some who see him as an equal to Gagner in stature. Eberle is able to use quick, elusive moves (spins, fakes) to prevent himself from being absolutely clobbered in the corners, and hold onto the puck against much larger defensemen. Once in open space with the puck, Eberle usually slows the game down in order to integrate what is around him, again his hockey sense clicking in before he decides to make a play (rather than relying on instinct like a Cogliano would). But most of Eberle's goals are scored in front of the net, odd for someone who isn't a horse like Holmstrom and Byfuglien. Using smart positioning and a quick stick, Eberle is able to clean up around the net as good as any junior player in recent history. Another favorite move for him is to work off the left side-boards on the power play - where he was featured as a playmaker for the Pats this past season.
With 50-56-106 in just 57 games this past season, Eberle really had a breakthrough season - one that will likely garner him the nod for CHL Player of the Year, in addition to the WHL Player of the Year award he was already given. His dominance at the World Junior tournament earlier this year saw him score 13 points in 8 games, which earned him MVP honors for the tournament. He cemented his status as one of the most clutch players of all time when he heroically willed Canada into overtime against the US in the final. Eberle also had a stint with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL this past season, where he put up 14 points in 11 games, excellent numbers for someone his age. All signs point to Eberle cracking the lineup this fall - but what kind of player will he be in the NHL?
It's important to temper expectations for Eberle, and not use his outstanding junior numbers as an indicator of future NHL performance. It's well documented that the CHL and World Juniors are conducive to smaller players putting up numbers they would not never have in the NHL - and Eberle's stats may be slightly inflated due to that fact. Regardless, if his WHC debut performance against Norway is any indication, he is more than capable of holding his own against fully grown men on the world stage. Although it's unlikely he'll ever reach the 85-90 point plateau like Parise, I see a very capable 60-70 point player in Eberle - one whose value won't be derived from points alone - but also his hard work and penchant for showing up when his team needs it.