I’m a believer. In a sport where “drafting for need” is professional suicide (this isn’t the NFL) the Edmonton Oilers appear to have selected the rights to a world class “first shot scorer.”
Eberle had a huge game when it mattered last night, scoring 2 huge goals for Canada (the second one as they were bleeding out and showcased some extremely quick hands) and putting his tournament numbers at 5gp, 5-5-10, +7.
Eberle’s shot total (unavailable as far as I know from the WHL site) sits at 20 and ranks 3rd overall on Team Canada. I’m a little distressed at the stats-keepers in the tournament (Eberle is missing a few assists and I believe one goal) but even if they’ve missed a few shots that’s a pretty nice total for an Oilers prospect. I’ve also noticed that his early tournament preference to pass off has now been replaced with a sniper’s mentality (take it to the net!) and the results have followed for him.
Eberle is tied for 5th in goals and his name appears with all of the major players in the tournament (he’s tied with Mikael Backlund, James van Riemsdyk and Dmitri Klopov for 5th in goals this series) and his 10 points have him 4th overall in that race (Teemu Hartakainen is 20th and Milan Kytner is 30th btw).
This is a junior tournament and we can’t get ahead of ourselves here in regard to this kid. Still, we’ve been watching these winter classics forever and I’m at a loss to remember the last Oiler 18-year old who did as much damage for his side.
Finally, there are two other kids at the World Juniors and they are impressing too. Teemu Hartakainen had a huge game yesterday and his stats (5gp, 2-5-7 +3 on 20 shots) imply some ability. We saw the kid Milan Kytnar play a couple of times this weekend on television and he certainly had an impact in the series (6gp, 0-6-6 +2 on 14 shots) and is a player to watch moving forward.
Which brings the question, does Eberle factor in to the discussion for next fall? I can’t imagine the kid would find a place among the Oilers’ centers (they’re already too young as a group) and they have a few guys under contract on each wing:
- C Shawn Horcoff 7.0M
- C Sam Gagner 1.725M
- C Andrew Cogliano 850K
- C Kyle Brodziak RFA
- LW Dustin Penner 4.25M
- LW Ethan Moreau 1.75M
- LW Marc Pouliot 825K
- RW Ales Hemsky 4.4M
- RW Robert Nilsson 2.0M
- RW Fernando Pisani 2.5M
- RW Zack Stortini 700K
That doesn’t include the young men who are ahead of Eberle on the pro depth chart (Reddox, Brule, Schremp) but not yet established, and of course the Oilers have some money to spend on Erik Cole or another free agent forward. I can see the Oilers perhaps moving Nilsson to LW or perhaps seeing if Eberle can play there in TC. One thing I believe we can conclude right now: Rob Schremp, who has been passed by the class of 2005 (Cogliano), 2007 (Gagner) and some of his own classmen (Reddox) now looks like he’s going to be in a roster battle with a 2008 draftee come the fall.