Beginning with Jordan Eberle and ending at around #10 we have a group of prospects with clear and obvious positives and one or two flaws.
Jordan Eberle’s strength is offense and he is the best pure goal scorer on the Oilers prospect list. He’s a plus shooter, stick handler and a quality passer, plus Eberle is very good at taking a pass. He lists Martin St. Louis as his favorite player and there are some similarities in terms of puck handling ability. Eberle is not a one-trick pony, although his goal total (in 221 WHL games he’s scored 128 goals, or 42 per 72game WHL season) draws a lot of attention. Currently, Eberle has scored 23 goals in 24 WHL games with the Regina Pats and is on course to have a “season for the ages” should he remain in junior all season long. It should be noted that there’s a slight chance he gets called to the show if the Oilers injuries continue up front.
Eberle is not a complete player. His main negatives are foot speed (only average) and size (5.11, 184) and the Oilers already have too many of those playing pro hockey somewhere. In the “undersized skill forward” category we can safely list all of Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Robert Nilsson, Gilbert Brule, Mike Comrie from the major league team and Linus Omark playing in Russia may be a part of the mix come fall 2010. Eberle is also very likely to have the same learning curve as all these skilled kids have when turning pro in terms of positioning and playing away from the puck. He is regarded as an intelligent player so it should be a matter of learning on the job when he turns pro although it is always a factor for these young men. I’ve read scouting reports that fret over his effort level so that’s also something for us to keep in mind.
Eberle has played in the AHL already, showing well at the end of last season. He scored well against the soft parade (thanks to Jonathan Willis and Gabriel Desjardins for that fact) and was 9gp, 3-6-9 -5 in the couple of weeks he played for Springfield. He’s been very explosive this season and the Oilers might wish he’d joined some of the players from his draft year (Tyler Ennis is an example) who are already pro’s. If a player like Eberle is ready for the next step, how much does it hurt his development to wait an entire year because of the junior rule? Enough that they should change the rule.
Eberle has a lot of comparables, which often isn’t a good sign for prospects. If a player is truly unique then very few men before him will have delivered similar numbers at the same age. Two comps who were tracking well until this season are Nigel Dawes and Devin Setoguchi and one imagines Eberle could have seasons similar to Setoguchi should he continue to develop. This season Eberle is off the charts but I think we can agree that 19-year old junior seasons should be dominant and should not be given the same weight as the previous two seasons when assessing prospects.
The major struggle I had with Eberle is that despite his fame (WJ’s) and solid Springfield showing, he didn’t have an oustanding junior season at age 18. His dominance at age 19 puts him back on track and elevates him to #2 for winter 2009.