January 06 2010 09:36AM
The chart above is a comparison of Jordan Eberle's offensive numbers in Major Junior with the numbers posted by other players we're familiar with - Oilers draft picks and Patrick O'Sullivan.
To make things fair, I've levelled for age, centered on the year each player was first eligible for the draft. I've made no attempt to compensate for league strength - history shows us that the OHL and WHL are comparable leagues in terms of point production, with the QMJHL slightly behind. For this graph, that would mean knocking down Hemsky and Pouliot a little.
The star all by itself in the "Draft" column represents Sam Gagner's scoring ability in his junior year. A higher pick than any of the others listed here, it's not at all surprising to see him all by himself; most players - even good players - don't score at the rate he did until they're overagers.
The thick black line represents Jordan Eberle's offensive production over his junior career, and it looks very much like a shadow of Rob Schremp. That seems ominous, but it's important to remember that Schremp was a rather unique player - his offensive production was disproportionally weighted towards the power play (indeed,it still is) and we don't know that Eberle's is (something I should probably check out).
I've previously compared Eberle to Patrick O'Sullivan (the red line), a player who has consistently outperformed Eberle ove rthe same age range. Of course, that's changed in this final year of Eberle's junior career; his uptick in scoring is far better than O'Sullivan's gradual progression.
The other frightening thing about this graph is the Draft+1 year. For the top three players, performance in that year did a fine job of foreshadowing their eventual NHL success: in order, Hemsky, Stoll, O'Sullivan. All three are above Pouliot and Schremp, who are fringe players who might make it in a specific role, and all five are above Eberle at that age.
I'm not drawing conclusions here; as the title indicates, I put this together in response to a comment by Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things in the last article. Still, even though I wouldn't have done this otherwise I have difficulty ignoring the implications, which are that Eberle isn't a slam dunk as an NHL star. So far in his final year of junior he's out-scored Pouliot, O'Sullivan and Stoll - but is that an aberration or a breakout? It's impossible to know at this point. Regardless, I find myself feeling a little less optimistic about Eberle's NHL future now than I was last night.