Eberle’s 20-Year Old Season

Jonathan Willis
March 27 2011 06:08PM

Jordan Eberle is having a very strong rookie season, and given the current state of the Edmonton Oilers and the alarming number of useful players currently sitting out with injuries, he represents one of the team’s few bright spots. How does his 20-year old season compare to those who have gone before him? What other players produced in the same range offensively while at the same age?

I turned that question over to the spectacularly helpful Hockey-Reference.com. Given that Eberle is currently scoring 0.63 points per game, I asked the website to generate the name of every player in the last 20 years to have scored between 0.50 and 0.75 points per game as a 20-year old. That list can be found here; a simplified version is below:

Player Season GP G A PTS PTS/GM
Vincent Lecavalier 2000-01 68 23 28 51 0.750
Ryan Smyth 1996-97 82 39 22 61 0.744
Joe Thornton 1999-00 81 23 37 60 0.741
Alexei Kovalev 1993-94 76 23 33 56 0.737
Mike Ricci 1991-92 78 20 36 56 0.718
Jason Spezza 2003-04 78 22 33 55 0.705
Robert Reichel 1991-92 77 20 34 54 0.701
Martin Havlat 2001-02 72 22 28 50 0.694
Ryan Getzlaf 2005-06 57 14 25 39 0.684
Alex Tanguay 1999-00 76 17 34 51 0.671
Eric Daze 1995-96 80 30 23 53 0.663
Nathan Horton 2005-06 71 28 19 47 0.662
Wojtek Wolski 2006-07 76 22 28 50 0.658
Sergei Samsonov 1998-99 79 25 26 51 0.646
Jordan Eberle 2010-11 62 17 22 39 0.629
Rod Brind'Amour 1990-91 78 17 32 49 0.628
Patrik Berglund 2008-09 76 21 26 47 0.618
David Perron 2008-09 81 15 35 50 0.617
Jakub Voracek 2009-10 81 16 34 50 0.617
Adam Deadmarsh 1995-96 78 21 27 48 0.615
Keith Tkachuk 1992-93 83 28 23 51 0.614
Sam Gagner 2009-10 68 15 26 41 0.603
Kyle Okposo 2008-09 65 18 21 39 0.600
Jordan Staal 2008-09 82 22 27 49 0.598
Milan Lucic 2008-09 72 17 25 42 0.583
Alex Radulov 2006-07 64 18 19 37 0.578
Radim Vrbata 2001-02 52 18 12 30 0.577
Michael Frolik 2008-09 79 21 24 45 0.570
Radek Dvorak 1997-98 64 12 24 36 0.563
Michael Nylander 1992-93 59 11 22 33 0.559
Bobby Holik 1990-91 78 21 22 43 0.551
Andrew Cogliano 2007-08 82 18 27 45 0.549
Tim Connolly 2001-02 82 10 35 45 0.549
Martin Gelinas 1990-91 73 20 20 40 0.548
Derek Stepan 2010-11 76 20 21 41 0.539
Tuomo Ruutu 2003-04 82 23 21 44 0.537
Justin Williams 2001-02 75 17 23 40 0.533
Maxim Afinogenov 1999-00 65 16 18 34 0.523
Sergei Kostitsyn 2007-08 52 9 18 27 0.519
Todd Bertuzzi 1995-96 76 18 21 39 0.513
David Legwand 2000-01 81 13 28 41 0.506
Jamie Benn 2009-10 82 22 19 41 0.500
Marian Hossa 1998-99 60 15 15 30 0.500
Peter Mueller 2008-09 72 13 23 36 0.500

I haven’t narrowed this down to my list of preferred comparable players; generally I would go through and eliminate players who aren’t roughly the same size as Eberle, play a significantly different style, and then I’d filter the remainder by past years to find ones with a similar career curve to Eberle. I’ll likely do that later once Eberle’s rookie season is complete, but for now I think it’s more interesting to consider the range of options.

Still, there are items on this list that I feel warrant comment.

First off, Sam Gagner’s place on this list is an interesting one to me. Had he recorded just two more assists as a 20-year old, we would find his name above Eberle’s. Yet, the perception of Gagner last season and the perception of Eberle this season are wildly divergent in my experience; it’s as if the Oilers mistaken decision to elevate Gagner to the NHL as an 18-year old has prompted many to lose patience with him. I don’t understand it.

Martin Havlat and Alex Tanguay both appeal to me here – both are good, solid two-way wingers and I think if Eberle follows in their footsteps there won’t be much reason for disappointment. That’s roughly the upper range I have in mind when I watch the player. For those who view those projections as too pessimistic, I would remind them that both players spent multiple seasons in the point-per-game range or higher, and that Havlat’s career has been sharply impacted by injury.

All things considered, this is a very strong group, especially as we approach the upper end of the chart. There is, in my estimation, very little reason to be pessimistic about what Jordan Eberle is going to do as an Edmonton Oiler, no matter how regrettable this season has been on the whole.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Tha Legion
March 27 2011, 06:11PM
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Hope Eberle is better than Tanguay

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#2 PaperDesigner
March 27 2011, 06:13PM
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Would this chart look significantly different if it was adjusted to account for league scoring at the time of these rookie seasons? 2010-2011 is perhaps the stingiest year in recent memory, but I'm not sure how it compares, exactly, to the so-called dead puck era.

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#3 DDP
March 27 2011, 06:17PM
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There's a wide range of players in that list. I'm looking forward to your year end recap JW when you put some effort to eliminate players that don't match up to Eberle.

Ohh yeah...FIST!

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#4 They're $hittie
March 27 2011, 06:45PM
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I understnad how people think gagner was rushed in because his offense numbers havent grown. But 49 points in his first year, and 42 in his second what was there left in junior. If he was 20 and put up 41 points in 65 games and was a rookie this year no one would question it. For a player to be at .65 ppg as a 21 year old is good.

But again 49 points in yor rookie year on a crappy team is not being rushed in.

Eberle on the other hand had a different development curve and needed the time in junior and has grown nicely. Good work ebs.

Two great young players that should both be part of the oilers future.

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#5 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
March 27 2011, 06:52PM
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Tha Legion wrote:

Hope Eberle is better than Tanguay

Yikes.

Tanguay has been a top 10ish LW for the better part of a decade.

I'd be ecstatic if Eberle = Tanguay.

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#6 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
March 27 2011, 06:54PM
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To me the key to that list is how few of those players *didn't* turn into at least top 6 forwards.

should tell us that Ebs (and Gagner) are near locks to be at works 2nd line talent.

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#7 PaperDesigner
March 27 2011, 07:01PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Yikes.

Tanguay has been a top 10ish LW for the better part of a decade.

I'd be ecstatic if Eberle = Tanguay.

How about similar boxcars, but a greater proportion of goals?

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#8 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
March 27 2011, 07:06PM
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PaperDesigner wrote:

Would this chart look significantly different if it was adjusted to account for league scoring at the time of these rookie seasons? 2010-2011 is perhaps the stingiest year in recent memory, but I'm not sure how it compares, exactly, to the so-called dead puck era.

Good point, PD.

JW, hope you do this when the season is over.

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#9 DSF
March 27 2011, 07:06PM
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JW.

Why would you use 75 points as an upper limit?

And why would you eliminate 18 and 18 year olds who have already passed that level of production?

As much as I like Eberle, this looks like another exercise in tire pumping.

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#10 TigerUnderGlass
March 27 2011, 07:39PM
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DSF wrote:

JW.

Why would you use 75 points as an upper limit?

And why would you eliminate 18 and 18 year olds who have already passed that level of production?

As much as I like Eberle, this looks like another exercise in tire pumping.

He's looking for possible comparables.

Are you suggesting that while searching for players with a similar 20 year old season to Eberle he should include players that performed better than Eberle?

Doing what you just suggested would have more of a tire pumping effect than anything Willis said.

Try to maintain at least a token level of logic while performing your usual shtick.

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#11 Jon
March 27 2011, 08:03PM
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I don't think your analysis follows from your own statistics. The players above Eberle on the list are elite indeed. But the players below him, for the most part, aren't. I'm not saying that I don't like Eberle, or that I don't think he will be a great player, but once again you managed to take a bunch of stats and interpret them in a way that you think supports some subjective opinion you have.

I wonder what the correlation is between 20yr old players' point production and eye colour. I think that will be as accurate a prediction of future success as the numbers you just splattered onto the screen.

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#12 MoJo
March 27 2011, 08:32PM
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I realise that this is a preliminary list, but I definitely think it requires pts/60 filter.

Hall's numbers look good until you see them by this metric and I believe Eberle's will probably be the same. I'm guessing he'd be a lot further down the list on a chart of the same players sorted by pts/60 a 20 yr olds.

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#14 ubermiguel
March 27 2011, 08:51PM
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Tangauy's a great player, but Eberle shoots more. It's hard to find a comparable for this kid..

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#15 DSF
March 27 2011, 09:38PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ DSF:

0.75 PTS/game, not 75 points.

And I'd eliminate 18 and 19 year olds who have already passed this limit because I'm looking for players who might be like Eberle, not players who are way ahead of Eberle.

See, the things is these players are stepping into different roles on different teams and getting widely varying ice times.

Their ages are like one of the least significant factors.

Jeff Skinner is a good example since he was able to move into a situation where he was surrounded by complimentary talent not thrown into the deep end like Eberle.

I expect, if Eberle was on the Canes, he would be much closer to Skinner's production.

At least you should look at P/60 not PPG because it flattens out the difference in roles, at least a little.

For example:

Voracek - 5V5 P/60 - 2.06 5V4 P/60 - 3.71 Eberle - 5V5 P/60 - 1.92 5V4 P/60 - 3.18

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#16 Chappy
March 27 2011, 09:45PM
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Jon wrote:

I don't think your analysis follows from your own statistics. The players above Eberle on the list are elite indeed. But the players below him, for the most part, aren't. I'm not saying that I don't like Eberle, or that I don't think he will be a great player, but once again you managed to take a bunch of stats and interpret them in a way that you think supports some subjective opinion you have.

I wonder what the correlation is between 20yr old players' point production and eye colour. I think that will be as accurate a prediction of future success as the numbers you just splattered onto the screen.

While I'm still a neophyte at logic and statistics, I would argue that your use of hyperbole here is a little uncalled for. While obviously incomplete in its analysis, JW's take is a relative comparison only and should be considered as such.

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#17 Starving Student
March 27 2011, 10:11PM
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Jon wrote:

I don't think your analysis follows from your own statistics. The players above Eberle on the list are elite indeed. But the players below him, for the most part, aren't. I'm not saying that I don't like Eberle, or that I don't think he will be a great player, but once again you managed to take a bunch of stats and interpret them in a way that you think supports some subjective opinion you have.

I wonder what the correlation is between 20yr old players' point production and eye colour. I think that will be as accurate a prediction of future success as the numbers you just splattered onto the screen.

Using Stats to support ones opinion is usually what is done in most papers, arguments, proposals, ...etc.

IMO, Wanye's opinion is the ONLY opinion when it comes to Eberle!

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#20 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
March 27 2011, 10:43PM
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Not bad company considering some of those kids were in their 3rd NHL season when they were 20.

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#21 Peterborough
March 28 2011, 12:54AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Jon:

I'm not sure if you noticed me steadfastly avoid taking an opinion any stronger than "there's very little reason to be pessimistic about Eberle."

I thought it was abundantly clear that I was just listing players in a specific range on either side of Eberle's point production, and that I was going to narrow down comparables later.

Apparently not.

So, let me be clear: I'm not forming an opinion here. I am not presenting statistics to support that opinion. I'm offering what is, in essence, a buffet of similarly aged players with similar production. I'm noting two mild things - that the disparity between Gagner and Eberle is less than generally supposed, and that my gut inclination is to picture the Tanguay/Havlat player range as the upper end of the spectrum.

Good job again sir. Its always going to be apples and oranges. But this is at least interesting to look at. Prognosticating a career is witchcraft don't let anyone tell you any different.

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#22 EasyOil
March 28 2011, 02:47AM
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Wow, I really think some people just blast JW's articles because they already have it in their heads that they won't agree, and so don't bother to properly read the article, and already formulating their responses. It's fine to disagree with an article, just make sure you've read the article properly! At no point did he say "Eberle will be better than Brind'Amour" or "Eberle will be the star that Havlat never quite became", he's just saying that for now he's scoring in that range and that Tanguay and Havlat are the upper range of what we should expect (think LT's "Reasonable Expectations" articles). And he also said he'll do a more in depth look at Eberle's season when the season is over. Took me 2 minutes to read the article, why couldn't you do the same.

Good work JW, keep it up.

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#23 kgo
March 28 2011, 03:02AM
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DSF wrote:

See, the things is these players are stepping into different roles on different teams and getting widely varying ice times.

Their ages are like one of the least significant factors.

Jeff Skinner is a good example since he was able to move into a situation where he was surrounded by complimentary talent not thrown into the deep end like Eberle.

I expect, if Eberle was on the Canes, he would be much closer to Skinner's production.

At least you should look at P/60 not PPG because it flattens out the difference in roles, at least a little.

For example:

Voracek - 5V5 P/60 - 2.06 5V4 P/60 - 3.71 Eberle - 5V5 P/60 - 1.92 5V4 P/60 - 3.18

Blasphemous Heretic!

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#24 Sorensenator
March 28 2011, 03:04AM
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Jon wrote:

I don't think your analysis follows from your own statistics. The players above Eberle on the list are elite indeed. But the players below him, for the most part, aren't. I'm not saying that I don't like Eberle, or that I don't think he will be a great player, but once again you managed to take a bunch of stats and interpret them in a way that you think supports some subjective opinion you have.

I wonder what the correlation is between 20yr old players' point production and eye colour. I think that will be as accurate a prediction of future success as the numbers you just splattered onto the screen.

Oh yeah Hossa and Tkachuck were never elite players at all being below Eberle for PPG at age 20. Virtually all the players below Eberle are or were Elite material with the exception of a select few (Like Radek Dvorak) How does Allen say "retard" in the hangover? Ruh-tard?

JW, most of the comments that try to rebuttle your arguments are from people that have poor reading comprehension.. like this guy.... it is really quite hilarious.

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#25 NamelessNed
March 28 2011, 06:41AM
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I'm just going to throw this out there: GOOD article JW! I for one like seeing comparisons like this, some of you are drawing too many conclusions. Its just a list!!! relax, he's not spreading some sort of new gospel. And if the intentions were to 'pump some tires', would that be such a bad thing?...I dont know about u guys but my tires are deflating at an alarming rate. Lets look at the bright side of what we have

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#26 J
March 28 2011, 08:10AM
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@Next up, is Connor McJesus.

I had a similar thought. How many of the players on this list were rookies? That would be a better comp IMO. Regardless, I think we can all agree that Eberle measures up well statistically and with the infamous 'saw him good' metric. Quite a player.

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#27 Oilcruzer
March 28 2011, 08:24AM
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Stats are stats. They can back up or distort.

A 20 yr old first year NHL players stats will differ from team to team based on ice time, situations thrown into, line mates, impact on line mates when in lineup, team mates, team success, and coaching style.

Other non data intangibles include size, confidence, leadership skills, are they liked in the room, Intelligence, reliability, commitment, injury prone, and perhaps most importantly, how many jerseys do they sell?

The last one is the fan's measurement of everything else. On a side note, I think salaries should be directly factored by the number of jerseys a player sells. But that would be trolling.

I would love to see an article on the NHL salary vs Jerseys Sold for 100 different players though... Are you up for that Willis?

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#28 Hemmertime
March 28 2011, 08:52AM
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Oilcruzer wrote:

Stats are stats. They can back up or distort.

A 20 yr old first year NHL players stats will differ from team to team based on ice time, situations thrown into, line mates, impact on line mates when in lineup, team mates, team success, and coaching style.

Other non data intangibles include size, confidence, leadership skills, are they liked in the room, Intelligence, reliability, commitment, injury prone, and perhaps most importantly, how many jerseys do they sell?

The last one is the fan's measurement of everything else. On a side note, I think salaries should be directly factored by the number of jerseys a player sells. But that would be trolling.

I would love to see an article on the NHL salary vs Jerseys Sold for 100 different players though... Are you up for that Willis?

Ya, all those people snapping up jerseys in the south ...

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#29 andrewmk20
March 28 2011, 09:14AM
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@Tha Legion

Tanguay was part of a very tough Avalanche team along with Drury, Hejduk, Sakic, Foote, etc. Don't discount Alex Tanguay just because of what he is now. Injuries have definitely played a part along with one bad year in Tampa. Besides being an offensive comparable to Tanguay is a good thing, he spent years as a nearly ppg player with Col/Cal. We all already know that Eberle has much better defensive instincts than Tanguay.

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#30 Woogie
March 28 2011, 09:51AM
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What ever happened to Eric Daze? A player with so much promise just disappeared!

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#31 Oilcruzer
March 28 2011, 09:54AM
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Hemmertime wrote:

Ya, all those people snapping up jerseys in the south ...

Hmmm. Good point.

Daze. Poor guy. Bad back. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Éric_Dazé

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#32 OILERSORDEATH
March 28 2011, 10:07AM
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Just think Eberle is only going to get stronger and faster as will Hall and Mags. Seeing how good they are now just imagine 3 years from now!! All this misery will soon be alot of fun and good times! Hell throw in Omark as well, He's played fricken fantastic these past 9-10 games. Vancouver will soon be $hitty again and we will be destoying all. Ahh cant wait.

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#33 geoilersgist
March 28 2011, 10:28AM
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Coming into this season I was holding Eberle in the highest regard of the three rookies. He has done everything I imagined and can't wait to see how good he is three years from now. I like the comparisons JW, I would also love to see how he stacks up against just other 20 year old rookies.

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#34 Bucknuck
March 28 2011, 03:06PM
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nice article. I love looking at the comparable players to our young guns. As we get closer to the end of the season I would like to compare with those who were rookies at 20 and see how that looks.

In any case thanks for giving me something interesting to read in an otherwise dreadful hockey spring.

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#35 FastOil
March 28 2011, 03:39PM
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The rookies have been great for sure.

I am concerned that so many take a lot of big hits that are avoidable. Finding the balance between productivity and staying healthy is one of the skills that seperates great from good players. Injuries accumulate and diminish a player's game. You need a lot of games under your belt to be one of the greats.

With so many rookies playing, I think the Oilers should have someone to teach positioning along the boards, and plays to avoid that will get a player hurt, before one of these great young guys gets a serious injury. Eric Lindros could have used it and he was a horse of a guy.

Pajaarvi's head thing was avoidable, he went back first to the boards and when Bouw checked him his head slammed. That is a rookie mistake, but unfortunately the learning curve has to be short for head injuries. Eberle got nailed a couple of times trying to beat the D along the boards and to my eye one shook him up good. At his size he will become Hemsky if it keeps happening.

The team should get a coach or consultant to teach these guys the ropes physically in the bigs and protect their investments.

A face off coach would be nice too. Maybe Vandevelde could moonlight.

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#36 Wanye
March 28 2011, 05:16PM
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It should also be noted that Eberle is a dream boat and his hair smells like cinnamon*

*Or so I've been told**

**By myself, in a dream.

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#37 Mike Modano's Dog
March 28 2011, 06:15PM
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I like Robert Reichel as a comparison, just going by style of player. He was crafty and could score from anywhere, with real nice moves in close if I remember correctly.

Eberle is going to have one heck of a fantastic career if everything continues down the path he is on!

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#38 Randall Shermer
March 29 2011, 06:00AM
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Jon wrote:

I don't think your analysis follows from your own statistics. The players above Eberle on the list are elite indeed. But the players below him, for the most part, aren't. I'm not saying that I don't like Eberle, or that I don't think he will be a great player, but once again you managed to take a bunch of stats and interpret them in a way that you think supports some subjective opinion you have.

I wonder what the correlation is between 20yr old players' point production and eye colour. I think that will be as accurate a prediction of future success as the numbers you just splattered onto the screen.

So the players above Eberle are largely elite and the players below him largely not. It almost seems like points per game as a 20 year old, being a super simple analysis, does a surprisingly good job of ranking the offensive quality of players. I can see why someone might think it completely futile to look at Eberle's place on that ranking.

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#39 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
March 29 2011, 09:58AM
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One crazy thing about that list is how good of a year Ryan Smyth had. His 39 goals blew everyone else out of the water.

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