With the long weekend behind us, preparations for the upcoming season are beginning in earnest. For the Oilers, right now the focus is on the prospects attending the team’s rookie camp.
I know that my favourite feature of the Oilers’ official site is the interview footage with the players and coaches, and they’ve done a fine job of that so far through rookie camp, with players like Jordan Eberle, Alex Plante, Philippe Cornet, and Brett Breitkreuz all doing interviews. The theme in a lot of these conversations was what the players need to work on, and in that respect it was a real pleasure to watch Jordan Eberle’s interview.
Going right back to draft day, there were three things that were frequently highlighted in scouting reports as possible negatives for Jordan Eberle: size, speed, and effort level. Based on his comments at camp, Eberle’s well aware of what he needs to work on:
I don’t think I gained as much weight as I wanted to, but I definitely feel a lot stronger and faster, and that’s the main thing I took out of [last year]. As far as skating-wise, I worked really hard on my skating with Steve [Serdachny] and definitely brought that up.
Eberle can’t do anything about his height, but the fact that he’s working on gaining weight is a positive. That’s one of the key reasons I don’t think Eberle will stick with the Oilers out of camp, actually: with very few exceptions, physical maturity is a must for NHL players, and Eberle’s probably better served getting stronger back in junior where he won’t be lining up against the big players that NHL teams covet.
I also like how Eberle doesn’t hide the fact that he would have liked to gain more weight, and that honesty gives more credence to his evaluation of his skating. The Oilers like drafting intelligent players, and Eberle (a scholastic player of the year in junior) seems to fit that mold and also seems blessed with self-awareness. It’s going to be fun following him this season, wherever he plays.
Another reason that I’m fairly confident that Eberle will be returned to junior is a comment made by Tom Renney yesterday. It’s hard not to assume that he was talking about Jordan Eberle when he told the media this:
Without a doubt – keep your expectations realistic. That goes hand in hand with the organizations as well. I think the biggest mistake of all is organizations that really project a player as being in the starting lineup on opening night, and that’s very dangerous.
It remains to be seen if the Oilers’ organization is going to become more dedicated to not rushing their prospects, but so far it seems as if that’s the direction Steve Tambellini wants to go; personally, I think it’s a very good idea.