By Request: Eberle’s Offensive Production Compared

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.

  • @ GSC:

    And this summer an overwhelming majority here at OilersNation (>60%) voted that they preferred Nikolai Khabibulin on a four-year contract to Dwayne Roloson on a two-year contract.

    So unless you believe that there are two distinct subsets of fans (HFBoards people and OilersNation people) and that the former is much brighter than the latter, I find it highly difficult to view an opinion poll as a compelling argument.

    Frankly, I doubt there would have been much difference in the numbers for any of the Oilers highly-touted prospects: Hemsky, Pouliot, Schremp, Gagner, Cogliano, and Eberle would all be viewed as future first-liners coming out of junior, because Oilers fans are by nature optimistic. That's not a failing; it's a very natural hope that the next guys will make a difference. Sometimes they do.

    Of course, two years down the road they're talking about how they'd dump those earlier prospect (like Gagner and Cogliano now) in favour of the next wave, because the next wave will live up to potential (unlike the current wave). It's an endless cycle because the expectations are so high that most prospects can't reach them.

    I try to find a reasonable level of expectation, through a combination of math and what I see personally. It's not a perfect system (how could it be) but I find my hopes get dashed a little less because I've made a conscious effort not to get them too high – since unfounded hope only leads to disappointment.

    That said, I'd intended to quietly do a study on Eberle's potential (an in-depth one) this fall before training camp, since there's a shortage of good stories, but I was asked to post a comparison now, so I did.

    • GSC

      All valid points for sure, I just want to know what the overall consensus is in terms of expectations for Eberle? There's talk of caution as to building the expectations for the young man. I threw the poll out there just as evidence that not everyone is jumping on the Eberle for Hart Trophy bandwagon just yet. Like I've said, I've heard everything from bust to superstar, so I imagine somewhere in between makes sense. I think he's a first liner in the making, but I don't need to be reminded that he's still only a prospect and has yet to set foot on NHL ice. That's common sense.

      Given his propensity to score big goals on a big stage, however, sure the hype is going to be revved up. I see something in him that was lacking with the current group of "prospects" (Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson) that I like, and even Shawn Horcoff likes (as I quoted earlier in this comments section). So where does that get me? Thrown in with the crowd who thinks Ebs is the Hockey Gods' gift to humanity. I'm not defining him based on those world junior games alone, far from it. What I'm saying is that there is something to be said for his continued excellence on the international stage against players at his age and skill level.

      Pardon me for being a bit optimistic about a prospect making some noise and dominating juniors (just as Lowetide says should happen, gradually dominate one level at a time before making the show). I know that you know where I'm coming from, JW. I think we're on the same page, just arriving at that page through different means, as usual.

      • Chris.

        Maybe I didn't like the way you said I needed to have my "head examined" for saying that Eberle plays an awful lot on the perimeter. Being alone in the slot means you are on the "perimeter" of the play even if you are 10 feet from the net. I covered my definition of perimeter in post #125. I don't know which Eberle you were watching, but the Eberle I watched didn't spend the majority of his ice time battling D down low, or fighting for position in traffic; The Eberle I watched made himself available on the fringe of those scrums. My take, is that Eberle plays more of a cerebral game than a physical game.

        • GSC

          Then make it clear by saying "cerebral" next time. Just because he's a thinking player doesn't make him a perimeter player. Your idea of a perimeter player in comparison to mine is totally different, so my apologies for the head examination remark…although I think we could all use it at some point or another, I know I can!

          I take the word "perimeter" to be like a swear, as you so aptly put it, since it has come to connote a soft player in my book. I don't see Eberle as a softie, far from it. I see an opportunistic hockey player, and it sounds like you see the same?

          • Chris.

            The problem is (and the reason I listed "plays an awful lot on the perimeter" with the negatives) is that the Oilers are already flooded with guys who play an awful lot on the perimeter. Don't get me wrong: Players like Gagner and Eberle, who "think the game" well, are valuable. These guys only look soft and ineffective if they aren't properly supported by the coaches and management by being paired up with linmates that have compliamentary skills.

            Has anyone noticed how, whether its Gagner, or Cogliano, or Nilsson, that time on the fourth line seems to kickstart their production? This is because players of this ilk need gritty linemates to be successful. Ideally the Oilers need some skilled-Stortini type players. The Oilers are short of true Nhlers who are big, gritty, and physical: physical type players capable of playing on the scoring lines or the powerplay.

            It's my guess, that if Eberle makes the club next season, and is not given more physical linemates, he is not going to generate much. If this happens, Eberle will probably be accused of being "soft"… He might even look that way playing against men as a 19 year old.

          • GSC

            Well put, and yes I agree that Eberle would need a physical linemate to augment his skill set. If he's out there with someone like Gagner, of course he's going to look "soft," that's a given.

            I just hope that he stays in Springfield for a good portion, if not all of, next season before making the jump to the show. Let him develop, if this is a proper rebuild then there's no reason to rush him along.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            This is where we differ GSC…I want to see Eberle in Oiler silks next season unless he's not ready which I don't think will be the case.

            There is no evidence that supports a player needing to play in the AHL in order to develop. IMO he should only go there if he isn't in our top 9 which I can't see him not being.

            I want to watch the kid live in Rexall starting next season if not at the end of this season.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            How would you know when he is going to produce more than 30 pts in the NHL? Does this mean you would keep him down in the AHL as long as possible to maximize when he becomes a UFA? Why are most other teams in the NHL keeping their ready young prospects with the big club and not sending them down…the list is extensive.

            I sure hope we aren't concerning ourselves with how far into the future each prospect will become UFA and keep them off the big team just for that reason.

            All I'm saying is I think he's ready to be in the top 9 on our team…at the very least I'd give him his 10 NHL games before deciding what to do. I wouldn't send him directly to the AHL unless he really was bad next training camp.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            1. "top 9" is a huge mistake, we need proper roll players in the bottom 6. We can't waist those spots with more duplications from the top 6.

            2. Odds are if he's going to make it next year, he'll be a 20 – 40 point guy on a poor team. What is the point of that? We can pay a proven player 1 – 1.5 million to produce at that level AND bring non score sheet value.

            3. The problem with the "if he's ready" stance is that it's impossible to say with certainty if he actually is "ready" or not. Most felt at the time that Gagner was ready, most now feel he wasn't.

          • Chris.

            LOL.

            "There is no evidence that supports a player needing to play in the AHL in order to develop."

            Funniest quote on ON… ever. Why do NHL teams even HAVE an Americal Hockey League affiliation?

            I guess there is also no evidence to suggest (based on attendance) that the Oilers need to ice a lineup of players with any pro experience.

          • Reggie

            Not sure what is so funny…IMO NHL teams have the AHL teams to develop players they have in their system that aren't ready to make the big team…what my statement says is that there is no evidence that it is a must that a prospect has to spend time in the AHL to develop into a sound NHLer just because he's a prospect…otherwise all prospects would spend time in the AHL…I never said that a prospect that isn't ready for the NHL shouldn't go to the AHL.

            Honestly I didn't think I would have to explain this to you.

          • Chris.

            There is plenty of evidence/examples to suggest that prospects need to spend time in the AHL to develop… unless you are talking about a generational talent… are you suggesting Eberle is a generational talent?

            Just because poorly run teams are sometimes forced to inject CHL talent directly into their NHL lineups (at great risk to both the players confidence and health) doesn't mean this is the ideal place for a player to learn his craft… Just ask Brule. While you may be correct in saying some prospects can still have careers in the NHL despite bypassing the AHL entirely; conventional wisdom dictates that prospects develop as fast or often faster by spending a year or two in the AHL. Sam Gagner is, and was, a better overall prospect than Eberle by almost every measure… Haven't you grown tired of watching him spin his wheels in the show.?. Also from a business side of things; Gagner is only twenty and he will achieve RFA status this summer. To make matters worse, Gagner looks to have taken a step back. He is playing with almost no confidence… many organizations would send a twenty year old down to the AHL for a breif stint to regain confidence/focus. The Oilers, however, have so badly mismanaged the development of Gagner that he would have to clear waivers to do so… This kid is still to young to drink in majority of cities he plays in and he has all the rights and status of a full fledged NHl player under the CBA.

          • Chris.

            I honestly don't believe Gagner has taken a step back and his NHL numbers to date are on par with how Patrick Marleau started out his career. I also think Gagner's numbers would be even better if he was being brought along with more of a 1st line role with this team which I think he is more than capable of being on this team. I don't feel as though Gagner in as bad of shape as you are making out. You used Brule in your example. I decided to look at the NHL scoring stats. My plan was to go through the top 100 but it was taking too long so I stopped when I got to around the top 60 but what I found was of the top 60 or so scorers in the NHL, more than half, actually well more than half of them have never played a full season in the AHL and even moreso in the top 30. The data suggests that the top end NHLers don't develop their game in the AHL at all and only the more fringe NHLers do. I'm not claiming this is the case in ALL situations, just a majority of them.

            So it's not as you say just poorly run teams that inject talent right out of the CHL or young talent right out of college or the EURO leagues. It's actually all NHL teams that do. It seems they really only send players to the AHL that aren't NHL ready.

            The list is VERY long of the players that didn't play in the AHL. (ie: both Sedins, J.Thornton, Gaborik, Ovechkin, Crosby, P. Kane, B.Richards, N.Backstrom, Kovalchuk, Heatley, Marleau, Perry, Iginla, Kopitar, Horton, Getzlaf, Rick Nash, Malkin, Stamkos, P.Stastny, Lecavalier, Wolski, T. Kaberle, M.Richards, J.Carter, R.Malone, Toews, Pronger). Those are just some of the numerous names of guys who are stars now who never played even close to a full season of AHL hockey. More recently than that we have (Tavares, Duchene, Myers, Del Zotto, Benn, O'Reilly, E.Kane, Kulikov). It seems most of the top rookies scoring wise anyway are the ones that haven't spent time in the AHL. It's the less talented ones in most cases that spend the time on the farm honing their skills.

            In summary, I think amongst all of those names there is a wide variety of NHL franchises. So either most teams in the NHL are poorly run or simply most NHL teams don't send their prospects to the AHL if they are ready for the NHL.

          • Chris.

            IMO, you are overvaluing Eberle if you think he is in the same class as most of your examples.

            BTW… were you disappointed when Eberle was sent back to Jr this year? I think the Oilers did Eberle a tremendous favor sending him back to Jr. IMO, based on Eberle's season in Regina and his IIHF tournament, his development has been better served than if he was playing 5min a night with a losing club in Edmonton.

          • Chris.

            No I wasn't upset with Eberle being sent back to junior and if he isn't ready for the NHL I won't be upset if he gets sent to the AHL…all I'm trying to say is I disagree with everyone that says they would send him to the AHL for developing before he's even set foot in training camp

          • Chris.

            Many of those examples you would have been saying the same thing about when they came into the league. In fact look at Patrick Marleau's numbers, Jarome Iginla's, the Sedins, etc.

            I'm not saying Eberle is in their class right now but how can you say that he won't be? What I'm saying is he is in the same class that many of those players were when they started in the NHL. Many of my examples didn't get off to a rip roaring start in their careers but they turned out just fine.

            I'm not putting a value on Eberle at all. This is where I'm struggling to get my point across. All I'm saying is I disagree with all of those people that already have Eberle playing in the AHL next year for fear that if he doesn't play there his development will be screwed up. I'm just trying to say that there are numerous players who never went to the AHL and their development turned out just fine.

            I could contrive that by you saying you think I'm overvaluating Eberle that you don't think he can be or has much of a shot of being a top 30 scorer in the NHL someday. Cuz most of the top 30 today didn't play in the AHL much at all. There is the odd one but not many.

        • Dyckster

          Boo ya! Your dead on @Chris

          Someone used a Brett Hull reference earlier, Eberle plays a lot like him minus that wicked shot….maybe a little spinich will lead to some popeye type forearms. THEN watch the puck fly!

  • I should clarify what I mean by 'dump' – it isn't always an outright demand for trade, but there are a ton of people saying they'd take Eberle over Gagner and there's no logical reason for it, since Gagner's career at the same age is a better one than Eberle's.

    Than again, I quoted one commenter this off-season at the start of an article who, based on the London Knights little preseason tourney, concluded that either Gagner wasn't a very good player or Rob Schremp was NHL ready.

    I believe that years of data >>> brief tournaments, and that the years of data say Eberle's a good prospect but not a world-beater. If we were forced to come to a conclusion on Eberle solely based on his WJC performance, we'd be talking about a franchise player, but we aren't limited to just looking at his WJC performance.

  • Chris.

    Holy. Relax people. I'm just trying to say peoples expectations for Eberle are becomming a little inflated…. and what happens…. these same people become mortally offended.

    I said, "Ebele seems to play an awful lot on the perimeter". Isn't that the same as saying he has a knack for finding open ice? Watch replay, after replay of Eberle goals… He's wide open because he works himself into open ice (on the perimeter of the play)… This is not a shot at Eberle. It's an observation. BTW. The Oilers have lots of guys who play a similar game.

    • Reggie

      My take on Eberle is he has a nose for the net you rarely see. He finds open spots similar to a Mike Bossy or Brett Hull.

      Bossy made a career on his quick release.

      Hull made a career with his big shot.

      Now the trick with Eberle is … is his shot an NHL shot, is his shot on par with Hull or Bossy.

      Or do we have another Petr Sykora who's best seasons were 35, 34 and 29 goals on the Devils and Ducks. He had 81, 72 and 68 points posted on some real good Devils teams. And has accumulated over 934 NHL games, 302 goals, 375 assists for 677 points.

      I would love to see Eberle be a Bossy or Hull, but realistically his high water mark might be good Sykora-type numbers at best.

      Just my thoughts.

        • Reggie

          So, given his size and speed, I think he reminds me of Sykora a lot.

          The kid has a nose for the net that in my opinion is better than Sykora's. I also think Sykora is more of a fringe player, not always going to the tough places. Eberle I think works harder too.

          Character, hockey smarts and an apparent knack for scoring big goals may push Eberle beyond Sykora's numbers. That would be golden !!

    • Dan the Man

      Perimeter players don't go in to the difficult areas (i.e. near the net) they play on the outside and are basically considered soft because of it.

      In your original post weren't you listing Eberle's negatives?

      I would say that the ability to find open ice is one of Eberle's best assets. He may not be able to find that same open ice in the NHL but he does a very nice job of it in Jr.

    • Reggie

      Eberle, like Schremp, has been getting great results. Nobody can deny that Eberle has been an incredible "clutch" performer at the IIHF Junior Tourney. In fact, some people say (unbiased local media), that Eberle is the best player in all of Junior right now. These guys like to point to Eberle's incredible "hockey sence"… whatever that means…

      Problem is, I just don't see much of a toolbag. Eberle has neither size, nor great skating ability; nor a really powerful shot. Also, Eberle seems to play an awful lot on the perimeter (sound familiar?) Do the Oilers really need another small forward who is prone to let others win the puck battles because he himself is busy finding open ice, or making himself available in the slot?

      It sure doesn't sound like you giving him props for finding open ice does it?

      • Chris.

        I won't give props to an unproven commodity. Why assign expectations to a player who has never played a single NHL shift? You can read my post and figure I'm being negative. I think I'm being realistic. You can tell yourself that "Wow Chris hates Eberle…" I don't. I'm just not blindly buying in to the "future" is bright mantra. I've been hearing that for 20 years.

        • GSC

          Who said anything about assigning expectations. Calling him a perimeter player is false, whether you want to believe it or not. He does go into the traffic areas, he does battle for loose pucks but he also has the knack to find the soft spots to be ready to pounce on loose pucks or to be in a scoring position.

          Whether or not he can continue doing that in the NHL has yet to be seen. That was not my point.

  • Chris.

    @Dan The Man. The Oilers have too many similar type forwards. The organization has been drafting, and trading for essentially the same player over and over again. As a result, calling a guy a "perimeter" player has taken on a negative connotation in Oil Country. Perimeter type players have their use on a balanced roster, and they are not necessarily lazy or uncompetative… they just often lack the physical tools to play an effective power game. Let's face it: Eberle is not crushing people down low. Eberle doesn't often battle in traffic for position in front of the net or in the slot… Rather, Eberle reads plays and anticipates where the puck will be going. He makes himself available. He uses his intellect to break down coverage. He makes quick decisions and moves the puck well. (Much like many Oiler forwards did in their Jr careers)

    I guess it depends on what you mean by perimeter… The word, and the way I use it; is not necessarily a swear.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Very good breakdown. IMO Eberle would be very useful on a line with a grinder to do the dirty work and dig out pucks + a playmaker.

      Teaming him with 1-2 more perimeter players would likely be a disaster.

    • Dan the Man

      Fair enough, I can't really disagree with any of that.

      In your original post you were listing off negatives (lack of size, skating ability and lack of powerful shot) and you included perimeter player amongst those negatives. I just just don't see reading the play, anticipating where the puck will be going and finding open ice as negatives.

      A lot of Eberle's goals seem to be from within about 10 feet of the front of the net and I wouldn't personally consider that the perimeter.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I think one thing to keep in mind are the caliber of teams each played on post draft year?

    Eberle- One of the worst WHL teams in the league? Finish's ppg AHL one a bottom team in the AHL.

    Schremp- Best major junior team in country?

    Gagner- Playing with 1st overall pick on a top 5 OHL team?

    Stoll- 2nd overall team in WHL.

    MAP- Playing with Sidney Crosby? and top team in their division?

    POS- Played 2nd best OHL team going to the
    finals of the OHL championship

    Hemsky- Top team in west division

    One thing sticks out to me here? Anyone guess?

    Just thought I would point out the obvious as to why anyone can cherry pick any stat to make so and so good or bad!

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Crash

    "I could contrive that by you saying you think I'm overvaluating Eberle that you don't think he can be or has much of a shot of being a top 30 scorer in the NHL someday. Cuz most of the top 30 today didn't play in the AHL much at all. There is the odd one but not many"

    That's an incredible long shot.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Some people just can't understand stats and their appliacation.

    All this is, is showing history and in a round about way probabilities.