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:
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.