Jordan Eberle isn’t going to muscle into the Calder Trophy race in a meaningful way in the Edmonton Oilers final four games of this season, but that he’s going to get some votes is testament to the kind of season he’s had under trying conditions.
Despite playing with an injury-riddled and rebuilding bottom-feeder and missing 13 games with a sprained left ankle, Eberle goes into Tuesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks sitting eighth in rookie scoring with 18-23-41 in 65 games.
While that leaves Eberle well short of the 58 points Carolina’s Jeff Skinner has compiled and the 54 San Jose’s Logan Couture has — he’ll likewise come up short behind them in voting by the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association — his numbers are nothing to sneeze at.
The way I see it, Eberle and Taylor Hall, who’ll finish the season with 42 points in 65 games, will flirt with the fringe of the top five vote-getters when all is said and done.
If they do, it’ll represent the best finish by a tandem of Edmonton rookies since Sam Gagner finished seventh and Andrew Cogliano was ninth in 2008 Calder Trophy voting.
Considering the circumstances, that’s impressive.
While the Calder Trophy is a nice trinket and looks good on the career resume — not to mention it’s put more than a little bonus money in the jeans of rookies past — a look at the list of winners shows the best first-year player doesn’t necessarily turn out to be the best player.
I’m not saying the 20-year-old Eberle will turn out to be a more prolific scorer than Skinner or Couture, but when you consider the numbers he’s put up on a team that has just 186 goals, which ranks 28th in the NHL, and that he’s missed 13 games, his numbers are excellent.
Eberle, taken 22nd in the 2008 Entry Draft, has five game-winning goals, second to the eight scored by Couture, and he’s put up points at the PPG clip of .630, which represents a better pace than five of six Oilersnation writers pegged him for in the Lucky 13 Draft.
Jason Gregor and I had Eberle pegged for 45 points this season, which is .548 PPG. Wanye stumbled out of the filth of his trailer and picked Eberle for 50 points, or .609 per game. Willis had Eberle for 39 points (.475) and Lowetide low-balled at 29 points (.353). Only the curious entity that is Bagged Milk was too optimistic, picking Eberle for 53 points (.646).
Eberle has certainly been more prolific than the, ahem, experts here thought he would be and he’s done it without Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner and Hall for big chunks of the season.
WORK IN PROGRESS
"I think he’s a little bit a victim of the circumstances," coach Tom Renney said of Eberle, who will play left wing on a line with raw rookies Chris VandeVelde and Teemu Hartikainen against Vancouver.
"Not to take anything away from his teammates and the people he lines up with on a nightly basis, but if you eliminate our top scorers out of the equation here, he’s not playing with people who have a level of competence that would enhance his offence.
"It’s fair to say he’s done and excellent job staying with the pack in terms of rookie scoring. He’s done an excellent job of contributing to our needs any way as a rookie player."
While the dynamic Hall might actually get more votes than Eberle at Calder Trophy time, it’s also fair to say that won’t define No. 14 moving forward. He’s got some dimensions to his game.
Eberle’s not only got ridiculous hands and is quicker than many people expected, he’s reasonably good defensively for a rookie and he kills penalties. What his top end offensively is, I’m not sure. We won’t know until he gets some help.
That aside, Eberle’s got the chance to lead the Oilers in team scoring this season, not to mention he could slip past Hall and do it playing just four more games. That’s not bad, no matter how you slice it.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.