The Jordan Eberle Selection

There was never anything obvious about the Jordan Eberle selection.

For as long as I’ve been a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, I’ve been perplexed at the odd rumours and urban legends that consistently build up around the team. Recent storylines include the ‘Tommy Salo was broken by that goal against Belarus at the Olympics’ narrative and the ‘Marc Pouliot got drafted because Sidney Crosby made him look good’ story. Both are utterly without factual merit – and it takes less than five minutes of digging to confirm that – but they get repeated all the same.

A recent tendency has been to downplay the selection of Jordan Eberle at 22nd overall in 2008. My guess is that it’s a reaction to some of the more fervent support for Stu MacGregor seen here and elsewhere, but it’s misguided all the same. The Eberle selection was not by any stretch a no-brainer or an obvious choice.

Central Scouting ranked Eberle 33rd among North American skaters in their final 2008 draft rankings. Even assuming that no goaltenders should have been picked before him, and that no European skaters were in the mix either, that’s an early second-round slot.

The rankings in The Hockey News 2008 Draft Preview tell a similar story. When the Oilers picked at 22nd overall, there were still five players ranked above Eberle still available – Mattias Tedenby, Greg Nemisz, Colby Robak, Jacob Markstrom and Mikhail Stefanovich.

Bob McKenzie’s rankings at TSN are the best guide a fan has; his list had Eberle slotted in at 29th overall. Ahead of Eberle (and still available when the Oilers picked) were forwards Mattias Tedenby, Greg Nemisz, and Nicolas Deschamps, defensemen John Carlson, Tyler Cuma, and Colby Robak, goaltenders Jacob Markstrom and Thomas McCollum .

Eberle wasn’t an off-the-board pick – all three lists had him in the range of where the Oilers picked him – but there was nothing obvious about the selection either.

Looking back at what scouts were saying about Eberle, it’s easy to see why. Lowetide has two of the money quotes in this 2008 write-up:

Bob McKenzie in his TSN Top 30 (which is now the industry standard) told us he was “a somewhat under-sized centre and is considered one of the smartest offensive players in the draft. He is a better goal-scorer than a playmaker and is an elusive talent when he has the puck. There are some questions about his speed, but he does have quickness, especially in tight situations and one-on-ones.”

Michael Remmerde is a scout and Contributing Editor for Red Line Report. Remmerde says of Eberle that there is good (“great sniper’s touch. Knows how to find scoring chances. Quick hands. Will take a hit to make a play”) and some things that are a concern (“casual player – effort level is never there. Tends to stick to the perimeter”).

(emphasis added)

Every once in a while, someone pops up to tell us all that Sam Gagner was obviously a poor pick immediately, because small players need speed to get by. If a player isn’t big or fast, the reasoning goes, he’ll never be a difference maker in the NHL.

Jordan Eberle is neither big nor particularly fast. He’s described as a “casual” “perimeter” player who struggled with “effort level.” So: small, slow, and lazy. The prototypical Oiler of recent years, no?  Meanwhile, 6’3" Greg Nemisz was putting up solid point totals in the OHL, was available, and was ranked in the same range.

Fortunately for Oilers fans, Stu MacGregor and his scouting staff made the pick. They saw the tremendous goal-scoring skills and hockey sense possessed by Eberle. They looked past his flaws, looked by the Tedenby’s and Nemisz’s of the world, and picked the guy they thought was the best selection. History has shown it to be an inspired pick.

I’m not an unabashed admirer of Stu MacGregor and the Oilers’ scouting. They’ve made some mistakes, as all scouting services do. They deserve credit for the Hall and Nugent-Hopkins picks, but at the same time it’s also worth remembering that a grannie with nothing but a copy of The Hockey News would have made those same selections.

But they knocked it out of the park when they picked Jordan Eberle, and saying otherwise is simply wrong.

  • Vaclav

    Great pick at #22. The only debate would be whether John Carlson might have been a better long term choice for the Oilers. But given the team had no 2nd or 3rd round picks in 2008 they acquired a very productive player in Eberle.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    @Ambassador Humantorch:

    Can we chalk that up to “urban legends about the team”?

    I also heard that he fought a bear on the night before the draft, and that a single bead of his sweat can power a mid-size sedan for 6 years.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Didn’t Stu have him at 12th or 13th? I’d suspect if you actually had the list of top 30 players from each team you’d see a lot of guys all over the place. The Oilers did there homework and took the guy that they thought fell in the draft. Hopefully the same can be said about Klefbom, Musil, Gernat, and Marincin in a few years.

  • Lexi

    Another excellent post Jonathan,

    Nobody is better at using the facts to point both the positves and the negatives of Oiler management than you.

    There were definitely a lot of land mines along with quite a few gems in that 2008 draft.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      ISS had him ranked at 14 in november. 17 in december. 17 in january. 18 in february. 20 in march, and finally dropped him to 25, 30 and 30 in april, may and final, respectively. so he was higher than the oilers pick most of the year. he scored 42 goals in 70 games in the dub in his draft year, no minor accompishment, especially if you are slow and lazy. that being said he must have had magical hands and otherworldly hockey sense because 42 in 70 doesn’t happen by accident for a 17 yr old in that league. i also distinctly remember a pure sniper on top of the wish list for the oilers that year. just sayin.

      too many people want to worship at the alter of macgregor, personally, i need more evidence.

  • Lexi

    Its always fascinating to learn about the “gems”, of the draft that are not the concensus players chosen by all the pundits.

    JW, are you aware of some of these players in the upcoming draft?

  • Petr's Jofa

    @ Lenny,

    No one is saying Eberle was a bad choice, but there are many on the interwebs that are saying it was an easy choice.

    I remember hoping the Oilers picked him based soley on a pre-draft interview where he said the Oilers were his favoirte team growing up.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I was just wondering where it came from and I think I know. They are all preparing us to except this years draft pick other then Yakupov because they don’t like him for the very simple reason-he is Russian.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    “They deserve credit for the Hall and Nugent-Hopkins picks”

    Are the Oilers better off than if they had picked Seguin and Larsson? They would have that elite centre and a potential franchise defenseman.

    Now it looks like they will pick another winger or a pretty good defenseman. I wish there was some chatter about Grigorenko for the #1 spot. Not sure if he is the right guy, but elite wingers historically don’t hoist Stanley Cups without elite centres.

  • TwoSkidoos

    He lives vicariously through himself.

    He once had an awkward moment… just to see what it felt like.

    #14 sort of reminds me of Ray Whitney – smallish forward, hard to get a hold of, difficult to hit, sneaky shot, good hands.

    I sort of hope the Oil do trade the pick for one or more assets whether it’s a warm body, picks, prospects, etc.

  • @ Jonathan Willis — I’d be interested to hear you elaborate on the urban
    Myth on Tommy Salo you mentioned; he was my favorite player growing up and I was quite enraged by the narrative that was delivered by the MSM prior to his trade. However, I was 16 at the time and was likely seeing much of his play through rose-tinted glasses. So I’m interested in hearing a well thought out, objective opinion on it…

    If you don’t mind of course.

  • TwoSkidoos

    Stop the” MacGregor for President”rant. I ‘ll give him credit for the Eberle pick, not sure it was a slam dunk. But beyond that, the jury is still out on him.He was around as scout during the down years with the Oilers under Prendergast.
    The Lotto kids, as someone said ” granny could have made the pick”… his choice wasTaylor or Tyler, and RHN or Landeskog… cant go too far wrong with any of these picks.. so low points for Mac, on those picks..even though they were good picks.I’d like to see a low 2 nd. or 3 rd rounder bust of the gates , like some other teams have done, that blossum into front line players.

  • RyanCoke

    @willis

    right, i forgot, players don’t show up on teams radar based on any ranking but the final one. certainly wouldn’t induce a trip to rexall to watch the kid play.

    i see your point sonewhat, but your esposito comparison is weak.

    • Your point is unclear. Your position is that the Oilers only scout players ranked in the top 20? That if Eberle was ranked 30th earlier in the year they never would have watched him play?

      I also don’t think “weak” means what you think it means. Unless you think it means “spot on”, because then you’d be right.

  • misfit

    He may not have been the obvious pick based on the rankings, but I seem to recall the overall feeling in the weeks leading up to the draft that the Oilers would take him if he was still on the board at #22, and just about everyone expected he would be. I definitely wasn’t surprised in the least when it ended up happening.

    Not that it has anything to do with the Eberle pick, but I also remember Guy Flaming said that they would’ve taken Markstrom if Eberle wasn’t there.

  • RyanCoke

    You guys have it all wrong. What happened was we got Stu because he has connections to central scouting, all he did was pull out a few thousand to some influential scouts and they dropped his final ranking so Stu can pick him. Isn’t it obvious?…

  • RyanCoke

    I was praying that they would draft him. I don’t know why anyone would think he is lazy but he sure can let everyone pass him by and still put the puck in the net. I couldn’t believe he was there at 22 and couldn’t be happier he is an oiler. You don’t score goals like eberle has scored and not be a special player.