How many goals will Jordan Eberle score next season?

Jordan Eberle had a great 2011-12 season. However, his goal-scoring was largely shooting percentage-based – does that mean it’s going to drop off, or is Eberle one of the league’s rare high-percentage shooters?

To try and answer that question, I decided to look at a group of 15 players since the mid-1990’s who had posted shooting percentage totals similar to Jordan Eberle over their first two seasons. The list is as follows, with the group average compared to Eberle’s totals over his first two seasons at the bottom:

Rk Player From To GP G A PTS S S%
1 Mark Parrish 1999 2000 154 50 31 81 281 17.8
2 Jonathan Toews 2008 2009 146 58 65 123 339 17.1
3 Paul Stastny 2007 2008 148 52 97 149 323 16.1
4 Alexander Radulov 2007 2008 145 44 51 95 279 15.8
5 Evgeni Malkin 2007 2008 160 80 111 191 514 15.6
6 Steven Stamkos 2009 2010 161 74 67 141 478 15.5
7 Lee Stempniak 2006 2007 139 41 38 79 266 15.4
8 Thomas Vanek 2006 2007 163 68 64 132 441 15.4
9 Ilya Kovalchuk 2002 2003 146 67 51 118 441 15.2
10 Ryan Malone 2004 2006 158 44 43 87 292 15.1
11 Dany Heatley 2002 2003 159 67 89 156 454 14.8
12 Martin Havlat 2001 2002 145 41 51 92 278 14.7
13 Alexander Semin 2004 2007 129 48 47 95 335 14.3
14 Sidney Crosby 2006 2007 160 75 147 222 528 14.2
15 Jonathan Cheechoo 2003 2004 147 37 26 63 269 13.8
  Average     151 56 65 121 368 15.3
* Jordan Eberle 2011 2012 147 52 67 119 338 15.4

As we can see, the averages compare very well to Eberle’s two-year totals, so this would seem to be a comparable group. How did they do in their third NHL season?

To answer that question, I’ve nixed Alexander Radulov (he left for Russia after his second NHL season) and gathered the numbers for this group’s third year:

Player GP G SH SH%
Mark Parrish 70 17 123 13.8%
Jonathan Toews 76 25 202 12.4%
Paul Stastny 45 11 118 9.3%
Evgeni Malkin 82 35 290 12.1%
Steven Stamkos 82 45 272 16.5%
Lee Stempniak 80 13 162 8.0%
Thomas Vanek 82 36 240 15.0%
Ilya Kovalchuk 81 41 341 12.0%
Ryan Malone 64 16 125 12.8%
Dany Heatley 31 13 83 15.7%
Martin Havlat 67 24 179 13.4%
Alexander Semin 63 26 185 14.1%
Sidney Crosby 53 24 173 13.9%
Jonathan Cheechoo 82 56 317 17.7%
Total 958 382 2810 13.6%
Average 68 27 201 13.6%

The games played total is lower, but I wouldn’t read too much into that – it’s really a function of three players (Stastny, Heatley and Crosby) missing time in their third seasons. Overall, shooting percentage fell significantly – Stamkos and Cheechoo were the significant exceptions, though Cheechoo would fall off the map over the next two seasons – but an increase in shot rates made up the vast majority of the difference.

Based on this group, we would expect Jordan Eberle to see a jump in total shots, a slight dip in shooting percentage, and maintain similar goal-scoring numbers next season. Or would we?

The Other Way of Looking At It

In our initial look at this problem, we considered the first and second years of these players as one sample, not bothering to split up those two seasons to see how much progress each player made. If we do that, how does Eberle compare to the average?

Player 1GP 1G 1S 1SH% 2GP 2G 2S 2SH%
Mark Parrish 73 24 129 18.6% 81 26 152 17.1%
Jonathan Toews 64 24 144 16.7% 82 34 195 17.4%
Paul Stastny 82 28 185 15.1% 66 24 138 17.4%
Evgeni Malkin 78 33 242 13.6% 82 47 272 17.3%
Steven Stamkos 79 23 181 12.7% 82 51 297 17.2%
Lee Stempniak 57 14 100 14.0% 82 27 166 16.3%
Thomas Vanek 81 25 204 12.3% 82 43 237 18.1%
Ilya Kovalchuk 65 29 184 15.8% 81 38 257 14.8%
Ryan Malone 81 22 139 15.8% 77 22 153 14.4%
Dany Heatley 82 26 202 12.9% 77 41 252 16.3%
Martin Havlat 73 19 133 14.3% 72 22 145 15.2%
Alexander Semin 52 10 92 10.9% 77 38 243 15.6%
Sidney Crosby 81 39 278 14.0% 79 36 250 14.4%
Jonathan Cheechoo 66 9 94 9.6% 81 28 175 16.0%
Average 72 23 160 14.3% 79 34 208 16.1%
Jordan Eberle 69 18 158 11.4% 78 34 180 18.9%

In the first year, things look very comparable – Eberle’s shooting percentage (and consequently his goal-scoring) is a bit lower than the group average, but overall he’s in the range. The group managed 2.22 shots/game, on average; Eberle managed 2.30.

In year two, things change dramatically – because while our average group enjoys a modest bump in shooting percentage and a big bump in shots-per-game (they go from 2.22 shots/game up to 2.63 shots/game), Eberle sees no increase in shots-per-game and a massive increase in shooting percentage. Eberle literally goes from firing 2.30 shots per game in his rookie season to 2.31 as a sophomore.

The fact that Eberle’s increase – unlike our group average – is based on shooting percentage and not an increase in shots is troubling, because it raises doubts that his shot totals will increase in the same manner that the group as a whole did. We also know, barely short of a certainty, that his shooting percentage is going to fall from his second year totals.

Knowing what we do, there are three individuals on the chart above worth looking at in more detail: Paul Stastny, Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Cheechoo. What makes those three interesting?

Stastny and Crosby are of interest because they’re the only two players from our sample to see their shot totals in their second season either decrease or show zero growth. Every other player saw their shot totals improve significantly. In both cases, the players went on to show negligible growth over the rest of their careers to date. Stastny fired 2.26 shots/game as a rookie, while on his career he’s fired 2.37 shots/game; Crosby fired 3.43 shots/game as a rookie and his career average currently sits at 3.39 shots/game.

Cheechoo is of interest because he’s the only player on this list with a similar improvement in shooting percentage. Like Eberle – and like nobody else on this list – his shooting percentage jumped ~160 percent from year one to year two. In Cheechoo’s case, he was able to ride the shooting percentage wave for one more season before a long, slow, slide pushed him into the AHL. In his last NHL season (with Ottawa in 2009-10) he scored five goals on 117 shots (4.27 SH%) and he’s now been an ~11% shooter over two AHL seasons.

What are you saying!?!?

It’s important not to draw too firm a conclusion from the players we’ve looked at above – this is a small group and it gets smaller when we look at three individuals who relate to Eberle in some way. However, based on this data, if I had to project how Eberle fares next season I’d go with the following:

  • A small increase in shots/game
  • A large decrease in shooting percentage
  • A significant decrease in goals scored

If I’m forced to pick a number? Over a full season I’d guess Eberle fires the puck ~190 times and scores ~26 goals. There’s any number of ways that could be wrong – particularly if Eberle finds a way to increase the number of shots he takes this season in a significant way – but if I were drawing a line in the sand that’s where I’d put it. I do not expect him to match 2011-12’s totals in 2012-13.

THIS WEEK BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    Slightly off topic, but I am seeing (in these comments and in other threads) mention of Klefbom. My understanding is that he stays in SEL for another year. Has that changed?

  • JW although you are accurate in your assessment…..that being shots taken times shooting %, one needs to also factor in the goalie you are shooting at, and his save %.

    I suspect that JE shots taken will also be attached to his ice time, he did not get first line ice time last year, so he could actually lead the NHL in shots taken.

    I think the more telling stat would be the quality of the shots taken…..hard to measure this one!

  • The idea that Eberle can and will shoot more is an interesting one, and one that I’m open to being convinced of.

    When doing the research for this piece, I didn’t come across a player who was able to manage a big spike in shot totals. As a rule, the pattern I saw was the same pattern that Crosby/Stastny showed – if shot totals stayed the same over the first two seasons, they generally stayed in the same range on the career.

    However, just because I didn’t find players who did that doesn’t mean they aren’t there – if anyone can think of an example (I looked through most of the NHL’s best goal-scorers and couldn’t find one) I’d love to see it.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination to Follow

    Eberle has FOUR factors that could help him maintain his current goal scoring pace and possibly exceed it.

    1)He plays with the Nuge(Shooting percentage increased 5%- because the Nuge is simply the best)

    2)More Minutes – he should see an incrase of 15-20% in icetime (more shots+more goals)

    3)Oilers Powerplay – Eberle sits in the sniper slot – across from the Nuge(resulting in beautiful goals)

    4) Justin Scultz – the puck will get up the ice quicker, more breakout passes and the Powerplay should be better

    So I am hoping Eberle hits 35 goals this year due to these factors, is 40 hoping for too much? I would love to see Captain Clutch in the playoffs or play in meaningful games in March, and I think Semin would help our team get to the playoffs – and when he disappears, Captain Clutch would carry the team on his back. Heres hoping Oiler Management Adds to our 29th place team.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    @ Willis:

    Would you predict a similar drop-off in point production from Eberle’s linemates?

    Surely Eberle’s potential drop in shooting percentage would have some measurable impact on his linemates’ assist totals.

    I’m not sure if you can predict an increase in the number of assists from RNH, for instance, if you can’t predict an increase in goals from his linemates.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    Mike Krushelnyski wrote:

    More shots and a similar shooting percentage. Ebs will probably always maintain a high shooting percentage because he’s a great one-shot scorer on the PP. The Oilers as a team will hopefully generate more shots because they’ll be a better team in all 3 zones (oh god I hope so).

    I definitely see Willis’ point, but this is a great one, too. With Eberle getting gravy 1PP minutes, his shooting percentage should remain ridiculous as long as the PP stays ridiculous. Probably not reasonable to expect him to repeat last year’s number, but I don’t think 15% is far-fetched.

  • DieHard

    Eberle is a sniper with deceitful moves and a very accurate shot. If he doesn’t have a shot to make he won’t take it as he has the ability to dangle or pass. With team offense improving I can see him getting more shots per game on average with his shooting percentage in his current range. He’s a wonderful player. Very smart.

  • Big Cap

    Ebs potted 34 goals and 76 points. What would his totals of been had Hall and RNH not missed 20 games?

    RNH was rookie and still was dominant. Its gonna be very scary this year watching RNH with more confidence, size ans skill set up Ebs.

    Ebs will also have Yak and Schultz to play with and take some of the top defense pairings of his shifts.

    Its is very possible for a 40-45 goal season with a mid 90`s point total.

    • Wax Man Riley

      What if Eberle benefited from the absence of Hall and RNH?

      He was now “the guy.” He was the ones taking the shots as opposed to them. There are only so many shots that can be taken in a game.

      It may have inflated his stats.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    Never reading another one of your articles……its off-season and you are dropping ebs shooting %

    After picking 1st for last 3 yrs….last thing I need to hear.

    • To be fair, I’m not dropping Eberle’s shooting percentage. I’m saying that I don’t think he’s the best shooter in the NHL by a wide margin, and that therefore projecting that his shooting percentage is likely to drop. There’s a difference.

      Secondly, if you want somebody to speak exclusively from a rose-coloured glasses viewpoint, than you’re right not to read anything else I write – because I won’t do that.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    I am in the 30-40 goal range estimate.

    I see a modest drop in shooting percentage and and modest increase in shot rate to compensate.

    I also suspect he will feed that shooting percentage off the powerplay, where as others have said, the Nuge boosts Eberle’s shooting percentage with some ridiculous passes that Eberle rarely misses scoring on.

    if Eberle was to see a significant decrease in his PP time or have to play with another centre for long stretches, then I could see a dip below 30 goals.

    Can you segregate his shooting percentage at evens vs PP?

  • BurkeTheTurd

    @ JW

    I am with you, shooting percentage will come down slowly, but hopefully shots will increase as he get more ice time and better players around him.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    More shots and a similar shooting percentage. Ebs will probably always maintain a high shooting percentage because he’s a great one-shot scorer on the PP. The Oilers as a team will hopefully generate more shots because they’ll be a better team in all 3 zones (oh god I hope so).

  • You’re not looking at all the variables, and are being a bit unrealistic in the ones you’ve chosen.

    I’ll agree Eberle’s shooting percentage was high last year, at an unmaintainable level, but I still think he averages about 13-14% for his career. Why?

    1) Eberle is a sniper. The sheer accuracy and quality of his shots put him in the top 5% of NHL forwards IMO in terms of sniping ability. Perhaps 20-25 players in the league can have this distinction. I can’t think of an Oiler with that nice of a shot in the last 15 years.

    2) Eberle isn’t a shoot-first player. He’s not going to fire a ridiculous number of shots/game or shoot from poor angles (like Hall and Paajarvi). If you watch him play he’d much rather try to maintain possession or pass in hopes of creating a better Iopportunity than blindly throw the puck at the net. It’s what makes him such a finesse player. It’s like a Hemsky-like trait, except he’s much more aware of when to shoot.

    2) Eberle plays with RNH now. The quality of scoring opportunities he’s seeing now, especially on the powerplay, is oodles higher than those he was seeing with Horcoff and Gagner. That shooting percentage is bound to stay >10% thanks to this.

    I think Eberle scores on pace for 30+ at the very least, as long as he remains the #1LW and on the #1 PP unit.

    • Lurch_tm

      I agree with Br91’s second point: You have to consider the TYPE of goals Eberle scores, because a simple shooting percentage doesn’t capture all the variables.

      Many of Eberle’s shots are very high quality, because of the way he carries/controls the puck. How many times does he wait until two or three defenders AND the goaltender are laying on the ice before he shoots into an open net?

      When he scored the goal of the year (!) in his first NHL game, people said he was lucky. His highlight reel for the last two seasons says otherwise, and that doesn’t show the 2-3 similar opportunities per game that he DOESN’T score on. He will continue to create this type of opportunity, likely at the same rate, and I don’t see his percentage going down on those type of goals.

      The second type of goal he scores are finishing shots after passing plays. He’s unlikely a) to be on the receiving end of fewer passes in the next year, and just as unlikely b) to start missing open nets more than he already does.

      The third type of goal he scores are laser-accurate shots from difficult and sneaky angles. His shooting percentage might go down in this category, but because defenders are aware of his explosive linemates and his ability to create chances in the first two categories above, Eberle will continue to catch goalies and defencemen cheating, so I think his numbers in this category of goal last year are not really as lucky as they appear.

      My prediction: Eberle’s shot total and shooting percentage in the last two years were not an anomaly. He will score at the same pace as last year for several years to come. He won’t be a 50-goal scorer, but a solid 30-40 goal man.

    • If he fires the same number of shots – actually, let’s increase it by 10%, to 2.5 shots per game – 205 shots on the season – and fires at 13.5% (your career number) how many goals is that?

      205 * 0.135 = 28 goals. Two more goals than my projection, entirely thanks to more shots (I used 190 shots and a 13.7 SH% in my projection).

  • Very nice, all ready starting with the negative uh? Jesus christ, so what next Halls only going to score 10 goals, RNH only going to get 30 pts? You’re watching the emergence of a 35-40 goal sniper. Not a lot of guys in the NHL have a shot like he does and he’s only going to get stronger and faster. And now throw Yak in the mix…..wow.

    • db7db7db7

      No injuries to Ebs or Nuge would be a big help. So will the 20+ min/game that he’ll be playing compared to last season. His shooting percentage will drop for sure, but he will end up with way more shots.

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      Have you consider throwing in unmeasurable factors. Like as to how Ebs thinks the game. I find that he is very selective as to when and how he shoots the puck. He tends to make the most of his opportunities and always seems to come through. This goes back all the way to Junior and the world championships. Just a thought but I find Ebs is more about using his head than just shooting for the sake of shooting. If he can’t get the shot he wants he tends to hold on and look for the pass or get in a better position.

      • Goals = shots * shooting percentage.

        Therefore – if Eberle is going to score more goals, one of those things must increase.

        It can be a byproduct of thinking the game better – or whatever quality you want to highlight of his – but those qualities must result in either one or the other. I’m asking how people see them translating.

        • I wasn’t talking about him scoring any more or less, just a explantion as to the high %. I honestly think he will stick around the 75 point mark. Likely have flucuation between goals and assits but still sitting at the same level.

          • Thats true and honeslty how many players in the NHL maintain an annual 75+ point a season avg? People here need to be realistic, a lot seem to think in a year or two our whole top line is going to have 100 point players on it and be good for a decade. Its just not realistic. I’m not saying it isn’t possible for maybe a season but very unlikely. I also never see Hall hitting 80 points, hes a wrecking ball not a sniper and thats okay he won’t need to put up those kind of points.

            I feel the same expectations are being put on Gagner. I’m fine with the 45-50 points a season as a second line center. I just think he needs to bring a little more defensively and physically to make this team more competitive. Also I met Gagner and they have him listed at 5’11”, no way I’m 5’6″ and we were almost the same height.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    He should be able to pot around 35 to 40 goals, all things considered. A healthy season from his linemates is a big plus. New coach playing him against tougher opposition this year may hinder him a little, but with a beefed up defence (assuming Whitney is healthy and Schultz/Klefbom make the transition good) it may balance out. I wanna see LOTS of big stretch passes coming from our end to send Ebs in. He has great hands and can pick his shots, so give him some clean passes and have a good season with healthy linemates and I know we will be putting him in the same brackets as Tavares, Stamkos, Malkin etc from this year on.

  • I have a one almost-word reason why Eberle will be scoring goals at a stupid rate for the remainder of his time with the Oilers*: RNH.

    Nuge will be feeding him sick passes for the rest of forever and Eberle has the hands to capitalize. And Nuge is only going to get better.

    *Until he retires!!

  • vetinari

    Eb’s is guaranteed to score more goals in 2012-13 than: 1.) me; 2.) you; and, 3.) everyone else on these boards combined.

    Seriously, I think Eberle is in an enviable position because he’ll have Hall, RNH, and the Yak feeding him for the foreseeable future and unless he gets snake bitten (literally, as in, “Jay Fester snuck a cobra into my left skate”), he’ll easily pot in 20-30 goals a season and most likely, be a 30-40 goal scorer.