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That's Lowetide talking about Jordan Eberle's reputation outpacing the player. He's right, of course, because Eberle's World Junior heroics have kept him in the national consciousness for the last two years. His performances have also increased his stature in the eyes of folks already putting too much stock into prospects, an Edmonton pastime since 1992.
The lack of news in August gave us a chance to explore unrealistic expectations for the incoming class of Edmonton rookies, and specifically the long-term expectations of Oiler fans on Taylor Hall and Hall's rookie year projections. The look at Gagner's comparables rounds out my round robin of optimistic, pessimistic and realistic articles on young Oilers. Let it be said that I'm more than just the resident pessimist.
Lowetide received criticism at his site, at Oilersnation, and on various and sundry message boards for under-selling Jordan Eberle. His critics listed his shot, his brain, his want, and his history of being clutch as reasons for Eberle deserving all of these accolades and more.
One idea that's been put forth in the upwelling of support for Jordan Eberle is that he scored so many points for the Regina Pats in the WHL last season. Eberle scored 106 in 57 games, to be exact. Eberle's most vocal fans would have us believe that this is a special and significant accomplishment, a number that points toward something significant. Let's investigate.
Eberle posted his number as a 19-year-old (actually as a hockey-aged 19-year-old), making it a bit less significant than if he had done the same as an 18-year-old. Below is a list of every 100-point season posted by 19-year-olds in the WHL since 2000.
|Justin Mapletoft||2000||Red Deer Rebels||70||43||77||120|
|Layne Ulmer||2000||Swift Current Broncos||68||63||56||119|
|Kyle Wanvig||2000||Red Deer Rebels||69||55||46||101|
|Jordan Krestanovich||2000||Calgary Hitmen||70||40||60||100|
|Eric Johansson||2001||Tri-City Americans||69||44||59||103|
|Erik Christensen||2002||Kamloops Blazers||67||54||54||108|
|Jesse Schultz||2002||Kelowna Rockets||72||53||51||104|
|Jeremy Williams||2003||Swift Current Broncos||68||52||49||101|
|Eric Fehr||2004||Brandon Wheat||71||59||52||111|
|Casey Pierro-Zabotel||2008||Vancouver Giants||72||36||79||115|
|Brett Sonne||2008||Calgary Hitmen||62||48||52||100|
|Brandon Kozun||2009||Calgary Hitmen||65||32||75||107|
|Jordan Eberle||2009||Regina Pats||57||50||56||106|
There are fourteen such seasons in total, and of the players that hit the century mark, only Erik Christensen and Eric Fehr have become regular NHL players, with Fehr being the only offensive threat at the NHL level. Based on this accomplishment alone, there is no follow-on history of success.
I can already hear or read the next argument: "But look at his points per game! The World Junior Championship and his trip to the AHL robbed him of a 133 point season!" And while Eberle did average 1.86 points per game, that doesn't seem to predict future success either. Going all the way back to 1990, there have been ten "full-season" 19-year-olds to average 1.66 points per game - 90% of Eberle's total - or better. Those players are listed below:
|Hnat Domenichelli||1995||Kamloops Blazers||2.39|
|Jason Miller||1990||Medicine Hat Tigers||2.06|
|Marty Murray||1994||Brandon Wheat Kings||1.97|
|Maxim Bets||1992||Spokane Chiefs||1.96|
|Scott Gomez||1998||Tri-City Americans||1.86|
|Jeff Nelson||1991||Prince Albert Raiders||1.77|
|Valeri Bure||1993||Spokane Chiefs||1.73|
|Kimbi Daniels||1990||Swift Current Broncos||1.71|
|Brad Moran||1998||Calgary Hitmen||1.66|
Of the players that dominated the WHL as 19-year-olds, only Marty Murray, Scott Gomez, and Valeri Bure became NHL regulars, and only Gomez became a regular offensive threat. Whether Bure was a regular threat is debatable.
None of this is to diminish what Eberle has accomplished in his young career, and I'm not saying that Eberle is going to be a bust. But an argument based on his points scored as a 19-year-old in the WHL is one on shaky ground.