Jordan Eberle is more popular than the Beatles. Well, he's more popular than the Beatles in Canada, at least. His late-game heroics in the last two World Junior Championships have garnered him a reputation for being clutch. Very clutch. He seems to score late-game goals like the NHL's newest playoff superstar, the San Jose Sharks' Joe Pavelski. When it comes to "seen him good" analysis, all of Canada thinks Eberle is going to be the next big thing. After all, every time he's been on the biggest stage possible for a kid in Major Juniors, he's been the best player on the ice. So why wouldn't he be the next big thing?
The problem for me when I rank Eberle is that clutch doesn't exist, so I have to hang my hat something else, namely numbers or attributes. It's not that I don't like Eberle as an prospect, because I do, very much. I think that he may one day be effective, especially on the power play. But when it comes to overall attributes, Eberle is probably the most lacking player in our top 10. When I wrote Tyler Pitlick's profile, I talked about how he possesses all of the five tools of a hockey player:
...he's a good skater, he has an above-average shot, he's good in the circle, he's physical and he has hockey sense or presence,
Eberle isn't more than an average skater, he does have an above-average shot, he's not a faceoff guy, he's not particularly physical, although he does have exceptional hockey sense, he's not an exceptional passer and he lacks NHL size. Players of Eberle's ilk often do make the NHL, and some have succeeded, however, those players that have succeeded all had some superior skill or attribute that they were able to rely on to make the next level. For Eberle, it's going to have to be the always-nebulous "hockey sense" that makes him a player in the NHL.
Even though I'm down on the overall package that Eberle delivers, I've still ranked him in the top eight. And that ranking all comes down to one thing - numbers. At every level, Jordan Eberle's numbers have been outstanding.
Eberle slips one spot in the rankings. I dropped him two spots from six to eight, but that was zeroed out by Jonathan moving him up to five from seven. Ben left him in second overall and Scott and Bruce both dropped him by one spot.
The writers here (except for Ben) often write about NHLE. It's one of Desjardins' most significant contributions and it's been shown to have remarkable predictive ability. Eberle's NHLE (chart below) has been steadily rising, which is to be expected of an overage player in a Major Junior hockey league. However, Eberle's NHLE keeps on rising while he plays professional hockey, in this case, with Springfield in the AHL.
What's most impressive about Eberle's production during his short stints in the AHL is that he's posted those numbers on a really awful team. At age 18, he posted nine points in nine games, pacing well ahead of anyone else on the team. The next season, aged 19, he appeared in eleven games and scored 14 points, again, a pace that was only matched by longtime AHL veteran, and new KHL signee Charles Linglet.
When Bruce looked at Eberle in February, he thought that his eventual range was somewhere between David Oliver and Joe Mullen. I think the Mullen comparison is a bit much, so my top-end comparable is Alex Tanguay.
Why Alex Tanguay? Their juniors scoring rates are remarkably similar and their games and attributes are also similar. Eberle is 5'11", 180 lbs, while Tanguay is 6' 192 lbs. Desjardins has proven that Tanguay has relied on his true shooting ability to make it through, and Eberle might have to do something very similar. If Eberle doesn't have true shooting skill and has to rely on smarts and hockey sense, his top-end comparable would be David Vyborny.
If Eberle were to burst into the NHL playing the right side with Dustin Penner and Sam Gagner, he would have every chance to score 20 goals and post 25 assists. Given his linemates, if they were to get second minutes, he might get more. He might end up with a Calder.
He might. Then again, the speed of the NHL game and the size of his opponents might overwhelm him. He might not be able to display his world-class hockey sense because he might be chasing the play rather than creating it. And therein lies my dilemma with Jordan Eberle. Given his track record, I think there's no reason he can't succeed. But breaking down the player logically, pragmatically, I can't find a reason to explain why he will succeed.