When Jordan Eberle scored 106 points in 57 games as a 19 year-old junior player, I was impressed, but still somewhat skeptical. It's a good thing when a 5'10'' winger with good-but-not-great skating has tremendous success in the WHL, but enough of those players have come and gone without significant professional success that you still can't get too excited. When Jordan Eberle followed that junior performance with 14 points in 11 AHL games (giving him 23 in 20 over two seasons), I became more hopeful. The transition from the CHL to the AHL is a very difficult for many players, and to see Eberle make that transition so well was extremely encouraging. But it was just a few games. And so at the start of the 2010-11 season, Jordan Eberle began his rookie season in the NHL before thousands of very interested eyeballs. He didn't disappoint.
The first thing that demands attention is Jordan Eberle's ability to score. He scored a beauty goal in his first-ever NHL game, and he scored a few more as the season went on. He scored early, and he scored after coming back from a mid-season injury to assure his fans that he'll be just fine going forward. 43 points in 69 games isn't an all-star pace, but it is very good, especially for a player as young as Eberle. In fact, it's so good that Eberle is now one of just 19 players to have scored at least 0.6 points per game at twenty years old or younger in the last five seasons. That doesn't make him unique, and not every player on that list is going on to greatness, but it does represent a fantastic debut.
But it's really his two-way game that's the most encouraging. The young man isn't playing a particularly demanding position defensively, but my own observation is that he does well positionally, comes back hard, and can get the puck out of his end smartly when the situation demands it. His scoring chance rate was in the black -which isn't something very many Oilers can say - and his individual scoring chance rate compares very well to the other wingers on the team (although his "chance against" rate is actually quite high, so I'll need to watch what's going on the defensive zone more closely going forward).
I don't know where exactly Eberle will fit on this Oilers team going forward - it depends on what the Oilers and Ales Hemsky decide to do in the next several months - but after a rookie year to remember, I'm quite confident that he'll be able to fill a significant role in the top nine forwards this coming season, and whatever role the team needs him to fill in that group over the long term.