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#4 - Jordan Eberle

After a lengthy delay the Top 25 Under 25 returns with Jordan Eberle, the player we ranked fourth overall.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

If you've been paying close attention at home you might have noticed that there have been some rather lengthy gaps between posts in this iteration of the Top 25 Under 25. This is not a clever attempt to build suspense, but rather a reflection of our general attitude towards all things Oilers right now. With another season mercifully coming to an end, the Oilers find themselves no closer to the end of the rebuild, and after eight years on this treadmill it's becoming increasingly difficult to muster the effort required to sit down and take the time to write something, anything, about this team. In fact what actually drove me to write this article is that I'll be on the Lowdown with Lowetide this morning and I don't want to have to answer "When is the next post coming?" Again.

And so I bring you #4 in our Top 25 Under 25, Jordan Eberle.

Ironically we've reached a point in the Top 25 Under 25 where the players being profiled are actually quite good, and under different circumstances an article such as this would require little effort to put together. These aren't the players just inside the Top 25, guys with a great many flaws and are at best long shots to spend any real time in the NHL, let alone Edmonton; no these are guys like Eberle (and I'm sure you can guess the three who will follow), who at 23 has already established himself as a very good NHL forward. And yet writing this was anything but easy. Losing takes its toll on everyone, I guess.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Alan Ben Bruce DB Derek JW Michael Ryan Scott Zsolt
4 Jordan Eberle 90/05/15 22 2008 (EDM) 5 4 3 2 5 4 4 4 4 4

Previous Rank: 4

For this group that's a lot of agreement in the rankings. Nine of the ten votes were right where he ended up, at number four, plus or minus one. The lone exception being dawgbone who was the resident Eberle super fan last time around as well. In his writeup from last summer dawgbone had this to say about Eberle:

Offensively speaking, he’s got some of the best offensive instincts of any Oiler not name Wayne Gretzky. He is a sublime passer, he’s very good at receiving passes from all angles while moving and he makes good decisions with the puck, knowing when to make the safe play. When he doesn’t have the puck, he has a knack for finding holes in the defensive zone coverage, whether it’s for an open shot or just to give his teammate an easy outlet. His ability to get open, combined with his shooting skill means he’s going to routinely be an above average shooter by the percentages, especially if he keeps playing with guys like Hall, Gagner and Nugent-Hopkins, who are all excellent at passing the puck.

The holes Eberle has in his game can be fixed with experience. He’s a smart player and based on all reports is a player who is willing to learn and doesn’t buy into his own hype. The next step for Eberle is to see get out from under awning and play some tougher minutes. Taylor Hall is ready, if Eberle can be ready too then Oilers can stop focusing solely on being a developmental team and focus on being a playoff team.

That's a pretty nice summary of Eberle and the type of player he is/can be. On a lot of NHL teams I think Eberle would rank a spot or two higher that fourth in their respective Top 25s, but the Oilers on ice failures and off ice draft lottery successes have allowed the team to stockpile three first overall draft picks, picks who have pushed him down into the number four spot.

This season his counting numbers are right where most expected him to be. With 24 goals and 56 points in 74 games, Eberle is nearly mirroring his per game production rates from last season. At five-on-five his goals/60 and points/60 rank third and fourth among Oilers forwards. In terms of individual numbers it's been another good season for Eberle. And just because you can't talk Eberle and scoring without mentioning it, the 2011/12 campaign continues to be an outlier, and as much as we'd like it to happen he's not going to shoot north of 18% again, so it's not fair to judge him against those numbers.

The numbers have been nice but we haven't seen him taking on tougher assignments this season though. His percentage of offensive zone starts has actually increased from 48.7% last season to 55.5% this season. Zone starts aside, he does see his fair share of the oppositions best but his life is without a doubt made a whole hell of a lot easier with the heavy percentage of offensive zone starts. There has also been a dip in his Corsi percentage this season, after breaking even last season he's dropped below 47% this season, and that coupled with the shift to more offensive zone starts could be seen by some as a troubling sign. I don't agree though.

A couple of months back I wrote about Taylor Hall and the disconnect between his point total and his underlying numbers. The take away from that post was that when Hall is on the ice this season the Oilers aren't generating as many shots as they have in the past. This is likely a systems problem, something the coaching staff is pushing that is knocking those numbers off kilter. Given that Eberle has played almost 40% of his five-on-five time this season with Hall, it's reasonable to assume that whatever it is that's affecting Hall's numbers it's also affecting Eberle's and that both will return to normal as soon as the coaches figure out what the problem is. Basically it's a concern but it should be correctable without too much trouble.

Hopefully the coaching staff figure it out soon because as dawgbone said last summer, "if Eberle can be ready [for tougher minutes] too then Oilers can stop focusing solely on being a developmental team and focus on being a playoff team," and isn't that what we all want?