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Checking in on Jordan Eberle

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NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016/17 season has been a challenge for the 26-year old winger. Because of his cap hit and the fact that he played with McDavid early on in the season, and continues to play a top-six role, expectations are high. Unfortunately, Eberle’s goal and point production has been lower this season compared to his past season’s, which has drawn plenty of attention as the Oilers are desperate for secondary scoring.

Data: Corsica Hockey

While his 1.60 points per hour is lower than his career norms, it’s a slight improvement compared to where he was in late December after 37 games. At that point, Eberle had only 12 even-strength points, a rate of 1.40 points per 60, with only six of those points being primary (i.e., goals and primary assists).

When I dug into his numbers in late December, I had found that Eberle’s individual rate of shots per hour and his individual expected goals, which gives a weighting to each unblocked shot based on the type and distance, were in line with his past numbers. The Oilers were also a better team when it came to their share of total shot attempts (Corsi For%) and scoring chances when Eberle was on the ice. The main issue for Eberle at the time was that his individual shooting percentage was 4.55%, well below the 12%-13% shooting percentage he had posted in the past three seasons. Knowing that player’s tend to regress towards their career averages over time, my thought was that Eberle’s shooting percentage would improve over the rest of the season, and the points would (hopefully) start to pile up.

Fast forward to today, and it looks like things are getting back to normal for Eberle. Below is a table that breaks out Eberle’s season into two periods: games prior to December 30, 2016, and games from December 31, 2016 onwards.

Before December 30, 2016 Since December 31, 2016
Games 37 28
TOI/Game 13.89 13.69
G/A/P 3-9-12 6-6-12
Points/60 1.40 1.88
Corsi For% (Rel) 53.07 (+2.57) 51.26 (+2.71)
xGoals For% (Rel) 51.51 (+3.23) 49.91 (+0.35)
Goals For% (Rel) 47.22 (-6.46) 62.96 (+10.33)
Individual Shots For/60 7.70 7.99
Individual xGoals/60 0.74 0.90
Individual Shooting% 4.55 11.76
On-ice Shooting% 6.05 8.54
On-ice Save% 92.91 94.29
PDO 98.96 102.83

The big thing that stands out here is the difference in Eberle’s shooting percentage since late December. Over the first 37 games of the season, Eberle converted only 4.55% of his shots into goals. But over the next 28 games, that number jumped up to 11.76%, which is much, much closer to his career average. Eberle’s ice time and his rate of shots stayed pretty consistent across the two periods, so it doesn’t appear like anything drastic was done to influence his productivity.

Keep in mind too that this type of dip and gradual increase within a season has been pretty common in Eberle’s career, as the second half of his seasons tend to see him post a higher shooting percentage.

Data: Corsica Hockey

And because his shooting percentage is back to normal, Eberle’s rate of point production saw a jump over the two time periods, going from 1.40 points per hour to 1.88, aligning closer to his career average. Worth noting too that of the 12 points Eberle has accumulated since December 31, 10 have been primary points.

While it’s not likely that Eberle will match his past season’s point totals, it’s encouraging to see his productivity gradually improve and align closer to his career scoring rates. It’s been disappointing to see his numbers slide, especially when the Oilers desperately need secondary scoring, but it’s also fairly normal for players to have down years. The good news is that the team might have a solution, as the line of Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Lucic have recently had some strong games together. It will be imperative for the club to get production from all three of those players if they want to remain competitive and have success in the playoffs.

Data: Corsica Hockey