If you're trying to figure out which name will be called when the Edmonton Oilers step to the podium with the 22nd pick at the 2008 Entry Draft and you only get one guess, the name Jordan Eberle should be on the tip of your tongue.
The Oilers not only rank Eberle, an 18-year-old centre from the Regina Pats of the WHL, considerably higher than NHL Central Scouting, CS has the five-foot-10, 175-pound pivot rated 33rd among North American skaters -- he has attributes they covet.
A combination of quickness and smarts, Eberle has many of the traits of 2007 first-rounder Sam Gagner and 2005 first-pick Andrew Cogliano. Given their success last season, that's not a bad thing.
“He’s that kind of player, even though he's not that big, who is smart enough and skilled enough that he can probably play,” says Oilers head scout Stu MacGregor.
Eberle scored 42 goals and added 33 assists for 75 points in 70 games with the Pats last season. He’s more of a scorer than a playmaker — he once scored 216 goals in 60 games as a Novice in Regina. He was fifth in WHL scoring and second with nine game-winning goals.
“Any kid who can play in the WHL can score 42 goals gets your attention," said Oilers vice-president of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast. “That’s a tough league to score goals in.”
Selected to the first all-star team in the Eastern Conference, Eberle was Regina’s 2008 scholastic player of the year. That intelligence also shows on the ice.
“He’s not a guy who goes in and knocks you off the puck, but he competes,” MacGregor said. “He’s more a thinking type player who puts himself in the right position.
“He’s one of those guys, like Daniel Briere, where you wonder where they are and then, all of a sudden, they’re in the right spot to put the puck in the net.”
As much as the Oilers like Eberle, there's obviously no guarantee he'll end up in Edmonton silks. First, another team could take him among the first 21 picks. Second, there’s three players who might convince the Oilers to pass on Eberle if they're still available.
-- Kyle Beach, a physical centre with Everett of the WHL, is ranked seventh among North American skaters. Beach could drop in the draft because of questions about his maturity and character.
-- The Oilers really like Evgeny Grachev, a six-foot-three, 202-pound centre who played with Yaroslavl in Russia and is ranked ninth among European skaters by Central Scouting.
-- Colten Teubert, a six-foot-four, 185-pound teammate of Eberle in Regina, is a defenceman who skates well and has a nasty streak.
– In a decade covering the Edmonton sports scene, Robin Brownlee has been the news-breaker and insightful voice for sports fans in Oil Country.