Thursday, January 07, 2010

Jordan Eberle and Edmonton's Past Prospects

While the buzz about Jordan Eberle and his clutch performance during the World Juniors is well-deserved, the fear that some may have is whether or not Eberle's performance in junior could be left there when he finally does decides to turn pro. It seems to be habit of those who have been drafted by the Oilers in the past, where the performance and hype that they created before getting onto the Oilers is often left where they came from.

Just looking up and down the past hopes of the Oilers who had a lot of buzz around them, they have never really seemed to pan out as the Oilers fans and organization had hoped. The likes of Rob Schremp, Jani Rita, Jesse Niinimaki, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, all the way back to Tyler Wright and Jason Bonsignore-- they all had promise in terms of turning the team around, but never really panned out to be the savior many had thought they would become. Even when looking at the past-- there hasn't been many first round superstars for the Oilers. Only Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky could be consider successful first round picks in the past 15 years for the Oilers.

While Eberle's numbers are fantastic this season with the Regina Pats of the WHL (29 goals, 31 assists in 28 games), who's to say it'll translate to the pro game. Especially since Eberle really hasn't been the big time scorer in the past, it could be just a big build-up to a let-down when he converts to the professional game, even though he held his own in the AHL for the nine games he was down there at the end of 2008-09 season (3 goals, 6 assists). Even with that, it seems like he's going the Rob Schremp route with the Oilers, a somewhat menial junior player, exploding into a star in juniors after he was drafted, but not good enough to make the big club. The true test is next season, to see if Eberle can make the roster or put back as an overager in Junior to see if it's exactly like Schremp.

The bigger question is whether or not the Oilers' management is doing or has done a good job when it comes to their prospects. You wonder if through the years if there are some guys who should have been held back, but had a good year and were brought along too quickly. Conversely, if there's a time where a player had been held back when they should have been brought up to the next level; but since they were held back, it shot their confidence down and made them tank the way they did. There's plenty of questions when it comes to handling that have to be thrown into the equation.

But the pressure may now be on for Eberle to perform as clutch-esque in Edmonton as he did in the past two World Junior Championship. How much will be put in his shoulders when he actually get up to the pros and how much time with the fans give him before they start to give up hope and want him traded away to get something better?? Yet another question is whether or not the Oilers will bring Eberle right up or let him settle in the AHL for a while to make sure he's the real deal, even if he is good enough to be on the third line in Edmonton?? How the Oilers treat Eberle and how Eberle responds to the treatment will be the big litmus test to see if he will be a solid professional or lose his confidence and be yet another "What could have been/Where did he go" story for the Oilers draft history.

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