On the one hand, you can make any NHL player look good by pulling up his highlights. On the other hand, let's do that with Jordan Eberle. Here are my observations of the newest Islander.
1. Hands, Moves
What really jumps out about Eberle's game is his insane puck handling. As I mentioned in the comments yesterday, he's gotta have the best toe drag move I've ever seen. I imagine he turns it over some but he really holds onto the puck well. His puck handling reminds me a bit of Ho-Sang, but more polished. Check it.
Perhaps you'd like to see him poop on the Sharks once more. Watch him put the defender in a blender before finishing off this beauty:
2. Speed, Pace
Eberle is listed at 5"11 and 184 lbs. He might be a bit on the smaller side, but he compensates for it with speed, skill and anticipation.
Watch him skate in on the forecheck here and steal the puck like a sneaky little bastard, setting up a goal which, granted, couldn't have happened without some multi-layered incompetence from the Flyers, but he nonetheless takes advantage of it:
Watch him read the defense here.
Watch here as he executes a toe drag before sniping it shortside vs MIN:
As far as his shot goes, well, I can't say for sure but I think he's got an above-average wrister. More important though is he exercises good judgment and will shoot the puck when he sees an opportunity, rather than try to get really fancy with an extra pass. Furthermore, he's great at changing his shooting angle quickly using a variety of moves.
I kindly ask that one of you nerds please correct me if I'm interpreting the stats wrong. But just looking at all 5x5 ice time last season, Eberle was above 50% no matter who he shared the ice with. As can be expected, his CF% with McDavid (53.7%) was higher than it was without McDavid (50.7%) like virtually every single Oiler. But McDavid himself went down to 52.5% when not on the ice with Eberle. It can thus reasonably be concluded that Eberle is the real MVP, just like Kevin Durant's mother, and Connor McDavid ain't shit without him.
In all seriousness, it appears most of his teammates experienced a bump when playing with Eberle, including the linemate he played with more than anyone else, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was at 50.6% with Eberle and 46.8% without him.
So OK, sometimes we see these Corsi #s regurgitated without really understanding what goes into them. We hear that they're a "proxy" for possession, but what contributes to it? How does a player "drive play" in the right direction?
Well, he must obviously be good at possessing the puck. I bet you did not see that one coming. But it's not just about stick handling in the offensive zone. It's about contributing towards breaking out of your defensive zone, and entering the offensive zone, with possession.
The defensive zone breakout relies on players executing a strategy properly: being in the right position (by reading the defense) and executing the right passes (anticipation and awareness). Wingers in particular often accomplish this in subtle ways.
Watch these two plays here. Eberle makes himself available to receive a pass from his defenseman along the side boards, and assesses his options from there. Now, I can't speak towards exactly how the Oilers like to break out (and this was also a few years ago) but I gotta say, watching a bunch of tape, I don't think Nugent-Hopkins is the smartest player to ever come through the league. It could be the system but he doesn't seem to judge space that well and he circles down too low in the defensive zone, which means he doesn't give his wingers good enough support as a passing option once they get the puck along the boards.
But Eberle still makes these smart, little plays along the boards despite RNH not offering great support. Here, RNH does not make himself open so Eberle drops the puck back to his defense on a little give-and-go he gets back in the NZ, before moving the puck up into the OZ.
Maybe a bit risky, but it shows he knows where his teammates are on the ice and whether the defensive pressure allows for a play like this to be attempted.
Here, rather than drop it back so his team can maintain possession, he pulls a nice little spin move along the boards to give RNH (yet again) time to catch up, so he can hit him with a neat little backhand pass, perfectly in stride. RNH carries the puck through the NZ and fires a shot on net, which results in an OZ faceoff.
It's exactly the kind of play that over the course of a game and a season will contribute to a positive CF%. A lesser player might turn over the puck in his own zone here by fumbling it or getting his pass intercepted. This in turn may lead to a shot or two on goal against. Instead, he executes the breakout pass which leads directly to a shot attempt for.
In many ways, he reminds me of Nielsen with some of these smart little ways he buys himself more time and space. Similar to Grabovski, too. In fact I'd say he's like a rich man's right-handed Grabovski. I don't think he uses his body as much as Nielsen does to make that comp.
In his 7 seasons, he has missed only 33 of 540 games. That is very good. He just played in all 82 last year and has never missed more than 13 games in a season. You can pretty much rely on him to be in there every night. There is definitely something to be said for that. Which is why I just said it.
Did you know Edmonton has a defenseman named Jordan Oesterle? He's mostly an AHLer who has played sporadically for the Oilers. This name is remarkably similar to Jordan Eberle. However it should be noted that this might be the most useless piece of information you will ever read.
Conclusion. All in all we're getting a highly-skilled player who should be invigorated with this fresh start and the potential to sign his last big contract in two years. I do wish Strome the best and find the idea that we can call him a "bust" at this juncture absurd. I think he can still hit 50 points consistently but that's far more an unknown than Eberle, for whom this marker is more of a basement.
Garth Snow just acquired a legitimate top line RW in Jordan Eberle. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do for the Islanders.