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Eberle doesn't let his size slow him down

by Adam Schwartz /

Good things come in small packages -- just ask Jordan Eberle, who measures just 5-foot-10 and 174 pounds.

Eberle, selected No. 22 by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2008 Entry Draft, knows that just because he is a smaller player, it doesn't mean that he can't have success in the NHL. For proof, all he has to do is look to pint-sized NHL players such as New Jersey's Brian Gionta (5-7, 175), and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis (5-9, 177).

St. Louis, who is Eberle's favorite NHL player, is one of the quicker players in the League. But Eberle knows raw speed is not his strength; rather, his strong suits are his ability to get a quick jump and put the puck in the net.

"Being a smaller guy in the League, it's important that I'm very fast," Eberle said. "I think that's actually one of my weaknesses. I'm quick on to the jump, but at full speed I'm not as fast as some guys. My strengths are definitely goal scoring -- I love to put the puck in the net --  and my ability to read the game. My weakness is also my size, and I don't play physical like some guys, but I don't think that's really my game."

Eberle probably had the skill to move up and play at a better level when he was younger, but his parents decided to let him mature at the novice level instead of letting him play as an atom. Eberle proved to his parents he could play with the big boys when he scored more than 200 goals as a novice.

"I moved up a year early to novice," Eberle said. "I wanted to move up early to atom but my parents wouldn't let me, so I had to stay in novice. It was my third year, I was pretty excited. Back then you played to have fun and you still play to have fun -- but back then it was a lot easier, you could just score at will. I was pretty lucky to play on a pretty good team and I think we won the city championship that year."

Despite Eberle's obvious talents, many have criticized him for being too small to make it in the NHL. He dispelled that notion in the Western Hockey League two seasons ago when he cracked the Regina Pats' lineup.

Eberle was taken late in the WHL draft as many skeptics were concerned about his size.

“Growing up, that (size criticism) has always been motivation for me,” Eberle said. “Especially being drafted (in the WHL), I wasn't an early draft pick -- I didn't go until the seventh round. That motivated me. Everyone said I was too small -- that's definitely been a motivation for me and I've used it to get to where I am today.” 

"Being a smaller guy in the League, it's important that I'm very fast. My strengths are definitely goal scoring -- I love to put the puck in the net -- and my ability to read the game."

-- Jordan Eberle

Not only did Eberle make the Pats in 2006-07, he led the team with 28 goals and was fourth with 55 points, in 66 games. Last season, he led the team and was tied for fourth in the WHL with 42 goals, and his 75 points was 14 more than any other Pats player last season.

Regina is familiar territory for Eberle -- he grew up there and his cousin, Derek, captained the squad when Eberle was younger.

"I grew up playing in Regina until I was about 14, when I moved to Calgary," Eberle said. "Growing up watching the Regina Pats, it's always been a big dream of mine to play there. My cousin, Derek, was the captain of the Pats, so I would go to the games and watch him. He actually coached me a couple of years, too, and that was always a pretty cool thing for him to coach me. Playing for the Pats, it's always a big thing."

Eberle likely will play a third season with Regina this season, but since he was drafted by Edmonton, it looks like he will remain in Western Canada for a long time.

When Eberle does make the Oilers, he will be joining a young group of talented forwards that includes Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner, Gilbert Brule, Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner and Rob Schremp. All are younger than 26.

Hemsky, who led the team with 71 points in 74 games last season, is more of a playmaker than a shooter. He led the team and was second in the Northwest Division with 51 assists. This is representative of the type of game most of the Oilers play -- they had just three 20-goal scorers.

If Eberle can develop into the finisher the Oilers are looking for, they could be an offensive juggernaut for many seasons to come.

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