During the second period of the Minnesota Wild's NHL Prospect Tournament game against the St. Louis Blues, the Wild were controlling the puck on the power play. Defenseman Mike Reilly
took a big hit from Blues' forward Liam Dunda, knocking him to the ice.
Tanner Eberle took notice.
"When I saw Reilly down and I knew it was a pretty big hit I had to go challenge the guy," Eberle said.
Dunda is listed at 6-foot-4, 212 pounds. Eberle is more of a firecracker, coming in at 5-foot-11, 190.
"As soon as I got up to him I realized he was a lot bigger than I thought," Eberle said. "But I thought I held my own. Any time I can show my teammates that I'm going to stick up for them, and I'm going to be a team guy is something I hope my teammates think of me."
It's how Eberle plays the game, and something he said Wild coaches have encouraged him to do.
"They said they love my work ethic, and that's basically the bread-and-butter of my game," Eberle said. "That's something I'm going to continue to do: Work hard, and hopefully it will pay off in the end."
Eberle's style of play is one he hopes lands him a spot in the Wild's organization. He's attending his third NHL camp in the past three years — he was in Montreal the past two years — but this is the first time he's made it to the main portion of training camp.
"I know it's a pretty rare thing for guys to do," Eberle said of his three camp invites. "Every time that I can get an opportunity like this as a free agent, I know that I have to seize the opportunity."
At Traverse City, Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr said Eberle brought a lot of energy to the lineup.
"It's definitely a big part of my game ever since I got into the [Western Hockey League] as a 17-year-old," Eberle said. "I kind of always knew as the younger guy I had to be the energy guy, and throw a lot of hits, and if I have to, I can get in a couple of fights, too. Just be the type of guy that's always getting the team going."
Eberle said he likes to watch Charlie Coyle, and learn from the 6-foot-3 forward.
"He's always around the puck, and always in on the forecheck," Eberle said. "I realize he's a lot bigger and a lot more skilled than I'll be, but I just try to model myself after Coyle's work ethic, and just how smart he works."
Would Eberle pick Coyle's brain during camp?
"Maybe eventually, once I'm a little more familiar," Eberle said with a laugh. "It's my first NHL main camp, so I've never made it this far anywhere in my life. I'm just really happy to get the opportunity, and I'm going to give it my all, and continue to work hard."