Jordan Eberle earns the 2009-10 Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Year nod.
Eberle has performed at a high level on a consistent basis all season long for the Regina Pats of the WHL. The first-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2008 will begin the 2010-11 season playing his first year of professional hockey, but his extraordinary junior career and this season in particular, will not soon be forgotten. Eberle set career highs in goals, assists and of course points, all while playing a career-low 57 games. His 50 goals were second to only Gabriel Dumont of the QMJHL, who had 51. Eberle’s point total of 106 put him in a three-way tie for second in CHL scoring with Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin; Brandon Kozun finished with one better at 107.
Eberle was a late cut from Oiler training camp at the beginning of the season, but not making the team didn’t seem to discourage the Regina native as he set the WHL on fire upon being sent back, scoring 59 points in his first 27 games. His scoring pace cooled down, but even then, Eberle remained one of the premier scorers in the CHL. His worst string of games came from February when he was held pointless in three straight games, however to nobody’s surprise, Eberle snapped his drought with a three-point night on February 13th and would not go another game all season without making his mark on the score sheet, a stretch of 13 games.
While not the most defensive-minded player in the CHL, Eberle’s +8 rating on a non-playoff team shows that he is adequate defensively. Defensive responsibility will not be as big of a concern for Eberle however, should he fulfill his projected role as a first line scorer for the Oilers. He’ll be given every chance to earn a top-six role with the Oilers next season, especially after showing early signs that he can adapt to pro hockey by recording nine points in eight games with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL this spring.
In further emphasizing the great season Eberle has had, one can look no further than the 2009 World Junior Championships. A year prior, Eberle had already gained hero status with his impeccably timed goal against the Russians to send the semi-final game to overtime, and although his team lost this time around, Eberle cemented his legend status within Canadian hockey with not one, but two goals in the final two minutes to send the gold medal game to overtime. His impressive play the past two seasons for the Canadian junior team may have put him on the radar for the World Championships as well.
In his rookie season with Brynäs of the Swedish Elite League last year, Jacob Markstrom was one of the league’s top goalies, posting a 2.38 GAA and a .917 save percentage. But the 20-year-old managed to improve upon them this season, cementing himself as one of the top goaltenders currently not playing in the NHL. Despite an early playoff exit, he was, in large part, the sole reason that his team made even made the playoffs. He led the league in both major goaltending categories with a 2.01 GAA and .927 save percentage, while also being awarded the Honken Trophy as the top goalie in the league. The Florida Panthers draft pick uses his size and positioning to his advantage in giving shooters limited openings in the net, but also has tremendous agility and quickness which leaves opportunities for goals few and far between. Signing Markstrom over the summer will be a top priority for the Panthers, but with Tomas Vokoun still under contract, it is unlikely he immediately takes the reins in Florida.
Hockey’s Future Prospect of the Month for February, University of Maine sophomore forward Nyquist is currently one of the three finalists for the Hobey Baker award – college hockey’s most prestigious individual trophy. If he wins the award, Nyquist will become the first Swedish-born recipient of the award. Nyquist, like both Markstrom and Eberle, displayed tremendous consistency all season long. He finished his sophomore season with 19 goals and 42 assists for a total of 61 points in 39 games, almost doubling his output from his freshman season. Nyquist is shaping up to look like a true mid-round steal for the Red Wings. He’ll likely spend at least one more year playing at the collegiate level before beginning his pro career.