Eberle remains optimistic

Riley Nash, an Oilers 2007 first-round draft pick, concentrates on puck drills during prospects...

Riley Nash, an Oilers 2007 first-round draft pick, concentrates on puck drills during prospects camp at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park on Monday. (Sun Media/David Bloom)

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

Realistically, Jordan Eberle had two chances to crack the Edmonton Oilers roster last season.

Slim and none.

Despite being the Oilers first pick -- No. 22 overall -- in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the Regina native was not ready to make the jump from junior hockey to the NHL.

This year, however, things might be different. Especially if a roster spot opens up in the pursuit of one particular star left winger.

"I think I've improved a lot over the year as far as my speed and quickness goes," said Eberle, who's attending the Oilers development camp this week in Sherwood Park.

"I worked on my skating a lot. Just being drafted as an 18-year-old kid, you're obviously going to get bigger and stronger.

" I'm going to go to training camp, try to perform my best and see where things go from there."

Eberle, 19, scored 35 goals and added 39 assists in 61 games with the Regina Pats last season. He also won a gold medal with Team Canada at the world junior championships, scoring six goals in the tournament, including a late tying marker against Russia in the semifinal.

Following the Pats' season, Eberle suited up with the Springfield Falcons, scoring three goals and adding six assists in nine games with Edmonton's American Hockey League farm club.

"I thought the year went pretty well for me on a personal note," Eberle said.

"I got a chance to win a gold medal at the world juniors and getting the opportunity to play in the AHL went well. I thought my season in junior went well, but we missed the playoffs in Regina, so that left a bitter taste throughout the summer."

In Springfield, Eberle was put on a line with Rob Schremp and Ryan Potulny to close out the year.

The Falcons also struggled and were well out of a playoff race by the time Eberle arrived.

"It was awesome to get to play with those guys and get a chance to learn what it's like to be a pro," he said.

"You're kind of on your own as a professional and you have to worry about things like food and things you're kind of not accustomed to in the Western Hockey League.

"To get a taste of that was awesome. We were done early in Regina, so to continue playing hockey was a lot of fun."

Eberle was able to make a good impression in his two-week stint with the Falcons. He was the only player on the team who averaged at least a point per game.

"It was a good experience," he said. "The biggest thing is that you have to think quicker. But I didn't find the adjustment too bad.

"They threw me in with two really good players and it looked like right off the bat we were able to develop some chemistry."

As a junior-aged player, Eberle would have to stick with the Oilers to avoid being sent back to play another season with the Pats.

He's not eligible to play the season in the AHL.

But if forward Andrew Cogliano ends up getting moved in a trade with Ottawa to bring Senators sniper Dany Heatley to the Oilers, Eberle would be a candidate to fill that roster spot.

"If I have to go back to junior and play another year there, I'll get another year of world junior experience," he said.

"But where I want to be is with the big team, so we'll see how it goes."


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