SUN Hockey Pool

Eberle says he's ready

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:49 AM ET

When the time comes to decide whether to keep Jordan Eberle in the NHL or send him back to junior, the kid won't get a vote -- but for what it's worth, he says he's ready for the big time.

Now.

Not next year. Now.

"I feel that way," said the 19-year-old centre, Edmonton's first pick, 22nd overall, in 2008. "Even in the NHL exhibition game last year, I felt like I was capable of playing at this level."

He's got great hands and a scorer's instinct, which always helps when you're auditioning for a team in dire need of both.

"We'll see how camp goes," he said. "I obviously want to perform at my best and try and make it a tough decision for the coaches to send me home."

Eberle, who begins rookie camp this morning and main camp on Sunday, got a brief glimpse of the pro game last season, joining the Springfield Falcons down the stretch after Regina's season ended.

It was a pretty big test, which he passed with an impressive nine points in nine games.

"I felt very comfortable stepping into the AHL lineup last year," he said. "For me, the biggest thing was knowing that I could play at that level. Doing so well up there definitely helped the mindset that I can play at this level. You get a bit of a taste of what it's like to be a pro and live on your own."

It's the second camp for the highly skilled Regina Pat, and that alone should make a big difference in how he performs.

"I definitely feel more prepared this year ... I know what to expect," said the five-foot-10, 174-pounder.

"I think that's the main thing coming into this: physically, I'm a year older and a lot stronger.

"Even in the fitness testing, I know what tests are going to be done so I can prepare for it.

"Mentally, I know who's here and what the intensity on the ice is going to be like.

"When you step on the ice with all these guys you're a little star-struck at first, but you know what to expect now. I feel a lot more ready."

Eberle scored 74 points in 61 games with the Pats last season, taking time out from his schedule to score one of the most dramatic goals in World Junior Championship history -- on a team coached by Pat Quinn.

His familiarity with Quinn is better than coming into an organization stone cold, but he doubts it will influence whether or not he stays.

"I've talked to him a few times," said Eberle. "He's seen me play and he knows what I can do, but at the same time, knowing Pat, he wants to win and he's going to pick the best lineup that's going to help him do that."

Because of his age, Eberle can't spend a full season in the AHL -- it's either WHL or NHL.

"I'd like to be playing here and make the step, but if I go back to the WHL it's not such a bad scenario, either," said the Regina-born Eberle.

"I'm trying to win a Memorial Cup there... and another World juniors, hopefully, in Saskatoon, so it's a win-win situation."

Whichever way it goes, the last 18 months have been quite the blur, from the draft day floor to the world junior stage to a pro camp where he actually has a shot.

"It's flown by. It's definitely already been an exciting trip, but there's still a lot of work to be done. This is my next main goal. I'm ready for camp."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNM EDIA.CA


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