SUN Hockey Pool

Eberle a ways away

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Jordan Eberle's nose for the net and flair for the dramatic could come in handy in Edmonton one day, but don't expect him anytime soon.

"Once the decision to send him down was made, (in training camp), it's done," said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. "Until his season is finished. Then we can make some decisions."

Chances are Eberle's season will last a lot longer than Edmonton's, so they'll probably have to wait until next fall. His performances at the last two World Junior Championships, however, have everyone in the dressing room looking forward to another close-up look.

"It's impressive," said Shawn Horcoff. "The puck just follows him, you can't explain it. There are certain guys like that around the league where the puck just seems to come to them, and he's a good finisher. I don't think it's luck. He finds the open ice and knows where the puck is going to go. It's going to be exciting to see him in an Oilers uniform."

Edmonton's leading goal scorer, Dustin Penner, says Eberle's instincts are already at an elite level.

"Some guys seem to be able to find the net at the right times, game-changing times. He's in the right place at the right time and when you do that, more often than not, you'll get the bounces."

Eberle almost made the Oilers last October, but Quinn and the organization thought he'd be better served by another year in junior.

Whether his skills translate to the NHL level remains to be seen, but they definitely feel he has a lot to build around.

"His spectacular goal scoring in clutch situations is tremendous and he's the leading scorer on his own team," said Quinn. "I think (Regina) has a chance, Memorial Cup wise, which would be great learning steps for this young man.

"He's shown a terrific mind for playing the game. While you might worry abut size, he hasn't shown a disinterest in going to the areas that you get results in. He's shown it at the junior level. We're pretty happy with him as a player and as a young man."

Perhaps his most impressive stat to date is nine points in nine games with the Springfield Falcons last spring. That's where he showed he's not afraid to play against men.

"I don't think you ever know for sure who is NHL-ready," said Quinn. "Because he is a smaller guy he will still have to be tested, but anybody who makes this league gets tested every day for whatever weakness you might have. What I like about him is his intelligence for the game. That's a big step. Guys who can think their way around the ice have a better chance to be NHLers than a lot of other people."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA

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