SUN Hockey Pool

Gretzky effect deja vu

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:18 AM ET

EDMONTON - Kevin Lowe knows a Wayne Gretzky effect when he sees one. And he sees one.

“We were fortunate, we had Gretzky,” remembers the Oilers’ president of hockey operations, of the fall of 1979 and the young talent, including Mark Messier, which was being assembled back then and about to play in the NHL for the first time.

“I came in as the first-round draft choice but, because of Gretzky, I was pretty much under the radar. It’s kinda nice for all of these young players that they’re under the shadow of each other, too. I think that’s going to be helpful for all of them. And with Taylor, all eyes are on him anyway.”

Jordan Eberle said it on the first day of camp.

“I don’t know about the pressure on me. Ever since Taylor has been here it seems like I can fly under the radar a little bit.”

Arena crammed

People crammed into Clareview Arena for a second straight day Wednesday primarily to see the only No. 1 overall pick in the draft live and in person and on skates for the first time with an Edmonton Oilers crest on his sweater.

Eberle knows this better than anybody.

He was here last year at the prospects camp. Nobody paid any attention to it.

“For sure people are excited by the No. 1 overall pick. That’s why it’s so hyped up. Last year, finishing 30th was pretty frustrating for the fans. Now people are getting excited again.”

Talk all you will about the big three of Eberle, Marcus Paajarvi and Hall, but No. 1 is No. 1.

“It takes the pressure off all of us,” said Eberle, the Oilers first-round pick two years ago, 22nd overall, while Paajarvi was the first-round pick last year, 10th overall.

Lowe looks at Eberle and Hall the way it was with him and Gretzky that first year when they roomed together in a three-storey walkup on the south side.

Because the two were teammates at the World Junior, they ended up roommates at the development camp and whether they are tethered together during drills or sitting beside each other in the dressing room, you can see they have a bond.

“Jordan and Taylor are tight just like a few of us were,” said Lowe, who roomed his second season with Messier.

“They’re young guys having fun together,” said Lowe.

Hall said he’d like to room with a teammate in his first year as an Oiler.

“I’ve always thought I’d like to live with another player about my age and go through it with another guy,” and he admits “there’s a chemistry and camaraderie off the ice” with Eberle but says “first you have to make the team.”

Assuming that they both make it — Hall would have to go back to junior if he didn’t, like Eberle did last year — Eberle kind of has senior status with the two and, for that matter, with just about everybody else here.

“I feel almost like an older guy out here. I’ve already played in the American Hockey League and the World Hockey Championships. Guys look up to me.”

Eberle came close to making it last year.

“Last year I felt like I was ready. For sure I felt I was ready.”

Eberle experienced

But coach Tom Renney said he’s seen enough already to know that the extra year of junior, a second World Junior tournament, the AHL experience at the end of the season and a World Championships has made Eberle better.

“He has more strength, better balance and a half step quicker on his short game. He was pretty close last year but we made the right call,” Renney said.

Eberle doesn’t disagree. And he sees the big picture.

“They’re not trying to build a championship team overnight. It’s something I want to be a part of.

“It’s an exciting time coming in with all these young guys this year. I think we’re already finding we can make each other better players,” he said of having a group with maybe six or seven solid prospects here, including Paajarvi, Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlik and Teemu Hartikainen.

“I think we take the eyes off each other,” he said.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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