It’s getting to a point where they’re almost expected to be out late.
Edmonton Oilers head coach Tom Renney indicated early on, there would be few late-game situations where he would hesitate to put out rookies Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall.
On Thursday, the dynamic duo were on the ice as time wound down in a tie game.
The coach’s faith paid off as Eberle set up Hall for the game winner.
“They need to gain that experience, that responsibility,” said Renney. “That’s important. Even with Magnus (Paajarvi), I needed to see him with confidence in himself again. That’s what’s good about Eberle and Hall, they have one foot over the boards ready to go in those situations. That’s what you want and you have to give them those opportunities.”
It doesn’t always work out.
Against the Phoenix Coyotes the pair were out on the ice trying to protect the lead, when the Oilers conceded a late tying goal, then went on to lose in a shootout.
But in a year where development is the mandate, the rookies will continue to be used when the game is on the line.
“Every player wants to be in that situation,” said Hall. “You want to be the guy that gets called on when the chips are down or counted on to protect a lead.
“I think we’re starting to show Tom that we can get the job when we’re out there. Obviously there was that one game against Phoenix we let that goal in at the end of the game. But if you show some promise, he has trust in us and that’s really nice to see.”
It’s not that being in those situations is new to Eberle and Hall.
Coming up through junior, it would be rare for either of them to be on the bench as time wound down in any contest.
Eberle made a junior career of scoring late goals, particularly while wearing the Maple Leaf on his chest.
“Getting that ice time is huge, you always want to be out there in those situations,” said Eberle.
“The better you’re playing the more ice time your going to get and your confidence is going to go up. For Tom to have the faith to put us out there not only in offensive situations, but defensively as well, it’s good.
“That’s what makes hockey fun, when you get a chance to be the hero or to help close out a game. You want to be in situations where the coach has faith in you to do that. It builds your confidence and helps you become a better player.”