Oilers' Eberle delivering

Shawn Horcoff, Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle celebrate a goal at Rexall Place after scoring...

Shawn Horcoff, Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle celebrate a goal at Rexall Place after scoring against the Phoenix Coyotes on Nov. 1. (Jordan Verlage, Edmonton Sun)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:14 PM ET

EDMONTON - OTTAWA — Even the most optimistic forecasters probably weren’t expecting Jordan Eberle to be leading the Oilers in scoring.

But at the quarter-pole of his first NHL season, he’s darn close.

With an assist in Edmonton’s third-period comeback attempt Saturday against San Jose, Eberle now sits second among Oilers forwards with 14 points, trailing only Ales Hemsky’s 15.

“I didn’t want to just make the team, I wanted to do something and produce,” said the 20-year-old from Regina, who made the NHL transition a step or two quicker than the other two members of the Big Three, although Taylor Hall is closing fast.

“I wanted to be an attribute to the team. I want to produce more. I want to put the puck in the net more, I want to set up more plays. I want to continue to move up and not be satisfied.”

It’s not only what the Oilers want, it’s what they’re coming to expect.

“It’s part of our mandate to give them the feeling that they can be difference makers here way quicker than maybe anybody expected,” said associate coach Ralph Krueger.

It might not be as quick as Eberle had expected, given that he wanted to make the team last year, but he seems better for his extra year in junior.

“It’s being that one year older and having World Championship experience,” said Krueger. “The leadership he had with Team Canada, the way he led that group, gave him a little more depth to his game coming here.

“Jordan has been very responsible defensively; he didn’t need to spend as much time as Magnus and Taylor on the game without the puck. That came a lot quicker and a lot more natural to him in the pre-season.

“That’s what held Taylor, and now Magnus, back a bit — how much work there is making sure they’re going to be complete hockey players.”

Playing on a line with captain and on-ice coach Shawn Horcoff doesn’t hurt, either.

“Playing with Shawn I’ve gotten a chance to kind of learn the other side of the game,” said Eberle. “He’s got a lot of tips and he’s a great guy to approach and talk to.”

Eberle is an offensive player first and foremost, though. He’s been a point-per-game player at every level — even during his two brief stints in the AHL as an 18- and 19-year-old he netted 23 points in 20 games — so that’s what he’s expecting from himself here.

“Not only that, but to be consistent,” he said. “Sometimes the puck doesn’t go in and other nights it goes in 10 times. You just have to make sure you’re being consistent night in and night out and getting the same amount of chances every game.

“I think that’s the biggest thing in this league. You watch all the good players and their biggest attribute is how consistent they are.”

He’s found the scoresheet six times in the last nine games, more frequently than anybody else on the team, so he appears to be getting the hang of it — against the best players the other teams have to offer.

“For the most part we’ve been playing against the top lines and the top D pairings, the best of the best, so it’s going to make you a better player,” he said. “Guys don’t give you as much space, they play you tighter.”

When it comes to on-the-job training, nothing beats the stuff he’s getting now.

“The matchups that they get have to make them stronger,” said Krueger. “Other teams throw out their top D against them and that forces them to really do special things with that limited space and time.”

He’s had to grow up quick.

“You don’t really have much choice,” said Eberle. “It’s the best league in the world.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: TYCHKOWSKI


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