I'm going to keep track of first NHL goals here on Puck Worlds. Why? They're special moments for the players, and I figured it was a great way to make use of the video access I have through GameCenter on NHL.com. They're the culmination of a lot of hard work, and the players are often products of the leagues and international tournaments I cover on here. This is part of the unique coverage I'm looking to provide on the NHL here at Puck Worlds, since every other blog has a different take on the league.
He's a household name, an international hockey star even before he celebrated his 20th birthday. He is the all time scoring leader for both the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League and the Canadian U20 World Junior hockey team. And on Thursday night, Jordan Eberle added another accomplishment to his list: NHL player. With the Edmonton Oilers leading 1-0 to start the 3rd period, and the Flames on the power play, head coach Tom Renney did something rather curious: he put the junior star playing in his first NHL game out on the ice to kill the key penalty, despite having a full compliment of fresh legged veterans to choose from. With Calgary Flames rookie point man T.J. Brodie out there, the opportunity to catch the kid making an uncertain pinch arose. And Eberle took advantage of the situation, thanks to a nice pass from Jim Vandermeer. The rest, well...
You can't really ask for much more out of your first NHL goal. A shorthanded goal on one of the best goalies of his generation, in your first NHL game, at home, against your team's top rival. And oh yeah, on a sweet backhand deke around both a defenseman and the goalie while flying into the end boards.
Eberle broke onto the hockey scene as a 16 year old rookie for his hometown Regina Pats back in 2006-07. For a kid drafted 126th overall in Round 7 of the 2005 WHL Bantam Draft, it was a rapid rise to the top circuit of junior hockey. And he didn't disappoint, showing off an impressive offensive skill set and posting 28 goals and 55 points in 66 games, plus 7 points in 6 playoff games. He was an immediate success, and the results just kept getting better. As a 17 year old, he had 75 points in 70 games, including 42 goals, being named to the WHL's First All-Star Team while also winning the Daryl K. Seaman Trophy as the league's top scholastic player. His first Team Canada turn occured that year as well: he was on the 2007 U18 Ivan Hlinka team, but went without a point in 4 games as the team finished 4th. He also played at the 2008 IIHF U18 World Championships, where he fared much better: 10 points, including 4 goals, to finish second in team scoring behind Cody Hodgson as Canada won gold. Shortly after tunring 18, Eberle fulfilled a childhood dream: he was drafted in the first round by his favourite team, the Edmonton Oilers, in the first round, 22nd overall.
After he was drafted, Eberle became a part of the Canadian national consciousness at the 2009 U20 World Junior Championships, when he scored 'the goal', with 5 seconds left, to tie the semifinal game vs. Russia, which Canada would evenutally win in a shootout. It's already one of the most famous goals in U20 WJC history. It was one of six goals he'd score in the tournament, to go along with 13 points. He'd post 13 points again the next year, forcing OT in the final with 2 goals late in the 3rd period before Canada ultimately fell to the Americans. The 26 points is a Canadian record.
His scoring didn't stop when he played against men, either. In two AHL stints after his junior season was done, Eberle posted 23 points in 20 games for the Springfield Falcons. He even joined Team Canada this past year at the World Championships, getting 4 points in 4 games, despite limited ice time.
So perhaps it's not so surprising that he now has 2 points after just 1 NHL game. And we'll just have to see if this is just another early highlight in a professional career that will be full of disappointment, as the great E. hypothesized last winter. But for now... yet another childhood dream has been fulfilled for Jordan. It's his moment... again.