Jordan Eberle got his first taste of Long Island and Islander life this week, arriving to his new home on Sunday and taking the ice with a few of his new teammates for the first time on Tuesday.
Still hasn’t met the coach, though. But Eberle is familiar.
“Growing up an Oiler fan he was one of my favorite players,” Eberle said of Doug Weight, who was an Oiler from 1993 to 2001. “I love the way he played, I love his style and I love the way this team responded under him last year.”
Eberle, 27, is entering his eighth NHL season but his first with a new organization following the June 21 trade that brought him from Edmonton for Ryan Strome. It was already going to be a big summer for Eberle, who got married in July, but the trade also brought some things into focus for a five-time 20-goal scorer who fell out of favor with the Oilers after helping carry the load through some very lean seasons.
“It’s been a whirlwind summer, that’s for sure,” he said. “If anything, it’s given me a little more jump in my step, a little more excitement. I needed a fresh start, to get some change. I’m happy to be where they want me, to get an opportunity and I think this summer was one of the better ones I’ve had getting ready for an NHL season.”
There are familiar faces in his new room. He and John Tavares were teammates and linemates on Canada’s 2009 World Junior team, which was captained by Thomas Hickey. Eberle knows Edmonton natives Johnny Boychuk and Jason Chimera from offseason workouts. And he’s played at the spring World Championships with Cal Clutterbuck and Andrew Ladd.
“Nice guy, talented player, somebody who’s got the ability to fit in with Johnny pretty well,” Clutterbuck said. “Even if that doesn’t work out, there’s a lot of guys in this lineup he can play with. He’s got the skill and scoring touch. Something we can definitely use going forward.”
Eberle won’t officially take the ice until Sept. 15, when training camp officially begins with on-ice work. It’s expected that he will get a crack at being Tavares’ right wing from the outset. That would leave Josh Bailey, who thrived on Tavares’ right side last season, searching for a new spot in the lineup.
“I’m all for winning, whatever makes this team better,” said Bailey, who had a career-best 43 assists and 56 points. “That’s what we’re all focused on. Everyone here knows, wherever they put me I’ll go out and give it my all, hopefully contribute the same way I did last year.”
Eberle had 20 goals and 31 assists for the Oilers but only two points in their 13 playoff games, the first ones of his NHL career. Proven scorers don’t usually fall out of favor, but that’s life in one of the Canadian hockey hotbeds.
The newest Islander is already appreciating the more sedate surroundings on Long Island.
“They love hockey there and I know they love it here too, but as far as media it can go either way,” he said. “If it’s not going well it can really get down. There’s a lot of highs and lows there. Not to say here you can get away from it here, there’s always pressure in the NHL, but it definitely comes down a bit away from some of those Canadian markets.”