The New York Islanders have won nine consecutive games, despite the absence of top winger Jordan Eberle for eight of them. Although his production slowed down last season, Eberle has been a primary offensive contributor consistently throughout his career, especially during his tenure on the Island.
The Islanders posted a video on their Twitter account on Monday morning that announced that Jordan Eberle participated in a team skate, but in a non-contact jersey. While there is not yet an estimate on his return date, this is a major step that could signify a return coming soon.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 4, 2019
Eberle’s Performance Thus Far
Jordan Eberle got injured at a really unfortunate time. Eberle played five games to start the season, with the Islanders posting a 2-3 record in this span. He recorded three assists in these five games before the injury took place.
Eberle is a man on a mission this season. He signed a contract extension for a reason. After he signed a five-year extension with the Islanders at the start of this past offseason, he spent countless days in the summer skating and training as he continued to state how excited he was to continue his career with the Islanders and to be able to contribute to the Islanders. With regards to the Islanders’ chances to win the Stanley Cup, Eberle said that “We have as good of a chance as anybody.” He is motivated to have a bounce-back season and is certainly talented enough to, despite an unfortunate early-season injury.
Where will he play when he returns?
This is a tough question. When Eberle returns to the lineup, he is likely to slot into the top-six. The question is whether he should go on the first line.
Late in last year’s regular-season and throughout the playoffs, Barzal and Eberle were a lethal combo who both played their best hockey when they were together.
The Islanders’ first line, however, has been incredibly productive without him as well. With the combination of Lee, Barzal, and Bailey working so well, it is hard to break it up; however, it is also hard to see the offensive production of that line decline if Eberle is slotted on one of the wings.
Even if Eberle returns to the second line, that would allow him to play alongside Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson, who have both started off this season producing like top-six forwards. The main concern with regards to putting Eberle on that line is that Derick Brassard is currently playing some of the best hockey of his career, is on a five-game goal streak, and is showing Islanders’ fans what he is capable of when put in the right situation. This is, however, the spot that Eberle will likely claim when he returns from his lengthy IR stint.
As Eberle is getting closer to returning to the Islanders’ lineup, the way Barry Trotz will handle these personnel decisions will be interesting to see. Regardless, the top six looks excellent right now no matter how you shape it. As long as everything else stays in check, such as the fantastic play of the bottom-six forwards, defense, and goaltending, this team is in excellent shape when Jordan Eberle makes his return.