Earlier today, Jordan Eberle told 630 CHED's Dan Tencer that he likes to kill penalties. In fact, he's liked it ever since his days back in Regina playing for the Pats. Those are encouraging words from a young man who most think of as an offensive dynamo above all. Since the Oilers' penalty kill was ranked 29th in the NHL last year, every little bit helps.
Last year, Eberle ranked 12th on the Oilers in total PK time on ice, and averaged just 40 seconds per game shorthanded. His 46:41 of PK time in 2010-11 made him the sixth-most trusted forward on the team; behind Cogliano, Fraser, Jones, Reddox and Horcoff. Cogliano's minutes will probably be swallowed up by Belanger, but there will be a void on the PK with the departures of Fraser and Reddox.
Ryan Smyth averaged just 19 seconds of PK time per game last year; down from 37 seconds per game the year before that, and 51 seconds per game in 2008-09. Unless things get desperate, he probably isn't going to be seeing much action on the penalty kill.
Eberle seems to be a decent fit. His first two NHL goals were scored shorthanded, so he adds an offensive element that the Oilers' PK has lacked since... well, that the team just lacked. He scored 6 shorthanded goals in his last year of Junior and 4 in the two years prior to that.
The good news is that the Oilers' penalty kill can only rank slightly worse this season than it did last year, but there's plenty of room for upward movement. That doesn't mean that it will happen, but at least there will have to be some new looks to the PK units.
Check out The Copper & Blue this month, as Oil Acumen is being featured with other bloggers on the C&B Roundtable.