Though they lost a few key pieces this summer, the New York Islanders managed to swing one of the most talked-about deals of the off-season, completing a trade that brought them five-time 20-goal scorer Jordan Eberle in late June.
That long-rumoured swap was likely music to John Tavares‘ ears, as Eberle could potentially slot in as one of the most talented linemates the captain has had at the NHL level. But while bringing together the two slick-handed Canadians could be a game-changer, it won’t be a novel idea.
“We’ve played together at the World Juniors when we were a lot younger,” Eberle told NHL.com back in June. “We’ve played at World Championships together.”
He and Tavares did more than simply ‘play together,’ however. The duo dominated the 2009 World Juniors, lifting Canada to a gold medal while finishing back-to-back as the second- and third-highest scorers in the tournament.
Their end-of-tourney stat line? A combined 28 points through six games: 15 for Tavares, 13 for Eberle.
In fact, one of the most memorable highlights from Canada’s championship effort that year involved the two future Islanders teammates.
Down 5-4 in the dying seconds of their squad’s semifinal tilt with Team Russia, it was young Tavares who flipped a backhand feed into the slot for an 18-year-old Eberle, allowing the Regina, Sask., native to net the historic last-second equalizer that prompted overtime and a game-deciding shootout.
And, of course, it was Tavares and Eberle who tallied the two shootout goals to secure that semifinal shootout win, sending Canada to an easy 5-1 gold-medal victory over Sweden soon after.
The pair has since combined for three World Championship efforts for Team Canada in 2010, 2011, and 2012, slowly adding more intel to that potential chemistry file, bit by bit.
“John is a generational player and a guy who thinks the game at a very high level,” Eberle said. “And he’s obviously the leader of that team. I’m excited to hopefully get an opportunity to get a chance to play with him.”
Islanders head coach Doug Weight seems well aware of the potential success to be had by putting the two playmakers together again.
“I’m so excited for Jordan to come in,” Weight told NHL.com’s Brian Compton on Friday. “I think we’ve seen a kid that’s scored 34 goals in this league and had 76 points (in 2011-12). That’s impressive.
“He’s got that skill, and we’re going to push him and support him and put him in a spot to succeed. Hopefully he pays huge dividends.”