The last time we caught up with our friend Mr. Ebert, I spent most of the article talking about how, and why, a highly-touted prospect ended up being the last overall pick of the 2012 draft (the answer was a fairly predictable combination of too-high expectation and lacklustre performance during his sophomore season in the OHL). While that was a lot of fun and games, Ebert was signed to a three-year ELC at the beginning of this summer and it's time to take a look at his recent performance and how he might fit into the King's future plans.
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(Regarding the vote total: please remember that there were 14 voters, ranking from 25 to 1. Thus, the maximum possible vote total was 350.)
A quick look at his numbers will show you that he's been a model of consistency in terms of output, generally being one of his team's point-producing leaders on the defensive end. Ebert began his major junior career putting up good numbers on a terrible team, and then he continued to put up good numbers on good ranging to great teams, with a correspondingly smaller portion of the offensive burden being placed on his shoulders (I also suspect that his powerplay time took a dip as he was no longer the only guy who could make a shot from the point, so increasing his point totals looks even more impressive.) Basically, the numbers are fine and are not the problem.
The problem is that the on-ice product doesn't quite seem to be living up to the potential that Ebert has sometimes demonstrated. Most scouting reports on him are enthusiastic about the individual aspects of his overall player package noting that he's got a good build and a great shot, skates decently well, and seems to have the fundamental vision and hockey sense which could take him to the NHL. But while there are a significant number of moments when he's the best player on the ice, he seems to have decision-making lapses which are totally disproportionate to his ability. I've seen some people euphemistically refer to it as his lack of focus or lack of engagement - whatever you want to call it, it's held him back.
Luckily, I think it's something he's at least starting to grow out of. This past season, and particularly after his mid-season trade, it was widely remarked-upon that he was a much more dependable presence at both ends of the ice. While his 16-points-in-20-playoff-games (and then five points in four games during the Memorial Cup) was probably not a sustainable level of production, the reliability of his overall game seems to be catching up to his raw ability. While he might never be the superstar he was projected to be at 16, he's already clearly out-performing expectations for a seventh-round pick, so things are certainly looking up for him again.
While Ebert is still eligible for an overage season in the OHL, he's already been there for four full season and his team, the Guelph Storm, is now being dismantled after a failed Memorial-Cup-or-bust run. Ebert begins this season with the Monarchs, and I think it's quite likely that he'll stay there. The Los Angeles Kings suddenly seem to have a glut of defensive prospects who aren't quite ready but who could be serviceable two-way players in 2015/16 and onwards. Of that group, I think Ebert has one of the highest ceilings, and if he continues to play and develop as he has since being drafted, I think he'll be near the front of that pack.