August 02 2009 06:00AM
Andrew Cogliano is an excellent young hockey player with a bright NHL future ahead of him. What that future holds is still uncertain – can he fit in Edmonton long-term? If so, where?
It needs to be said that Cogliano is a tremendous talent, and has done a lot to grab attention at a very young age. Drafted 25th overall by the Oilers in 2005, he ranks fourth in his draft class in points – behind only Sidney Crosby, Anze Kopitar, and Paul Stastny. In that respect, he represents a very real and tangible win for an Oilers’ scouting staff that has often been blamed for the team’s failings. They gambled on the small, speedy offensive forward playing in a lower level league (OPJHL) and to date it’s paid off richly.
He’s an incredibly fast skater; quite possibly the best on a team that has some good ones. Despite Sportsnet’s rather stupid scouting report (“Is more of a playmaker than scorer and needs to work on his shot”) he has an excellent shot that he uses judiciously; he’s had very good shooting percentages two years running and has scored 18 goals in each of his NHL seasons.
He’s still a young player, so his defensive game (which does have promise) isn’t where it should be yet and he’s just coming into the years where he’ll be a real positive difference maker for his NHL team. There are a few things working against Edmonton being that team though, starting with his inclusion in a package that would have brought Dany Heatley to the Oilers.
Do The Oilers Want To Trade Cogliano?
The short answer is simple: “No”. There’s been some talk since Cogliano’s name was first leaked that it may be difficult to mend fences with him if the Dany Heatley deal doesn’t take place. I don’t see it that way at all.
Frankly, despite Cogliano’s excellent upside, it’s pretty unlikely that he’s ever going to score 50 goals. This is a simple case of the Oilers being interested in one of the best goal-scoring wingers in the NHL, and having to give up something valuable for him. Certainly Cogliano should be smart enough to realize that the abortive trade shows how much value he has around the league, rather than viewing it as the Oilers giving up on him.
Where Does Cogliano Fit On The Roster?
Despite Cogliano’s obvious value, I do wonder if he’s a fit at centre in the short- to long-term.
The first problem is his inability in the faceoff circle. Last season, Cogliano went 37.2% on faceoffs – the worst season by any frequently used centre since 2000. Personally, I don’t view this as an insurmountable obstacle – the Oilers already have at least two wingers (Dustin Penner and Marc Pouliot) who can win draws and then switch back over to the wing after the faceoff.
The real problem is that the depth chart at centre is clogged right now. Sam Gagner is quite clearly the future of the franchise up the middle; a phenomenal talent who has two NHL seasons under his belt despite being under the age of 20. Aside from Gagner, veteran centre Shawn Horcoff is signed for the next six years, and even if he weren’t giving both top-six centre spots to a pair of players as young (and still undeveloped) as Gagner and Cogliano is not a recipe for success.
That leaves the third line spot, a role that doesn’t seem a fit for Cogliano’s skill-set; he’s too good offensively and not good enough defensively to fit there right now. He’ll certainly need more minutes in the next few years than that position would allow him.
The obvious, and possibly inevitable, answer is to convert Cogliano to left wing. Unfortunately, Jason Gregor has repeatedly stated that Cogliano is uncomfortable in that position, and in addition the depth chart is pretty crowded there already (Penner, O’Sullivan, Moreau). Still, I think that Cogliano may need to get used to the idea, and room can be made either via trade or by moving Penner over to RW - perhaps creating a top-six something like this:
- Cogliano/O’Sullivan – Horcoff – Hemsky
- O’Sullivan/Cogliano – Gagner – Penner
The other alternative in the Oilers’ unending (since the Smyth trade) search for a top-line LW is to dangle Cogliano as trade-bait for a legitimate game-breaker; something the Oilers have already done once.