Three's company...

Jason Gregor
May 31 2010 11:48PM

If two’s company and three’s a crowd, is it realistic to picture three offensive rookies playing for the Oilers next season? Is it likely Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and Taylor Hall/Tyler Seguin will all be here in October?

It’s rare that three rookies would make any team in the same year, never mind three players who haven’t played one season in the AHL. Based on past history the player most likely to make the team will be Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. Since 1997, the only first overall picks not to play as 18-year-olds were Alex Ovechkin (lockout) and Erik Johnson.

Year Player GP G A Pts
1997 Joe Thornton 55 3 4 7
1998 Vinny Lecavalier 82 13 15 28
1999 Patrik Stefan 72 5 20 25
2000 Rick Dipietro 20 (3-15-1) 3.49 GAA, 0.878 SV%
2001 Ilya Kovalchuk 64 29 22 51
2002 Rick Nash 74 17 22 39
2003 Marc-Andre Fleury 22 (4-14-2) 3.64 GAA, 0.896 SV%
2004 Alex Ovechkin Played in Russia due to lockout. Scored 52-54-106 rookie
2005 Sidney Crosby 81 39 63 102
2006 Erik Johnson Played one year in NCAA, and scored 5-28—33 as a rookie in 2007/2008
2007 Patrik Kane 82 21 51 72
2008 Steve Stamkos 79 23 23 46
2009 John Tavares 82 24 30 54

The second picks have rarely gone directly to the NHL.

Year Player GP G A Pts
1997 Patrick Marleau 74 13 19 32
1998 David Legwand Went back to junior (31-49-80)
1999 Daniel Sedin Played one more year in SEL. Scored 20-14-34 1st year in the NHL
2000 Dany Heatley Played one more year in NCAA. Scored 26-41-67 his rookie season
2001 Jason Spezza Went back to junior, then spent half year in AHL. In 2003/04 tallied 22-33-55, then played next year AHL due to stike
2002 Kari Lehtonen Played another year in Finland, then two years in AHL, before playing 38 games in 2005/06
2003 Eric Staal 81 11 20 31
2004 Evgeni Malkin Played two more years in Russia before scoring 80 points as a rookie in 2006/07
2005 Bobby Ryan Played two more years in junior, then split season between AHL and NHL, before scoring 31-26-57 as a 21 year-old
2006 Jordan Staal 81 29 13 42
2007 James Van Riemsdyk Played two years in NCAA, and tallied 15-20-35 this season
2008 Drew Doughty 81 6 21 27
2009 Victor Hedman 74 4 16 20

Three offensive rookies have broken in together before, but it’s rare to have three of them all 20 years old or younger. It’s more likely to see pairs of rookies than a trio.

The Colorado Avalanche did have three offensive rookies this past year, Matt Duchene (24-31-55), Ryan O’Reilly (8-18-26) and T.J Galiardi (15-24-39). Galiardi was 21 and played a year in the AHL after being a 2nd round pick in 2007.

Thornton and Sergei Samsonov (22-25-47) were both 18 in Boston.

Marleau and Marco Sturm (10-20-30) debuted in San Jose together.

Heatley and Kovalchuk broke in together in Atlanta with Heatley being one-year older.

Mike Richards (11-23-34) and Jeff Carter (23-19-42) were 20-year-old rookies in 2005/2006, along with 23-year-old rookie RJ Umberger (20-18-38). Umberger was the 16th pick in 2001, but he spent two years in college and one year in the AHL before debuting in the NHL.

Malkin and Jordan Staal broke into together in 2006, and they had lots of sophomore teammates; Crosby, Ryan Whitney, Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen.

Jonathon Toews (24-30-54) broke in with Patrick Kane and 21-year-old Dave Bolland (4-13-17).

We’ve also seen it backfire. Kyle Turris (8-12-20) and Mikkel Boedker (11-17-28) debuted together in 2008/2009, but both found themselves in the AHL this past season.

CAN A THREESOME BE BAD?

It’s possible the Oilers will have all three in Edmonton this October, but will that be the best decision for the organization and the individual players? Is it best for Eberle and MPS to learn in the NHL or would half a season, even a full season, in the AHL better benefit their development.

History shows that a year in the AHL, NCAA or back in junior after being drafted helps prepare most players for the NHL. Eberle and MPS have had that in the WHL and SEL, so maybe they are ready to make the jump, but the likelihood is that both could benefit from some time in the AHL.

The problem for the Oilers is these two kids could easily be better than their competition in camp, so the coaches might be forced to keep them. The Oilers aren’t blessed with loads of talent right now, and I’m curious to see if Steve Tambellini elects to hand his young players a job, or if he’ll bring in some veterans who can push them.

SPEAKING OF THREESOMES

We will see what direction Tambellini is heading in when the buyout window begins. From June 15th to June 30th, NHL teams can buyout any existing contracts, and the three most likely are Ethan Moreau, Patrick O’Sullivan and Robert Nilsson.

Tambellini has fired assistant GM, Kevin Prendergast, three long-serving training staff members and some scouts so far during THE SUMMER OF STEVE, and I expect him to make a statement about the on-ice product as well.

At the end of the season, I thought Moreau’s play might have saved his contract, but I sense that isn’t the case. The bigger question is which one, if not both, of Nilsson and O’Sullivan will be bought out.

Tambellini could keep both of them, and allow Eberle and MPS to develop for a year in the AHL. That move wouldn’t sit well with most Oiler fans, but it might be the best move long term for the organization.

I’d expect him to buy out one of them to show his players he is serious about getting players who are committed to improving and winning.

I think we’ll see two buyouts this month and two first-round rookies make the team.

Seeing a threesome in either category will be a surprise from where I sit.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#101 Senator Theo
June 01 2010, 04:52PM
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Dan the Man wrote:

I made a deal with their "GM" to "draft" them both.

Didn't like what they showed you at the combine?

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#103 Mike K
June 01 2010, 08:34PM
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MPS has spent 3 years in the SEL so he's used to playing with full grown men. I'd send him to the AHL just to get a sense of how he'll adapt to the North American game. Eberle just to get him more time playing in a men's league. But Seguin has little left to prove in junior so I don't think there's any point, especially if he comes to camp physically strong enough to compete.

This is all predicated on how the three perform in camp though. If they end up being the best three players in camp I don't see how you can send them to the AHL/OHL. The Oilers have done it two years in a row to Eberle who was the best performer in the preseason both years. That would be pretty deflating just because the Oilers wouldn't want to set a precedent on playing three rookies.

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#104 Team Hall
June 01 2010, 08:58PM
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I have one word for you: transitional vets. I like the idea of starting MPS and Ebs in the A for some seasoning, bringing them up partway through the season and easing them in. Seguin can start the year the 2nd line centre in the big show.

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#105 Wanye
June 02 2010, 10:32AM
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Look at the rack on Seguin. The Oil should TOTALLY pick him over that disgusting Joyce DeWitt-Hall.

EW

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@Jason Gregor

Ya read between the lines and make a mistake at what you meant and get ripped like Brownlee rips guys. No thanks.

Anyway, I was thinking on my way home as you guys were talking about this threesome action. When is the last time that a team had 3 guys like Eberle, MPS and Hall/Seguin in their system?

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