July 25 2010 12:02PM
For the 09-10 Edmonton Oilers, life (as they knew it) is over. Buyouts, trades, declining to make offers to rfa's, the troops will look much different come fall. Fans are on board with the rebuild and will be watching the future closely beginning with training camp. The important new names? Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Pääjärvi and Chris Vande Velde. What now?
- You're including Vande Velde with the three Hockey Jesus'us? Yes.
- Aside from being an attention-grabbing move, why on earth would you include him? Vande Velde is a unique prospect on the current Edmonton Oilers, and if he shows well could play in the NHL this season.
- What makes him unique? He's a center, he's 23 years old (closer to NHL ready), he's 6.02, 207, 54% in the faceoff circle and you can reasonably use the word rugged in the scouting report. That's unique on this prospect list.
- You're way off. Winning a faceoff in college is NOT an indicator that he'll have success in the NHL. Actually, it is. Jonathan Toews was a terrific faceoff man in the NCAA and remains one in the NHL. Travis Zajac too, and guys like Drew Stafford and Zach Parise who eventually moved to wing. I'm not saying he'll be winning 50% in his first season, but he has a very nice resume in this area and could be a plus player down the line.
- Now you're comparing him to lottery picks and impact players. Beauty comps. Out to lunch much? The players mentioned above bring more offense to the game but in this one area VV is a very good prospect. And there are other areas, like size and winning battles.
- How do you know this? Scouting reports, anecdotal information--sometimes from the Oilers themselves. Oilers director of Player Development Mike Sillinger: “He has pretty decent speed, battles hard in the corners and always comes out with the puck. He does a lot of the dirty work. He would be a big addition to our farm team."
- Notice he said FARM TEAM? Besides, the Oilers are always telling us great things about their prospects. Not always. I can't find a lot of positive things about Riley Nash on the interweb, and they were quite grumpy about Jani Rita. Vande Velde wasn't a highly-touted pick, so there's less available on him. I can offer this from Redline Report: Despite his Moorhead side losing the state final for the second year in a row, centre Chris VandeVelde was really a "wow!" throughout the weekend. He had eight shots, a goal and an assist in the Spuds' 4-1 semifinal win over Duluth East, and versus Holy Angels, he scored a goal and had two assists despite the Stars' attempt to stifle him and his offensive mates. He has an incredibly long reach and is uncanny playing in traffic. When he got his skating legs going, he was nearly impossible to push off the puck, in an almost Keith Primeau–like fashion. Like Oshie, North Dakota has VandeVelde slated for the fall of 2006, and until then, he'll skate for the Lincoln Stars.
- He played for the SPUDS? Bad name, good player.
- If he's so good, why did the Oilers let him play 4 years in college? He continued to develop there, moving up their depth chart and taking on a larger role. NCAA players aren't 17-year olds, some of his teammates this past season would have been 23 or 24 years old. I should also mention that he led the UND team in points in 09-10. UND plays in the best NCAA division and he would have been playing tough opposition every night.
- Why do you think he'll make the Oilers this fall? I'm not certain he will. However, the Oilers have had a weakness in specific areas for years at center. Faceoffs, size, grit, ability to win battles. On top of that, the Oilers haven't (thus far) addressed the weakness at center this summer.
- They added Colin Fraser. Which was a good move, but I'm not sure he's going to be the answer in terms of faceoff and penalty-kill. He's not a known quality to us, and his Chicago winning percentage a year ago (48.8) wasn't in their top 4.
- Who did the Oilers use last year? Horcoff got the bulk of the load, with Potulny and Gagner both getting lots of work. Dustin Penner, Gilbert Brule and Andrew Cogliano also took over 250 faceoffs last season.
- Who had the best percentage from that group? Brule, followed by Penner and then Potulny and Gagner in a tie.
- Maybe they can run Brule or Penner at C? They might, although both had success on the wing last year so one would hope the Oilers might keep them where they've had success.
- How would you rank the C depth chart right now? Horcoff, Gagner, Brule, Fraser, Cogliano. Moran, O'Marra, Vande Velde, Kytnar.
- So you don't really think he'll make the team? I wouldn't be surprised if Vande Velde breaks camp with the big club, and I think it is very likely he'll see extended time in the NHL in 2010-11.
- How do you reach that conclusion? Opening night last season, the Oilers 4 centermen were Horcoff, Cogliano, Comrie, Gagner. Too small, not enough physical presence. Horcoff can win battles but Gagner is still learning the position and can't be considered a physical player. Brule is rambunctious but undersized, Fraser brings a physical element but is listed at 188. That leaves Cogliano as the odd man out, and I don't think he'll play center on this team in 10-11. Horcoff is the only C over 200 pounds among the projected NHLers on the depth chart. VV would make 2.
- What about O'Marra? I know the organization signed him but O'Marra doesn't bring enough offense to be considered a viable candidate.
- So it's Vande Velde? Sooner or later. Hey, maybe Tambellini trades Cogliano for a bigger guy, kind of like the deal that was discussed during the regular season last year (Cogs for Peter Mueller). Failing that, Vande Velde and his playing style are going to be very attractive to the Oilers.
- How many games will VV play in the NHL this season? Shawn Horcoff played 49 as a rookie in 2000-01, but he had more offense to his game. I'll say 30, unless the Oilers add an actual NHL player at the position before or during training camp.