April 10 2011 08:08AM
It has been years--decades--since the Edmonton Oilers enjoyed a rookie crop like the 2010 kids. Offense is their calling card, but they're not one dimensional, and the forwards are backed up by a quality defensive prospect and a goaltender who could end up being the starter for years to come.
The Edmonton Oilers have enjoyed enormous clusters of impact rookies over the years: 1980-81 boasted Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey; 1979-80 brought Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe and Dave Lumley (not all were considered rookies because the NHL old men didn't want the WHA to win too much hardware. Idiots); 2007-08 can boast Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Tom Gilbert. NOTE: These are not complete lists, they are lists that highlight the rookies that made themselves known as rookies.
The 2010-11 crop is strong at the top and deep too, with at least 5 players showing very well as rookies. Here's the list:
- Jordan Eberle 68gp, 18-25-43 (will lead team in points, wide range of skills)
- Taylor Hall 65gp, 22-20-42 (gamebreaker, impact player in the future)
- Magnus Pääjärvi 79gp, 15-18-33 (should emerge as that rare big man with hands)
- Linus Omark 50gp, 5-20-25 (Surprising player has more skills than expected)
- Jeff Petry 34gp, 1-4-5 (Complete skill set makes him a rare item)
- Ryan O'Marra 20gp, 1-3-4 (Has a checker's skills and there is an opening)
- Devan Dubnyk 35gp, 2.71 .916 (Robin's item below is an outstanding look at DD's rookie year).
Teemu Hartikainen, Chris Vande Velde, Alex Plante and Shawn Belle also played as rookies in 2010-11 for the Oilers, but they didn't play enough to have this qualify as their rookie seasons.
The great thing about this rookie crop is that there's a defensive mindset running through it. Pääjärvi and Eberle are excellent positional players and Taylor Hall's advanced stats suggest he faced the toughest available competition and emerged with the best relCorsi on the entire club (this bodes well: if you can impact the game in a positive fashion as a rookie while playing with a poor team, God only knows what is going to happen when you mature and the team gets better) while leading the team in goals scored.
I think it's that secondary group we'll have to remind ourselves about as the summer wears along. Devan Dubnyk DID play well and he DID post a solid rookie save percentage for a poor defensive team; Jeff Petry DID look like he had calm feet and the ability to carry the puck or make a savvy headman pass as required; Linus Omark WAS much harder on the puck than his size and scouting report suggested he'd be upon arrival.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
When a team is rebuilding, the cluster is vital. If they can develop assets close together--in a two or three year period--the chances of having a nice window of opportunity to win the Stanley increase immeasurably. Plus a team that is having success is more likely to re-sign their Taylor Hall's and extend the window miles and miles down the road.
Next season is extremely unlikely to be as strong and deep for the Oilers rookie crop. Adam Larsson or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may not play in the NHL next season, leaving Teemu Hartikainen, Anton Lander and a few other kids to carry the flag.
Having said that, it's hard to imagine a 30th place team getting more from its rookies than this edition of the Edmonton Oilers. It's one thing to write the name in the lineup card, it's quite another for the kid to take that opportunity and run with it. The 10-11 edition of the Department of Youth was a huge hit, one of the best in this organization's storied history.