August 31 2012 07:14AM
Prevailing wisdom has championship teams building 'up the middle.' For the Edmonton Oilers, luck and circumstance have dictated adding wingmen of high quality. Can this group send the Edmonton Oilers to infinity and beyond?
- Taylor Hall: Outstanding talent poised to go super nova, the only thing that can hold him back is injury. Advanced stats are betting heavily on the young Oiler star being something special.
- Jordan Eberle: Too good to be true? We'll see. So far, all Jordan Eberle has done is astonish, entertain and find the net in every way possible. Like Hall, the big contract will increase expectations and pressure.
- Nail Yakupov: Can you believe it? ANOTHER elite teenager on the wing. Crazy. Yakupov is an accurate sniper who finds a way to make the play and has a fantastic release. Could he bring home the Calder?
- Ales Hemsky: Suddenly the 'old man' among the skill wingers, Hemsky's 2-year contract is a perfect opportunity to find out just how high this group can fly. Amazing passer.
- Ryan Smyth: Captain grit got himself traded to Edmonton, re-signed by Edmonton, so maybe he can turn back time one more time in Edmonton. Still delivering at a quality level deep into a black and blue career.
- Ryan Jones: Hockey's Butch Hobson has posted solid numbers two seasons in a row. Most models of the Oilers forward depth chart have him in the top 9 for 12-13.
- Ben Eager: Big, tough, fast winger may not have the chops to play on a skill line, but he can most certainly deliver physical play from the 3-4 lines. Eager came under some criticism last season for not playing the role of protector to the Nuge, but one expects that's a lesson learned.
- Darcy Hordichuk: Rugged winger who can enforce and not bitch and moan over a week of HS's. Hordichuk has the 'team player' mentality and that is reflected in his getting another contract for 12-13. He'll be an end-of-roster forward but he'll also play 35-40 games against carefully selected opponents.
- Teemu Hartikainein: The organization has been patient and the big Finn has been developing. There currently exists a "perfect storm" opportunity with the Oilers needing size and skill combined with Hartikainen being the only obvious option close to NHL ready. If he has a strong TC, this could be the season he emerges as an NHL regular.
- Lennart Petrell: Outstanding forechecker and part of a solid PK group one year ago, Petrell's even strength numbers were an adventure. Despite signing an NHL contract I thnk he might be pushed down to OKC at some point during the season.
- Magnus Paajarvi: Likely begins fall as a 'bubble player' but Paajarvi's range of skills should mean plenty of NHL time before the curtain closes on 12-13. A fast train, he's defensively aware and scored 15 NHL goals in a season as a teenager. One of the important assignments for new coach Ralph Krueger.
- Dane Byers: Tough winger with some skill and plenty of pro experience, Byers will get a chance to play top 6F in OKC and might even get an NHL shot if things break right. His resume reads like a perfect fit for the Oilers needs, but Eager is ahead of him on the depth chart.
- Phil Cornet: Had a strong offensive season in 11-12, owing to extended use on the PP and a ridiculous shooting percentage in the first half of the season. Either way, it ignited his career and Cornet even got a cup of coffee in the NHL. Odds are not in his favor, but he's already gone farther than his draft number suggested.
- Tyler Pitlick: Size, speed and some skill--that's the kind of player the Oilers could use for the future. Pitlick started slowly first year pro but improved as the year turned over. A player to watch this winter in OKC.
- Curtis Hamilton: Struggled early and then was injured. This is a big season for Hamilton, look for the Oilers to move him up on the depth chart in a fashion similar to Phil Cornet last season. Hamilton has the talent--his final junior season was outstanding. The leap from WHL to AHL was too much for one season, but he should be more prepared in 12-13.
- Cameron Abney: Enforcer played 29 regular season games in Stockton and 14 in OKC. Suspect he'll be over 40 games in the AHL this coming season. You never know with enforcers--he could make his NHL debut this season, wait 5 years or never play a game in the NHL. Timeline is in the ether.
- Kristians Pelss: This guy has already won based on getting a pro contract. Solid 2-way skills and a rifle shot, he could surprise. 28 goals a year ago, 19 of them at even strength. Pelss brings it every shift, I think he'll be a fan favorite. Could start his career in Stockton depending on how things break.
IN THE SYSTEM
- Tobias Rieder: Look, it's nothing, and no one is saying anything, but this guy had an outstanding season in 11-12, I mean he kicked the entire OHL in the proverbial gonads. If he takes another step forward, the Oilers might have something special in this 2-way winger.
- Toni Rajala: Back in Finland again in 12-13 according to Elite Prospects, Rajala led Ilves Tampere in goals (16) this past season. Oilers are crawling with undersized skill wingers so it's uncertain when or if we'll see him in NA.
- Linus Omark: Just signed in Switzerland, surely the Oilers have seen the last of him at one of their training camps. Suspect he'll be traded in the next 10 months.
- Kellen Jones: Undersized skill winger had a solid NCAA season but faces a long uphill battle to earn a pro contract with the Oilers.
- Daniil Zharkov: Big skill winger with some finishing skills should make enough headlines this winter to be easy to track. Scored 23 in the OHL a year ago, can he post 30 this season?
- Mitch Moroz: Oilers drafted a fast, big man who can fight and score a little high in the draft. I've spoken with a few people with some knowledge of the Oil Kings, all of them convinced he'll get extended time on a skill line this coming season. On a list of 'players to watch' this winter, Moroz would have to rank very high.
- Jujhar Khaira: Big, tough winger with skill, Khaira should get an immediate opportunity with Michigan Tech. This will likely to be a long term project, but if he turns out, look out.
- John McCarron: Big college winger at big brained Cornell, the offense turned on in the new year this past season. Maybe he turned a corner? You never know.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The signings of Hall and Eberle late this summer indicate just how strong Edmonton's wingers are moving out over the rest of this decade. Hell, Ales Hemsky and Nail Yakupov make 4 ridiculous talents on the wings alone!
Paajarvi, Hartikainen, Pitlick, Hamilton, Rieder. Down the line somewhere, the Oilers will have a need and will be able to deal from their strength on the wing. This is a tremendous amount of talent. Massive.