May 26 2014 02:23PM
The Edmonton Oilers have been in rebuild mode for years, and while they've seen some solid individual progress, the team hasn't seen any improvement where it matters most: in the standings.
Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz are the young, skilled players this team hopes to build around, but do they have any support players from within the organization who can help this team contend for a playoff spot?
Those five players aren't experienced or talented enough to lead this team on their own just yet, and if they reach the point where they are, they will need a solid group of complementary players around them.
We've examined the the free agent market for the past few weeks, and outside of a few names there isn't a lot to choose from, so the Oilers will likely have to hope some players within the organization can step up and contribute.
Martin Marincin and Oscar Klefbom are the best bets to be impact players next season.
Klefbom looked more comfortable in every game he played. He only dressed for 17 games, but he rarely looked overmatched physically. He skates well, has good vision and very good hockey sense. He finished the season at 213 pounds, and he very easily could come to camp at 220 next year.
I see him as the best internal candidate to solidify the blueline. If he can stay healthy he could become that minute-eating D-man they desperately need on the left side.
Marincin was solid, but I felt we saw his lack of strength become more of an issue as the season went along. He is a very good passer, skates well has a very good stick and a long reach. I feel he has all the tools to be successful, but he needs to dedicate himself in the off-season. Marincin needs to get stronger. He needs to put some meat on his lanky 6' 4" frame. I hope that getting a taste of life in the NHL will inspire him to workout harder and eat better this summer. If he does, he should be a solid defender.
Darnell Nurse is the other D-man who could compete for an NHL job. I still believe he'd be better off going back to junior, playing for Canada at the World Juniors and continue to develop. He is very competitive and he'll come to camp expecting to make the team. He would need to be better than both Klefbom and Marincin to make the team, and that's why I believe he'll play one more season in junior.
Dillon Simpson, Martin Gernat, David Musil, Brandon Davidson and Jordan Oesterle should give OKC a solid young D corps. Simpson and Osterle need at least one year to develop in the AHL. Musil has to improve his footspeed if he ever hopes to play in Edmonton, while Davidson and Gernat should be looking at playing more minutes in the AHL this year.
Mark Arcobello, Anton Lander and Tyler Pitlick (when he re-signs) will have the best chance to make an impact.
Arcobello had a great start, 10 points in his first 10 games, but finished with 8 in his next 31. He won't be a point-per-game player, but he has the potential to produce more than 1 point every 4 games. Arcobello's work ethic and willingness to do anything to earn icetime will get him a long look in training camp. When he was sent back to the AHL, he proved he was too good for that league, scoring 28 points in 15 games. He should come to camp with a lot of confidence, and if he can produce in training camp he could earn a spot in the top-9.
Lander is coming off his best offensive season, but that was at the AHL level. He has struggled to produce in the NHL, and right now he seems more likely to start on the 4th line in a defensive role, rather than higher in the lineup. "I have to get stronger and faster," Lander told me when he signed a one year contract extension. "I have to prove I can produce in the NHL if I want to stay there," continued the 2009 2nd round pick. Lander knows what he has to do, but can he accomplish that?
Pitlick is an RFA, but I expect the Oilers to sign him to a one-year deal. Staying healthy has been his biggest hurdle. He scored his first NHL goal in Phoenix, but he got hurt a few shifts later. Every time it looks like he is ready to take the next step in his development, his progress is halted by an injury. He has the size and speed to help this team on the wing, but he needs to stay healthy if he wants to make a contribution.
Wil Acton and Ryan Hamilton are AHLers who could fill in, but I don't see them as regular NHL players. The rest of the forward prospects need time to develop. Bogdan Yakimov, Mitch Moroz and Jujhar Khaira will play their first season in the AHL this fall, while Kale Kessy and Travis Ewanyk need to continue to develop and hope that they can be energy guys in the future.
I didn't include Taylor Fedun, because I have a hunch he will test free agency. I'm curious to see if the Oilers will qualify Curtis Hamilton, or let him walk. He missed half of the season due to surgery, but in his three seasons in the organization he hasn't made much progress. He did produce more this season, so the Oilers might give him one more year to see if he can produce and develop like they hoped when they took him 48th overall in 2010.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The Oilers best prospects are on the blueline, and while that is great, it also means they might get younger at a position they desperately need to improve. Craig MacTavish must sign at least one, and maybe two veterans to help nurture his young blueliners.
The Oilers forward depth should look much better once Yakimov, Khaira, Moroz and Greg Chase mature, but unless Arcobello or Lander take a big step next season, it doesn't look like the Oilers will get much help from within next season.
ULTIMATE SPORTS FAN PACKAGE...
For the fourth consecutive year we are doing our Ultimate Sports Fan package in support of charity. On June 7th I am riding in the 190km MS Bike Tour, and I've come up with a pretty good package for the diehard sports fan.
How it works is you make a $100 donation and you get 1 entry. If you make a $200 donation you get two entries.
We only take 100 entries and we will raise $10,000 for MS. The draw is Thursday June 5th, and we've already sold 30 on the first day..
This year's winner will get the following: The final package will be value at over $5,000.00
- A pair of tickets to the Oilers home opener in October.
- A pair of Edmonton Eskimos season tickets in the lower bowl.
- A signed, game used Ryan Nugent-Hopkins stick.
- 20 tickets to the Oil Kings opening night game and banner raising night. Also, you will get an Oil King of your choice to come to your backyard rink or minor hockey practice for an hour. ( Between November 1st and December 15th.)
- A pair of Edmonton Rush season tickets.
- Two VIP floor seats to MFC 41 on October 3rd. That includes dinner before the fights, and you will also get to watch the prelims at ringside with the MFC broadcast team.
- The Nation's own Jason Strudwick and one of his former NHL friends will play a game with your Men's League team next season. Struds will bring the beer, a few good stories and some shootout moves.
- Four infield passes to the Canadian Derby on Saturday August 16th.
- Pizza for a year (1 pizza a week) from Papa Johns Pizza. When you want to watch the big games Papa Johns will ensure you have great pizza.
Keep in mind this sold out in two weeks last year, so if you want a chance to win and help end MS get in the draw today.
You can make your donation here. (click on Donate Now beside my bad picture). Thanks and good luck.
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