The Oilers, as of right now, have nine forwards under 6’ tall on their roster. Four of those forwards are locks for the team, and two more are likely.
- Sam Gagner: 5’11”
- Patrick O’Sullivan: 5’11”
- Andrew Cogliano: 5’10”
- Mike Comrie: 5’10”
- Robert Nilsson: 5’11”
- Gilbert Brule: 5’10”
- Rob Schremp: 5’11”
- Jordan Eberle: 5’10”
- Liam Reddox: 5’10”
Of that group four of those guys (Gagner, Cogliano, Comrie, Nilsson) are not a fit anywhere but on a scoring line, although Gagner and Cogliano might be able to grow into two-way players.
Additionally, Patrick O’Sullivan is probably best utilized in a scoring role against less than stellar opposition, and Gilbert Brule hasn’t shown that he’s capable of playing a defensive role; in other words, everyone but O’Sullivan needs to be put in a position to succeed – not too many own-zone starts, and not too many shifts against the Getzlafs and Iginlas of the league.
This is all relatively common knowledge, and has been discussed ad nauseum on message boards, radio, TV, and this site.
Let’s Step One Year Forward
Does anyone here believe that Jordan Eberle isn’t going to get a push next season, or that he’ll be anywhere other than on the Oilers’ roster? He should go back to junior this year, but the fact that he’s pushed his way into the conversation at this camp, combined with his draft pedigree means that he’ll almost certainly be an Oiler in 2010-11.
Let’s not forget 5’9” Linus Omark. Omark is coming off a tremendous season in Sweden, and so far has apparently had some issues with his KHL team. Maybe he makes the team, maybe he doesn’t; either way, it seems very likely that he’s going to challenge for a spot on the roster next season.
Next, we consider Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson. Paajarvi isn’t in the same range size-wise (6’1”, 201lbs) as the other players we’re considering, but his skill-set certainly is: he’s a young player with offensive talent who needs to round out his defensive game and probably needs some shelter from his coaching staff when he comes to North America. Maybe he starts next season in the AHL, but it’s easily within the realm of possibility that he pushes for a roster spot.
The Oilers are going to need to make decisions on all three of these guys, and it’s very difficult to imagine that either Eberle or Paajarvi are going to be tossed aside. Based on what he did in Sweden, it also seems like it would be a shame to send out Omark without taking a look at him.
In Other Words…
The Oilers are over-stocked with small players with a largely offense-only mindset. They have three remarkable prospects coming in next season, all of whom are going to be (at least initially) of much the same skill-set.
Individually, there’s an argument to be made for every one of these players. Gagner and Cogliano are obviously valuable players. Robert Nilsson, coming off a bad season, continues to show flashes of brilliance and is a guy who would be nice to keep. Mike Comrie’s had a strong preseason, and brings some experience and edge that the other players don’t. Patrick O’Sullivan has a few skills (shooter, penalty-killer) in short supply on the Oilers, and on top of that has put up better totals in the NHL than any of the other young guys. Gilbert Brule was a 6th overall pick in 2005 and has untapped offensive ability and a physical edge.
The fact of the matter though, is that however valuable these players are individually, there isn’t room for all of them. Certainly one, probably two and possibly as many as three are going to be shipped out by the start of next season.
Barring an outstanding return, Gagner, Cogliano and O’Sullivan are the three currently on the roster that I would keep.