The Edmonton Oilers are extremely likely to have a strong rookie-of-the-year candidate in 2010-11. They have three outstanding prospects (Magnus Pääjärvi, Jordan Eberle, Chipper Jones) and enough job openings to make one believe anything is possible.
Some coaches/managers dole out minutes to rookies with a thimble, others are more generous. They key is being "NHL ready" which is something Oilers rookie forwards have rarely been over the last decade. Ales Hemsky came to the show early because the organization felt he could learn more in the NHL than playing another season in the Q. Sam Gagner arrived in TC fall 2007 fresh from an international tournament and weeks ahead of many others in terms of conditioning.
Craig MacTavish didn’t have a lot of "big minutes" rookies during his Edmonton coaching career. Here are his forwards, with their total time-on-ice in rookie seasons.
- Sam Gagner (07-08) 1238:31
- Andrew Cogliano (07-08) 1112:17
- Kyle Brodziak (07-08) 1033:24
- Jarret Stoll (03-04) 945:18
- Patrick Thoresen (06-07) 776:33
- Ales Hemsky (02-03) 712:12
- Jason Chimera (02-03) 710:06
- Marc Pouliot (06-07) 600:12
- Dom Pittis (00-01) 506:13
- Liam Reddox (08-09) 481:39
- Brad Winchester (06-07) 476:18
- Mike Comrie (00-01) 466:54
- Shawn Horcoff (00-01) 452:12
- Fernando Pisani (02-03) 375:18
- Jean Francois Jacques (06-07) 292:44
- Zach Stortini (06-07) 207:27
- Brian Swanson (00-01) 174:38
- Mike Bishai (03-04) 128:18
- Tony Salmlelainen (03-04) 125:27
- Michel Riesen (00-01) 118:53
- Jani Rita (02-03) 114:26
- Steve MacIntyre (08-09) 86:07
There were maybe 5 rookies who got big time playing time (the top 4 and Comrie when he signed) in their rookie seasons. Hemsky was given 153 minutes on the powerplay, a large portion of his rookie season. He was spotted too, meaning his chances of being a strong Calder candidate were dashed by not getting enough at-bats (even with only 712 minutes of ice-time, Hemsky finished 2nd in the NHL in rookie assists, 2002-03).
Of note here are the three rookies who played more than 1,000 minutes in 2007-08. Gagner, Cogliano and Brodziak got a lot of playing time in their first season, although only Gagner got big PP minutes (Cogliano got quite a few too, with Brodziak getting PK time).
Tom Renney handled rookies in a similar way in his time as head coach. In his 4 (well most of 4) seasons with the Rangers, Renney doled out the rookie minutes to forwards thusly:
- Brandon Dubinsky (07-08) 1188:59
- Dominic Moore (05-06) 1022:28
- Petr Prucha (05-06) 931:02
- Nigel Dawes (07-08) 792:04
- Lauri Korpikoski (08-09) 742:09
- Ryan Callahan (07-08) 643:29
- Ryan Hollweg (05-06) 376:40
Last season, NHL coaches gave 9 rookie forwards 1000+ minutes of time on ice. The Colorado Avalanche had three of them (Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, TJ Galiardi) and would probably be the template for this season’s Oilers crop up front. Duchene received an enormous amount of PP time and the other two were given extened auditions on the PK. I’m not certain if there’s a penalty-killer among the Oilers kids but we’ll see.
Finally, which of these kids is most likely to be the frontrunner on his own team? Desjardins NHL equivalenvies give us an educated look at the problem. Desjardins NHLE’s have impressive predictive power, but these three young players are very close in terms of potential offense:
- Jordan Eberle 22-24-46
- Taylor Hall 17-29-46
- Magnus Pääjärvi 16-22-38
None of them have shown themselves as "complete" players, offering a wide range of skills and giving the coach a trustworthy option in all areas. If I had to guess which of the three emerges as the strongest Calder candidate, it would be Taylor Hall. First overall means he’ll get all kinds of opportunity, his Desjardins NHLE is as impressive as Stamkos at the same age, left-wing is wide open on the Oilers and what better way to signal a new beginning than to see your first overall pick win the Calder the following season. It has "Gilbert Perreault" style appeal, a young organization going in the right direction. Finally, and perhaps most important, he is a "shooter" and that might give him a slight edge on the PP role that might be open for one rookie; however, the other two are no slouches in this department.
The truth is any of these three could win the Calder trophy in 2010-11.