Department of Youth

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:

  1. Jordan Eberle 68gp, 18-25-43 (will lead team in points, wide range of skills)
  2. Taylor Hall 65gp, 22-20-42 (gamebreaker, impact player in the future)
  3. Magnus Pääjärvi 79gp, 15-18-33 (should emerge as that rare big man with hands)
  4. Linus Omark 50gp, 5-20-25 (Surprising player has more skills than expected)
  5. Jeff Petry 34gp, 1-4-5 (Complete skill set makes him a rare item)
  6. Ryan O’Marra 20gp, 1-3-4 (Has a checker’s skills and there is an opening)
  7. 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.


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.

  • Zed

    I like your optimism Lowtide. I felt the same thing at the end of the 2008 season. I distinctly remember one of my buddies saying:

    “In two years, these boys are going to win a cup.”

    And here we are.

    Ironically he was an ex NHL talent scout. (or so he says)

    It will be interesting however, if a sophmore slump affects any of these gents next year like it did for the 2008 crop.

  • For the past few seasons, every time the season’s ticket renewal came up, I’d tell my wife (and myself), “They can’t be any worse than they were this year. Next year has to be better”. As painful as it has been, finally, now we may be turning the corner.

    You can see some players that when they fill out and learn the pro game, are really going to be players. I must also say that even in many of the losses, the young men kept things interesting. It’s nice to see a continued level of effort from many of the players that I hadn’t seen in the past.

    Hope is in town again… and of course, they can’t be any worse than they were this year, right? Right?

  • Lowetide

    Great article LT.

    Your articles are the very first items, out of the entire internet, that I seek out after I boot up the computer. That’s the finest compliment that I can give a writer these days 🙂

    A suggestion for Wanye et. al: I wouldn’t have known that Brownlee had an article under LT’s if it hadn’t been mentioned in the LT’s article. I come to the site all of the time. It would be ideal if there was an indicator at the top that said something like “two new articles since your last visit”.

    Just a thought. Keep up the great work!

  • Lowetide

    Woodguy: Damn. I read the post three times to make sure my Sunday morning brain hadn’t done something like that. 🙂

    The third name was Tom Gilbert btw. Thanks for pointing it out. Stupid brain.

  • Zed

    M.I.A. (missing in action ) the substitute , or call up kids known as our NHL so called part time talent . How many more seasons do we have to rely on rookies and AHL talent to carry this team , while our NHL talent abandons our team every season for retirement in the infirmary house ? Huge pay for part time players i’d say . Tough way to develop rookie talent .

    Who’s in charge of our absenteee problems that seemingly gets out of hand and develops every season ?

  • ItsTheBGB

    I am referring to your post on your blogspot LT so here it is…

    Lowetide = my favorite blogger in the whole wide world!

    I was a Larsson supporter all year, but he has no offense in his stats which scares me. To be a #1 defenseman you need to get points! I am now on the RNH bandwagon, Landeskog and SC following…Closely

  • i was a rnh guy until i went and saw him play the oil kings in the playoffs. his game reminded me alot of sam gagner. he wasn’t overly fast, didn’t possess the puck alot and only got that wrist shot off once. he also only took draws maybe half the time he was on the ice and looked indifferent when he did. while it is a skill set that may complement hall and eberle nicely down the line, it is a skill set they already have on the team. i wonder if they wouldn’t be better off grabbing larsson, who might lead a mens league championship team in minutes and making sure they have a pick to grab the big right handed center mark mcneill of whom i saw a getzlaf comparison the other day. should be interesting.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I just hope the Oilers can stay healthy all year and the likes of Hemsky, and Whitney can play a full season, sure would be nice to see what kind of damage the team can do with this crop of rookies and a NHL caliber lineup

  • JohnQPublic

    Optimism is the word of the day. It’s amazing how fun it was watching a 30th place team, this year.

    That in itself is an enormous feat.

    I would love to see the Oil move up on LA’s pick and score 2 great prospects this year to shorten the rebuild. I wonder what Ales would bring?

  • Steve Smith

    I am sold on the rebuild. We have so many question marks going into next season it makes my head spin. How de we get better on the PK and PP. The PK especially is a sore spot for me. Goaltending. Where the heck will NK’s head be at after the trial? Will the Souray saga end? Will the team cough up the $$$ for Jones? Will the team make a move with Cogliano over the off season or let him walk. Will Hemsky be here at the beginning of next season. Will Gagne? So many questions to answer. The offseason will be as interesting as the season has been. Its been a year. Just glad I am not a Flame or Hurricane fan. Go Nucks.

  • Redhouse

    Late last year and post season up to the draft, there was lots of talk that what we *really* needed was a #1 center with some size. I don’t see much of that any more, but in my mind that still has to be our first priority, doesn’t it?

    I’m strongly with the crew that are saying RNH is another Sam Gagner. We just don’t need another guy that size playing up front. He hasn’t been *so* dominant that there’s reason to think he can come into the NHL and be dominant…not saying it couldn’t happen, my crystal ball just isn’t that clear..just saying, we have *that guy* already. And, though he’s just 21 and I can forsee Sam getting to 65-70 points in the future, I don’t see much more than that even with full time play with skilled linemates. Solid #2 center, yes. #1, not as a permanent solution. RNH would, in my mind, be more of same.

    Then there’s Larsen…but, as is posted above me, he hasn’t put up any scoring numbers worth talking about…so, what are we talking, Jay Bouwmeister (sp)? Personally, I’ll take a pass on that, too. NHL caliber, no question, just not quite what we’re looking for. A guy like we need does change hands from time to time, so I feel like we should be able to acquire a scoring D-man if need be – and, if Whitney can stay healthy (not a given), I think we have that guy already.

    So, where does that leave me? Couturier. Yup. Big, still ‘rangy’ but he’ll fill out at, what, 210-215? I know his stock has fallen, some say precipitously so, this year…but I haven’t seen the analysis that says *why*, can someone fill me in here? Compete level/heart? Skating? Some will say draft the best available, not for need…but I think we are at the stage where we *have to* go for need, and this is our need.

    I suppose the alternative is to convert one of our many talented wingers to C. Again, I haven’t seen much talk about this recently and it puzzles me as to why not. Paajarvi? Has the size, the defensive responsibility mindset, the wheels to do the previous. Not yet sure he has the touch to be the playmaker at #1 but he’s 19, I don’t think it would spoil his talent to experiment there. To a lesser extent, I think Eberle would also make a good C and, to me, he’s already proving that he can score in the NHL…maybe a little slow for a C would be my *only* concern. Hall is another candidate, though personally I like him on the wing even if I can’t quite quantify why as I write this.

    Unrelated note, am I the only one who thinks Hartikainen would make an excellent 2nd line, and maybe first in the future, crash-the-corners-and-the-net winger? He seems to be pegged for 3rd-4th line duty, but boy he has impressed the hell out of me early on.

    Epic novel for FIST post!

  • Lowetide

    Redhouse: I agree, but there doesn’t appear to be one in the draft. Couturier’s numbers suggest he’s the real deal, but the scouts have seen something because the guy is sinking like a stone.

    At this point it’s Larsson versus RNH imo.

    • FPB

      This is good news IMHO. I think the Oil will likely go with Larsson at #1, and if Couturier is dropping then there is a chance they can swing a deal to land him as well someplace in the #5 – #10 range. Even if all he does is become a big second line centreman for the team when it is a contender, that is still an upgrade over what we currently have. I know that skating is a big red flag for him, but I seem to remember the same question mark about Eberle not too long ago (same with Harski and he looked okay in this short stint).

      While RNH plays physical for his size in the WHL, it is a totally different thing to do that and hold up for an entire season against men.

  • Firstly, it doesn’t get any worse than 09-10. Man that was terrible, this season was paradise to watch compared to last year. And secondly as far as the people saying draft for need, I’m sure these are the same people that said draft Seguin last year.. Come on people BPA!! We’ve seen the results.

  • JohnQPublic

    I cant believe the young talent this organization has drafted. I would have been happy if the Oilers had just one of these types of prospects 10 years ago. It feels like the Oilers are going to do something special again, cant wait.

  • FPB

    Thanks LT for everything. Especially for being the voice of reason and for your grace and patience with all of us. You are a far better man than I. A tip of the tam o shanter to the absolute best.

  • FPB

    Yeah same. But where do we go now?

    If you wouldn’t mind, i’d loan that blogname for future GTD’s.

    It feels all weird.

    That site just asked me if I ghost rided’ the whip.

  • FPB

    ‘Tis a shame LT. I respect your decision. I’ll leave a light on(ie check it on my favourites occasionally) in case you come home again.

    Thanks for all your time, grace, and good humour.


  • FPB

    It’s easy to get excited about the rookies, but looking at this year’s crop compared to 2007-2008 doesn’t do a lot for the fans confidence if you are just looking at the stats.

    2007-2008 Rookies
    Sam Gagner 79gp, 13-36-49
    Andrew Cogliano 82gp, 18-27-45
    Tom Gilbert 82gp, 13-20-33
    Kyle Brodziak 80gp, 14-17-31
    Curtis Glencross 26gp, 9-4-13

    The Oilers were looking up in the fall of 2008 as well, and we all know how things have turned out since then.