It goes without saying that Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are a big part of the future of the Edmonton Oilers. Thanks, Captain Obvious. If you put them together, what do you get?
While the answer will be seasons in the making, fans will at least get a prevue tonight against the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place with the lines coach Tom Renney has put together.
Fans get their first look at Hall and Nugent-Hopkins together on a line that will Teemu Hartikainen playing the right side against the Flames. If seeing Hall, 19, Nugent-Hopkins, 18, and Hartikainen, old bones at 21, isn’t a glimpse into the future of this franchise, I don’t know what is.
While the big Finn might be playing a notch or two up the pecking order from where he’ll eventually end up as an NHL regular after he works his way through a logjam of bodies on right wing, it’ll be fun to see this trio turned loose together.
These kids have the attributes of a classic old school trio. Hall’s the go-to-the-net guy. The shooter. Nugent-Hopkins is the eyes-in-the-back-of-the-head guy. The playmaker and puck distributor. Harski is the find-’em-and-grind-’em puck hound with good hands for a banger. The corner man.
Fall is in the air. Possibilities abound.
— The rest of the forward lines have Ryan Keller and Ryan Jones centred by Sam Gagner, Anton Lander between Ryan Martindale and Antti Tyrvainen and Josh Green with Eric Belanger and Tyler Pitlick.
— On the back end, big Andy Sutton makes his debut in a pairing with Tom Gilbert, Cam Barker pairs up with Kirill Tulupov and Theo Peckham is with Jeff Petry.
— In goal, it’ll be Nikolai Khabibulin, looking to rebound from a lousy first start, and Yann Danis.
FOR THE FLAMES
Calgary beat writer Randy Sportak has some tidbits about the Flames line-up:
The Flames plan to face the Oilers in the first half of the home-and-home series with their 2011 first-round pick Sven Baertschi, Max Reinhart, the 2010 draft choice who lit up the WHL playoffs and has carried that into this year’s training camp, second-year pros Greg Nemisz and Lance Bouma, and Paul Byron, the diminutive centre who was acquired in the summertime trade with the Buffalo Sabres and is expected to make a serious push for a roster spot.
Oh yeah, the Flames are also bringing their goaltending tandem of Leland Irving and Joni Ortio, the duo expected to be in place for the AHL Abbotsford Heat.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.