Strong Debut Seasons

I love old time photos. This one features the great Gordie Howe in the middle, a young Bryan "Bugsy" Watson (who would one day coach our beloved Oilers) on the right and young Ray Cullen on the left. This photo is from 1966-68. One of the best things about following a team is watching the young players develop; Cullen had the better pedigree and was a better offensive prospect but it was Watson who had the longer NHL career. On the current Oilers roster, who are the keepers? The throwaways? The career minor leaguers? It’s always been tough to say.

According to hockey-reference, 103 young men have made their NHL debuts this season. Last year it was 137, so there are more kids to come as the season rolls along. In terms of playing their first NHL games, here are the Oilers on that list of 103:

  • Taylor Hall 49gp, 16-15-31
  • Magnus Pääjärvi 46gp, 6-13-19
  • Jordan Eberle 37gp, 9-14-23
  • Linus Omark 20gp, 3-6-9
  • Jeff Petry 14gp, 1-2-3

That’s a helluva list, it really is. Five kids making their debuts in the same season, 4 of them with enough potential to be at least considered for the top 6 on a contending team and the other looking like a lock for top 4D duty for years to come. Things don’t always work out as planned, but you’d have to give this group a solid chance at making it five for five when it comes to establishing themselves as NHL players.

There are no seasons that really compare to this group in recent Oiler history. In the last decade, the best season for the Oilers in terms of NHL debuts were:

  • 02-03 (Ales Hemsky, Jarret Stoll, Fernando Pisani, MA Bergeron, Alexei Semenov all played 200 or more NHL games and Alex Henry got close).
  • 06-07 (Jan Hejda, Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid, Zack Stortini and some kids who may make that marker like Rob Schremp).
  • 07-08 (Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano plus guys like Theo Peckham and Liam Reddox who may make the 200 game marker in the future).

I think the current group will trump the three seasons mentioned here. The 02-03 group had a very nice variety of skill, grit and checking ability, the 06-07 group had three NHL defensemen and the 07-08 group brought the club two everyday forwards.

The strength of this season’s group–and what puts them over the top compared to the three seasons we’re discussing currently–is that they all appear to have a wider range of skills than the average rookie. Hall has balls, speed, shooting ability and a brain; Pääjärvi has much the same in lesser doses but also brings a strong defensive aptitude and is a little bigger; Eberle is so smart he could have played for the 70s Habs, plus he has this ridiculous ability to slightly change his shooting angle in close that should garner him buckets of NHL goals; Omark is a buzzsaw, strong on the puck and has sick puck skills and Petry is everything you look for in a defenseman save for the killer instinct physically.

We have to go back into the 1990’s for an Oiler debut that rivals the current group.

  • 93-94 (Jason Arnott, Kirk Maltby, Peter White, Boris Mironov, Todd Marchant, Fred Brathwaite)

This was a tremendous group of NHL debuts. Arnott and Marchant are both past 1,100 NHL games now, Mironov was a quality player over an extended period and Maltby found a role and filled it forever. That’s 4 very useful NHL players plus a couple of other guys who played over 200 games. Oilers traded for Marchant and Mironov during their debut seasons, something Steve Tambellini might want to explore (picking up a Michael Grabner mid-season could help this team).

I think the 2010-11 group may one day be stronger than the 1993-94 group, but that’s a strong list. Any other candidates?

  • Lowetide

    DBO: I think we’ll see more debut seasons before the end of the schedule. Teemu Hartikainen is the next candidate.

    Next year is going to be impressive too, with Lander, Marincin, Hamilton, the lottery pick and others likely turning pro.


  • book¡e

    Edit – somehow my post above double posted – so this is an ‘edit’ to tell you that so you don’t have to spend your time reading it twice. I would hate to waste your time reading something repetitive or useless on a Saturday morning. It would be unfortunate if you did happen to read something repetitive or useless on a Saturday morning. That would make me feel bad.

    Note – ON needs a delete button!

    Well damn it all to Oodle Noodle – LT replied to my duplicated post, so now the quote on his post makes no sense, so, here let me repost my original post here for you to read so that everything makes sense.

    It’s off topic, but did Wanye’s grand announcement/event occur?

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    there really hasn’t been much of a crackdown on head shots, has there really? with seemingly more frequency there are more players with more concussions than ever.

    granted media exposure, better diagnosis of symptoms etc. are reasons we can attribute what we know hear and know now buti belive the reality the league has NOT done what they need to do to curb concussions.

    side note…i hear stauffer preaching vigoroulsy for big mac ,more physicality basically a meaner tougher brand of hockey, but someone will need to explain the success of the detriot red wings to me in last few years….complete disconnect.

    • Rob...

      “someone will need to explain the success of the detriot red wings to me in last few years”:

      A killer power play that severely punished teams stupid enough to try to goon their stars. Teams that score 1 power play goal on 40 chances doesn’t have that type of protection as an option.

      • Rob...


        now isn’t that exactly what the oilers should be aiming for, beating teams on the points column of the score sheet rather than penaly minutes. we are skilled and we can punish, just let’s punish with speed and skill rather than intimidation and scare tactics….team toughness, cool, i’m down with that. i’d rather have detriot as my idol than anyother team. NO MORE FISTS (literally and figuratively)JUST MORE WINS!

        • Rob...

          I think that it’s a hell of a lot easier to hire a goon than get the right mix of talent for perfect power play chemistry. That doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to improve the power play, or haven’t thought ‘Damn… maybe our guys wouldn’t get elbowed so much if we could score on the power play’.

          I also think that someone like Stauffer has his finger on the pulse regarding players playing ‘bigger’ when someone like MacIntyre is in the lineup.

          Some argue that it takes a seat on the bench and is mostly a waste. Really? Ask Hall or Paajarvi if they’d like to pick up a couple extra shifts per game and see what they think about MacIntyre’s 4 minutes of ice time.

          • Lowetide

            sure it is easier but does it make it the best plan?

            mac provide the other players the opportunity to play like with some abandon and freedom, understood. i’m ok with him in the line up eating 5 minutes a night, fine. the theory that we NEED this is overplayed tho. what we NEED is a better pp, pk, to win face-offs, to come out and play a consistent 60 minutes, not to intimidate/beat-up other teams.

            persuade me that olympic hockey is a lesser grade than what we see everyday in the nhl, and i will subscribe to the ifhgt first ask later theory.

          • If it was possible for every team to have a PP that was awesome all the time dont you think they’d have all done it? Even Lowe couldnt miss that. Should they be building towards that? Absolutely! In the meantime (because it isnt going to happen tomorrow, this season, or likely the next few seasons) we need to have some system in place….

            Or are you advocating we do nothing until we are good? In which case, we never will be good.

          • If it was possible for every team to have a PP that was awesome all the time dont you think they’d have all done it? Even Lowe couldnt miss that. Should they be building towards that? Absolutely! In the meantime (because it isnt going to happen tomorrow, this season, or likely the next few seasons) we need to have some system in place….

            Or are you advocating we do nothing until we are good? In which case, we never will be good.

          • Lowetide

            not advocating we doing nothing at all and i never said we shouldn’t have mac there or be team tough. what i am saying tho is that we need to focus on other aspects of the re-build, or re-growth of the franchise, rather that simply laying the blame at feet of fear.

            this team in a very short period will play whomever, big team/small team, the same….with speed, skill, and talent, and they won’t let their greatness be defined by stortini’s fighting ability and jfj lack thereof.

  • book¡e

    What will add to the fun is the next wave. Next year you can expect to see 2 or 3 more rookies make their debut. That would make it 7 o 8 relative rookies, added to Gagner/Cogliano and Peckham, and that is a young group. Penner, Horcoff and Hemsky may be our only over 25 forwards starting the year and I think you can do ok with that if you have exceptional kids, but the back end is where you then have to shore up with solid vets. I believe we end up with Larsson in the draft, and he would most likely play right away, along with Lander and most likely Hamilton (who fills a desperate need of a physical two way player for the bottom six).

    We are really shaping up nicely, but a vet or two with complementary skills would make a lot of sense, the question becomes does management actually make a deal to round out the roster.


    Young, but solid and a balanced skill set if Smid progresses and Plante can step up and be a physical shut down option.

    MPS-Lander-Omark (all swede would be fun)

    A vet as our 3rd or 4th line centre would be solid, but Cogliano is getting better. However more size and a better faceoff man is needed. And some more size and physical nature is important. If we re-sign Hemsky and Penner, I hope they consider moving one of the kids. If Omark nets you a solid, physical two way winger then you may have to pull the trigger on that deal since its that kind of player is missing from this roster.

    Many have mentioned Brayden Schenn as a target if we move Hemsky, and while he woudl be a great fit I think another player from LA would be just as useful. Wayne Simmonds would balance our roster just as much and if there was some way to get both then I would be more excited about the next 2 years. Especially since I just don’t see management signing anyone to fill those roles.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    although i am plenty old enough to remember the 1993-94 group this current crop of talented rookies has the potential to be much more exciting. i suppose it isn’t even potential but reality.

    great description of eberle, this kid amazes me…smart!

    hall is kamakaze of the group and it is about time we have a loose wheel, no guts no glory!

    petry is our best defenceman in my eyes (i know its early).

    omark is slick and stronger on the ‘d’ side than given credit for.

    mps is fast and learning. that learning will pay off and be special very soon.

    good read LT!

  • Lowetide

    Yeah, that’s an excellent point. I think the NHL has moved away from some of the rules they placed after the lockout (you can hook a little more) but speed and creativity are rewarded heavily.

    I often wonder what a current fan would say about the olden days when opposition forwards would hook their sticks into the puck carrier and hold them all the way through the neutral zone without penalty.

    God it was awful hockey.

    • I dunno, I watched the 10 best games DVDs, and I’ll be damned if the Marchant OT game wasn’t WAYYYY more exciting the than the Pisani OT game. Agreed, the regular season is probably better now, but the playoffs were something else.

  • O.C.

    One of the reasons kids are now coming in (that I see) is the crackdown on headshots and hooking. The smaller have more (not full) ability to move through the offensive zone without fearing for their life or being held up.

    It’s also a reason why Martin St. Louis and Patrick Kane are starting to thrive.

    • hark65

      I’d say that the crackdown on holding and hooking has contributed much more to the small player’s success in the league. Head shots are a small player’s nightmare! (ie. Savard, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Crosby).

    • Horcsky

      Were you the same guy who in the last post that suggested that Omark will be a St. Louis? Regardless, St. Louis is just awesome, period. Hooking or no hooking.

      Also, if it was you making the Omark comparison, if Omark could be half the player St. Louis is, I would be thrilled.

    • Death Metal Nightmare

      nah, St. Louis had an MVP season before the rule changes. hes just good. and as much as i hate Kane, he avoids physicality well with his speed (until he got caught). something Sam Gagner cant do at his size because hes too slow footed, which is why you rarely see Gagner trying anything gutsy with the puck – he cant. he waits for chaos to occur from other players or situations and takes advantage of it. rarely is he “creating the chaos” (defensive breakdowns, etc) himself.