After years of pondering where the #1 overall pick will play in the fall, Oiler fans are forced to discuss other issues this summer. One of the main items–assuming the Oilers are finished shopping–is 3line LW. My belief is that Ryan Smyth has the inside track based on experience and ability. Agree?
In April, I wrote a Ryan Smyth profile (here) suggesting "these days, Ryan Smyth patrols the 3rd and 4th lines, mentoring the youth and passing the torch. The young men who hope to bring glory to Edmonton would do well to learn about heart, soul and dedication from Ryan Smyth."
In fact, Smyth was 6th among wingers in EV time on ice (11:35), 2nd among wingers in SH TOI (2:31) and played an hour with the man advantage. By any stretch, he was a 3rd line winger in 2012-13 for the Edmonton Oilers.
Ryan Jones played about as much as Ryan Smyth at evens this year and posted a slightly better 5×5 points per 60 number. If he’s fully recovered from his eye injury (and the after effects, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to suffer that injury and THEN return to a game that goes as fast as NHL hockey uncertain of visual range) I expect he’ll give Smyth the toughest battle.
One area Jones will be counted on is the penalty kill, something he’s done in the past and enjoys. In the article "A Chat with Ryan Jones" back in November Jones said this to Jason Strudwick:
- Ryan Jones: "I really like the role the coaches have given me the last couple of years as well as the opportunity to kill penalties I have been given. I always loved killing penalties. It is not a glamorous role but I take a lot of pride in it. I shoot the puck down the ice a lot so they might as well let me do it without it being icing!"
Jesse Joensuu is the great unknown in this group–he’s an interesting guy who does have NHL experience but we don’t really know what he is; the closest I’ve seen to a reliable scouting report comes from the Hockey News
He has not been a penalty killer for any extended time in the NHL, but did kill penalties during his time in Europe over the last two seasons. He can be a physical player–he’s 6.04, 210–and I think that element will get him into the lineup and help him sustain playing time this winter.
The Oilers also signed veteran AHL winger Ryan Hamilton, and his agent (Tom Lynn) feels Edmonton is an outstanding landing place for his player. Why? Well, Hamilton has size (6.02, 230), knows the new head coach very well and his Hockey News bio is a nice fit for team needs:
If Hamilton impresses early, gets a couple of pre-season games and shows well, he could be here awhile. The opportunity is there.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Entering summer (and after free agency ran its early course) we’ve settled (uneasily) in to the idea of Gordon-Hemsky as 2/3s of that very important third line. The third member of the group could be Ryan Smyth, Ryan Jones, Jesse Joensuu or Ryan Hamilton. It’s possible Ben Eager may be part of the solution, and the club could add a veteran before or during the season.
As it stands now, I think it’s a safe bet we’ll see all of Smyth, Jones, Joensuu and Hamilton a lot this coming season. If true, I suspect Ryan Smyth will win the early battle for 3 LW–the question is can he keep it?