This is Jonas Almtorp. He impressed last fall at training camp and would have to be considered the likely choice as “this season’s Patrick Thoresen” but making this team at center is going to be a killer.
The Edmonton Oilers are not at this time a playoff team imo, but their depth at center is truly impressive. So impressive that if they do pull the trigger on a deal for a right winger, a pivot is extremely likely to be part of the package sent away (along with a defender).
Here’s a look at the centermen entering camp. As mentioned in the RW post, there is some duplication but it seemed rational to list all players fighting for a spot at each position.
- Shawn Horcoff- 06-07 numbers were ES points-per-60mins: 1.52, PP points-per-60mins: 4.87. Horcoff is a very valuable player, moreso since the trade deadline deal that sent away Ryan Smyth and the summer spent thinning out the forward positions. He’s going to play a ton.
- Jarret Stoll- 06-07 numbers were ES points-per-60mins: 2.2, PP points-per-60mins: 4.20. Stoll’s concussion problems are apparently gone for now, but Oiler fans will be holding their breath the first time he takes a big hit. Extremely important player for this team moving forward, he may be more important at ES than he has been in the past.
- Marc Pouliot- 06-07 numbers were ES points-per-60mins: 1.17, PP points-per-60mins: 1.11. I’ve already slotted him in at RW, but he’s also an attractive option at his natural position. In a perfect world he’d spend this season with Moreau and Pisani.
- Marty Reasoner- 06-07 numbers were ES points-per-60mins: 1.45, PP points-per-60mins: 0. He’s had some injury trouble, but with the Pisani injury Reasoner becomes a very important veteran on this club. He’ll need to play the 3rd line checking role and take the tough minutes Horcoff can’t cover.
- Kyle Brodziak- Like Pouliot, a player I’ve slotted at RW despite being a natural center. This guy is in a very strong position for this camp, and looks exactly like Rem Murray about 1996.
- Jonas Almtorp- He’s got decent size, is a good skater and is described as being aware of his defensive duties. He’s also 23. A dark horse candidate.
- Rob Schremp- His 20 year old AHL season was superior to other Oiler centers of recent vintage (Schremp was .768 ppg, Stoll was .711, Pouliot was .692, Brodziak was .571) but each of the other men offered a wider range of skills. Schremp is a quality prospect in a very narrow view (soft minutes skill C) and it just so happens that matches the Oilers need. He is healthy, and he does have a chance to make this team.
- Ryan O’Marra- He’s an interesting player. The Oilers have sent away some agitators over the last couple of seasons, and with JFJ’s struggles he is not close to a lock to make the big club. He’s healthy, and my bet is that he’s one of the final cuts.
- Andrew Cogliano- I think he’ll be MacT’s favorite by the end of camp among the new kids on the block, and also believe that Cogliano is the one young center who can break camp with the big club and play more than one role. My bet is that MacT finds him useful in the energy 4line role, as a PK man, and that he can from time to time rotate up as needed and not make a fool of himself. His college experience probably makes him a little more ready than a kid like Schremp was just based on reading and reacting without the puck.
- Tyler Spurgeon- Similar career progression to Brodziak, under the radar but delivering what is asked for in spades. My guess is they send him to the AHL and hope he can add some offense to his fine play in other areas.
- Fredrik Johansson- I doubt he makes the team, but Johansson is a guy whose reputation as a 2-way player will probably help him. Because of a mixup last fall, he was not around in camp at all a year ago. That may mean he gets a little longer look from the coach.
- Sam Gagner- The same buzz we saw with Hemsky was growing with Gagner before the Canada-Russia series. They sent Hemsky down despite his fine showing as an 18-year old in his first NHL camp (they sent him out September 26, 2001, AFTER Marc Andre Bergeron and Fernando Pisani were sent out), and may do the same with Gagner.
My pre-camp guess at the C depth chart opening night:
- Shawn Horcoff
- Jarret Stoll
- Marty Reasoner
- Andrew Cogliano (*Sam Gagner)
*Gagner is a significant enough wildcard at this point that you’d have to consider him a possibility to make the club, at least for that several-game tryout at the beginning of the year. Is it 9 games?