The Oilers have enough fire power up front to be considered dangerous.
The two best offensive Oiler clubs in the last dozen years were the 1996-97 club that lost in round two that spring and the team that went to G7 SCF in 2006.
Both of those teams finished north of 250 goals. I think the 2008-09 edition of the Oilers will come extremely close to that number.
The trick is finding enough forwards who can hold back the flood heading in the other direction when one of those gifted players turn the puck over in a very bad spot. There are some wonderful forwards on this team, smart and skilled men who may be on the verge of huge seasons. All players are listed by TC position and this is the complete TC list with percentage estimate.
- C Shawn Horcoff, 30 in September: The most important center in the Northwest division. On a team filled with skilled men who are often headed the wrong way upon turnover, Horcoff is a guy who can play at pace with them while doing the actual nuts and bolts heavy lifting required to get the playing field pointed in the proper direction. 53gp, 21-29-50, 30pims +1. Chances of Making the Oilers: 100%.
- RW Ales Hemsky, 25: Please trust me when I say this: ALL of the arrows are pointed in the right direction for Hemsky this season. If he’s healthy all year I believe he’ll go over 90 points and once again be the #1 powerplay man in the Northwest division (as he was a year ago). We are just now approaching the time in his career when Ales Hemsky combines skill, maturity and opportunity in ample amounts. We’ve seen his early, developmental years and now comes the Rocket. 74gp, 20-51-71, 34pims -9. Chances of making the Oilers: 100%.
- LW Dustin Penner, 26 in September: Despite the dollars and size, Dustin Penner’s offense will rely heavily on where they slot him in the lineup. If he plays the entire season on the top line with Horcoff and Hemsky he could have a career season. If he loses that job and doesn’t catch the Gagner wave this could be a rather difficult year. The Oilers are not in a position to push him into offensive situations if he can’t perform and with a new GM (not with the team when the deal was made) in place there should be no hesitation by anyone to move him down the depth chart (or out) if it makes the team better. He does have skill and performed well this past season but there are footsteps and MacT wants to win. The number of powerplay options not named Penner is another concern for him. 82gp, 23-24-47, 45pims -12. Chances of Making the Oilers: 100%.
- LW Erik Cole, 29: Last season at 5×5 he faced giants every night with only average men at his side, and performed pretty well(73gp, 12-22-34, +5). Dustin Penner’s 5×5 numbers (82gp, 10-15-25, -12 in 50 more EV minutes than Cole) are not in the same ballpark, especially considering Penner had better linemates pretty much every night (based on Desjardins). This is the Ryan Smyth of the 08-09 Oilers and I’ll be extremely interested in seeing how the coach uses him. 73gp, 22-29-51, 76pims +5. Chances of making the Oilers: 100%.
- C Sam Gagner, 19: The back half of his 07-08 season (39gp, 10-23-33, .846ppg) is cause for giddyness. There has been a lot of talk about Gagner being vulnerable to a sophomore slump. I guess he’s as vulnerable as anyone, but the major factor in keeping him up all last season was injury and it would be my guess that is huge this season too. Until Gagner can compete physically against men 10-15 years older the danger of injury is greater than the danger of not being able to hit a curveball. I’ll be very interested to see how much time he spent working on strength and conditioning this summer. Smart, smart player who is also gifted. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen someone like him. 79gp, 13-36-49, 23pims -21. Chances of making the Oilers: 100%.
- LW Robert Nilsson, 23: Nilsson was 8th in the NW division in a very important category: 5×5 points-per-60 (with a solid 2.37). He did not perform well on the powerplay but his skills suggest he should be able to have an impact in that area given the opportunity. Despite being the “obvious” choice to punt from the top 6 and having a very tradeable contract, my suspicion is that Nilsson stays and plays even when the days arrives (and it will) and Sam Gagner moves to another line. 71gp, 10-31-41, 22pims +8. Chances of making the Oilers: 100%.
- C Kyle Brodziak, 24: Back in the spring Bob Stauffer wrote “(look for) Kyle Brodziak to see significant minutes on the third line, including first unit penalty-killing.” This is the same guy who identified Robert Nilsson as a clear option for top 6 minutes in mid-summer 2007. Connected? You make the call. I think the Oilers will begin TC with the idea that Brodziak is Stoll2.0 and put him in the position of taking end zone faceoffs and playing tough competition (behind Horcoff’s line). Huge season for him and a lot is being asked based on his own past. 80gp, 14-17-31, 33pims -6. Chances of making the Oilers: 100%.
- C Andrew Cogliano, 21: His Corsi number (-11.7) ranked as the third worst in the division (Trevor Linden of the Canucks was -14.6 and Aaron Voros in Minnesota was -15.6) among forwards who played 50 or more games. He did however improve tremendously in the second half (41gp, 11-15-26, +7) and speed can work on offense and defense. I think this season will see Cogliano begin the process of becoming the next Butch Goring and he’ll emerge as the responsible member of the Kid Line. 82gp, 18-27-45, 20pims +1. Chances of making the Oilers: 100%.
- RW Fernando Pisani, 31: Pisani is a very smart player on a team that collects them, and there’s no doubt in my mind a player like Brodziak would be farther along had he enjoyed the opportunity to play for a long stretch with a healthy and effective Fernando Pisani. A return to the 05-06 offense (1.84/60 at 5×5) should be expected and plenty of heavy lifting for a quality role player. 56gp, 13-9-22, 28pims -5. Chances of Making the Oilers: 100%.
- RW Zack Stortini, 23 this week: Stortini’s role on the club is as the agitator, the physical presence on the 4/energy line. In 2007-08 he was so effective in the role many of us doubt it it can be repeated. Nevertheless, his name is written in ink on the final roster before they swing open the doors. 66gp, 3-9-12, 201pims +3. Chances of making the Oilers: 100%.
- C Marc Pouliot, 23: Pouliot can fill all kinds of roles on this team. He could fill in at 3line C, any 4th line slot, he can sit in the pressbox. He can PK, is building a pretty nice resume as a guy who can help slow the bleeding at EVs and does seem to be getting the general idea of what is required to play in the big leagues. “Make or break” is a cliche, but in this case very true. 24gp, 1-6-7, 12pims -1. Chances of making the Oilers: 95% (he could be traded).
- LW Ethan Moreau, 33 in September: The Oilers could use 80 games from Moreau to help the penalty killing, help the kids find their way and push some of the youngsters down the depth chart. Can they count on him? We’re about to find out, because Curtis Glencross left town. 25gp, 5-4-9, 39pims -4. Chances of making the Oilers: 86% (TC injury possible).
- C Ryan Potulny, 24: On a team looking for shooters Potulny stands out among the minor leaguers. He has other things (waiver eligible, some NHL experience) that put him ahead of Brule, Schremp and others but it’ll come down to training camp. Plus we need to remember the long list of forwards who’ve made the Oilers out of camp but spent the majority of the season elsewhere (Mikhnov, Jacques most recently). 7gp, 0-1-1, 4pims E. Chances of making the Oilers: 50%.
- LW JF Jacques, 23: He’s had some back trouble but the latest reports have him improving and looking forward to camp. JFJ’s physical style and exceptional size would be very valuable on this roster. 9gp, 0-0-0, 2pims -3. Chances of making the Oilers: 45%.
- C Rob Schremp, 22: He has been cursed by a parade of talent in Ourtown not seen in many years at his position and skill set. He is haunted by the famous MacT quote (“the things he needs to do to stay here long-term are not quick fixes. He needs the strength base and quickness. He’s got to be strong enough to battle at a standstill because he’s not going to outskate many guys”) and he continues to be portrayed by some as a problem child. So if he can overcome those things and make the major league club in any capacity I think it only reasonable we give him credit for it. The new Ron Chipperfield is ready. 2gp, 0-0-0, 0pims -1. Chances of making the Oilers: 40%.
- C Gilbert Brule, 21: I think the Oilers will send him out, but he had quite a bit of NHL experience and offers some skills that will be valuable to the big club. He has some jam and would certainly fill a 4line “energy” role similer to the one Glencross did this spring. Chances of Making the Oilers: 10%.
- LW Liam Reddox, 22: He zoomed up the charts so quickly last season one wonders if he can sustain it. However, he didn’t look out of place in his quick look-see in the show and Buchberger gushed over him. Chances of Making the Oilers: 6%.
- LW Bryan Lerg, 22: Pure scorer in college, Lerg is so unique among the Oilers grinders and playmakers he’ll no doubt be on the first powerplay in Springfield’s opening scrimmages. We have no idea about how he’ll handle the rough going but if he can take punishment without getting hurt (and make plays, obviously) the Oilers may have something here. Chances of making the Oilers: 5%.
- LW Tim Sestito, 24: The things he brings are in short supply on the Oilers depth chart, so he has a chance. Chances of Making the Oilers: 1%.
- RW Carl Corazzini, 29: Prendergast: “He’s not very big, but he can fly and he can score. He gives us more depth and should make us a better team in Springfield. And if we run into injury problems, he certainly wouldn’t be a guy that we would be afraid to call up.” Chances of Making the Oilers: 1%.
- LW Slava Trukhno, 21: Disappointing season in the AHL a year ago and I think they’ll send him down there in hopes he can dominate minor league pitching. Chances of Making the Oilers: 1%.
- RW Jordan Eberle, 18: Bob McKenzie: somewhat under-sized, Eberle is considered one of the smartest offensive players in the draft. He is a better goal-scorer than a playmaker and is an elusive talent when he has the puck. There are some questions about his speed, but he does have quickness, especially in tight situations and one-on-ones. Chances of making the Oilers: Zero.
- C Tyler Spurgeon, 22: The math has always liked him and according to Guy Flaming he’s coming to camp ready. He has some skilled and he has some jam. Chances of Making the Oilers: Zero.
- RW Sean McMorrow, 26: 87 fights in 48 games last year. THAT’s a stat. Chances of making the Oilers: Zero.
- LW Stephane Goulet, 22: Can score goals and that always has value. I’d be interested in seeing what he could do on one of the top 2lines and with big PP minutes in the AHL. Chances of Making the Oilers: Zero.
- RW Ryan O’Marra, 21: Oilers usually do well with this player type and he certainly has the draft pedgiree. A complete wildcard, he could be a feature center in Springfield or they could bury him again. Chances of Making the Oilers: Zero.
- RW Colin McDonald, 24: Oilers keep saying he’s going to score but he hasn’t done much of it in college or pro. He does have good size and could turn himself into a useful role player. His AHL season one year ago was clearly a struggle. Chances of Making the Oilers: Zero.
- C Milan Kytnar, 19: Apparently has the #1 center sewn up with the Saskatoon Blades after camp ends. Chances of making the Oilers: Zero.
- C Toby Lafrance, 21: An interesting under the radar player. Scored 40 as a 19-year old in the Q a couple of seasons ago and finished in the top 10 in that league’s scoring race as an overage junior. Overage juniors make the show about as often as people spell Orest Kindrachuk correctly, but he can score goals and that has value. Chances of Making the Oilers: Zero.
- LW Geoff Paukovich, 22: Now that Troy Bodie is gone he’ll be the top option for AHL Coke Machine. He was -21 in Stockton on a team that looked to be about 25 goals in the red at EVs so he wasn’t alone but he wasn’t helping. Chances of Making the Oilers: Zero.
- RW Jamie Bates, 23. Falcons GM Bruce Landon is quoted as saying “from all scouting reports, Jamie is a big and strong forward who works extremely hard.” Chances of Making the Oilers: Zero.
- RW Marc Andre Bernier, 23: Interesting player. Big, strong and with good hands, he apparently lacks killer instinct despite being the biggest guy in most conversations (6-3, 218). Played in the ECHL last season. Chances of making the Oilers: Zero.
- RW David Rohlfs, 24: One of the players who could benefit from the exit of Troy Bodie from the organziation. Chances of Making the Oilers: Zero.
- RW Justin Chwedoruk, 24: Former St. Albert Saint is an undersized winger who has played most of his pro career at the lower levels. Chances of Making the Oilers: Zero.
- W Kelly Czuy, 25: A college man with good size and a couple of years pro experience. Not much info about him but he doesn’t have a lot of PIMs or a lot of goals so we’ll call him a “two-way” forward. Chances of Making the Oilers: Zero.
- LW Adam Huxley, 24: Huxley hung in there against Flinn at TC last fall and may well have gotten a pro contract because Flinn was injured in that fight. Played for Stockton in 07-08, posting 200 pims. Chances of making the Oilers: Zero.
- C Ryan Huddy, 25: A complete wildcard. Yes he’s the son of one of the coaches but that doesn’t hasn’t counted for much since Brent Imlach. He’s small and he scored pretty well in Germany. Chances of making the Oilers: Zero.
- RW Hans Benson, 25: 6-0, 215 and a PIM magnet from the Dave Schultz family. Played 44 AHL games last season and managed 265PIMS. He’s from California and is the brother of NHL player Cedric Benson. Chances of Making the Oilers: Zero.
- LW Garet Hunt, 21: 5-8 fighter on skates. Chances of Making the Oilers: Zero.
- LW Philippe Cornet, 18: Prendergast: “Highly skilled. He has good hands, he’s a pretty good skater. He has to get a little tougher in some areas of the ice. He fell a little lower than we thought he would fall, but we’re happy to have him.” Chances on making the Oilers: Zero.
- RW Guillaume Lefebvre, 27: Enforcer from the Quebec penal league. Chances of making the Oilers: Zero.
- RW Ryan MacMurchy, 25: A former Blues draft pick they’ve sent down the line. Played a little in the AHL and more in the ECHL after his college career. Described as playing with an edge. Chances of making the Oilers: Zero.
- LW Kyle Paige, 20: Has good size and is an Oilers fan. After that, I’m out. Chances of making the Oilers: Zero.
- LW Les Reaney, 24: A pubished report this spring implied Reaney simply couldn’t keep his weight down while at Niagara, and coach Dave Burkholder first dropped him to the fourth line, then sat him two different times in an attempt to light a fire. He had a pretty good college career going for awhile there. Chances of making the Oilers: Zero.