The Edmonton Oilers are Taylor Hall’s team. That may change–it could become Hall and RNH’s team–but any thought that the Oilers will curtail Hall’s powerplay time and pass it to Ryan Smyth should be dismissed immediately.
The Oilers enter training camp with a roster that looks set, but has many, many opportunities for the department of youth. Can Ales Hemsky, Gilbert Brule, Ryan Whitney and Nikolai Khabibulin stay healthy long enough to satisfy the coaching staff? At what point does Jeff Petry poke a hole in the “top 6″ everyone keeps lauding?
- What in hell do the Oilers do if Khabibulin gets hurt or is ineffective?
- How long before the first injury on defense?
- Why are there so many forwards?
That’s just before TC starts. Once the stories about Whitney’s timeline and the level of ability being shown by the new hires on the blue become known, we’re going to have all kinds of stories. If you believe the Oilers are going to break camp and play October with 23 players (pick any 23 names) you’re smoking the drapes. Change–again–is in the air.
The Oilers have not released their training camp roster yet, it was supposed to be 67 men deep. I believe the 67 names below are correct. The Oilers haven’t released the list yet. Never change, Oilers. Never change.
- Devan Dubnyk: Big man played well in his rookie season and has earned the chance to be the starter. Coach Renney has stated that Khabibulin enters TC as the starter, but it’s a matter of DD’s consistency versus NK’s age and injuries. My guess is Dubnyk plays 40-50 games.
- Nikolai Khabibulin: He’s coming off a pretty bad year in every way and one suspects NK will arrive determined. The problem is that he hasn’t been terribly effective even when healthy and the veteran has a lot of miles on him. He’s at the stage of his career where relying on him is not a good idea, but sometimes old goalies surprise. My guess is that he suffers an injury sometime before Christmas.
- Yann Danis: If they had an “agent places player in ideal scenario” award this might be the winner next spring. The Oilers plan to enter the season with the NK-DD duo and that could fold like a cheap suit, leaving Danis as the only real option for callup. Amazing opportunity.
- David LeNeveu: I expect he’ll play way more than the average AHL backup and there’s a chance he sees NHL time. Lots of airline tickets for goalies this season.
- Olivier Roy: With the signing by OKC of David LeNeveu it seems natural for Roy to start his pro career in Stockton. He’s an interesting prospect and someone to keep your eye on this season, but his chances of playing in the NHL season are very low.
- Tyler Bunz: Kid shot lights out in Penticton and looks poised for an outstanding year. Medicine Hat, quick start, world juniors, and this time next season a better number on this depth chart.
- Ryan Whitney: Whitney is an actual NHL defenseman, and though we can’t expect a half-season like 10-11 he should be a quality player for this team when able.
- Tom Gilbert: Despite much of the fanbase wishing he would go away, Gilbert is a key member of the blue. He’ll play heavy minutes at evens, powerplay and penalty-kill, and probably with a partner who has fewer than 150 games NHL experience.
- Cam Barker: New hire should get a good opportunity to show his stuff, especially early in the season. Hopefully we’ll read stories in training camp about Barker arriving in great shape, being among the most fit players on the roster and see a determined defender through pre-season. He was a draft day star, so this isn’t his last chance Texaco but it is probably his last good chance and last big contract (should he fail).
- Ladislav Smid: Smid is now at a point where NHL experience becomes a major plus and has in fact shown some nice things in the last two seasons. He’ll be a key player on defense this season, if he can stay healthy and become just a little more consistent it will make a difference to the GA total.
- Theo Peckham: It could be a big year for the him. Peckham played quite a bit in elevated air this past season and survived. He’s miles from flourishing but if thrust into the role again it’ll be interesting to see if there’s improvement. Many have suggested he’s merely a depth defender, but if he can play evens and penalty-kill in important situations we’re talking about something else again.
- Andy Sutton: I have him in a 5-6 role, but also wonder if coach Renney might put the two new hires (Sutton-Barker) together in hopes of seeing them develop as a top 4 pairing. It’s possible, and we know Sutton will be a major PK player for the Oilers based on past seasons.
- Taylor Chorney: We know the Oilers value this player and we know he is eligible for waivers. A guess would be that if Jeff Petry outperforms during pre-season (certainly possible) the Oilers see if they can make a deal. It could go the way of Rob Schremp (exposure and losing player) or Theo Peckham (keeping player on roster) and we have to allow for injury to one of the starting 6 too.
- Jeff Petry: A fine young prospect from the Prendergast draft era, he showed very well in the NHL last season. I keep trying to find a way to put him on the opening night roster and would bet he forces his way. Manna from heaven if he is as good as he looks early.
- Corey Potter: We’ve talked about this at length, but Potter has a huge opportunity with the Oilers. Even if he gets sent down after pre-season, he should be one of the early callup options. From the Larry Mavety prospect family, and his opportunity is somewhat similar to the one enjoyed by Yann Danis.
- Colten Teubert: There is an element of the Oiler fanbase that will seek to bury him because of the way he go to Edmonton, but I’d encourage you to make up your own mind. Effective defensive defensemen aren’t sexy, but you sure as hell know when your team doesn’t have any. We don’t know if Teubert will ever be an effective DD or even if has an NHL career ahead of him, but the window of opportunity opens starting now.
- Alex Plante: Played well in OKC but probably lost ground on the depth chart because of Teubert’s acquisition and Petry’s move up the depth chart. Plante’s ability to play the game and be a physical force seem established, but his mobility is going to hurt him. You never know, but it’s my guess that Plante won’t be in the mix next fall.
- Johan Motin: He’s going to have a tough time staying in OKC if everyone stays healthy and plays well. OKC’s coach is the same guy as last year and coach Nelson used Motin as an extra often–and the organization sent him to Stockton for a time. Needs a strong season in 11-12 to keep ahead of all these other kids.
- Taylor Fedun: Listed at the bottom of the OKC depth chart (Barons have signed AHL veteran Bryan Helmer and he will play) but it could be a quick jump up the list. Fedun has a nice range of skills and is an older new pro. I’d give him a 50/50 chance to play in the NHL this season, well behind Petry, Potter and about even with Teubert and Plante.
- Kirill Tulupov: Crazy defender from Russia.
- Martin Marincin: Although signed to a pro contract and despite being AHL eligible, there’s a very good chance Marincin returns to junior for his 19-year old season. Last season’s first half was lights out, but things caught up to him in the WHL’s second half. It’s probably wise to send him back for another season in junior.
- Brandon Davidson: The opposite of Marincin, he doesn’t have a contract but is 20 and might be a better pro candidate for the fall. He got a late start in hockey–making him an absolute favorite for us Larry Mavety followers–and the Oilers may decide he could benefit from another season in the WHL.
- Jeremie Blain: It’ll be interesting to see how long they look at him. Blain has ability but this team is likely to flush the junior kids early, perhaps as soon as Tuesday after the doubleheader. He’ll be a more interesting story next fall.
- David Musil: I really think he’s going to impress at this camp. He won’t make the big team, but is among the strongest junior candidates to get more playing time. Musil is a definite player to watch for Oiler fans.
- Martin Gernat: Turned heads in Penticton.
- Ryan Lowery: I thought he’d show better at the rookie tournament in Penticton, but saw him good is a dangerous way for a fan to evaluate. I’m sure the coaching staff knows what they’re doing, I wonder if he gets more than one game.
- Tyler Schmidt: Had a solid showing in Penticton and I think he might be a player to follow.
- Wes Vannieuwenhuizen: Big. Interesting.
- Sam Gagner: This is a season for Gagner to establish himself as a center who can post offense while also playing against tougher competition. I can’t see a scenario where Gagner doesn’t get quality linemates and am looking forward to seeing how things turn out for him.
- Shawn Horcoff: He finally has some help and that should mean improved boxcars and overall performance. He’s now at an age where injuries become more of a factor and I think his PP career is likely over.
- Eric Belanger: A wonderful addition. Belanger can play in all situations and will make himself useful even if he’s getting 4line EV minutes. My guess is that through injury and slumps he emerges as a player who the coach relies on in all situations.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: RNH is a strong candidate to at least break camp with the Oilers and I think he’ll perform well enough to stay all year. Should he stumble, the list of possible replacements is long and impressive. Anton Lander, Chris VandeVelde, Ryan O’Marra, Tanner House and others wait in the wings.
- Anton Lander: The day he was drafted Lander had a reputation as a leader and refined defensive player, and since then his offense has matured and footspeed improved. There’s something happening here.
- Ryan O’Marra: A year ago I suggested O’Marra was in the mix for a big league job, inspiring snickering in the pressbox among the msm. It’s hard but not impossible to create a scenario for him to play in the NHL this season (RNH sent down, Lander not quite ready, O’Marra bringing a more physical game).
- Chris VandeVelde: Believe it or not his window of opportunity with the Oilers is likely now. Although Edmonton has been poor for years at center the jobs are going to get eaten up in the next 12 months and the time is right for VV to establish himself. He has to hit above the Mendoza line, though.
- Tanner House: House has 2-way talent but faces an uphill battle similar to VandeVelde. He might be a better actual player, we’ll see this season.
- Milan Kytnar: Not sure what to do with this player. His numbers suggest the Oilers have at the least an AHL calibre center, but they rarely use him in a feature role.
- Ryan Martindale: A wild card at this training camp. Could do everything from get cut immediately to sign a contract.
- Travis Ewanyk: Injury means he’s toast for TC and beyond.
- Chase Schaber: I like this player, which probably means he’s doomed.
- Colin Smith: Sure showed up a lot in the pictures from Penticton.
- Taylor Hall: I’ve projected Hall to lead the Oilers in goals and checking around the internet it looks like most feel he’ll have a strong year. Hall is the franchise.
- Magnus Paajarvi: Swede has some competition for playing time on the portside both at evens and PP. A good thing–he should earn his minutes–but he’ll slot into the top 9 somehow and should improve in year 2 (he’ll get more playing time and better linemates).
- Ryan Smyth: Man it feels good to place his name back onto the Oiler lineup. Smyth’s PP time has decreased in recent years and I think the club will need him badly at evens and PK. Either way, he was much needed and most welcome.
- Ben Eager: Back in the olden days, NHL enforcers were also hockey players (probably because 9 forwards played regular shifts and two were for injury replacement and PK). Eager is a player who from time to time may move up the depth chart. Perhaps more than any new forward this side of Ryan Smyth, Eager will change the tone and attitude of the Oilers.
- Darcy Hordichuk: A welcome addition from my pov because he’s an extreme improvement in the hockey disciplines over the previous enforcer. He’s not going to score 10 goals, or even 2, but Hordichuk can make and take a pass.
- Teemu Hartikainen: We can debate the wisdom of bringing in three left wingers over the summer in order to block the Finn, but the truth is he will very likely push his way onto the roster soon. It may involve Paajarvi moving over to RW after Hemsky’s dealt but the day is coming for Hartikainen.
- Lennert Petrell: Power winger with speed, and he’s had a lot of pro experience. Petrell could impact the NHL team and will certainly be a major item on the OKC roster. His window is short (as in right away)
- Curtis Hamilton: The great thing about OKC this season is that there should be some roadblocks for kids like Hamilton, meaning playing time isn’t given away. One thing worth noting: Hamilton’s timeline is more likely to resemble Chimera’s as opposed to someone like Eberle. I think we should be thrilled if he can post a 20-goal season in OKC.
- Josh Green: Big forward back for another turn, he’d qualify under the also-ran category but should help the Barons more than Gregory Stewart did a year ago.
- Phil Cornett: Along with Motin, I think he’s a candidate to get lost in the flood this season. A big offensive push would help a lot.
- Hunter Tremblay: CIS players are always going to be underrated when turning pro because there are so few examples in NHL history (Dave Dunn did NOT begin a trend). Still, he’s a scorer in a world where they are rare and the early signs have been positive. If he can play RW things might go easier for him.
- Drew Czerwonka: He’s been impressive since his draft day.
- Tobias Rieder: I don’t know how much time he’ll have to show his stuff this fall.
- Brett Ferguson: Prospect with offensive skills, suspect he’ll sign a pro contract and the Oilers might try to sign him in OKC with an eye to sending him to Stockton.
- Ales Hemsky: Heading into his walk year and very unlikely to finish 11-12 as an Oiler. We haven’t heard a word about contract talks and he’s well older than the cluster. I still hold out hope that Edmonton will sign him as “the Oilers Alfredsson” but it’s a distant bell for the organization. They’re just waiting for everyone to see him healthy before pulling the trigger.
- Jordan Eberle: Emerging talent who had a wonderful rookie season. Eberle is a smart player who should become a 2-way talent on the top 2 lines of a very good NHL team. Jordan Eberle as the new Ryan Smyth? He’s a heart and soul guy and already a fan favorite.
- Linus Omark: Oh doctor. This young man is to the Oilers what Cliff Johnson and John Mayberry were to the Houston Astros in the early 1970′s. The lesson is you better know what you have before flushing it or 5 years from now you’re going to have Art Howe at first base while the guys you drafted are beating hell out of the ball in other towns. Omark is a huge test for the Oilers and Steve Tambellini. Here’s hoping the organization gives him a complete season in a suitable role.
- Ryan Jones: He’s in tough, he really is. Jones not only has Hemsky, Eberle and Omark ahead of him (it’s worse on LW), but Hartikainen is going to do impressive things in camp and the coach is going to notice. I think he’ll find a role on the 4line as an energy player and be used as a penalty-killer. He’s about to get lost in the flood of prospects.
- Gilbert Brule: He’s in a terrible spot. Brule’s health issues make him unlikely to be traded, and yet the coach is probably going to want to hit the ice with people he can count on. Even if he arrives at camp in great shape and performs well in pre-season finding a role may be difficult, and we don’t know how the organization feels about how the trade didn’t go down. At the very least there are huge questions regarding Brule’s future.
- Ryan Keller: AHL scorer is a good hire for the Barons and could help out the Oilers should they need a winger during the season.
- Mark Arcobello: Had a quick trip up the depth chart and was rewarded (perhaps too quickly) with an expensive two year contract (complete with bonuses). Should be a big part of the offense.
- Antti Tyrvainen: His resume is a delight: A Finn with grit and the ability to agitate. If he can talk like Tikkanen even better! Seriously, I have no idea what they’ve got but the scouting report sounds fun.
- Tyler Pitlick: There’s a chance he ends up in the WHL, but the Oilers are extremely high on this player and I expect he’ll be a Baron this year. Some concerns about his offense and it’ll be interesting to see if the organization plays him at center.
- Cameron Abney: Enforcer likely to start his pro career in Stockton.
- Toni Rajala: I’ve included him because Rajala is on the rookie roster but it’s likely he’ll return to Finland for another season. As a junior he had wicked skill and some game, seems to me he’ll be a story next fall.
- Kristians Pelss: Got a push in Penticton, we’ll see if the coaching staff was impressed.