Left wing for the Oilers is a nice mixture of youth and experience, and there is sufficient quality and quantity for the club to make a move if necessary. The top end (Hall) and the experience (Smyth) are top drawer at the position.
2011-12 EVEN STRENGTH TOI/GM AND 5X5/60
- Taylor Hall 15:06/2.07
- Ryan Smyth 14:26/1.93
- Teemu Hartikainen 12:59/1.36
- Magnus Paajarvi 11:56/0.75
- Ben Eager 8:29/1.46
- Darcy Hordichuk 4:20/.096
SH TOI GAME
- Ryan Smyth 2:09
PP TOI GAME AND 5X4/60
- Taylor Hall 3:03/5.95
- Ryan Smyth 2:28/2.39
- Magnus Paajarvi 1:01/2.84
#1 overall Nail Yakupov is the leading new contender for a spot on LW, owing mostly to coach Krueger wanting to have the rookie pointed in the right direction in his own zone. I honestly don’t know how important it is, but young Nail did play both sides in the KHL this season so it shouldn’t be a huge adjustment. Hartikainen and Paajarvi are listed on this side, but both can play the other.
If anything I believe the Hall minutes above will increase this year, and Smyth’s playing time is likely to fade (although not as much as one might think–Smyth remains a solid NHL player). Eager offers a “loose cannon” option and should get into 25+ games, Hordichuk in 20 or more.
ROSTER SPOTS AND 12-13 RE (5 roster spots)
- Taylor Hall (39, 21-19-40)
- Nail Yakupov (45, 11-15-26)
- Ryan Smyth (40, 9-13-22)
- Teemu Hartikainen (29, 5-5-10)
- Ben Eager (29, 3-2-5)
- Darcy Hordichuk (26, 0-1-1)
- Taylor Hall, plays well with Hemsky, Gagner, Nuge, things go better with Hall.
- Ryan Smyth, plays well with Hemsky and Gagner but has crazy good chem with Ryan Jones. I mean it’s eerie. Hat tip to Woodguy for pointing it out.
- Teemu Hartikainen and the Nuge looked nice in a small sample size.
- Magnus Paajarvi played well with Horcoff, Hemsky and Omark in a small sample.
- Ben Eager has a large group of people who shouldn’t play with him.
- Darcy Hordichuk and Magnus Paajarvi spent 3.5 beautiful minutes together.
If a healthy Taylor Hall can make one small step forward (reasonable) he’ll be among the 2 or 3 best LW’s in the division. If he goes super nova, he could end up being the best man on the NW portside this season. Veteran Ryan Smyth gives the team a reliable hand and a player who can deliver in all three disciplines. Nail Yakupov’s spot on LW is not set–he could end up on RW–but the skilled Russian rocket will probably play a little on both wings this season and should be considered a gifted yet uncertain option. The organization is very high on Teemu Hartikainen and one can see him taking away some of the Smyth PP minutes during the season.
We’re going to get an early indication about how coach Krueger uses his muscle when we get a gander at TOI totals and games dressed for Eager and Hordichuk. The Oilers have 4 better players ahead of them and available, so every game and every minute they play is one devoted to agitation, intimidation and the belief that protecting the kids with a 4line Coke Machine option is a worthy plan.
- Is this position strong enough for the Oilers to make the playoffs? Yes. Taylor Hall was pushing the river last season with a bum shoulder. Recovered and having played in OKC, he should hit the ground running and some NHL defensemen aren’t going to have an answer. Smyth is an important part of the group, able to slide up and down the depth chart as needed, and Hartikainen will likely do much the same thing. The Oilers keep talking up his physical game and he can hit, but I don’t think we should expect him to be as involved in that part of the game as someone like Smyth–but spending a year learning from the master can only help the Finn.
- Is there enough depth? Certainly. All these Euro kids can play both wings and one would hope we see a better Ben Eager this year.
- Wildcard? Yakupov, who I would put on RW (with Smyth and Horcoff). Coach Krueger has mentioned LW for Yakupov enough times I’m comfortable placing him here to start the season. He could struggle and get sent back to the KHL after 5 games, or he could force his way onto the 1PP with his finishing skills. Completely wide open canvas for the Russian and we would do well to remember that the Oilers have so many offensive weapons it might be difficult to find a spot for Yak at points in the season. I’m never going to bet against him, though.
- Will they add at the deadline? I honestly don’t think they’ll need to, unless injuries hit. Hall is a fast car, and he might see double shifts even in a short season with so many back to backs like this one.
- Who is in danger? Eager and Hordichuk, to a lesser extent Hartikainen. In the cases of Eager and Hordichuk, they need to make themselves useful without costing the Oilers PK sorties. I don’t know that either player has that discipline, and from the sounds of things Hordichuk feels Krueger will give him a longer leash. I expect the Oilers will lose a few goals early getting that sussed out.
- Hartikainen is in danger? Only in the sense that production is important. If he delivers offensively his role will increase, but the club has outstanding options for the skill minutes. It wouldn’t hurt him to run over a Sedin first shift next Sunday, either.