It’s been 23 years since the Oilers have won a championship, but they finally have the talent to bring the Cup back to Edmonton.
I’m not saying the O’s are going to be an elite team next season, but don’t be surprised if they sneak to the top of the Pacific Division. Edmonton is stacked with young talent, like Double D stacked. With three first overall picks capable of taking any team deep into the playoffs the O’s look to improve drastically next season.
First, 21-year-old Taylor Hall, who has the ability to wheel and deal with the best of them when he’s not taking skate blades to the face. Hall is coming off his most productive season yet, netting 16 goals and 34 helpers for 50 points in 45 games. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Next is 20-year-old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The Nuge suffered from sophomore slump last season, but don’t think for a second that it’s going to happen again. This kid can flat out play. Don’t forget, the Nuge put up 52 points his rookie season and probably would’ve locked up rookie of the year if he stayed healthy a bit longer.
Now onto the youngest of the bunch, last year’s first overall pick, 19-year-old Nail Yakupov. This kid got a lot of flack last season for his toolish goal celebrations which overshadowed his skill. Yak posted 17 goals and 14 assists for 31 points last season, which tied him with Jon Huberdeau for most points by a rookie. But more importantly, he stayed healthy and played in all 48 games. Something the Oilers have had bad luck with when it comes to their young studs.
Did I mention Yak is half brain dead? Watch this interview. What the hell is this guy talking about?
Okay, now surround these number-ones with even more young talent like Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, and recently acquired David Perron and you got yourself an offense capable of making it rain goals on any given night.
However, you can’t expect to win championships with offense alone. You need a strong backbone and Edmonton’s defense has been spineless the last couple seasons. Justin Schultz did show some star potential last season. The rookie lead the team’s back end with 27 points in 48 games. Respectable for sure, but it’s not enough, so the O’s cashed in on Alberta native Andrew Ference this offseason. The dude isn’t a defensive stud by any means but you can rely on him to do his job. Clock minutes and prevent scoring chances, that’s what Ference does and that’s what the O’s need. He’s another strong defensive stick to balance out the O’s offense heavy roster. Plus the guy is an absolute ride or die type player. An absolute gamer. Don’t think for a second because he’s 34-years-old that he won’t contribute, he’ll contribute and then some.
That just leaves goaltending, which actually isn’t as much of a problem for the O’s as most would expect. 27-year-old former first rounder Devan Dubnyk is more than capable of being Edmonton’s centerpiece between the pipes. The dude quietly stood on his head last season padding a very respectable .920 save percentage and 2.57 goals against average in 38 games last season on a below average team. Dubnyk is a big boy too, at 6’5 and 210 lbs this guy can turn into a human wall when he’s hot.
The Oilers have all the right tools to set the Pacific league on fire. The offense is there and the goaltending is more than good enough. It’ll come down to players staying healthy and defensive pairings pushing away the scoring chances. What do you think? Do the O’s have a shot at a cup next season?