Monday, May 26, 2014

Are Edmonton's forwards good enough to compete?


My apologies in the delay yet once again in my article's. I am producing at a slower rate then Tamby ran the Oilers. I appreciate the faithful ones who support and continually ask when I will have my next blogs up. While finalizing the final aspects of the Oilers team with forwards today and defencemen and Goalies in the next two article's, I will also be putting out a final 2014 NHL Entry Draft Ranking following the Draft combine.

Let's get to the point of this article today. The Edmonton Oilers forwards that are locked, loaded and ready to go for 2014/2015? Ok, maybe their not ready but at least let's discuss where they are currently are at and where this team could be headed with what they actually have sitting in the wings. As we walk through the list of players at forward there are some given players that are likely to be going nowhere. How will they make the changes and will an important part be sent away? Only MacT really knows but that next move will either move this team forward or it will cost MacT his job in the future.

First let's be realistic about who is staying regardless of offers and who potentially could be dealt away. As we walk through the skilled forwards, the idea is to fairly analyze their place on this team with logic and deduction.

Hall; 6'1, 201 lbs
The cornerstone of this franchise and a player who can be relied on 90% of the time. Taylor is going nowhere and it's likely will be the captain in a year or two. He may not have a no-trade clause but unofficially there IS a no-trade clause on Hall within the Oilers organization, You win with players like this. Wait till he finally makes the post-season, players like Hall are money in the bank.

Nugent-Hopkins; 6'1, 180 lbs
Has been competing against the best in the game at every level and beyond his years experience for his whole hockey playing career. Took a big learning curve this year defensively but considering he takes on the others teams best defencemen and forward checking lines, he only stands to get better each year. On a team that has very little centre depth, other teams know that and that has been the mistake the Oilers have had. Very little centre position support. Coming off an off-season last year where he was recovering from shoulder surgery, this off-season is all about strength and conditioning. Get a good second line center (or even 1st line if possible) and watch RNH blossom. You don't find a centre of his skill set and hockey IQ often. Is untouchable unless they can fetch better in a trade and we all know in today's NHL, those trades don't happen.

Eberle; 6'0, 185 lbs
Jordan Eberle is as clutch as you can get. This boy has been waiting and itching to play a playoff game of importance for some time. Loves the city and loves the organization but as close as he is to Hall and company, he could potentially be the piece of the puzzle who can actually fetch something back in return. Don't want him gone but somebody with skill needs to go to bring in what this team needs.

Yakupov; 5'11, 189 lbs
Another player of incredibly high skill but needs to be played according to his strengths. Some like to say his trade value is diminished but don't believe the lies. They are only opinions and several team scouts will tell you, Nail has game. His last 15 games he was turning the corner on his back checking and defensive awareness without the puck. His +/- was virtually 0 during that same time span. (which is almost never mentioned) Fans and media like to really run with a story and in Edmonton, Nail became the favourite whipping boy. Nail is going nowhere unless there is a way to pick up Florida's 1st rounder with him in the deal. (likely will not happen). Don't believe the talk he is too small for this game. Nail is strong on the puck and fights hard for it in battles. Not an easy player to knock over and knows how to dish it out occasionally as well.

Perron; 6'0, 200 lbs
A player with his feisty attitude and jam for the net is not traded away. Unless there was an internal problem, he stays. Maybe a situation where they bring in a top 2 defender or a top 2 centre but we all know Perron would not fetch that type of player so time for speculation of being traded is out of order.

Gagner; 5'11, 202 lbs
Gagner must have been traded at least 15 times by media and fans in the last 2 years. This guy has more lives then a cat. I think the problem is less how good he is and more how he just doesn't compliment what this team needs. If he were to play with two thick bodies and quick wingers who could score maybe this would be a different discussion but right now, that's not the case. Can't see Gagner lasting much longer in Edmonton as their 2nd line centre. If they trade Eberle or Yakupov he could move to right wing (where he played with Cogliano his rookie year mostly) but if one of the other wingers are not traded, it will likely be Gagner who is finding a new city to call home.

None of the other Oilers forwards on the roster are what you could consider top 6 forwards on a NHL team. They may be able to fill in occasionally but as regular top 6 forwards, the Oilers only potentially have the 6 mentioned above. Other forwards on this team will be role players only.

So having said all that, who is in the system that could be a player in the future that the Oilers could use as a legitimate NHL forward? Below I have rated the % chance of them making a solid NHL Career.

PROSPECTS

Chase; 6'0, 205 lbs
Chase produced some incredible numbers this past season. He has shown to have soft hands to go with his pesky side of the game. We know he is the type of player who will be in the scrums and try to get under the skin of his opponents. A player that was selected in the Oilers last round and looked good at training camp as well. His 1st year in the minor pro level will be the true test, if he can bring that level of play to the next level of hockey. His top end potential is maybe as a third line but more then likely will be a 4th line player should he pan out. I think many of us are rooting for a incredible career for this young prospect. I rate him at a 60% chance of succeeding.

Moroz; 6'2, 211 lbs
No one expected the Oilers to take Mitch so high in the draft but when his fellow OilKing was selected just in front of him the Oilers wanted big, tough and some resemblance of skill and they took the chance on him. He has looked good for the role this year and for many parts of the year has carried his team. The bigger question will be can he carry the game the same way in OKC like he did with the OilKings because he will be playing against the big boys in the AHL and they likely won't be so easy to dominate physically. He has good fight in his game, only time will tell. I like him and he stands a 70% chance of succeeding

Khaira; 6'3, 210 lbs
A big player who can guard and protect the puck well. I am concerned about his foot speed but has appeared to be a solid player in the making. He is a interesting player when it comes to development. This will be very a test year for him. He is a centre but IMO, I think he needs moved to the wing to stand a good NHL shot. Give him a 40% chance of succeeding at the NHL level.

Roy; 6'0, 175 lbs
A highly skilled forward with not lots of size and more then likely will be used in a trade somewhere down the line but isn't that why you want your stables full of players who can bring back some assets down the road? Possibly stands a 40% chance of succeeding at the NHL level.

Slepyshev; 6'2, 194 lbs
Will just be glad when he actually signs with the Oilers. A very good talent, just not sure if his game will translate well to the smaller ice surface and game of the NHL. Likely will be coming over for the 2015/2016 season after he fulfills his contract with his KHL team. I see him as another player that could be potentially offered in a trade to sweeten a package. Has a 50% chance of making a NHL Career.

Yakimov; 6'5, 202 lbs
A player many people are high on in this organization, including MacT himself. I see his top end potential as a 3rd line centre but he will need to improve his foot speed. Likes going strong to the net so that can be a benefit to a team like the Oilers who lack that from too many forwards. Potentially a long term fix at our 3rd or 4th line centre role. I give Yakimov a 70% chance of a successful NHL career.

While there are other forwards in their system, I rate their chances below 40% chance of actually making it to the big show for more then a cup of coffee.

I predict with little available in the system as we can see, 2 of the 6 mentioned current Oiler forwards will be moved out and replaced this season. Who? Some combination of Gagner, Yakupov and or Eberle. It's all hypothetical but simple deduction tells you something is about to break and not to far away!

In the meantime, and in between time, that's it for another edition of Oilers hockey!

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