FORWARDS – A reason for excitement
Pull up to the bumper. There’s reason for optimism this year. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Yes, the club drafted Taylor Hall. Yes, he’s likely to become something very big for this club. Yes, the kid’s going to have the weight of the world on his shoulders with being a number one pick, and he’s got Kevin Lowe’s sweater number to boot. It’s difficult to gauge what he can do at 18 years of age in this league.
A fair prediction I think would be something in between 45-50 points for the first season. If he can put the goals in the teens, with 30 assists, I think everyone would be satisfied for the young man as a first year player. I wrote sometime back for the Copper And Blue that I’d like to see 70 points (who wouldn’t!), but I think 50 points in year one is a great stepping stone if attained.
I see a true kid line coming out of camp this year with Hall and Paajarvi on the wings, and 21-year old elder statesman Sam Gagner between the two. Gagner has a brand new two year contract on his platter and three years of NHL experience to boot. There’s been some talk amongst the ‘sphere that Gagner should enter the season with an alternate captain’s A on his sweater, and if he responds in camp, I say go for it.
Andrew Cogliano has a one year deal worth one million dollars, and I think this is his ‘make or break’ year in Edmonton. He’s quoted here as saying he’s really worked on his faceoffs. Cogliano is a great character guy who says all the right things, and I really hope he has worked on those faceoffs. He was under 40% for his first two years in the league, was under 45% last year, and I have a hankering that this is one of the reasons Tambellini brought in Colin Fraser. Gilbert Brule also has a brand new two year deal, and I’d have to think that Brule will be fighting with Cogliano for 3C time. Brule has shown consistently that he’s a near 50% faceoff guy, which is why I think there’ll be more Cogs on the wing then I originally believed.
The only other real big question that I’m left with trying to answer is…who gets 4LW. Ryan Jones, Steve MacIntyre and JF Jacques are all gunning for that job, and I can see one of those three guys on the team at any given time. The trouble with this is, every one of those guys are on one way deals. If you let Ryan Jones start the season in Edmonton, then Mac and Jacques will be in OKC, and each time one comes up or goes down, someone has the chance of being picked up off the waiver wire.
We get our first looks today at Hall, Paajarvi and Eberle in Oiler colours today at the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, BC. Live streams are available at edmontonoilers.com.