Well folks here it is, I am quite happy to be writing this article because it means we can now focus on Oilers hockey and how the players are performing in the NHL. It will be interesting to see how these players can carry over in the NHL going from playing on larger ice in Europe. So let us get this over with.
Sam Gagner spent his lockout playing in Austria for Klagenfurt as well as playing for team Canada at the Spengler Cup tournament. Gags played 21 games for the Klagenfurt club scoring 10 goals and adding 10 assists. Good production from Oilers number 2 center. I would expect that he has a career year for the Oilers, most likely lining up with skilled wingers Hemsky and Yakupov, two players that also played overseas during the lockout. With Team Canada at the Spengler Cup, Sam added 1 assist in 4 games playing on the 2nd/3rd line while helping the team bring home the gold.
Ales Hemsky, the most likely right winger to play alongside Gags this season, had an incredible run in Pardubice. Hemmer put up 32 points in 27 games playing in the top Czech league. 14 of those points were goals which mean he was definitely shooting the puck. The thing to remember about Ales is after the 04-05 lock out he had arguably his best season in the NHL putting up close to a point per game while helping lead the Oilers to the Stanley Cup finals.
Next let’s look and rookie winger Nail Yakupov. Again I believe he will line up on the left wing with Gagner and Hemsky on what should be a pretty potent second line for the Oil. N64 contributed 10 goals and 8 assists in 22 games playing for Neftekhimik in the KHL. Pretty good for an 18 year old rookie playing in what at the time was the best league in the world. Yak also captained the Russian squad at home in Ufa for the World Junior tournament. He got a lot of flak for not contributing and was called out by many of the media here in Edmonton for what appeared to be a lack of effort. Nail finished tied for 10th in the tourney in scoring with 8 points in 7 games, including 2 goals against Canada in the Bronze medal game which they won (how’s that for leadership). I think that with the shortened NHL season and his experience playing so far this season he will produce on the second line and the powerplay, and for sure should be in contention for the Calder Trophy.
Ladislav Smid, expected to be paired with Jeff Petry on the second d-pairing, played for the HC Liberec Tigers in the Czech league. Laddy played 22 games with 2 goals and 12 assist for 14 points. That is great production from Smid, who originally was thought to be an offensive defenseman in the NHL. Smid is one of the players that along with Gagner I think we can expect a breakout year from and will need to be a key contributor from the D corps if the Oilers are going to have a chance at the playoffs this year.
The “on the bubble” players, Corey Potter whom I think fits in as the 7th d man on the team this year barring trade, had 1 goal and 3 assists in 17 games for Vienna in Austria. Lennart Petrel,l fourth line winger, played for HIFK Helsinki and scored 11 goals in 26 games.
There it is folks, I think the Oilers will have a leg up on the competition in the North West division due to the amount of players we have that have played meaningful games already this year. Are you excited? I am, here’s hoping for a successful season and a sprint to the playoffs!
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