Fantasy Puck Preview: Edmonton Oilers

Scott Cullen
9/29/2008 2:48:12 AM
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A strong finish to last season, a new owner and a strong core of young talent provides plenty of reason for optimism in Edmonton.

Edmonton's number one line has a new look with the addition of Erik Cole from Carolina. Cole is a power forward who has topped 20 goals and 50 points for three straight seasons and has back-to-back seasons of 76 penalty minutes. His size and skating ability should make him a good fit in Edmonton.

The line will also get a shot in the arm with a healthy Shawn Horcoff. Horcoff had 50 points in 53 games before undergoing season-ending surgery last year, so expectations will be high for him this year.

Ales Hemsky was the only Oiler to score more than 50 points last year, so he should thrive with a stronger supporting cast. It may be too late to convince Hemsky to shoot more, thereby increasing his impact, but he's still a quality scoring forward.

The second line may be the biggest reason for Oilers optimism. Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano had impressive rookie seasons and Robert Nilsson showed that his playmaking belongs in the NHL.

Gagner had a troubling minus-21 as an 18-year-old rookie, but he finished the season with 28 points in 30 games following the All-Star break. It won't be long before the shootout whiz is the franchise leader.

Cogliano also finished strong and the two-way centre also had a respectable plus-1 rating to go with his 45 points. Cogliano can use his speed to create scoring chances, but it remains to be seen how high his offensive ceiling will be.

Nilsson had a career-high 41 points last season, perhaps a sign of bigger and better things. Like Gagner and Cogliano, Nilsson is a peace-loving forward -- the trio combined for 65 penalty minutes last year -- so keep that in mind for leagues that have a penalty minute category.

Last summer's big free agent signing, Dustin Penner, is slated to play on the third line right now, but he also figures to get power play time after he notched 13 goals with the man advantage last season. Penner led the Oilers with 23 goals last year and, if given a fair opportunity, should exceed that total.

The defence corps will be markedly different with the addition of Lubomir Visnovsky, a mobile puck-mover who struggled some in Los Angeles last season, but is skilled enough to work well in the Oilers' up-tempo attack.

After playing only 26 games last year, Sheldon Souray returns with his big hammer from the point to help the power play. Souray has been a minus player for three straight seasons, but also had three consecutive seasons with double-digit goals and 100-plus penalty minutes before last season.

Tom Gilbert had a terrific rookie season, scoring 33 points and he should continue to get better, but his production may not be any better this season as long as Visnovsky and Souray are dominating the power play ice time.

Mathieu Garon surprisingly emerged as a solid starter for the Oilers last season, earning the No. 1 status entering this season -- making him a viable fantasy backup -- but the 30-year-old has yet to prove that he can hold onto a starting job for more than one season at a time.

If Garon isn't able to hang onto the starter's gig, veteran Dwayne Roloson and rookie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers will push for playing time.

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