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30 Teams In 30 Days: Edmonton Oilers

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TSN.ca Staff
9/27/2011 12:40:59 PM
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Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. This edition looks at the Edmonton Oilers. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. And use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Oilers.

There are more than enough youthful cornerstones dotting the Oilers roster. And while they were able to land another gem in the draft with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, GM Steve Tambellini went about filling in the other holes in a lineup that landed in the West cellar last year.

There is a buzz about the team that hasn't been around since the dynasty days of Gretzky, Messier, Coffey and Kurri. But there still might be some growing to do before this edition's potential can begin to embark on those lofty heights.

Here's a look at what's in store for this season.

Additions: LW Ryan Smyth, LW Ben Eager, C Eric Belanger, RW Darcy Hordichuk, D Cam Barker, D Andy Sutton.

Subtractions: D Kurtis Foster, LW J-F Jacques, D Jim Vandermeer, C Andrew Cogliano, C Colin Fraser, D Sheldon Souray, LW Steve McIntyre.

Prospect Report: First-overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has every opportunity to make the team and has been penciled on many projected depth charts as a second-line centre.

Edmonton's other first round pick in June, Oscar Klefbom, (19th overall, Farjestad), doesn't look to be that far behind. Physically, he has NHL size, but the 18-year-old will likely need a little more grooming before getting a legitimate shot at making the team.

Breakout Player To Watch: His season ended prematurely with a high ankle sprain that he suffered in his first NHL fight, but Taylor Hall has already shown that he is for real.

The first overall pick from a year ago had a slow start to his year, but finished his abbreviated season with 22 goals and 42 points. The Oilers rise likely hinges on Hall's rapid development.

Marquee Matchup: Oct. 28 vs. Colorado - It will be a battle of the top two picks in the draft when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goes head-to-head with second overall pick Gabriel Landeskog.

Other Dates To Watch: Nov. 3 at Los Angeles - Ryan Smyth never wanted to leave Edmonton, so after a journeyman odyssey that spanned three different NHL teams, he returns via trade back to Oil Country. While he's part of a rebuilding process, he and the Oilers will get a look at his former club, one of the teams expected to make noise in the West. A small war of words between Tambellini and Kings GM Dean Lombardi over the summer regarding the deal adds some colour as well.

Reason To Get Excited: H.O.P.E. As in Hall, Omark, Paajarvi and Eberle. Add in Nugent-Hopkins and you have an exciting core that, despite the growing pains, should be even better this year.

Home Hardware: Nugent-Hopkins is stepping into a situation that will allow him to be at his creative and offensive best. That should have him in the running for the Calder Trophy.

Hot Seat: Nikolai Khabibulin completed the worst season of his career: just 10 wins in 46 games, with an .890 save percentage and a 3.40 GAA. Yet despite being 38, he still appears to be the best option the Oilers have in net for success. After a long summer that included spending time in jail for a DUI conviction, he should come into the season with a new outlook on his career.

Your! Call: Can the youthful Oilers improve rapidly enough to become a playoff team this season?

The Oilers have built themselves quite an impressive core going forward and Steve Tambellini did a pretty good job of adding complementary pieces to instill an attitude and example to the young players, who at times looked outmatched last year.

Ryan Smyth can still be effective and should help offensively, while Andy Sutton and Cam Barker could help stabilize a defence that had little to lean on aside from Ryan Whitney in the early part of last season.

The additions of Darcy Hordichuk and Ben Eager add some muscle and physicality to the roster, ensuring that the kids won't get pushed around too often.

But in the end, it all comes back to the youth movement. The sooner that Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Omark and Nugent-Hopkins hit their full stride, the sooner the Oilers can climb back into relevant discussion in the West.

Martin Marincin Linus Omark Magnus Paajarvi  (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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