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NHL Lockout Could Actually Benefit the Edmonton Oilers

Franchise cornerstones Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will get a chance to bond with some of the young players while continuing to build chemistry with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL.
Franchise cornerstones Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will get a chance to bond with some of the young players while continuing to build chemistry with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL.Dale MacMillan/Getty Images
Adam BowenContributor IIISeptember 21, 2012

With the NHL and the NHLPA officially into their second lockout in the last eight years, it's hard to find any positives surrounding the lack of NHL hockey this season. 

But for a young Edmonton Oilers squad, a season-long lockout could actually prove to be quite beneficial in the long run. 

On the eve of the lockout the Oilers sent 26 players down to their American Hockey League affiliate Oklahoma City Barons for the season. Among those 26 players were the Oilers' first overall draft pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and the team's leading scorer during the 2011 season, Jordan Eberle.

While these two players have already proven that they can not only compete in the NHL, but thrive in the league, the year in the AHL could prove invaluable to the two players. 

It was for Eric Staal in 2004. 

While the Oilers have an abundance of young skilled forwards, the question has always centered around the lack of depth on defense.

This debate was furthered when the Oilers opted for the talent Russian sniper, Nail Yakupov, instead of drafting top-rated defensive prospect Ryan Murray

What has been ignored is that the Oilers have been stockpiling defensemen through the NHL draft, and if this season is indeed entirely lost due to a lockout, then these young defensemen will get another year of seasoning and maturation to assist in their progression into the NHL. 

Coveted free-agent defenseman Justin Schultz will get a chance to bond with his teammates in Oklahoma and develop familiarity with some of the Oilers' other young defensive prospects.

Along with Schultz, Martin Marincin will get a chance to further develop and will be that much closer to making the jump to the big club after the lockout.

Colten Teubert will also benefit from the season in the AHL. While Teubert has logged significant minutes for the Barons already and has some NHL games under his belt, the influx of talent headed to the AHL will allow Teubert to further refine his defensive-zone play.

However, if the 2012-13 season was lost to a lockout, it will be defenseman Oscar Klefbom, the Edmonton Oilers' 19th-overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, who will benefit the most.

While the Oilers knew that Klefbom would serve out the remainder of his contract for Farjestad BK in the Swedish Elite league, they will not miss out on not having the player available this season.

Klefbom's development was slowed last year due to a lack of ice time on a veteran-laden team, but is already logging significant minutes for the club this season; that could prove to be the final step in his development towards making the NHL.

While Nail Yakupov was originally assigned to his CHL team, the Sarnia Sting, the Oilers decided to let Yakupov play against superior competition in the KHL—and the sniper has opted to sign in the KHL and will compete against men in the increasingly popular Russian hockey league.

Due to lingering injury issues, Taylor Hall's situation for a lockout season is a little more cloudy, but if the youngster isn't able to join Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins in Oklahoma, a season in Europe could be exactly what he needs to propel him to superstar status whenever NHL hockey resumes. 

While there is nothing good about the NHL lockout, the reality of the fact remains that the entire 2012-13 season is in jeopardy, and though it appears there will be no hockey this season, the Edmonton Oilers could be one step closer to respectability once the lockout is finally resolved.  

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