Edmonton Oilers: The 6 Most Important Players Going into 2012-13
Thanks in large part to another disappointing season, the Edmonton Oilers are in a fortunate position to now have three first overall draft picks on their team.
With the recent addition of Nail Yakupov to a roster that already boasted the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the future looks bright for the Oilers.
GM Steve Tambellini is hoping that this core of young players will help the franchise reach the playoffs for the first time since coming within a game of capturing the Stanley Cup in 2006.
Whether or not the Oilers have all of the pieces in place to be legitimate Stanley Cup hopefuls is yet to be seen, but the team has started to make steps in the right direction and should be able to compete for a playoff spot next season.
Here are the Edmonton Oilers’ six most important players heading into the 2012-2013 season.
6. Devan Dubnyk
Devan Dubnyk will be given all of the opportunities to prove that he is capable of handling the pressures of being a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.
Rather than pursuing a netminder via trade or free agency, the team decided to award Dubnyk a two-year contract worth $7 million.
Dubnyk had a respectable 20 wins during the 2011-12 season with a 2.67 goals-against average (GAA) and .914 save percentage.
With a young team in front of him, Dubnyk will be asked to shoulder the load and will be an important piece in the puzzle if the Oilers are to take the next step and reach the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
5. Nail Yakupov
The first overall pick in the 2011-12 will play a big part in the Edmonton Oilers' future.
Though Yakupov received some criticism for his play during the recent Russia/CHL Super Series, the speedy forward has already proven that he can compete at the next level.
Yakupov has registered a respectable 14 points in 13 games while playing for HC Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the KHL.
In Edmonton, Yakupov will not be the only scoring threat and should find more room on the ice as opponents try and contain some of his teammates.
If Edmonton is to progress, it needs Yakupov to step into a first- or second-line role and contribute offensively.
4. Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall is a dynamic young forward, but unfortunately for the speedy left winger, injuries have hampered his first two seasons for the Edmonton Oilers.
Hall has all of the tools necessary to be one of the most dynamic players in the NHL, but has yet to play a full season for the Oilers.
Hall would feature higher on the list if not for the significant injuries he has already sustained in his short tenure in Edmonton.
Hall plays the game with a certain edge that could end up resulting in another lengthy stint on injured reserve.
The injuries didn’t deter the Oilers from awarding Hall a massive seven-year, $42 million contract, cementing their belief that he will be an integral part of the future.
3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
“The Nuge” will be one of the main catalysts for what should be a potent Edmonton Oilers offense going forward and could very well blossom into one of the best prospects in recent memory.
While his size has always come into the discussion, Nugent-Hopkins is still only 19 and has plenty of time to physically mature.
In Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers have a playmaking centre whose vision on the ice will only continue to get better as he establishes chemistry with his teammates.
2. Justin Schultz
It was a huge day for the Edmonton Oilers when coveted free-agent defenseman Justin Schultz chose to sign with them.
In Schultz, the Oilers have an offensive defenseman with excellent puck-moving ability, capable of helping quarterback an already potent power-play unit.
Schultz has already shown that he is ready to make the next step and compete in the NHL with his tremendous start playing for the Oklahoma City Barons in the AHL.
The time spent familiarizing himself with his future Oilers teammates also playing for the Barons will only help to ease the transition into the NHL and hopefully provide an offensive presence from the back end that has been missing since Chris Pronger left.
1. Jordan Eberle
Jordan Eberle has already shown that he is an important part of the future of the Edmonton Oilers.
In only his second full season with the team, Eberle led the Oilers in scoring with 76 points and should only continue to get stronger as he becomes more comfortable with his teammates.
Thanks to strong performances and late-game heroics in the World Junior Championships, Eberle has achieved cult-like status in Canada. The Regina, Saskatchewan native could very well end up being the captain for the Oilers whenever Shawn Horcoff’s reign is over.
Eberle is a responsible two-way player with gifted playmaking abilities and a knack for scoring timely goals.
Out of all of the recent draft picks, Eberle could prove to be the most important in the very near future.