Comparing Edmonton Oilers Young Stars to Oilers of the Past
While it's unfair to athletes to compare them with stars of the past, doing so is one of the highlights of being a sports fan.
With a franchise as rich in history as the Edmonton Oilers, comparisons to names like Gretzky and Messier were sure to arise, and with the talented crop of youngsters that currently suit up in Edmonton, that conversation is one fans love to have.
No one will ever be Gretzky, that much is true, but there are players on the team that currently show glimpses of his sublime playmaking and superb on-ice vision.
Here are comparisons of the top-five current Edmonton Oilers to star Oilers of the past.
Justin Schultz: Paul Coffey
Paul Coffey combined amazing skating ability with an uncanny awareness of the offensive aspects of the game to become one of the greatest offensive defensemen of all time.
In Justin Schultz, Oilers fans most certainly see the similarities between the two.
Schultz is also a very strong skater who relies on his agility and on-ice vision to quarterback the Oilers offense from the blueline.
What helps Schultz stand out from most offensive defensemen, is that he (much like Coffey) also excels at the defensive aspect of his game.
Taylor Hall: Mark Messier
The man known as "The Moose" was perhaps the greatest captain in Edmonton Oilers history, quite the feat considering that "The Great One" also suited up for the Oilers, but Mark Messier was the type of player who had all of the intangibles needed to be a superstar.
Messier combined physicality and an aggressive edge to his brand of hockey that made him extremely difficult to play against.
This combination of size and strength, along with impressive offensive awareness, helped Messier become one of the most dominant power forwards of all time.
Taylor Hall is the type of player that combines physical aspects with uncanny offensive abilities, and while Hall is the most similar to Messier, Hall also has skill sets that are completely different.
Hall is more of a pure sniper, who utilizes blazing speed and impressive agility to create scoring opportunities.
Messier was certainly never known for his skating abilities.
Jordan Eberle: Jari Kurri
Jari Kurri was both a prolific scorer and an extremely responsible defensive presence for the Edmonton Oilers during the dynasty years of the 1980s.
Kurri was an amazing compliment to Wayne Gretzky, utilizing speed and a keen offensive sense to constantly position himself properly, and it is this positioning and offensive creativity that best lends itself to comparison to young Jordan Eberle.
Like Kurri, Eberle bounces between being the setup man and the sniper and combines masterful puck handling and superb hand-eye coordination in his game.
Eberle isn't the biggest of players in the NHL, much like Kurri, but like the original "Finnish Flash," Eberle utilizes his elusiveness to make-up for what he lacks in stature.
Nail Yakupov: Glenn Anderson
Glenn Anderson combined blazing speed with an excellent release to become one of the more potent goal-scoring threats for the Edmonton Oilers during their dynasty era in the 1980s.
Anderson also had an uncanny knack of scoring timely goals for the Oilers, a trait that recent No. 1 overall draft pick Nail Yakupov has seemed to inherit during his first season with the Oilers.
Though Anderson was such a prolific scorer for the Oilers, he was often criticized for disappearing in games or seeming disinterested in the game, but had the ability to turn it on in an instant and provide an immediate spark for Edmonton.
The Russian sniper Yakupov seems to contain some of these traits, as the Sarnia Sting product has been criticized for his lack of defensive play and his ability seemingly disappearing during games.
Though early in his career, Yakupov shows glimpses of the traits that led Anderson to such success in the Oilers organization.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Wayne Gretzky
While it is unfair to compare anyone to arguably the greatest player in NHL history, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is perhaps the closest player that the Oilers have had in their organization that could warrant the comparison.
Gretzky had the ability to elude defending players and was hardly ever on the receiving end of a punishing bodycheck, something that Nugent-Hopkins has already displayed only two years into his NHL career.
Perhaps the strongest comparison between the two is the unique vision and ability to distribute the hockey puck to teammates.
Like Gretzky, Nugent-Hopkins excels at making his teammates better but can also score amazing goals.
It is still early to make such comparisons, but if RNH can achieve a portion of what Gretzky did as an Oiler, he will no doubt live up to the high billing.