Power Ranking the Edmonton Oilers' Young Stars
Though the Edmonton Oilers aren't as high in the Western Conference standings as some may have predicted heading into the shortened 2013 season, the young stars on the squad are delivering as most would have expected.
With the exception of a few games, the Oilers have remained quite competitive this season thanks to strong performances from Taylor Hall and timely goals from Nail Yakupov.
The additions of Yakupov and talented defenseman Justin Schultz have proved fruitful for the the young squad, while other big names such as Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have had trouble finding their way onto the scoresheet at times.
Here are the current power rankings of the Edmonton Oilers' young stars.
6: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
With only one goal so far this season, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins finds himself in last place in this power ranking.
Though RNH hasn't been producing points at the rate most Oilers fans would have expected, he is generating quite a few scoring chances for the team, but hasn't been rewarded on the scoresheet.
Nugent-Hopkins has also taken extreme strides in his defensive zone play and has become a very responsible two-way player, though the team will need him to improve upon his 42 percent faceoff win percentage if he is to continue to grow as the team's No.1 center.
5: Nail Yakupov
The No.1 overall draft pick in last year's NHL entry draft has had some extremely exciting moments for the Edmonton Oilers and has demonstrated his ability to score in dramatic fashion.
But aside from timely goals and excessive celebrations, Yakupov has had a bit of a difficult time adjusting to the NHL game and has a team-worst plus/minus rating of minus-nine to show for it.
At times Yakupov has tried to play more of a European game, attempting to maintain possession of the puck as he enters the offensive zone instead of dumping the puck in and attempting to retrieve.
This has led to many open-ice turnovers and excellent scoring opportunities for his opponents, something a young team (and a young player in Yakupov) cannot afford.
Head coach Ralph Krueger and his staff have been trying to instill some of these nuances in the rookie's game, and Yakupov has found himself languishing on the third line or sitting during crucial moments of games mainly due to his unreliability with the puck.
He has established great chemistry with Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner, and should he continue to improve on aspects aside from the offensive part of his game, he should see himself earn more ice time and establish himself as a real threat.
4: Justin Schultz
Justin Schultz has been everything the Oilers could have asked for—and then some, when they signed the free-agent defenseman during the 2012 offseason.
Schultz has looked extremely comfortable in all scenarios for the Oilers and has excelled during his opportunities on the ice.
The hype around Schultz centered on the offensive production that he would bring to the club, but Ralph Krueger has utilized the young star in all situations, including the penalty kill, showing faith in Schultz's abilities on both ends of the ice.
3: Jordan Eberle
Jordan Eberle is one of the main catalysts for the Edmonton Oilers offense, and when he struggles to find the back of the net, chances are the Oilers as a whole are struggling as well.
While the gifted right winger has registered a respectable 12 points so far in 2013, he has already endured an eight-game goalless drought this season and hasn't been as consistent as both player and club would like.
Eberle is a consistent threat every time he steps out onto the ice, and his signature backhand has looked extremely deadly this season.
2: Taylor Hall
Though Taylor Hall has only registered three goals this season, he has been one of the most dynamic players in an Oilers uniform so far in 2013.
Hall has seemingly put all of his previous injuries behind him and is a constant threat in the offensive zone.
He has continued to play the game at a tempo that most could only dream of competing at, combining speed and physicality, while the recklessness that seemed to be there in recent seasons has started to fade.
Hall has contributed 13 assists in 201, which is already half of his total from last season, showing an added dimension to his previous shoot-first mentality.
Though Hall was recently suspended for a dangerous hit on Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild, it is encouraging to see the speedy winger playing the game with some grit and not shying away from making a big hit.
1: Sam Gagner
With five seasons in the NHL already under his belt, many forget that Sam Gagner is still only 23, and this season it appears as if the former London Knight has found a his place on the Oilers' squad.
After an impressive rookie campaign, Gagner had failed to live up to the expectations many had placed upon him after registering 49 points in his first season.
Those struggles seem to be a thing of the past as Gagner has been the most consistent Oilers forward this season, which has seen the gifted playmaker earn an impressive 10-game point-scoring streak as well as register at least one point in all but three of the Oilers' games.
Gagner has benefited from playing on a line with Ales Hemsky (who himself seems to be having a renaissance season) and the energetic sniper, Nail Yakupov.