Power Ranking the Edmonton Oilers Top 6 Forwards
Led by such stars as Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, the Edmonton Oilers’ top six forwards are a blend of youth and immense talent.
When attempting to rank the top six forwards for the team, certain aspects must be taken into consideration.
The top forward may not be the most skilled or the player who has contributed the most offensively to the team; rather, he could be the player who ultimately provides the Oilers with the best opportunity to win on a given night and throughout the entire season.
Here is a power ranking of the Edmonton Oilers’ top six forwards.
6. Ales Hemsky
As the elder statesmen of the Edmonton Oilers' top six forward unit, Ales Hemsky has established himself as a consistent contributor for the team, but thanks to trade speculation, he finds himself low on the list.
Hemsky’s leadership qualities might be minimal, but the forward proved last season that if he can stay healthy, he can be relied upon to contribute on a game-to-game basis.
The Oilers find themselves in a bit of a quandary with Hemsky, after new GM Craig MacTavish stated that it would be best for both Hemsky and the Oilers to consider parting ways during the offseason.
MacTavish has failed to move the forward, and it appears that the Oilers will be entering the season with Hemsky slotted in to his usual right wing position.
If Hemsky stays in Edmonton, it will be interesting to see if his attitude toward the club changes and whether or not he continues to show some of the all-world talent Oilers fans have come to know over the past few seasons.
5. Nail Yakupov
Nail Yakupov could very well turn out to be the best pure goal scorer out of the four talented forwards that currently make up the Oilers' top two scoring lines.
Thanks to blinding speed and a dangerous shot, Yakupov has the ability to change a game in an instant, but he had his share of defensive-zone struggles during his rookie campaign.
At times last season, it seemed as if former head coach Ralph Krueger underutilized the talented young Russian, failing to include him on the top power-play unit and leaving him to languish in front of the net on the second unit.
Yakupov has shown glimpses of a Steven Stamkos-like release from the half-wall, and if properly utilized, his impact on the power play alone could have a huge impact on the Oilers' fortunes.
There is plenty of room to grow for Yakupov, and if he can increase his defensive-zone awareness and the team can properly identify his strengths, the sky could be the limit for Yakupov.
4. Sam Gagner
Sam Gagner was one of the most consistent players for the Edmonton Oilers during the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season, and the restricted forward is in line to receive a substantial raise thanks to his efforts.
At 23, Gagner is already a very established veteran but is young enough to relate to the core of budding superstars stockpiled by Edmonton over the last three seasons.
GM Craig MacTavish raved about Gagner during his press conference after being named the new general manager, and he knows just how important Gagner is to the team.
Not only is Gagner one of the only true centers on the Edmonton Oilers, but he has continually improved his defensive-zone presence and responsibilities, resulting in an increased role with the team.
3. Jordan Eberle
While Jordan Eberle’s near point-per-game pace may have dropped off a bit last season, Eberle is still one of the most important players.
Eberle is one of the most gifted young playmakers in the league, but he has seen his momentum derailed by untimely injuries, which may or may not have affected his performance last season.
The Oilers have a lot of depth at the right wing position, meaning that a player like Eberle could become a movable asset at some point during his career in Edmonton, but for the time being, his importance on the club cannot be understated.
The chemistry he has developed with Taylor Hall has formed the foundation of what will be a formidable offense for years to come, with Eberle serving as the playmaker to the goal scorer Hall.
Having already been named an assistant captain for the team, his leadership qualities have been acknowledged, and with former captain Shawn Horcoff having been dealt to Dallas this offseason, Eberle is sure to get a look as a replacement captain going forward.
2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may turn out to be the most important player for the Edmonton Oilers going forward. However, due to injury concerns, he finds himself out of the top spot.
RNH is the top-line center by default, but thanks to a poor faceoff percentage, at times he's a liability on the ice.
Nugent-Hopkins is still young and has room on his slender frame to add muscle, which should help his faceoff percentages, but the Oilers will need the center to figure out how to win faceoffs sooner rather than later.
His on-ice vision and playmaking abilities are second to none, and entering his third season with the team, Nugent-Hopkins will have to step up and prove that he is a legitimate No. 1 center for the Oilers if he is to receive a significant contract extension with the club once his entry-level deal expires at the end of the 2013-2014 season.
1. Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall has emerged as a leader amongst the young group of forwards on the Edmonton Oilers, and through sheer will and determination, he may find himself as the new captain now that Shawn Horcoff is no longer with the team.
Hall had a breakout season in 2012-2013, registering an impressive 50 points in 45 games during the abbreviated season, and he should continue his improvement with added responsibilities and ice time next season.
Hall’s importance to the club extends off the ice as well, as the young star was outspoken during the Oilers’ struggles last season. As a player who had grown accustom to success in the junior rankings, losing is not an option for Hall, and this passion and dedication to the team will see Hall emerge as a true leader both on and off the ice.
If the Oilers are to truly take the next step, it will be thanks in large part to Hall asserting his dominance on the ice and carrying the club hopefully into the playoff picture within the Western Conference.