Predicting If the Edmonton Oilers' Top Stars Will Improve or Decline in 2014-15

Adam Bowen@truknorrisContributor IIIApril 28, 2014

Predicting If the Edmonton Oilers' Top Stars Will Improve or Decline in 2014-15

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    The Edmonton Oilers are going to have to figure out what is wrong in 2014-15. They have a surplus of talented, younger forwards and will be adding another high-end prospect thanks to another poor season.

    The Oilers' disappointing season was highlighted by some strong individual performances, particularly from Taylor Hall, who amassed a career high in points (80) and tied a career high in goals (27).

    Taking into consideration progression, career trends and overall skill, here is a prediction on whether the Edmonton Oilers’ top stars will improve or decline in 2014-15.

Nail Yakupov: Improve

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    After a strong rookie campaign, Nail Yakupov struggled to adapt to new Oilers coach Dallas Eakins and saw his point production drop off in 2013-14.

    In 63 games, Yakupov only managed to register 24 points, but it was his miserable two-way play that really stood out this season.

    Yakupov finished the season with one of the worst plus/minus ratings in the entire NHL, and there is nowhere to go but up after wrapping up 2013-14 with a minus-33 rating.

    In order for production to increase, Yakupov will have to get significant minutes with more talented players, as the gifted Russian languished at times on the third line and found himself as a healthy scratch on more than one occasion.

    The potential is there for a dynamic scorer like Yakupov to rebound, if he reestablishes some confidence and earns top-six forward minutes under Eakins.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Improve

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    Ryan Nugent-Hopkins enjoyed the best season of his short three-year career in 2013-14. Registering a career high of 19 goals and 57 points in 80 games, Nugent-Hopkins demonstrated the on-ice vision that the Oilers coveted when they selected him first overall in 2011.

    Nugent-Hopkins also managed to play in 80 games in 2013-14, which was 18 games more than his previous high of 62 games registered in his rookie season.

    The shoulder injury that seemed to hamper the gifted forward in 2012-13 seemed to be a thing of the past, and assuming that Nugent-Hopkins continues to stay healthy, then his point total and overall production will only go up.

Taylor Hall: Decline

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    Taylor Hall was one of a few Oilers to experience a career year production-wise. While the team’s overall performance was down, Hall was one of the few bright spots for Edmonton this season.

    Hall has the potential to be a point-per-game player, and after registering 80 points in 75 games in 2013-14, it would appear that he has taken the next step in his career progression.

    A player with Hall’s ability could very well continue to progress, but a decline in point production would not be a surprise, as opposing teams will continue to game plan around stopping the speedy left winger.

    Hall has also started to emerge as a leader on the young Oilers, and in doing so, it would be safe to assume that Dallas Eakins would expect more out of Hall and demand more of a two-way game.

    Increased defensive responsibility could hamper his overall point production.

Jordan Eberle: Improve

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    Jordan Eberle enjoyed a breakout season in 2011-12 when he scored at nearly a point-per-game pace and registered a career high of 76 points in 78 games played.

    While Eberle managed to register 65 points in 80 games this season, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that he still has another level of his game to reach.

    The Oilers have a wealth of young forwards, but Eberle has demonstrated to be one of the most explosive and one of the most consistent.

    2014-15 could be a breakout for the diminutive winger.

Justin Schultz: Improve

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    The rigors of a full 82-game schedule appeared to take its toll on Justin Schultz as the 2013-14 season came to a close.

    It appeared at times that the young defender was simply out of gas, and this translated into many great scoring chances for the opposition.

    Schultz managed a respectable 33 points in 74 games played for the Oilers last season, but it was his spotty defensive play that really hindered his season.

    Schultz will have to improve his judgment, picking the correct times to jump into the offensive zone to help out. Considering this was his first full season in the NHL, it is safe to assume that this growth will come in time.