The Edmonton Oilers Players with the Most Potential at Each Position
There are quite a few questions surrounding the Edmonton Oilers heading into the 2014-15 NHL season.
After another disappointing year in 2013-14, general manager Craig MacTavish and company will be looking to change the dynamic on the Oilers roster in hopes of finally taking the next step in what seems like a perpetual rebuilding process in Edmonton.
For all of the problems in Edmonton, the Oilers still have some very intriguing pieces going forward.
Though the Oilers have graduated many of their top prospects directly into the NHL, this list will look at four skaters and a goaltender that still have the most room to grow.
Here is a look at the Edmonton Oilers players with the most potential at each position.
Center: Bogdan Yakimov
Bogdan Yakimov represents an interesting prospect for an Edmonton Oilers squad that is quite short on center icemen within their developmental system.
Here is what Hockey's Future has to say about Yakimov’s skill set:
At 6'4" and 201 pounds, Yakimov is a monster on the ice. He has a strong hockey sense and good positional play, which makes up for his sub-par skating skills. He has impressive hands and good offensive skills considering his lack of foot speed. His size makes him a menace in his own end and hard to knock off of the puck in the offensive zone, but it is unclear whether or not he will have the top level skill to earn him a top-six spot at the NHL level.
If Yakimov can develop the top-level skill to be able to compete for top-six minutes in Edmonton it would be a bonus for the club. However, with the Oilers needing help within their bottom two lines, Yakimov may be the answer sooner than expected.
The Oilers desperately lack size, and in Yakimov they have a burly player who has shown signs of being able to compete at a high level.
While he may never develop into an elite forward, he could be a valuable bottom-tier forward for many years to come if he can make the transition to North American hockey.
Left Wing: Mitch Moroz
The 2014 Memorial Cup finals may have been quite an eye opener for any Oilers fan that hadn’t seen Mitch Moroz play yet.
Moroz appeared to take another step in his progression towards the NHL this past season in Edmonton while playing for the Oil Kings. He proved that he could be more than just an energy/checking forward.
Moroz registered a respectable 63 points in 70 games and added another four points in five games en route to the Memorial Cup Championship.
Moroz lacks dynamic foot speed, but should be able to improve in this area with the proper focus. His skating is by no means a liability, but it does have room for improvement.
The Calgary, Alberta native has the potential to develop into a strong utility forward capable of stepping up into a top-six role, but should also flourish as a penalty killing specialist and in a defensive supporting role.
Right Wing: Nail Yakupov
Nail Yakupov will be entering his third season in the NHL, but he still represents the forward and right winger with the most potential at his position for the Oilers.
After a dynamic rookie campaign where he registered 31 points in 48 games, the Russian sniper struggled to find consistency in his game under the Oilers’ new head coach, Dallas Eakins.
Eakins' added emphasis on defensive zone responsibility seemingly hampered Yakupov’s offensive game, and it was evident that his confidence was lost at times during the 2013-14 season.
Through the struggles, Yakupov still managed to register 24 points in 63 games—similar numbers to second-year forward Jonathan Huberdeau.
Yakupov could very well prosper into the dynamic forward that Oilers fans saw glimpses of during his rookie season if he accepts Eakins' methodology and system.
Only time will tell if Yakupov is a good fit for Edmonton or not.
Defense: Darnell Nurse
The Oilers may have made one of the best decisions for the franchise last season when they decided to send Darnell Nurse back to the CHL for another year of development.
Though Nurse had a very impressive training camp and preseason for the Oilers, he continued to demonstrate the skill and ability that led Edmonton to select him with the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft while playing for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 2013-14.
Nurse registered an impressive 50 points in 64 games as captain of the Greyhounds last season, but it is perhaps his increased physicality that stood out the most.
While Nurse may not make the Oilers again next season, he projects to be a cornerstone on the Edmonton blue line for many years once he finally makes the NHL roster.
Goaltender: Ben Scrivens
At 27 years old, Ben Scrivens may just be entering the prime of his career. And for the first time it appears that he has cemented himself as a No. 1 goaltender.
Scrivens was a great secondary option for Toronto and Los Angeles but never managed to get a legitimate chance at a starting job.
In Edmonton, Scrivens was automatically inserted as the starter after his acquisition from Los Angeles and showed glimpses of the potential to be the solution to a problem that has plagued the team for years.
Edmonton hasn’t had a starting goaltender that could shoulder the load since Dwayne Roloson left. And while Scrivens hasn’t proven that he is capable just yet, he will be given every opportunity to do so.
If his record-setting 59-save shutout performance of the San Jose Sharks proved anything, it is that Scrivens can make the big saves that are necessary to hold an undisciplined team in games.
Edmonton still has plenty of questions and problems surrounding their defensive group, but if that can improve in the offseason then Scrivens may be able to take the next step in his progression.