Bleacher Report writers Nick Frost and Sean Lennie present "Chances of Cracking The Oilers Lineup," a six-week series dedicated to determining which players on the bubble have a shot at making the Edmonton Oilers' 2009-10 roster. Each week, we will examine a different youngster's chances—last week, we featured Ryan Potulny, this week, forward Gilbert Brule.
Gilbert Brule has had his share of ups and downs. Then again, what player hasn't? In just four short years in the NHL, however, he's had just as many as guys who've been in the league significantly longer.
In his 11 games with the big club last year, he posted two goals and three points—not bad considering one of those two goals was a game-winner.
All things considered, the former Memorial Cup MVP does appear to have a clear shot at making the Oilers' roster this year.
Benefits: Brule boasts a combination of speed, skill, and fearlessness that would fit in great on any line. Despite his size (5'10"), he charges into corners, crashing into opposing players regardless of their size. His high-energy style of play is something the Oilers' were missing last year.
He has incredible hands when given a chance to use them. He can dangle with the best of them and has a pretty good shot.
The former Vancouver Giant is also quite good in the face-off circle, posting a 51.3 per cent success rate in 61 games with Columbus in 2007-08.
Drawbacks: Brule is relatively small—so despite his ferocity, he can't out-muscle the majority of players.
Despite his high skill level, he also has trouble finding the net. However, that should increase if he's given more ice time. He also struggles with consistency having only choppy success at the NHL level. This trend might change if he finds himself in a scenario with more regularity.
Main Competition: The Oilers have a ton of centres in their talent pool and so, naturally, it's very hard for any one of them to crack the Oilers roster.
Marc Pouliot will undoubtedly be the front-runner because he has had the most experience in the NHL of any call up. He hasn't amassed any really impressive numbers, however he has proven himself as a steady utility forward, usable on either the third or fourth line.
Outside of Pouliot, the only other big challenge for Brule will be whether or not Rob Schremp and Ryan Potulny actually show up to camp motivated enough to make the team.
Schremp is probably the best talent comparison for Brule. Both are highly-skilled forwards, who have the tools to be solid scorers at the NHL level with the proper motivation and encouragement. If he could ever muster the drive and effort to push for that spot, Schremp would be the front runner; however, thus far he hasn't.
Potulny is going to get a bunch of consideration due to his AHL production; however, he's more one-dimensional than Brule because he isn't as much of a checker. Possessing a solid two-way game should give Brule the leg up.
So, what are his chances?: I'd wager about 40%. He's got to beat out two guys who proved they deserve a look (Pouliot and Potulny) and a guy who is on his last life (Schremp).
He has all the tools, he just has to stay injury free and have a great training camp.
However, it is important to note that even the best training camp does not guarantee you a permanent spot in the roster. With so many players trying to fill only a couple of vacancies, odds are they can't count on anything.
Be sure to check out Part Three next week, when Nick Frost takes an in-depth look at Theo Peckham.
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