It's mid-August now, and most NHL rosters are set for training camp, but not the Edmonton Oilers roster. The Oilers will have four rookies trying to crack the NHL roster this season: Linus Omark, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Magnus Svensson.
It's clear that Hall will be on the Oilers roster opening night when Calgary comes to town, but Eberle, Omark and Svensson have some work to get done first.
Magnus Svensson might be the most NHL-ready of all the Oilers prospects and will probably make the roster opening night. Jordan Eberle tore up the WHL, and was a point-per-game man on the AHL's worst team at the end of last season. Linus Omark had a good season in the KHL last year, but will he make the roster?
Omark is the lone rookie question mark for the Oilers.
Omark played well in the KHL, but was out shined by guys like Eberle and Svenson at the World's this past spring. Omark has tons of talent, but there probably won't be a top six role out there for him this season. That means Omark will probably be the starting first-line LW this season in OKC of the AHL for the Barons. It will give him a year of development and would make him a better player in the coming years.
Enough with the rookies though, let's get to the rest of the roster! The only real locks at forward that aren't rookies are Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Sam Gagner, Gilbert Brule and Shawn Horcoff. Colin Fraser will be fighting to be the fourth- or even third-line center this season in Edmonton, and forwards Zach Stortini, Ryan Jones, Greg Stewart, Alexandre Giroux, Steve MacIntyre and Jean Francois Jacques will all be fighting for a roster spot.
Forward Andrew Cogliano is currently an RFA, but a guy that the Oilers would like to get either signed or traded ASAP. Cogs has talent, there is no debating that, but does he still have a spot in Edmonton? My gut tells me he does, but my hockey sense tells me he doesn't. Cogs has speed too, but he is a smaller player. I think we will see him traded before training camp, to bring in another piece to the puzzle: young player, draft pick or even another pending RFA.
Another forward that doesn't have a contract is Sam Gagner. Gagner was the sixth overall pick in the Pat Kane draft year of 2007, and was a steal at six for the Oilers. Gagner has the second most points of anyone in that draft class, right behind Kane himself.
Most Oilers fans and bloggers, like myself, believe that Gagner will be first-line center in the NHL one day, and that he has yet to hit the best of his talents. Gagner will get signed by training camp, he even said things are going in a good direction and he thinks something will get done very soon.
On defense, the Oilers added a guy with a nasty shot, big size, and character. His name is Kurtis Foster.
Foster signed a two-year deal with the Oilers on July 1st. Foster had the second most points on all free agent defenders this season, right behind Sergei Gonchar (signed in Ottawa). Foster will, without a doubt, make the Oilers roster.
Ryan Whitney was traded at the deadline last season, and he really played well to finish off the season. He will be back and could very well be the Oilers No. 1 defender come opening night. His partner on the backend, the young Tom Gilbert, will also be in the lineup, and will probably end up on the top pairing with Whitney.
Ladislav Smid will be back for the Oilers this season after hurting himself late in the campaign. Smid was turning into a nice shut-down defender in Edmonton, who had some offensive upside. Smid is a very good second-pairing defender and will be another lock on the Oilers blueline.
Jim Vandermeer was traded to the Oilers from the Coyotes before free agency began. The Oilers were getting ready to buy-out Patrick O'Sullivan, and the yotes were ready to buy-out Jim Vandermeer. O'Sullivan's buy-out cap hit was less than Vandermeer's, and the Oilers had interest in Jim, so a trade was made. Vandermeer brings much needed grit, toughness and defensive play to the Oilers blueline, which was pretty bad last season.
Sheldon Souray pretty much asked to be traded this off-season, saying that Oilers management did a bad job in asking him to return from a serious injury way too early. As a result, Souray got hurt again and missed most of his first season in Edmonton.
Souray is a big mean defender, who has arguably the best shot in the NHL, and can QB a power play like no one else. He is a physical guy, and he stands up for his teammates. He is actually well-liked by teammates and, for the most part, fans too. I believe Souray will be back in Edmonton this season, and will be playing with a mighty big chip on his shoulder.
There are some great rookies on the front end that we mentioned, but what about the backend? Jeff Petry left Michigan State last spring, skipping his senior year, to sign an entry level deal with the Oilers. He also played AHL hockey late last season, and played well.
He will be looked at long and hard for a roster spot this season, but I don't think we will see him until the 2011-2012 NHL season. He's a future top-pairing defender, and the Oilers are in no hurry to rush him.
Former first-round draft pick Alex Plante played well in the AHL last season, and also played well in the NHL when asked. However, Plante is still a year or two away from having an NHL impact. He will be at camp this season, but will probably play a top-four role in OKC. Trust me when I say this kid has the chance to be a good NHL defender one day, possibly even top 4.
The Oilers could very well make another free agent signing or two. Forward Mike Comrie (pictured above) has made it clear he would like to stay an Oiler, and he is willing to wait for that chance. He said he's got something to prove, but couldn't prove it last season after having mono. He could very will see his way into the lineup, and I think he will get another one-year deal right before camp.
Andrew Cogliano, whom I mentioned earlier, will likely get traded out of Edmonton before camp starts in order for an Oiler rookie to get a roster spot. Who knows what the return will be.
The Oilers will also look to trade goalie Jeff Deslauriers, but will fail and end up putting him on waivers. I bet he clears and starts in the AHL. Devan Dubnyk will be an NHL backup, Nik Khabibulin will start, and Martin Gerber will be an AHL backup.
The Oilers lineup for 2010-2011 in my eyes:
Taylor Hall-Dustin Penner-Ales Hemsky
Magnus Svensson-Sam Gagner-Jordan Eberle
Gilbert Brule-Shawn Horcoff-Mike Comrie
Ryan Jones-Colin Fraser-Zach Stortini
JF Jacques and Steve MacIntyre
Ryan Whitney-Tom Gilbert
Ladislav Smid-Sheldon Souray
Kurtis Foster-Jim Vandermeer
There are still some players to watch at the AHL level this season: guys that will be playing for the Oilers down the road, and hopefully playing in the Calder Cup playoffs in Oklahoma City this season:
Forward: Linus Omark, Milan Kyntar, Chris Vande Velde, Phillipe Cornett, Liam Reddox, Teemu Hartikainnen and Ryan O'Marra
Defense: Alex Plante, Theo Peckham, Jeff Petry, Shawn Belle, Taylor Chorney, Johan Motin and Kyle Bigos
The Oilers lineup this season is a lot better than last year's and will result in the Oilers finishing higher in the standings.
Not the playoffs, but higher than last year.
Now, Oilers fans, I wanna hear what YOU have to say. Comment on this post, and let me know what you think about the Oilers this season!