The Edmonton Oilers are starting to see the return on their investment in their top NHL draft picks from the last few years.
The transformation of the once-proud franchise began in the 2008 NHL Entry draft when the Oilers selected 18-year-old Jordan Eberle with the 22nd pick. Just a year later, the uber-talented Swede Magnus Paajarvi was selected with the 10th pick.
Then the franchise struck gold when they acquired the top pick in the 2010 NHL Entry draft, with the prospect of drafting the electrifying Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL. The decision was an easy one.
The Oilers made Taylor Hall the top overall pick to complete the trio of young guns aiming to turn around the Oilers, as general manager Steve Tambellini envisioned.
All three made the roster out of camp and showed the potential that the franchise is banking on long term during the preseason, where both all three players showed tremendous pure skill and hockey sense.
The young guns know that they don’t have to carry the team right away and can lean on good veteran leadership from Captain Shawn Horcoff and winger Ales Hemsky. They also have a great teacher in Coach Tom Renney, who is know for his ability to help along younger players. His presence will only benefit the trio as they adjust to life in the NHL.
After an impressive showing in the preseason and first couple games, the Oilers came back down to earth and endured some early season struggles. The fanbase anxiously awaited eight games for prized rookie Taylor Hall to score his first NHL goal. While they waited, Eberle wasted no time netting his first, on a brilliant, highlight-reel goal on opening night. The big Swede wasn’t far behind Eberle, scoring his first in just his fourth NHL contest against the Calgary Flames.
Since then, Hall has started to find the twine with nine goals heading into Tuesday’s action, adding six assists while playing on a line with Captain Shawn Horcoff and fellow rookie Jordan Eberle. In his last game, Hall showed the hometown fans of Edmonton why he was the top pick with an overtime game-winner on home ice. Taking a lead pass from defenseman Ryan Whitney across the red line, Hall showcased his breakaway speed and goal-scoring touch to lift the Oilers over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
Fans can expect more fireworks like they saw on Saturday the rest of the season from Hall and his young teammates. Eberle is already a YouTube sensation for his incredible individual efforts.
The youngsters have had to deal with adversity early in their careers, as they watched the team exile its best defenseman Sheldon Souray before camp opened. They also have had to deal with starting goalie Nikolai Khabibulin’s status after he was convicted of a serious DUI charge over the summer. But they have stayed focused on playing hockey and blocking out off-ice distractions all season by continuing to work hard.
The hard work is starting to show with a recent four-game surge, including wins over Canadian foes Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, capped by the overtime thriller on Saturday versus the Blues.
With Hall looking more and more comfortable every game and getting support from fellow rooks Eberle and Paajarvi, the Oilers look to have struck something bigger than oil with their top draft picks.