First of all, I'd like to welcome myself back after a little "vacation."
I've been very busy but have found the time tonight to return to the Bleacher Report, and I'm back for good.
Have no fear Oilers fans, this was the plan for Steve Tambellini and no matter how much it hurts (and trust me, it does), it is for the better of this team.
Six months ago in LA, the Oilers took Taylor Hall first overall. He was the center piece of the draft, but the Oilers added other players who will factor into the Oilers future.
Look at the team's three second round picks. Tyler Pitlick almost made the team out of camp and is playing really well in the WHL right now. He started off slow, but has really turned it on since. Most feel, as I do, that Tyler will be a good NHL player one day.
Martin Marincin was a steal it looks like in the second round. He is a big boy and is tearing the CHL up right now. Most feel he could have played AHL hockey this season, and that he will be in the NHL with the Oilers one day. Some have also said he could very well be an All-Star defender.
The Oilers also grabbed Curtis Hamilton in the second round and some say he is the best PK'er in the CHL. He is currently playing on Canada's World Junior team in Buffalo and has played well.
Now the Oilers might not be a good team record wise, but by watching this team you can see some great play and you can see how bright the future really is. Taylor Hall, along with fellow rookies Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi, are playing very well right now.
Those three are without doubt part of the Oilers' future, but more pieces are becoming visible right now.
At forward, leader and captain Shawn Horcoff was playing really well before injury, and it now looks like he has a future in Edmonton for as long as his current contract runs (and it's a long time).
Sam Gagner has the potential to be a top line center, no doubts there, but he really hadn't shown it in his first three season on a regular basis. This season, Gagner's play has improved and he also appears to have a good future with the Oil.
In potential third line roles for the future, Ryan O'Marra (Center) and Ryan Jones (Left Winger) have both played really well in their time in Edmonton this season and look like potential pieces in Edmonton's future.
On Defense, Theo Peckham has stunned a lot of people and has been the Oilers second best defender all season long. Theo is a great physical guy; he loves to hit and fight. His game has also improved in the sense that he is becoming an even better shut-down defender. Expect him to stick around for a long time.
Ryan Whitney is the Oilers leading point getter, best +/- guy on the team and is their best defender easily. He is also young and fills a top pairing hole in Edmonton.
Ladislav Smid is also a very good number five defender, who can play the PK and who is a shut-down defender. Expect him to stick around for a while also.
Now for the future, the Oilers have most of their holes filled out from within, thanks to their recent great drafting.
On defense, Jeff Petry and Alex Plante both appear to have futures with the Oilers. Plante has a big mean shut-down defender, and Petry as a puck moving Ryan Whitney like defender. Martin Marincin will also one day see time in Edmonton it appears.
The Oilers blue-line issues can be fixed from within. Trades will have to be made to clear room however, and I'll get to that later in this post.
At forward, the Oilers appear to have another Swede star in the making in Anton Lander. Lander is currently Team Sweden's captain at the World Junior Tourny and is playing very well. He also is a great face-off guy and very well could have a future in Edmonton as soon as next season.
Curtis Hamilton has size, plays physical and can play the PK. I expect him to be a good third liner for the Oilers in the future, also as soon as next season.
Ryan Martindale, another 2010 draft pick, is having a great season in the OHL with Ottawa and could push for a roster spot next season. He has size, can play PK and can score.
Tyler Pitlick will also try and make the Oilers top six next season and could be a very good No. 2 center for the team; if Gagner realizes his No. 1 center potential, it could be a scary combo.
Liam Reddox is a guy in the AHL who could also help the team out in the PK and third/fourth line grinder department, and I think Liam will return to Edmonton next season.
In goal, Nik Khabibulin will play with the Oilers as long as he is not in jail. He has to serve a three month sentence, but is currently appealing it. If sent to jail, the Oilers can get out of the contract, which is something I suspect they will do.
Devan Dubnyk has played well every time he has been put out there this season, and I believe he has an NHL future. As a starter or a backup we do not yet know, but it appears DD will stay in the show.
Martin Gerber has played well in the AHL, but at his age, he is not part of the long term solution.
Oliver Roy is the Oilers goalie of the future and is currently playing will in the QMJHL; Tyler Bunz is also Oilers property and is playing in the WHL.
It will be interesting to see what comes of Tyler. Roy can be expected in Oilers camp again this summer, and in my mind will find himself in Oklahoma City next season as the Barons' starting goalie.
Now that we have talked about the Oilers prospects (which give signs of a very promising future), let's talk about free agents, and guys who the Oilers will have to make a decision on this summer.
Up front, Ryan Jones is a lock to get re-signed (in my mind). He has played great this season and brings a lot of heart; they would hate to lose him.
Liam Reddox should also get a contract and should make the team next season. He has played well in the AHL this season.
Zach Stortini will be an RFA, but something tells me he will not be back next season, and that is the right move.
Steve MacIntyre is a UFA, but I highly doubt he will get re-signed; Andrew Cogliano is doubtful the return next season also.
So MacIntyre, Stortini and Cogliano are all free agents after the season which I don't think will come back; Cogs is an RFA but I think he will be traded or not even qualified.
On defense, Theo Peckham is RFA, but I believe will be re-signed by the Oilers, which is the only right thing to do there.
Jason Strudwick is UFA, and I think he will retire. If he decides to play next season, I can tell you it will not be with the Oilers, he will be allowed to walk.
Jim Vandermeer will odds are be let go too, no since in re-signing him if you are the Oilers; give Jeff Petry or Alex Plante the spot.
On the trade front, look for Andrew Cogliano, Gilbert Brule, Tom Gilbert and JF Jacques to be moved at the deadline or at the NHL draft. Expect to hear Sheldon Souray's name tossed around at the draft too, as he will only have one year left on his contract.
The current Oilers team isn't a playoff team by any means, but future pieces in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Ryan Jones, Ryan O'Mara, Shawn Horcoff, Theo Peckham, Ryan Whitney and Ladislav Smid already playing in Edmonton, it is getting closer to the final result.
Guys like Jeff Petry, Alex Plante, Curtis Hamilton, Anton Lander and Ryan Martindale aren't far off and will be big pieces in the final puzzle.
Oilers fans, just remember that the Oilers aren't very far off and adding another to prospect at the draft this season will only make them better in the future.
Look for a young lineup next year, something like:
Taylor Hall-Sam Gagner-Jordan Eberle
Magnus Paajarvi-Tyler Pitlick-Ales Hemsky
Dustin Penner-Shawn Horcoff-Curtis Hamilton
Ryan Jones-Ryan O'Marra-Liam Reddox
Ryan Whitney-Jeff Petry
Alex Plante-Theo Peckham
Ladislav Smid-Kurtis Foster
I will be doing weekly blogs at the very least from here on out, so I hope all of you who read me here before my break will continue to read and comment.
Follow me on Twitter for Oilers and NHL updates @Atoilfan83