The Edmonton Oilers are five games into the 48-game sprint known as the 2012-13 NHL regular season and already we are starting to see some trends developing.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
The Oilers number-one line which very likely will be the organization’s top unit for the next several seasons is special! They are out-chancing the opposition at about 2.5-to-1 at even strength and absolutely lethal on the power-play.
By my count, RNH had had at least four or five point-blank scoring chances from the top of the face-off circle so far this season and he has hasn’t finished…yet. Not to mention having a potential game-tying goal taken away from him on a very debatable call in the Oilers 2-1 OT win over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.
I recall seeing “the Nuge” in the fall of 2010 prior to Team Canada’s World Junior selection camp and he was hovering around a point-per-game down in Red Deer. He was making plays, showing great vision but didn’t seem to have a lot of puck luck.
Kind of like where he is right now with the Oilers.
Then after being cut that year by Team Canada he returned to Red Deer and went supersonic picking up 27 points in an eight game stretch.
I can see something similar happen with Nugent-Hopkins this season. Maybe a stretch where he picks up 15 points over a five game stretch like Sam Gagner did last season.
Taylor Hall was my pick during training camp to lead the Oilers in scoring with 51 points this season. Jordan Eberle was the easy pick based on 34 goals and 76 points last season, and then 25 goals and 51 points in 34 games in Oklahoma City this season but I have a good feeling about Hall.
Taylor doesn’t seem to be quite as tight out of his turn in his own zone when he starts up the ice which means opposition “D” are going to have to back off instead of pinching hard like Cory Sarich did last season, when he gave Hall a nasty concussion in the process.
Also against Colorado, Hall earned the Oilers a couple of power plays by attacking through the neutral zone with speed and challenging slow-footed defencemen.
Eventually more and more defencemen will be forced to back in off a Hall rush, giving Hall the option to shoot through a screen and unleash his excellent wrist shot.
Eberle remains as consistent as ever. The third-year pro scored a wonderful backhand goal against Roberto Loungo in the Oilers season-opener, and his snipe against Miikka Kiprusoff Saturday night illustrated elite-level finishing skill. And he is just heating up!
RIGHT-SIDE D SET
The second half of the 2011-12 season was very frustrating for Oilers fans as the team ended up in a lottery position again, but one bright spot was the emergence of Jeff Petry as a legitimate top four NHL defenceman. By my count Petry has had three good games and two tough outings so far this season, but he is clearly a guy who can play 20-22 minutes a game and play in every situation.
Petry likely won’t be playing in the first PP unit though because Justin Schultz looks like he will be there for a long time. Head Coach Ralph Krueger will be hard-pressed to keep Schultz’s minutes below 23 minutes a game, because Schultz is that good.
Some pro scouts I have spoken to suggest Schultz reminds them of a Scott Niedermayer-type, others think a Sergei Zubov comparison is fair.
Whatever the case it looks like the Oilers might be set for years to come to with two very good right-handed defencemen for years to come.
Bob Stauffer is Radio Analyst of the Oilers Broadcasts on the Oilers Radio Network and Host of “Oilers Now” Monday thru Friday Noon to 2:00PM on 630 CHED. You can follow him on twitter at bob_stauffer
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