While the Oilers wingers continue to develop, the coming season will see some of them take a pretty big step forward in their young careers. The group is clearly tougher to play against but there is still room for improvement.
Ales Hemsky - This may very well be the last season that Ales Hemsky plays as an Edmonton Oiler and it could end up being his best season to date.
The obvious issue Hemsky has had in recent seasons are injuries...and there have been many. There is little doubt that he will be a point per game player with the Oilers current roster...it's just a matter of will that be 70+ pts or 45 pts.
I see Ales playing with Taylor Hall and Sam Gagner this season and we may just see something special develop with Hall. Hemsky is not the easiest guy to play with but once he and Hall are allowed to develop chemistry, it could be a beautiful thing for Oilers fans to witness on a nightly basis.
An area Hemsky must improve on, is the power play. The play just comes to a stand still on the PP when Hemsky has the puck on his stick and it has to change. He must move the puck quicker coming off the boards or I could see his top unit time going to a certain player that wears #23.
2011-2012 Prediction: 20 G - 52 A - 72 Pts
Taylor Hall - Last season all of us saw glimpses of the type of player Taylor Hall is going to become...and I feel Taylor Hall believes he can start being that player this coming season.
I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see Hall take his first strides towards stardom. Playing with the best playmaker on the team and seeing increased power play time will lead to what I should be an incredible sophomore season.
There is really not much else to say...the kid is going to be a star and it'll be much sooner then later.
2011-2012 Prediction: 38 G - 31A - 69 Pts
Jordan Eberle - Season number two for Mr. Eberle will see him take the next step towards becoming a sniper at the NHL level. The guys hands are unreal and playing with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could be the perfect fit.
Add Ryan Smyth and you have the makings of a very interesting second line. Eberle's play in his own end still needs work but he did show improvement as last season progressed. Also, Eberle should see more penalty killing time this year as he shares the duties with Smyth on the second unit pk.
Eberle has the special talent to score big goals when his team needs one and that fact alone will make him a very productive player for many years to come.
2011-2012 Prediction: 30 G - 25 A - 55 Pts
Ryan Smyth - Smyth's return to Edmonton is just what the club needed in the leadership and "what it means to be an Oiler" departments.
While Ryan's best days are behind him, I see him having a major impact on this team in the coming season. He will change the overall mindset of the players in that room and I think that will be the biggest mark he leaves on the club for the coming season.
That being said, he'll have the responsibility of having two kids on his line but he'll be up to the challenge. Smyth should be a good fit with Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins because of his work on the boards and corners.
I'm not one for bringing guys back for a second go round but I was hoping this one would happen and the Oilers will benefit long term because of it.
2011-2012 Prediction: 21 G - 24 A - 45 Pts
Magnus Paajarvi - The young Swede started to come into his own over the latter part of last season and that should continue in the coming season.
Paajarvi will play on the third line with fellow Swede Linus Omark and Shawn Horcoff. He will lean heavily on the Oilers captain for on ice guidance in hopes that it has the same effect that it had on Hall and Eberle the previous year.
Magnus does need to still put on a bit more muscle to help him win more battles but that will come in time. He'll see limited power play time again this season but I wouldn't be surprised if he does end up drawing some penalty killing time as the season moves a long.
Out of the youngsters, he is easily the most responsible player in his end of the rink.
2011-2012 Prediction: 15 G - 25 A - 40 Pts
Linus Omark -This should be an interesting season for Omark. His skill level is arguably the highest of any player on the team but the drive doesn't seem to be there nightly.
An area that he must improve on in short order, is his play in the Oilers end of the rink. Having Horcoff as his centre should help but if he doesn't improve on it, the coaching staff will limit his ice time.
The one thing this staff must do this season, is make sure Linus gets his power play time. As of right now, I think he's just as good if not a better option then Hemsky. His skill set has to be utilized when at all possible...and that is on the power play and obviously the shootout.
He is still very young but doesn't lack in confidence and that's something I really like about him. He wants to be a difference maker and if he's given that opportunity a little more often, I have little doubt he'll deliver. His performance could very well decide what the club does with Hemsky moving forward.
2011-2012 Prediction: 8 G - 35 A - 43 Pts
Ryan Jones - The guy who benefited most from the Oilers injury situation last season was Ryan Jones. He did nothing but work all season long and after a terrible start to the season it earned him the trust of the coaching staff.
Jones scored an unreal 18 goals last season that will not be easy to duplicate in the coming season. Frankly, he should not be expected to be anywhere near that total. One area he took major strides in last season was his ability to kill penalties and that will earn him extra ice time.
I see Jones playing with the two new comers, Eric Belanger & Ben Eager, in what should be a very interesting looking fourth line. I have little doubt that unit will bring energy every time they hit the ice.
Also, if Smyth decides to bring the full mullet back...Jones will have heavy competition for the "best salad" on the club!!!
2011-2012 Prediction: 10 G - 11 A - 21 Pts
Ben Eager - The addition of Ben Eager could arguably be the most important addition they made up front. The Oilers have not had a pest who could take care of himself and his teammates for a very long time. That is exactly what Eager does and he can play the game a little and has wheels to boot.
From this point forward, anyone trying to take liberties with the Oilers star players will now have to answer for their actions. The response they get from Eager may not always be within the rule book and that is just the type of response this team needs from their role players.
Eager is not to be mistaken for a heavyweight but he can hold his own and as mentioned previously, he'll have his teammates back. You hear nothing but great things about him in the room and I don't expect that to change in Edmonton.
2011-2012 Prediction: 6 G - 6 A - 12 Pts
Darcy Hordichuk – In bringing in Hordichuk to fill the role of heavyweight, the Oilers now have a player other teams will at least engage. He isn't the fighter he used to be but he can more then hold his own with the big boys. Also, like Ben Eager he seems like a very likable guy in the room and that can never be a bad thing.
I don't expect him to dress for more then 40 or so games but when he does, he'll leave his mark on that contest.
2011-2012 Prediction: 1 G – 2 A – 3 Pts