Monday, September 12, 2011

Player Profile - Ales Hemsky

Without question, Ales Hemsky is one of the most skilled players the Edmonton Oilers have upfront and arguably the best offensive weapon the on their roster. In recent seasons he has had a number of injury concerns which has limited the points that #83 has been able to put on the board. Heading into his ninth season in the NHL, he finally will have high end skilled players throughout the lineup that will help him carry the Oilers scoring attack. For many a year, the Oilers went as far as Ales could take them and that is no longer the case. With the skill he's been surrounded with, he needs to show he can ramp up his game to the next level.

Ales will likely be playing with Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall this season on the Oilers top line. While Hemsky has never been the easiest guy to play with, I see something special possibly developing between he and Hall, if they are given an opportunity to work through some growing pains. It will be a tough decision on the organization when it comes time to sign Hemsky to a long term contract or move him at some point during the 2011-2012 season.That being said, it may be next to impossible to not keep the 28 year old pending UFA if he develops something with #4.

The 2010 first overall selection, has speed to burn and the ability to put the puck in the net. The priority for both Hemsky and Gagner must be to bring the best out of Hall's game on a nightly basis. He is the true horse this team has been missing since the dynasty days and he will now give Ales the opportunity to show what he can do with an elite player 5 on 5. The trio have the potential to give the Oilers a true first line for the first time in what seems like an eternity.

The biggest concern I see in Hemsky's game, is his work, or lack thereof, on the Oilers power play. Most nights, the PP comes to a halt because Ales decides to hold onto the puck forever and ultimately Edmonton ends up coming away empty handed more often than not when they up a man. He doesn't make the opposition pay for putting the Oilers on the power play and that has to change if he wants to be considered anything more then a good player. Great players make teams pay for making mistakes and to this point in his career, Hemsky has not shown that ability. Furthermore, if he can't get the job done, the coaching staff now have options that they haven't had in recent memory(Exhibit A - Linus Omark). Ultimately, it is up to Hemsky to make the power play something teams will fear when facing Edmonton.

One could argue Ales Hemsky has been the best post dynasty player to put on an Edmonton Oilers jersey. As he starts to enter what should still be the prime of his NHL career, he needs to prove to hockey fans that he is not only an elite level talent but a true elite NHL player. While he is not a super star player, he could very well be a true star player in this league but he now has to start proving it.

2011-2012 Prediction:  20 G - 52 A - 72 Pts

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