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Oilers Watch: On the horizon

Sam McCaig
By:
The Hockey News
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Oilers Watch: On the horizon

Sam McCaig
By:

With a month remaining in the regular season, the Oilers sit 14th in the Western Conference and 27th in the NHL’s overall standings.

But the future looks a little brighter – in the 2008 edition of The Hockey News’ Future Watch, the Oilers are ranked ninth out of the league’s 30 teams. The ranking in the special issue magazine (available on newsstands now) takes into account teams’ top 10 prospects, as well as NHLers aged 21-and-under.

The Oilers, for example, already have 18-year-old Sam Gagner – the NHL’s rookie of the month in February – and 20-year-old Andrew Cogliano playing significant minutes up front, while defenseman Ladislav Smid continues to learn on the job in already his second NHL campaign (Smid just turned 22, but was considered eligible since he was 21 for most of the season).

If you’ve followed the Oilers this year, you know a large part of their future is wrapped up in these three youngsters.

But who else is on the horizon?

In Future Watch 2008, the Oilers boast three players who made the top-75 prospects ranking, though center Riley Nash (58th), blueliner Taylor Chorney (63rd) and center Rob Schremp (68th) aren’t considered among the next wave of future fab NHL freshmen.

Nash, a two-way talent drafted 21st overall in 2007, is an NCAA rookie at Cornell, where he leads the team in scoring. He needs to bulk up – there’s just 175 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame – but he’s motivated and smart and will get all the playing time he can handle with the Big Red.

Chorney, at 5-foot-11, relies on his mobility and vision, and the two-time participant in the World Junior Championship – he was Team USA’s captain in 2007 – is a leader with offensive skills. Like Nash, though, he needs to muscle up.

Schremp is a name that’s likely well-known to Oilers fans, a slick offensive talent who – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – is undersized. He’s been to a few Oiler training camps, but hasn’t passed the test to coach Craig MacTavish’s liking. His skill can’t be denied, though, and he’s improved his work habits and defensive play. The 25th overall pick in 2004, Schremp needs to make the jump in the next season or two.

There are some other familiar names among Edmonton’s top 10 prospects, – wingers Jean-Francois Jacques, Liam Reddox and Marc-Antoine Pouliot have all had cups of coffee – but perhaps the most exciting prospect in the system is goaltender Jeff Deslauriers, 23.

The netminder’s progress had been hampered in recent years as the Oilers didn’t have their own farm team, but he has taken over in Springfield this season and is a candidate for goalie of the year in the AHL – and maybe even league MVP.

This column also appears in the Edmonton Metro Newspaper.

Sam McCaig’s From The Point appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Have a point to make with Sam McCaig? You can reach him at smccaig@thehockeynews.com.

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Oilers Watch: On the horizon