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Young Guns

Every team in the NHL obviously has a mix of older and younger players. In mingling eager, fresh blood with the experience of veterans, teams are provided a chance to constantly develop and refine their style of play. With the 2013 NHL draft coming up in less than a week (though hockey fans will probably have been counting down for quite awhile), my attention has been increasingly drifting to new prospects and what they may have up their sleeves. Every player is unique, and even a single addition can have a pretty phenomenal impact on a team.

In the past several years, the Edmonton Oilers have put a lot of focus and energy into developing their younger players. As much as it pains me to say this, the Oilers haven’t done that well the past couple of seasons. The one advantage to this, however, appears at draft time. They’ve had the opportunity to snag a several first draft picks in the past few years, and they’ve accordingly placed a lot of their focus and energy into developing these young dynamos.

Some may critique this narrowed focus and suggest that the Oilers, who haven’t been winning the way fans would like them to, need to focus on their team overall. However, it can’t be denied that these young players often bring fantastic energy and can be combined to form nearly unstoppable lines. A look at the past season’s stats alone can tell you that they’re invaluable parts of the team and frequently lead in scoring.

Young Guns
Young Oilers players have a brief celebration during a game.
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Former Oiler and Hockey Hall of Famer Jari Kurri attended an Oilers game this past season and was briefly interviewed by a reporter at the game (come on, you can’t see a legend like that and not at least try to ask him something). Kurri was asked his opinion on Edmonton’s focus on the young players, and why it wasn’t quite coming together, why these young prospects weren’t quite fulfilling the high expectations that everyone had for them.  I share his opinion from memory – I couldn’t manage to track down a sound byte or transcript of the very brief interview with him that I heard on the Oilers radio broadcast from the game, but his opinion stuck with me. The veteran Kurri simply remarked: it takes time. He humbly shared that even the legends that graced the Oilers in the 1980s took some time getting accustomed to one another and really fine-tuning their playing style as a team rather than just as individual players, regardless of how immensely talented they were .

A lot of the Oilers’ effort in recent years is going towards finding out how to best utilize the prospects they’re bringing in, and to tweak their game in a way that allows them to showcase their advantages.

The Oilers have snagged first draft pick three years running, with Taylor Hall in 2010, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011, and Nail Yakupov in 2012. In the weeks to come, I’ll put a spotlight on some of these young players and talk a bit about them both individually, and how they’ve been contributing to the Oilers’ game play.

Adrianna Szenthe

Adrianna Szenthe

Adrianna is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. Having previously worn blue and orange in a city of die-hard Canadiens supporters, she feels confident she can contend with a city of Blackhawks fans. While she defends her beloved Oilers, she is fond of reminding everyone that hockey was, after all, invented in Canada. Since she's not able to make a killer slapshot, writing about them seems the next best thing.
Adrianna Szenthe

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