(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Ulan via uk.eurosport.yahoo.com)

The Edmonton Oilers have been one of the worst teams in the NHL since making the Stanley Cup finals in 2006, but the future looks bright for the Oil.

With drafting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall in 2011, and Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark already on the team , they have a very bright future.

Don`t forget, Ryan Smyth, a fan favourite for years in Edmonton, has returned from the LA Kings. He brings back good playmaking skills and scoring ability, with some good leadership skills that will hopefully rub off onto the young guys. He was missed in Edmonton, and considering they traded Smyth for Robert Nilsson, Ryan O’Marra and a 1st round selection in 2007, which turned out to be Alex Plante. Overall, the trade did not look good for Edmonton and they got the worst out of it. Plante is still in the minors with O`Marra, and Robert Nilsson is in the KHL.

His stats may not show it (54GP-16W-23L), but Devan Dubnyk looks like the future goaltender of the Oilers. With Nikolai Khabibulin struggling, its Dubnyk`s time to shine. He will more than likely be the starting goalie for Edmonton this year, and can be a big reason that Khabibulin is sent down to Oklahoma City of the AHL. Oliver Roy and Bryan Pitton are not ready to play in the NHL just yet, and Yann Danis can be used, but isn`t reliable. If Khabby plays like he did the last 2 years (61GP-17W-41L), the next option is to sign Marty Turco or Pascal Leclaire. Not all Khabibulin`s fault, but he was a big reason why the team lost 41 games with him in net.

The same day Sheldon Souray, a huge distraction in Oil Country, was bought out, GM Steve Tambellini signed Cam barker, who was bought out by the Minnesota Wild. Barker isn`t as high profile as Souray was when he joined Edmonton in 2007, but he has a hard shot and plays very physical. Good thing about that is he doesn`t get many penalty minutes, 34 PIM in 52 games. Bad thing, he only had 1 goal and 5 points last season – he isn`t always consistent, which can really hurt them in the long run.

A surprise to some, The Oilers traded Kurtis Foster to Anaheim for Andy Sutton. Sutton is a bruising defenseman who can run you into the ground. He has a strong skating ability, which is rare for a player who is 6“6. He also brings a hard shot, but like Barker, struggles to score (0 goals, 4 assists in 39 games). Foster is 6`5, but doesn`t use his size effectively, and that could be because of his injury list. He is a way better offensive defenseman then Sutton, but Sutton is a better defensive Defenseman.

Like I said before, Edmonton`s future is bright. Taylor Hall was an early Calder candidate until an ankle injury ended his rookie season. Jordan Eberle was the teams’ top scorer (43 Points), and was their most talented player. Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark had some shining moments and have a lot of promise.

And then there is RNH.

Nugent-Hopkins was arguably the best player in the 2011 NHL entry draft, and Edmonton decided to choose him first overall. Many scouts say his size (6“, 175 pounds) may cause him from being a top forward in the NHL. Well, like Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast said “The last skinny centre Edmonton had… was pretty good.” That “kid” he was referring to was none other than The Great One, Wayne Gretzky. While nobody thinks RNH is the next Gretz, he does have a good looking future in the NHL.

The kids will lead the Oilers to the promise land.

In terms of offense, they didn’t do much to improve. They got a second line center in Eric Belanger, 3rd line winder Smyth, prospects Ryan Keller and Josh Green and bruisers Darcy Hordichuck and Ben Eager. They needed to add that amount of brutality because Zack Stortini and JF Jaques left via Free agency. Not really an improvement considering none of them would play much at all. Belanger is a great faceoff man with great 2 way ability, but his offensive numbers have never been high. Keller is a former Senator who gets good numbers in the minors, but not at the top level. He will be used sparingly for injuries only. Green returns to the Oilers for a second stint. He has a good shot, and uses it a fair amount (in the AHL). He and Keller are very similar, as both don’t get high numbers in the NHL, with Green having only 74 points in 339 games and Keller having 0 points in 6 games. Both are meant as fill in’s for injuries.

Andrew Cogliano, an inconsistent center, was traded to the Ducks. He struggled, and a new home was found. Ales Hemsky was their star player for years, but he continues to get worse every year. He still has trade value, so the best thing would be to trade him before he becomes untradeable. Some say that Sam Ganger will be the guy to watch this year. This will be his 5th season in the NHL, so if he wants to be worth anything in the NHL, the time is now. He has a great skillset, but hasn`t been able to prove it. Shawn Horcoff, the Oilers number one center, is also declining in production. He had 27 points in 47 games last year. He has had injuries which have really dampened his production. While he is a good face-off man and has great puck handling ability, he doesn`t take full opportunity of his scoring chances.

The Oilers are still far away from being serious contenders. But the main core of Hall, Hemsky, Eberle, Ganger and Tom Gilbert have tons of talent and have played together for a while now. Will they make the playoffs this year? That’s not out of the question. I think they will have a chance, considering the last few drafts the Oilers have really scored. The Oilers have a great future ahead of them. Will they be the next Pittsburgh Penguins or Chicago Blackhawks? They have some work to do, but in just a matter of time they will be a powerhouse year in and year out.

Follow Me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL

About The Author

Steven took a different route towards his hockey interests. Starting out as a big Habs fan, he started to gravitate towards the more obscure levels of hockey, such as the low level tournaments in Asia, strange club matches between teams most people in North America can’t pronounce, and even some 3am contests between Bulgaria and New Zealand. Aside from his love for strange hockey events, Steven occasionally acts as a mediocre ball hockey goalie following a failed attempt at making it to the NHL as a fourth line house league grinder. Beyond hockey, Steven is an avid racing fan and loves to chat about NASCAR, F1, Indycar, you name it. Oh, and don’t get him started on music. That is, unless you want the whole history of metal and a guitar lesson. Currently, Steven is a credentialed media member with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, as well as with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. Steven has also hosted the television show "The Hockey House" on TVCogeco in Ontario, as well as a segment under the same with on LeafsTV in Toronto. Home page: http://www.thehockeyhouse.net

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