Oilers' big three rookies provide hope for the future

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for taylorhall3.jpgThe Edmonton Oilers were flat out the worst team in the NHL last season. Of course, these days in the NHL, being the worst means you can get better awfully fast and with the Oilers building off of recent failure, they’re a team that’s really looking up now. The Oilers are banking on a trio of rookies to help set the standard for them this season and fill the net with pucks.

Canadian WJC superstar Jordan Eberle, Swedish sensation Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and 2010 #1 overall pick Taylor Hall help make the Oilers a team worth watching no matter what. With them there’ll be a hype machine unlike we’ll see elsewhere in the league this year, and while playing in small, out of the way Edmonton will help at least keep some of their profile quiet, they all realize that keeping the hype under control as Dave Lozo from NHL.com found out.

“It’s us three, but there’s a lot of other good, young players on this team that are 22, 23, and their careers are going in the right direction,” Hall said. “If we can turn this ship around in the next few years, and the coaches and management make all the right decisions, things are looking up.”

That optimism breeds expectations, and those expectations can lead to pressure. But no one seems worried about any of that.

“We know there will be some situations we know they’re not fully ready for,” [Oilers GM Steve] Tambellini said. “I know expectations will be high for these three kids. They kind of joke about it and say it’s a good thing it’s not just one and they can all kind of do it together.”

“I don’t really feel it just because I don’t live there, but I’m sure once hockey season comes around and you go to the city, it’s going to be there and it’s going to be alive and well,” Hall said. “I know I’ve done well handling pressure. You just have to go out and play your game.”

The amount of young talent in Edmonton is pretty incredible. Not only are those three rookies there but you factor in Sam Gagner, yet-to-be-signed Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule and you’ve got two forward lines of potentially great youth. Add in veterans like Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner and a returning from injury Ales Hemsky and the future of the Oilers doesn’t look so bleak. Given the off-season they’ve had in seeing Nikolai Khabibulin run into trouble with the law, not being able to trade Sheldon Souray and the potential for having a complete circus in goal with Khabibulin, Devan Dubnyk, Jeff Deslauriers and Martin Gerber, having something to have hope about is a pleasant switch.

The only thing to ask of Oilers fans now is to have patience as having that much youth on the team is going to lead to bouts of growing pains. New head coach Tom Renney will certainly have his hands full keeping everyone in line.

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    Auston Matthews keeps goal streak alive, gives Leafs 1-0 lead in third

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    These are the moments Toronto Maple Leafs fans were dreaming about when they drafted Auston Matthews. At least those bold enough to picture such great things, so soon in his career.

    Speaking of so soon … that’s not how you’d describe a 1-0 goal happening in the third period of a game in this Leafs – Washington Capitals series, but it took that long to break the ice in Game 6.

    It took a very lucky bounce for the puck to find its way to Matthews … but the finish was pure skill. With that, the remarkable rookie now has a goal in four straight games (with an assist thrown in for good measure).

    The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Marcus Johansson scored to tie it 1-1.

    Things could get awfully nervous for Toronto as they try to force a decisive Game 7 in Washington, but that was a huge goal by Matthews either way.

    Clarke MacArthur, Craig Anderson made Sens win that much more emotional

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    It could have been over for Clarke MacArthur plenty of times during his turbulent NHL career. Scratch that, his turbulent hockey career.

    His team walked away from his salary arbitration award. MacArthur’s seen plenty of people give up on him. And then, when he finally found a home with the Ottawa Senators, concussion issues threatened to end his playing days.

    Yet, there he was on Sunday … drawing a penalty in overtime and then scoring on the ensuing power play to help the Senators advance beyond the Boston Bruins.

    He didn’t deny that he imagined very different possibilities during his darker moments.

    And, as uplifting as his story was – seriously, just watch this interview and try not to root for the guy – it wasn’t the only emotionally charged moment from Game 6.

    Nicholle Anderson was on hand to cheer on Craig Anderson in this one, and the two were able to embrace after the contest:

    As violent and intense as the playoffs can often be, MacArthur and Anderson reminded us of the gentler human side of it all.

    Erik Karlsson played through hairline fractures in foot to help Sens advance

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    Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins?

    It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.

    Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).

    There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.

    Hmm.

    Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.

    Gaudreau, Granlund and Tarasenko: 2017 Lady Byng finalists

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    The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.

    The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

    (Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)

    For more on the three finalists, click here.