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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    Sharks grind out win, make life difficult for Kings

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    If the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings meet again, it will be in the playoffs. If they do so, the Sharks will hold quite a bit of a recent edge.

    They defeated them in the first round of the 2016 playoffs and won the 2016-17 season series with the Kings after beating L.A. in a tight 3-2 affair on Wednesday.

    During a week where leads have been flimsy and goals came in flurries, this one started off pretty hot. The Sharks generated a 2-1 lead in the first period, and then the two teams exchanged goals in the second, with Joe Pavelski‘s goal ultimately standing as the game-winner.

    The Sharks won after a scoreless third period, keeping them in a position to take back first place in the Pacific Division:

    1. Ducks – 59 points in 47 games
    2. Oilers – 57 in 47
    3. Sharks – 56 in 45

    San Jose has an opportunity to make up that ground with its games in hand. The Kings, on the other hand, see their margin of error for a wild card spot dwindling:

    Second wild card spot: Kings, 48 points in 45 games

    Canucks – 48 in 46
    Predators – 47 in 44
    Stars – 46 in 46
    Jets – 46 in 48

    The Sharks made life easier for themselves while making it tougher for the Kings. If that’s the end of their interactions for 2016-17, Sharks fans should be quite happy.

    Red Wings rally by Bruins in another game that evokes the Eighties

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    Things looked pretty grim for the Detroit Red Wings after the Boston Bruins chased Jared Coreau from the net with a quick 3-0 lead. Maybe the Red Wings took note that this has been a weird, high-scoring week in the NHL, because they rallied back and eventually won 6-5 via a shootout.

    To recap the zaniest games of each day from this odd few days of hockey:

    Monday: The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 8-7 in an overtime thriller.

    Tuesday: The Dallas Stars managed to hold off the New York Rangers in a 7-6 victory. Plenty of weird things happened beyond all of those goals.

    Wednesday: Red Wings storm back from that 3-0 deficit to eventually win.

    Games like these can be a nightmare for coaches and goalies on both sides, yet Claude Julien was probably especially steamed by this one.

    The Bruins were up 3-0, 4-1 and 5-4 but the Red Wings kept fighting back. As a defensive-minded coach, Julien couldn’t have been happy with his team’s play.

    (That’s the coach’s answer to slamming a video game controller in a frustrating loss.)

    Fitting in with this week’s other wilder contests, there were flurries of goals even beyond the trio that quickly gave Coreau the boot. The Red Wings warped a 4-1 Bruins lead to a 4-4 tie with three goals in a little more than 10 minutes of time.

    Adam McQuaid then regained Boston’s lead 21 seconds after it was tied, but the Red Wings didn’t give up. Instead, they applied a ton of pressure in the third period until Gustav Nyquist tied it up with about three minutes left.

    Detroit still has a long way to go to protect its remarkable playoff streak, especially when teams like the Bruins can at least salvage “charity points” with losses. If the Red Wings want to make an unlikely push, they’ll need to show the kind of resolve that was on display on yet another wild night in the NHL.

    Pavelec makes highlight reel save, gets win in return to Jets’ net

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 28:  Ondrej Pavelec #31 of the Winnipeg Jets dives across to make a first period save against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Jets 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    With an expiring contract, Ondrej Pavelec’s time with the Winnipeg Jets is nearing an end. Plenty of Jets fans would say, mercifully.

    Still, he did return to the Winnipeg Jets net on Wednesday for his first NHL appearance since April 9, 2016, to mostly successful results. The Jets beat the Arizona Coyotes 6-3, for one thing.

    Beyond that, it probably felt like a typical Pavelec start for many Jets fans, though some would contest that it would also need to involve a loss.

    There were those regrettable moments, like giving up a goal right away:

    Even his critics would probably agree that Pavelec does have a knack for making breathtaking saves:

    It’s unclear how many more times we’ll see Pavelec play for the Jets (or an NHL team in general). His performance – if given more chances – in the near future may determine that answer.

    If nothing else, his 2016-17 debut felt pretty fitting.

    Connor McDavid hits the 100-point mark, scores OT-winner (or did he?)

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 08: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates with the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers in the third period at Wells Fargo Center on December 8, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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    PHT brings you the hard-hitting math, as you know, so here’s the latest burst: Connor McDavid is more than a point-per-game player.

    You see, he scored the 100th point of his promising NHL career, and he did so in just his 92nd career game on Wednesday. Let us remind you that he’s just 20 years old (and he turned 20 on Jan. 13). Yeah.

    Point 100 came on via an assist on a Zack Kassian goal as the Edmonton Oilers went up 1-0 against the Florida Panthers.

    Here’s the clip:

    Update: There’s debate regarding whether McDavid’s overtime-winner should have counted or not, but either way, it’s impressive that he generated a goal and an assist after hitting the 100-point mark. So it’s now 102 points in 92 games.

    Here’s that contested goal: