4 Players To Watch This Season Part 1 of 2

Posted: September 11, 2015 in Hockey
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

To start off, its been ages since I last wrote something and I’m excited to get things started again. This has been a long gruelling off-season for me, and I can only imagine for everyone else. We have had a lot of exciting things happen this off-season for us as fans, Mcdavid, Talbot, Sekera, the emergence of Nurse, Chiarelli and Mclellan and company. A lot to look forward to this upcoming season, creating a different buzz around the city and fan base. I can sense there is a genuine excitement this year, genuine optimism, not just throwing up a hail mary of optimism and hoping you’re at least somewhat close to the outcome of the season.

I’m going to look take a look at the 4 players to watch this upcoming season, all for varying reasons, a couple of players on the hot seat and two emerging stars within our team. I’m going to do this in two parts, as each player overview is rather lengthy.

 

#1 Cam Talbot

Cam-Talbot-Rangers2-e1385305411391

He is coming from the New York Rangers in a deal Chiarelli made on day 2 of the draft. It seemed as if he had missed the boat on Talbot on day 1 and nothing was going to get done, but come early Saturday morning the Oilers traded a 2nd round pick, a 3rd round pick and swapped 7th rounders with the Rangers to get the deal done. The deal is a good one, it was a patient one and the Oilers didn’t have to give up much for what could be their future starter for the coming years.

In New York he climbed his way up from the AHL after being signed out of college in 2010. He progressively got better and better as each year has gone including his college days. He took over the starting job in the AHL after only a year in a half and didn’t look back after being brought up to the NHL. He had an ideal situation coming in, knowing he wasn’t going to play a lot behind the workhorse in Henrik Lundqvist, but it gave him an opportunity to watch and learn from arguably the best goalie in the world.His rookie season he started 21 games, went 12-6-1 3SO with a 1.64 GAA and a .941 SV%. Those are pretty solid numbers to put up coming into your first season in the NHL, he took each game he started in stride and made sure to take advantage of the opportunities he faced, getting better as he went along.

I’m of the belief there were some quiet eyes on Talbot this year, similar to Jonathan bernier a couple of years back. Everyone wanted to see if this guy had what it took, if he could take the ball and run with it if he had the chance. Did he ever take that ball and go, thanks to an unfortunate injury to his mentor, his starter in Lundqvist, Talbot was going to be given the opportunity to start a large stretch of games while the King healed up. He started 23 games in a row, taking hold of the starter position temporarily, he started off a bit slow in the first 4 games going 2-1-1 but picked it up and finishing with a 16-4-3 record during that time with a .931 sv% and a 2.08 GAA, that was during one of the toughest stretches coming down late in season, not an easy stretch when your starter goes down. But he did more than just fill in, he made sure the team didn’t miss a beat and played excellent. He finished that year going 21-9-4 .926 sv% and a 2.21GAA, obviously a drop off from the year before but that was expected, but again still solid numbers for a backup.

There is a consistency in Talbots game, a calming presence in the net that hasn’t been seen in an Oilers net for a very long time. He comes in with pretty high expectations this year, being given the chance to fight for the starter job. Just from watching him last season, watching highlight packages, he may just have what it takes. He is someone who is always looking to learn more, looking for ways to improve his game any way possible, he knew he had to climb the ranks and now he’s ready. He has learned from the best, and with an improved Oilers defence he’s here to show the rest of the NHL he is the real deal. He is 6″3 200 lbs, he makes sure to use his height to his advantage, there may be times he looks extremely agile in the net, but its cause he uses his size and his excellent positioning in net to make sure he’s there to make the first, second and third save if need be. It has to be seen if he can be a starter for 50 plus games, but he’s going to be given every opportunity this year to take that job. The best thing is to try not to focus on his numbers, and look at the details in his game, the way he plays, how he conducts himself on and off the ice. I for one will be happy to finally see a goalie who’s calm in the net and will instill some confidence in the group of guys in front of him.

Projections: 33-22-2 4SO 2.38GAA .921 sv%

#2 Oscar Klefbom

klefbom sun

Oscar Klefbom was drafted 19th overall in the 2011 NHL draft, and was being praised as the steal of the entire draft. Obviously having praise of that sort means there something special about you. After spending two more seasons in Farjestad playing in the SHL he made the jump to North American style hockey playing for the OKC barons. It didn’t start off to well for Klefbom coming over, there were talks he was having a lot of trouble adjusting to the different style of play, smaller ice surface, it can be quite the adjustment when your time with the puck and the space you normally have to skate it up or pass to an open lane shrinks. But the staff down there did an excellent job in sticking with him, making sure he adjusted and slowly towards the end of the season he was getting more praise than not.

He played 48 games in OKC putting up 1goal and 10 points, which isn’t bad for someone not known for his point producing. He also had the chance to play in the NHL that season, playing 17 games for the Oilers putting up 1g and 3 points. It wasnt the smoothest 17 games you’d ever seen, and questions started to arise if he was going to be able to make the jump. His skating was a little choppy, and he seemed hesitant to make certain plays, whether that’s cause it was nerves or cause the entire group sucked at the time, that there was a little extra pressure on him. Well all that seemed to go away as he started the season with the Oilers but for whatever reason was in and out of the press box, so they sent him down to OKC where he played 9 games and put up 8 points, receiving praise from then head coach Todd Nelson of the barons. He got called up again and he wasnt looking back. He easily became the Oilers best defenseman in just a short period, averaging 22 minutes a night and late in the season was comfortably playing upwards of 25 minutes a night. As each game passed he got better and better, and when Todd Nelson took over behind the bench he was playing with even more confidence and looked to grab hold of that top 4 role and wasnt letting go, showing why he’s a first round pick and why he was considered the steal of the draft.

He was never known for the guy who’s going to put up points for you, but in the 60 NHL games he played last year he put 2 goals and 20 points, which we can only hope increases as he gets older and really comes into his role and himself. Klefbom is a dynamic defenseman, He has the skating ability to skate the puck up and become that 4th forward, but if he doesn’t have that lane he is an excellent puck mover and makes a great first pass coming out of his own zone. Mix that in with his intelligent defensive play in his own zone, he’s really showing he’s capable of becoming that top 4 and even top pairing D man the Oilers are missing. He has evolved himself into the whole package, into being versatile at both ends of the ice, he becomes stronger, smarter, faster and better as he matures, which is more than great news for Oilers fans. This will be the year though, where he will play all 82 games, and will face tougher competition nightly, he’s going to be leaned on heavily this year, but I think he’s more than ready for the challenge.

Projections- 82g 5goals, 25 assists, 33points

Thanks everyone for reading! Keep your eyes open for part 2

Up next in part 2 Anton Lander and the enigma that is Nail Yakupov.

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