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  1. Part 30 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Finishing up the individual team pages.... Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 1. Edmonton 2. St. Louis 3. Florida 4. NY Islanders 5. Chicago 6. Montréal 7. NY Rangers 8. Anaheim 9. Pittsburgh 10. Buffalo 11. Ottawa 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #1: Edmonton Oilers Top Fws: Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle Top Ds: Ladislav Smid, Ryan Whitney Top G: Devan Dubnyk Top 3 Under-23s: 1. F Jordan Eberle (22) 2. F Taylor Hall (20) 3. F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (19) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Nail Yakupov (18) 2. D Justin Schultz (22) 3. D Oscar Klefbom (19) 4. D David Musil (19) 5. D Martin Marincin (20) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: B Bluechip Talent: A Diversity: C Overall: B Organizational Strengths: Edmonton's years of being at the bottom of the well has allowed them to build an outstanding young group of forwards. Their best players are all 23 or younger, and they've got some support around the top lines up front with Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner providing secondary scoring while Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff bring veteran stability to a youthful core. Organizational Weaknesses: Namely on the backend, of course. Ryan Whitney is a top pairing guy when in the lineup, but he's only healthy for 2/3s of a season. The Oilers lack a go-to player on the backend as well as reliable depth down the defensive pairings. Goaltending is a question mark; Devan Dubnyk has yet to put together a consistent effort in any season and Nikolai Khabibulin is quickly falling off the cliff in terms of performance. Most of their young players have already missed significant time due to injury, which could be a sign of poor luck and an inability to handle the rigors of the NHL game. Prospect Strengths: When you draft as high as the Oilers have for the last three years, you're bound to have a lot of quality prospects. Nail Yakupov is the gem in a group of solid but unspectacular forwards, but their biggest strength is on the backend; the Oilers have both high-quality bluechip talent and a strong amount of depth throughout the defensive pool led by top prospects Oscar Klefbom and Justin Schultz. Names like Musil, Gernat, and Simpson are sprinkled throughout all levels of Edmonton's developmental system. Prospect Weaknesses: Beyond Nail Yakupov, the Oilers lack in talented forwards and potential NHL forwards in general (although this weakness is mitigated by the players already in their NHL lineup). The best prospects they have up front, while skilled, are all small and will face uphill battles just to crack the NHL roster and some (like Toni Rajala) are longshots to ever return to North American ice. In goal, while they have a couple of decent prospects, the pool of goalies itself is rather limited. Outlook: When you've been the worst team in hockey for three years running, there's nowhere to go but up. The Oilers, bolstered by 1st overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, came out of the gates running and looked like they could fight for a playoff spot as late as December. Then the wheels completely fell off the bus and the Oilers limped to 29th in the NHL before lucking out in the lottery and being awarded the 1st overall pick for the record-tying 3rd straight season. Despite strong seasons from a number of players, the Oilers didn't have the horses to compete in the tight Western Conference and thus faced a long summer for the third straight season. There are positives to every negative, however. One was the arrival of hotshot prospect Nail Yakupov. Another was the developments of the big 3 of Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins. Not to mention the improvements of young players such as Jeff Petry and Devan Dubnyk. Adding another couple of bigtime prospects to the prospect pool (including Anaheim defector Justin Schultz) was just icing on the cake for Steve Tambellini and his crew. The Oilers will look to refocus and aim for a playoff spot next season, although it's more likely that they finish out of the postseason for the 7th straight season. What Tambo and Co. are hoping for is that this team can take that next step within the next few years and become a contender in the future.
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