It’s getting to be that time of the year again! The fantasy projections are coming out, the preseason schedule has been released, and we’re getting footage and interviews from players at events like the Biosteel camp and Perry Pearn’s 3-on-3!
Today I’m going to let you in on who I think will be breaking out in 2015/16 for the Oilers! A couple of names won’t surprise you but I’m pretty certain at least one of them will…
Let’s get to it!
1 – Nail Yakupov – Mr.Yakupov has had a tough go of things the last couple of seasons but I’m of the belief that he was miscast and misused. He wasn’t given the proper linemates at the right times. What I mean by that is when he was put on the top line or lined up with Hall or Nuge, his confidence was low and the confidence put in him by his teammates was lacking.Enter Derek Roy. DR whipped Yak into shape and re-lit the fire that Yakupov once showed during his rookie season when Sam Gagner was his center. Hold on! Is it possible that Gagner and Roy have or had similar playing styles? Smallish centers with high work ethic and excellent playmaking skills and Yakcity thrived with each, no?
So that leaves me to wonder, is Nail Yakupov better off playing along side Connor McDavid or RNH? It’s ridiculously obvious that he needs to be the trigger man not the setup artist. The reason I ask that question is that I get the feeling that Teddy Purcell is being groomed to be the veteran presence on the 2nd line.
This brings us back to the question of Yak’s break out. I believe this is the year that Yak takes off but it’s contingent him playing alongside McJesus or Nugent-Hopkins. If he starts slow and finds himself playing with Anton Lander and Lauri Korpikoski, game over.
Prediction: Give or take a few points, I see Yak joining the 25/25 club for a total of around 50 pts.
2 – Justin Schultz – Jultz will finally find himself with a competent defense partner and that will go a helluva long way in his development. No longer will people be complaining that his defensive game is an issue because his offensive game will make them forget about it.I’m confident that we’ll see Coach McLellan deploy Justin Schultz in a different manner than previous coaches. I see soft zone starts and PP time in his future. I see him getting partnered with Klefbom again as well.It’s hard to ignore the fact that Schultz has actually put up half decent traditional stats. 30 points per season on average is not an easy thing to do in the NHL. Apart from his horrendous +/-, which is hardly relevant anymore, he’s in good company from 2012-2015. He sits alongside players such as Cam Fowler, TJ Brodie, Dion Phaneuf, and Brian Campbell.
Prediction: I think with the new coaching, the new powerplay setup, his TOI getting reduced, and having a (hopefully) stable goalie behind him, we could see Shultz’s totals shoot up into the mid-40s or even the 50s IF the powerplay performs as well as we’re all expecting.
3 – Anton Lander – I believe we’re seeing the emergence of the Swedish Horcoff. Lander finally broke out a bit last year after he was called up from the Oilers’ minor league affiliate in Oklahoma. He picked up 20 points in 38 games, pretty impressive for a 3rd line center on a horrible hockey team I say!That kind of point production leads me to believe that he can be counted on to step in on the 2nd line if need be and continue his work in all facets of the Oilers’ special teams. I mean 4 of his 6 goals did come on the power play last season.
One concern I have with Anton Lander is his faceoff percentage. Last season’s .501 puts him in the Crosby/Getzlaf range, so that’s not bad but Lander and Letestu collectively will be expected to replace Boyd Gordon’s .559.
Prediction: If I were to put a number on his stats I’d say he’s good for 12 goals and maybe 20 assists. He’s going to get the tough zone starts no doubt! And I fully expect him not only to embrace the shut down role but to thrive in it. It wouldn’t surprise me if one day he had a letter on his chest and was part of the leadership core. He works his ass off and doesn’t say one word about it apart from “What else can I do for the team coach?”
Well that is all for this post! I hope you enjoyed the read and let me know in the comments below whether you agree with my selections for Oilers most likely to break out in 2015/16!
– BLH (@beerleagueheroe)