It is that time of the season when we take our tv remotes and change the channel from Tim Allens dreadful Santa Claus movies and switch on over to TSN for the World Junior U20 Hockey Championship, and from the perspective of an Oiler fan, it couldn't come at a better time.
Edmonton, after raising the hopes of Oil nation with a five game road winning streak, have knocked off four straight home losses, plummeting them to the cellar of the Western Conference....Merry Christmas Oil fans.
So while our beloved team continues to struggle and find its way in the ultra tough Western Conference, take some time Oiler fans to watch the WJC and for a few short moments, forget the pain and frustration liked to being a dedicated Oilers fan.
Last night I was at the Canada/Finland pre-tournament game in Calgary, and judging by Canada's team and style of play, I feel a sixth straight gold medal could be at hand. But there were also three Oiler draft picks playing in last nights game, and Edmonton, as much as it has been overspoken year after year, our future does look bright. The Oilers have five total draft picks playing in this years WJC, and here is a rundown of the talent that could very soon dawn the Oilers jersey.
1. Jordan Eberle. Of course I am going to start with Canadian content, and why shouldn't I? Of all the Oiler draft picks in this years WJC Jordan is the closest to being NHL ready. Being only 5'10 and a 174 lbs will be his only deterent, but it doesn't stop him from going into the corners. This year Jordan is second in WHL scoring with 60 points in 28 games, and he not only has the talent to lead this tournament in scoring, but he has the character make-up to put this team on his back and carry them to a sixth straight championship. Although Canada has only played two preseason games, Eberle already has four points, and he is very exciting to watch.
2. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson. Edmonton's 10th overall pick in last years draft isn't too far off from the NHL either, but will probably need to spend some time playing in the AHL to adjust to the North American game before he gets a real shot at the NHL. Being a bigger body, Magnus can drive to the net with speed and grit, and has a scoring touch. He has tallied 12 points in 16 games for Timra in the Swedish League, and I expect he will put up good numbers with team Sweden this year.
3. Anton Lander. Another Swedish born player who is also a teammate of Paajarvi-Svensson's in Timra. He is a very solid two-way forward with some scoring potential, having tallied 11pts in 31 games this year playing against men in Sweden. I don't know if Lander will ever make the NHL in my opinion, but as the 40th overal draft pick in last years draft, Edmonton sure thinks he can crack the squad somewhere down the road.
4. Toni Rajala. Toni was drafted 101st overall in last years draft and has certainly shown that he can score at every level he has played at. He led the 2009 U18 World Hockey Championships in scoring with 19 points and was named the tournaments top player, and this year he has tallied 33 pts in 31 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. Despite his scoring ability, this Finnish born player is very small, 5'10, 164 lbs, and watching him play last night, I can definately see that he is a perimeter type player and doesn't really muck it up. Right now with Edmonton's surplus of small forwards, I don't see Rajala playing in Edmonton any time soon.
5. Teemu Hartikainen. A Finnish born power forward type player, Teemu has drawn comparisons to Tomas Holmstrom. He definately has the size at 6'1, 200lbs, and judging from last nights game he definately does not shy away from contact and does drive the net. He has only played in three games this year due to a mandatory 6 month army service term, but in those three games he has two goals, and was the best player on the ice for team Finland last night. Despite being drafted 163rd overal in the 08 draft, I think Edmonton has a good find in Hartikainen.
And of course, who can forget about Taylor Hall. He isn't an Oiler draft pick, but if Edmonton continues like it is, there will be an opportunity to grab the 1st overall pick in this years lottery, which could definately land Hall. He scored a beauty last night, and what I really love about Hall is that he goes right after the defenders. He challenges them to beat him. He has drive and finish, and with some refinement and a few more pounds of muscle, Hall could be that goal scorer that Edmonton has been looking for for what seems like an eternity.
Enjoy watching these prospects Oil fans and let your imagination take you to what could be a future Oiler dynasty.