Northern Alberta Youth Movement
A few players will make the jump from the farm to play significant roles in the upcoming season. Two of Hamilton’s top point producers Dan Cleary and Michel Riesen are poised to grab vacancies on the top two lines. With Alexander Selivanov and German Titov not being resigned due to inconsistency and salaries their spots could be taken by these two skilled goal scorers.
Both Dan and Michel are having an excellent camp and preseason with Riesen picking up 3 goals and 1 assist in 3 games while showing more resiliency in the physical game than in the past. A power play ace in the Swiss League and in Hamilton Michel may replace Selivanov’s goals on the power play and give Edmonton a legitimate sniper to patrol the slot and perimeter. Even though he lacks the physical grittiness the coach and general manager desire in their players he can make up for it in goal production and being defensively responsible.
Finally it looks like Dan is beginning to take his game to the next level after being brought up too early by Chicago when he was drafted. He possess the size and skill to potentially be a regular 25 goal scorer with grittiness and toughness to complete the package. Has driven to the net with authority and displayed strong play along the boards and down low over the past three games. His desire and determination that was thought to be lacking in the past is bubbling over and that alone is the determining factor that makes him a solid two-way winger.
A few other players that fit the mold as well and are finally beginning to realize their potential. Chad Kilger and Eric Brewer are both on the cusp of becoming solid additions to this team. Both players were in the same predicament by being on teams that brought them into the NHL too quickly and stunted their growth but not beyond repair.
Now that Chad is confident in his abilities and is using his size to his advantage over the last couple games and through training camp his impact could help push his team over the hump. If he can claim the second line center position and score 20 goals while checking the other teams larger centers he will take tremendous pressure of Doug Weight.
The defenseman of the group was a fifth overall pick in 1997 and displayed some talent in his rookie season with the Islanders but regressed a little in his second year. The change of scenery and having a position coach in Charlie Huddy may bring out the best in him, he can skate for a big man and has a booming slap shot which will be used on the second powerplay unit.
Big George and Josh Green once he returns from injury will both be looked upon to contibute in the physical department and pick up the occasional goal and fit the youth brigade being served up to the Oiler faithful.Time will tell over the next six months if this band of promising players can help drive their team farther into the post season.