Strength down the middle is a necessity to succeed in many aspects in the game of hockey and Oilers organization has been lacking depth and talent in area for some time. But that is not the case anymore after top brass got a good look at some up and comers over training camp and the preseason.
A pleasant surprise was the play and maturity of Mike Comrie a 3rd round pick in 1999 who has play the last couple seasons with Michigan. An exceptional playmaker with great vision he often draws players to him to allow his linemates space. Despite his size at 5-9/175 he shows tremendous grit and tenacity and is willing to get his nose dirty and roam in traffic. Has the skills and desire to become a solid center but needs to bulk up to 190 lbs to handle the day to day pounding.
His rival in the college ranks Michigan Spartan stand out Shawn Horcoff received rave reviews as well. Displaying the defensive awareness that made him the defensive forward of the year and showed the spark of offensive prowess he had last season while battling Mike Comrie for the scoring title in CCHA. Has an ideal combination of size and quickness with good face off capabilities and together they should make a solid one-two counter punch at center in the near future.
The third player that came out of the U.S. college ranks was Alaska born Brian Swanson. Had great career at Colorado College compiling 88 goals and 144 assists in four years, solid first year as a pro in Hamilton.
Centering a line with Dan Cleary and Michel Riesen he was second in rookie scoring with 59 points in 69 games, 7 points in 10 games in the playoff’s. A slick skating creative center who sets up his linemates well, has greatly improved his defensive awareness and is an active participant grinding it out along the boards and down low.
Last but not least is home town boy Jason Chimera who has excellent straight away speed in the Marchant mold.
Misses a few scoring opportunities due to his speed at time but could turn into an effective checking center that can shoulder some penalty time. His fine defensive play in Hamilton last year coupled with the fact he can play the wing should give him a call up this season.
With the fact that three of the fab four are Hobey Baker finalist and Jason’s strong showing in the WHL and in Hamilton shows the Quartet has the skills that will one day help this team in the near future.