Today, my Buffalo Sabres Wish List series shines the bright, hot spotlight on the Edmonton Oilers. Much like the Buffalo Sabres, the Oilers are a young team loaded with promising, yet unproven, talent. Selecting one of their young players for this wish list, then, amounted to a lot of guesswork. Which member of the Oilers will maximize his potential, AND be able to find a niche in Ron Rolston’s system in Buffalo?
After thinking long and hard about it, I decided it was nearly impossible to just pick one player. So I picked two! My rules are easily broken.
*Why didn’t I pick three, or four? Come on – I do have some standards, you know.
If I did a poll (hint: look at the bottom of this page!) asking you if you would rather have Yakupov or Eberle, I am willing to bet that a majority of our readers would pick Yakupov. Let’s face it: he’s the sexy pick. Draft first overall in the 2012 entry draft, Yakupov jumped right into the NHL last season, playing in all 48 of his team’s regular season games and putting up numbers of 17-14-31. That projects to 53 points in an 82-game season – pretty darn good for a rookie, no?
Yakupov is a blast to watch play, mostly because he shoots lasers for one-timers and can go 0-60 in half a second – it’s true! Yeah, the Sabres should could use him . . . and you know what’s a nice, added bonus? The fact that he’s Russian, which would give Buffalo a nice core of young Russians (along with Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov) who can support each other off the ice and feed off of each other on the ice. Don’t ever underestimate the connection playing with your countrymen can have on players, especially young ones such as these.
Let’s not sleep on Eberle, however. His rookie season saw him go for 18-25-43 in just 69 games, a pace that would have gotten him 51 points had he played a full 82 games. Those numbers are almost identical to Yakupov’s rookie output . . . but Eberle was “only” drafted 22nd in 2008, and believe me, he was no sure thing when the Oilers were weighing their options. In his second season, Eberle took off, netting 34 goals and wracking up 76 points in 79 games played, and last year he was on a pace to tally 63 points in an 82-game season. He has a knack for finding the back of the net, and if his efforts in the preseason are any indication of what he’s about to do this season, he’ll more than prove that he belongs on this list.
Time to vote – a rarity for my wish list series! If you could only take one, who would it be: the sensational yet still unproven Nail Yakupov, or the kid who has been proving he deserved to go higher in the 2008 draft, Jordan Eberle? As always, I’d love to hear your reasons for your vote, below or on Twitter @theamazingMrS.