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Features

Stronger goaltending, defense added to Oilers lineup

Sunday, 08.24.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Is this the year?

It was a tagline from a recent NHL marketing promotion, but it's also been the foremost question on the minds of Edmonton Oilers fans for several offseasons. Is this the year Edmonton, led by its young core, finally returns to prominence?

The rebuilding process has taken longer in Oil Country than it did in Pittsburgh or Chicago or Washington, but the talent is in place. The Oilers buttressed the roster with a couple of interesting free-agent signings, namely forward Benoit Pouliot and defenseman Mark Fayne.

If a couple of young defensemen improve and the goaltending is better, the Oilers could shoot up from the bottom of the Western Conference into Stanley Cup Playoff contention. Reaching the top eight and returning to the postseason would take significant improvements.

Here's a look at the projected 2014-15 lineup for the Oilers:

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German star Draisaitl leads Oilers' top 10 prospects

Sunday, 08.24.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Picking first at the NHL Draft three straight seasons (2010-12) allowed the Edmonton Oilers to select three NHL-ready prospects in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov.

Otherwise, the Oilers have done their best to be patient with their young players.

That could change, however, as Leon Draisaitl, the third pick of the 2014 draft, will have every chance to become the team's fourth top-10 pick in the past five years to play in the NHL as an 18-year-old.

Here's a look at the Oilers' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

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Improving Oilers enter season still a work in progress

Sunday, 08.24.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Derek Van Diest - NHL.com Correspondent

Craig MacTavish continued to remodel the Edmonton Oilers' roster this offseason in an attempt to get the team back into contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Since taking over from Steve Tambellini in April 2013, MacTavish has been among the most active general managers in the NHL.

His mandate is to expedite the Oilers' rebuilding process without sacrificing their young core.

In an effort to improve a team that finished at the bottom of the Western Conference standings last season, MacTavish brought in wings Benoit Pouliot and Teddy Purcell, while adding to his blue line with defensemen Keith Aulie, Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin.

"For us, size was an issue," MacTavish said. "We knew we needed to get bigger and both of these guys are bigger. Teddy Purcell has quite a bit of talent; I think there is still some untapped upside in him that we're hoping to discover.

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Young forwards, goalies among Oilers' five questions

Sunday, 08.24.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Derek Van Diest - NHL.com Correspondent

The Edmonton Oilers were expected to take a step forward in their rebuild last season, but instead slipped back and finished near the bottom of the NHL standings again.

Since taking over the team toward the end of the 2012-13 season, general manager Craig MacTavish has revamped his roster while being careful not to disrupt the Oilers' young, talented core.

MacTavish has been working to bridge the gap between the present and the future, trying to get Edmonton back into contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Oilers have not been there since getting to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2006.

Yet for all the work MacTavish has put in, there seem to be more questions than answers heading into the 2014-2015 season.

Here are five questions facing the Oilers this season:

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Oilers see Pouliot starting to realize his potential

Sunday, 08.24.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Derek Van Diest - NHL.com Correspondent

The No. 4 pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, Benoit Pouliot will be playing for his sixth team in six seasons as a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

Despite Pouliot's travels, the Oilers saw enough in the right wing to offer a five-year, $20-million contract this offseason, hoping he can fill a void in their lineup.

Pouliot, 27, comes off a strong run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the New York Rangers, making him an attractive free agent candidate for the Oilers, who were looking to add size up front.

"It's the work ethic really for me," Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish said. "He's an excellent skater who closes gaps and is able to get quickly to forechecks, and it's something that was sorely lacking in our game throughout our lineup. We think that Benoit is going to provide that, and he's got some ability to finish as well."

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Setoguchi signs one-year contract with Flames

Saturday, 08.23.2014 / 9:33 PM / NHL Free Agency 2014

NHL.com

Forward Devin Setoguchi signed a one-year contract with the Calgary Flames, the team announced Saturday.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Bob McKenzie of TSN reports it is worth $750,000.

"I think he's a player who, in a lot of ways, is at the crossroads of his career and has realized that he needs to really try to dig in here and re-establish his career," general manager Brad Treliving told the Calgary Sun. "We think it's a good fit, and ultimately the way the contract is structured, it’s a mitigated risk and there's some upside here. ... Just talking to him and spending some time with him, I think he's a motivated player."

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Sissons, Leipsic know chance awaits with Predators

Saturday, 08.23.2014 / 1:59 PM / Prospects

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO -- With the Nashville Predators in transition, forward prospects Colton Sissons and Brandon Leipsic are hoping to get a long look at training camp.

"They always want the young guys to get stronger and keep developing. That's the standard for us younger guys in the organization," Sissons said Saturday at the 2014 NHLPA Rookie Showcase. "Times are changing there and there's a new coach and a little bit of turnover, so I think they're looking for younger guys like us to make a push at camp to make the roster this year. I think they'll give us a pretty good opportunity for that."

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Panthers prospect Ekblad will be recovered for camp

Saturday, 08.23.2014 / 1:09 PM / Prospects

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Slightly more than two weeks after sustaining a concussion that briefly halted an eventful summer, Florida Panthers prospect Aaron Ekblad said he is close to being fully recovered and ready for training camp.

"The concussion is almost perfectly, completely gone. I feel great," Ekblad said Saturday at the 2014 NHLPA Rookie Showcase. "I've been skating all this week and I feel good."

The No. 1 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, the defenseman was injured playing for the Canada World Junior team in an exhibition game against the Czech Republic. The 18-year-old said he has been symptom free for five days.

"The work I'm doing is just getting back to normal paces. Getting game ready on the ice and just doing little things off the ice to get back up to what I was doing before," Ekblad said. "[Florida's] team docs wanted to talk to me and see how I was feeling. I kept in touch with them."

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Family ties help prospects acclimate to NHL level

Saturday, 08.23.2014 / 11:30 AM / Prospects

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO – Family is an integral part of hockey success for most NHL hopefuls. For top prospects boasting NHL bloodlines, however, family can provide a few additional benefits, including a slightly greater appreciation for exactly what goes into making the NHL and, ultimately, staying there.

Among the 33 prospects at the NHLPA Rookie Showcase, few could attest to the finer details of life in the NHL quite like Sam Reinhart.

The No. 2 pick, by the Buffalo Sabres, at the 2014 NHL Draft is the son of longtime NHL player Paul Reinhart. Sam's brother, Max, was the Calgary Flames' third-round pick (No. 64) in the 2010 draft and another brother, Griffin, was selected No. 4 by the New York Islanders in 2012.

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Gaudreau, Bennett excited about futures with Flames

Saturday, 08.23.2014 / 10:26 AM / Prospects

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO – Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau followed alternate paths to the NHL. But when the two Calgary Flames prospects report for training camp in September, they'll be the focal point of an organization looking for a return to glory after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past five seasons.

The excitement which can accompany a rebuilding process often serves as motivation for those tasked with making the transformation happen.

"I definitely feel that all the time. There are younger guys in the organization that I think are going to help the organization become better," Gaudreau said at the NHLPA's annual Rookie Showcase. "It's exciting to be a part of that since you're a young guy and around a whole bunch of other younger guys."

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Quote of the Day

Your team is going to want to recapture the feeling. What they're going to have to figure out is they're going to have to rewrite the story. Because you're going to rewrite the story doesn't mean you want a different end. It's just that you're going to have to learn that there's different challenges to get there, and if you're going to try and tap the same feeling, it ain't going to happen.

— Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi on maintaining their success from last season