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Stauffer Stuff: October 26

by Bob Stauffer / Edmonton Oilers
Taylor Hall has teamed with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to form a dangerous line  (photo by Andy Devln / EOHC)

Sometimes you have to have a true appreciation for what you are experiencing and on that note I hope Oilers fans “get it” with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Because we are witnessing the emergence of something truly special; something which in a few years from now you will remember as the genesis of the transformation of the Edmonton Oilers into becoming an elite-level NHL organization!

Contrary to the notion put forward by many ink-stained wretches in the media who are dismissive in comparing the current crop of young Oilers’ stars to the greats of Oilers lore; dare I suggest they measure up quite well if you factor in pedigree and eras.

Let’s start with RNH, who will unquestionably remain in Edmonton past the nine-game mark (like was that really even in question based on his body of work to start the year?).

The #1 overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft is a sublimely skilled forward with tremendous vision and underrated defensive ability and competitiveness. RNH has already shown he has the make-up to be a first-line center for the next 15 years or so.

But, he is not Wayne Gretzky say his detractors.

Well I can tell you that is partially true, because RNH has a far better handle of defensive responsibilities than Gretzky did at the same age. And as opposed to 1980 when Gretzky was shooting against 5’9” and 5’ 10” goaltenders and facing teams that played without structure and process in their own zone, RNH is up against a different animal in this day and age in the NHL.
The fact that Gretzky endorsed RNH in a recent interview with TSN’s Darren Dreger, telling Dreger that Nugent-Hopkins is one of the best young players to come in the NHL in a long time should tell you something!

Gretzky, who had to overcome prejudices of his own about under-sized skilled players when he broke into the NHL over three decades ago, knows how good Nugent-Hopkins is -- something which the “Great One” communicated to the highest levels of the Oilers organization.
Taylor Hall’s electrifying speed and courageous style of play combined with innate offensive skills gives the Oilers a burner on the left wing capable of changing games with one shift.
Hall conjures up images of Mark Messier, except that the #1 overall pick from the 2010 draft is actually better than Messier was at 19!

Messier might have been a better fighter and a scarier player because of his unpredictability on the ice, but he definitely lacked the offensive polish that Hall has at the same age
Jordan Eberle, unlike Hall and RNH may not be a #1 overall pick, though if you did a re-draft of the 2008 NHL draft there is little question he would have gone in the top 10 instead of 22nd that year. He appears to be the perfect “wing man” for Hall and RNH, capable of keeping plays alive on the cycle and beating defencemen off the rush.

His flair for the dramatic, as exhibited by his massive presence during a couple of appearances at the World Juniors is likely a precursor of things to come down the road once the Oilers organically evolve into an elite NHL club.

Opposition teams are already having tremendous difficulty handling the three of them together.
In the Oilers victory against defending Western Conference Champion Vancouver Tuesday night there were two games being played. One when Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle were on the ice; and another game when the Oilers other lines went on the ice.

In the third period when the kids were on the ice, the Oilers were on the attack. When the kids were off, the Oil were under siege.

Oilers Head Coach Tom Renney’s handling of the kids is going to be interesting to watch because my guess is their play and production will warrant more ice time as the season goes on.
The reality is that Nugent-Hopkins could very well have 11-12 points through eight games if Hall and Eberle had a little more puck luck.

In the modern era of professional sport with salary caps and free agency, dynasties are few and far between. As for hockey, the game is played at simply too high of a level to ever see the prolific scoring of the 1980’s again. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize and appreciate the here and now.

So, in terms of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and Eberle enjoy the moment, because these three are just scratching the surface, and it is going to be a heck of a ride.

Bob Stauffer is the Colour Analyst on the Oilers Radio Network and Host of “Oilers Now” on the Oilers Radio Rights Holder 630 CHED

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