SUN Hockey Pool

Kids are ... ???

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

One of their top two right wingers is a 22-year-old kid with 18 career goals in the NHL.

The second line left winger hasn't played two full seasons in the bigs yet and is coming off a nightmarish season in the AHL.

The starting goalie has never been a starting goalie in the NHL, at least not for a full, 82-game haul.

One of their power play quarterbacks is greener than Kermit's rump. And centres Shawn Horcoff and Jarret Stoll still get ID'd on the road.

YOUTHFUL IMPACT

Despite all of the veteran talent Kevin Lowe hired over the summer, all it takes is one look at the roster to realize the impact kids are going to have on the new-look Edmonton Oilers.

If they play like management hopes and expects, the Oilers could be very, very good.

If they don't, there's trouble.

Craig MacTavish admits it's a gamble, but says they wouldn't be betting the season on these ponies unless they thought it was a sure thing.

"It's all pretty well calculated," said the head coach.

"They're all at the stage of their careers where it's realistic to expect a certain development from them.

"Ales Hemsky, based on the way he played last year, gave us the latitude to move a guy like Mike York. Raffi Torres, he had a great first year, so it's realistic to expect that he can put up those types of numbers again.

"And it's realistic to expect that (Marc-Andre) Bergeron should be part of the first power play unit. Ty Conklin, same thing. Although he's a little older, there are more expectations on him that in any previous camp."

There are expectations on all of them. We all know what Michael Peca and Chris Pronger will bring. Same goes for Jason Smith, Ryan Smyth, Steve Staios and Ethan Moreau.

The kids are the question marks. If they flop, the season could very well flop with them.

"You always feel pressure," admits Hemsky. "This is my third year here, they expect a lot of things from me."

Hemsky, who struggled to stay in the lineup the last time the Oilers were together, was, by all accounts, finally tapping into his immense talent during the lockout.

He helped his Czech League team to a league title, was named MVP of the playoffs and won a gold medal with the Czech Republic's World Championship team. Is he ready to lead this team offensively?

HOPES HE'S READY

"I hope I'm ready, we will see. I think I'm ready. I'm two years older, more confidence, it's supposed to be a fun year for me, we'll see.

"It's hard for me to say, ask me after 10 games."

That's not exactly Mark Messier guaranteeing a Game 6 win in Jersey, but Hemsky was never much of a quote anyway. But if he can do a little talking on the ice, MacTavish's job will be a whole lot easier.

"I feel comfortable that Hemsky can play a top-two line role," said the coach.

"You have to feel that way with the way he played last year.

"And I feel comfortable with Raffi playing 15 minutes every night."

A FAIR QUESTION

After watching Torres fall off the face of the earth last season, the question now becomes: Which was the aberration, Torres coming out of nowhere to score 20 for the Oilers or Torres stuck in a 60-game fog with the Road Runners?

He admits it's a fair question and is as eager as anyone to answer it.

"I'm disappointed with the way last year went, but I'm putting it behind me so I can worry about making sure I come strong out of the gate," he said, adding he would have had to show 20-goal season was no fluke anyway, but he's really under the microscope after the AHL experience.

"I still have a lot to prove here. I know I have the new contract and stuff, but I'm not taking anything for granted.

"I'm going to come in here and make sure I earn everything I get, show them they didn't make a mistake signing me."


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