SUN Hockey Pool

Young guns hot for Oilers spots

JASON HILLS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

EDMONTON -- The chopping block will soon be out and the Edmonton Oilers talented young guns have just a few more opportunities to earn a spot on the roster.

It's widely expected the Oilers will trim their roster down considerably after their next two games. The Oilers tangle with the Flames in Calgary tonight, then make a trip to Phoenix Monday to take on Wayne and the boys.

"There are some guys that have separated themselves and that is important that we start to see some of that," said Oilers assistant coach Billy Moores.

"You don't want to put yourself in a situation where you're in the sixth or seventh game and the fight for some spots is still cloudy."

Moores felt some players were able to jump ahead of the pack in their 5-4 loss Thursday to the Vancouver Canucks, but he was hesitant to name names.

Andrew Cogliano should get some consideration to be on the list.

The 2005 Oilers first rounder has gotten stronger through the exhibition season, saving his best effort to date with a two-point effort in the Oilers' last game.

Robert Nilsson has received glowing reviews from the coaching staff and the second-line right winger position is his to loose. Sam Gagner has looked at home on the top line with Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner. Kyle Brodziak is an early favourite to also earn a roster spot.

"It's good to see. The last couple of years there was a lot of hype around me, but this year I have been able to fly under the radar," said forward Rob Schremp.

"Over the next couple of games, I am just going to play my game. It's not like pee-wee where I can dominate a game by myself."

For the first time in a long time, the Oilers are in a situation where their youth is really pushing some of the veteran talent.

"The fans should be excited, but the guys should be, too," said Staios. "I think this shows that over the next few years, we'll have some good young talent coming up."

The Oilers defence corps was a definite weak spot last season, with no real puck mover, but after a summer overhaul, the Oilers' depth on the blueline quickly went from rags to riches. All of a sudden, the team has nine NHL-ready defencemen.

"We push ourselves, but you have to come in and compete, but for the young guys this is an opportunity for them to make an impression," said Staios.


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