Mr. Entertainment

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

He's without a doubt the most talented player on the roster.

At his best, right winger Ales Hemsky can be as exciting a performer as there is in the National Hockey League.

He's the Edmonton Oilers' biggest offensive threat, and entering his fifth season, is prime for a breakout campaign.

"That's the motivation, and he's proven that by the way he's come into camp and the work that he's put in," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "We have to make sure we help him along as a coaching staff and make sure he has the right guys to play with."

Hemsky, 24, has been touted as the team's next star since the Oilers selected him 13th overall in the first round of the 2001 NHL entry draft.

He's had his moments of magic.

Hemsky was a big reason the Oilers made it to the Stanley Cup final two seasons ago, scoring six goals and adding 11 assists in 24 playoff games.

He scored the tying goal and then added the winner in the Game 6 first-round clincher against the Detroit Red Wings that year. He also had a pair of game-winning goals against the Carolina Hurricanes in the final.

"Everybody asks me every year if this is going to be my breakout season," Hemsky said. "It's a challenge for me again and I want to step up and be as productive every game and help the team win a lot of games.

"It doesn't matter to me if I get 80 points or whatever, I just want to do whatever it takes to help the team make the playoffs."

Last season, the native of Pardubice, Czech Republic, suffered through an injury-plagued campaign, missing 17 games. He finished the year with 13 goals and 40 assists in 64 games as the Oilers missed the playoffs.

Part of the reason for he and his team's struggles was the short off-season that came with making it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

This year, the Oilers don't have that excuse.

"It's a lot different," Hemsky said. "When we went to the final we had a really short summer and it was tough to get ready for the next season because we only had two months off.

"This time, the summer was really long and I was able to get a good rest, get in good workouts and I'm ready to go."

This season, expectations on Hemsky are higher than they've ever been. Barring injury, he should be the Oilers' leading scorer. And those fortunate enough to play on his line should put up impressive numbers as well.

"When you play with a player like Ales, you have to feed off his patience and be patient yourself," said Dustin Penner, a candidate to start the year with Hemsky on the Oilers' top line.

"At times, it may not look like the puck is going to get to you, but it's going to come there one way or another. If it goes through a pair of skates or shin pads, it doesn't matter, he can find you."

As the cornerstone of the franchise, the Oilers have Hemsky under contract through the 2011-2012 season.

"I love watching him," MacTavish said. "There is a line between entertainment and productivity at times. But from a pure entertainment standpoint, I don't think there are too many guys in the league that are as fun to watch than him. With a full head of speed the things that he does on the ice, the raw skill level is incredible."

ALES HEMSKY

Age: 24

Born: Aug. 13, 1983, Pardubice, Czech Republic

Position: Right wing

Shoots: Right

Height: 6 feet

Weight: 192 pounds

Experience: 5th season in Edmonton and NHL

Drafted: 1st round, 13th overall by Edmonton in 2001

NHL numbers: 50 goals, 144 assists for 194 points in 275 regular-season games; 6 goals, 11 assists for 17 points in 30 playoff contests


Videos

Photos