Never mind Hall or Eberle or Paajarvi or Omark, who’s that 83 kid?
Who’s the slick Czech who’s been flying around the pre-season, dangling and dishing the puck like he should have gone ahead of both Taylor and Tyler?
Ales Hemsky, that’s who,
Apparently the exuberance and vitality of youth is contagious because the 27-year-old feels like a kid again.
The veteran winger has more jump than a trampoline full of frogs and it’s not going unnoticed.
“By the way he’s been moving in practice and in the drills,” said GM Steve Tambellini. “He looks excited to me.”
Why wouldn’t he be?
Hemsky’s been given a double dose of adrenaline this camp. First of all he’s back in the mix after getting last season cut short by shoulder surgery, followed by 10 months of rehab.
Second of all, he’s not coming back to the same old collection of soft, ham-handed tweeners that turned missing the playoffs into an art form.
This is the strongest complement of talent Hemsky has ever played with, outside of the Czech national team, and that’s bound to put a spring in anybody’s skate.
“I’m just excited about the season, it’s fun to play hockey again,” he said after Tuesday’s workout at Millennium Place. “I just worked out for seven, eight months, it’s been a long summer for me.
“And we have lots of skill, lots of good young guys coming up, so it’s just fun to be part of it.”
While he’s never reached a superstar’s stratosphere (he’s never even played in an All-Star Game), Hemsky has flirted with it from time to time, and his high end can be scary good. Given the possible linemates and depth of offence this year, the potential to see more of Hemsky at his best has everyone as jacked as he is.
“When you’re a skill player, you know when players can think with you and match that type of creativity,” said Tambellini. “I think he’s seeing the future is those type of players and that some of those players are coming right now.”
Supporters of the 13th pick overall in 2001 have long maintained that Hemsky’s never reached his 90-point potential because he’s never had players of his own ilk to work with. Ryan Smyth went hard to the net to cash in on deflections and rebounds, Dustin Penner has very good hands for a 250-pounder and Shawn Horcoff is one of the better two-way guys in the league, but none is the kind of creative, speedy, one-shot scorer that, say, Magnus Paajarvi might become.
“Magnus can do it at a fast, fast pace,” said Hemsky. “He’s a really skilled guy who can do a lot with his speed and he’s really smart. He’s got a good release and can shoot the puck. And he’s good in the cycle down low, he doesn’t stand around. It’s really good for me.”
The irony is that Hemsky hasn’t hit the 90-point plateau because he didn’t have the linemates, but now that Edmonton’s offence has the potential to be this deep, and power play time and premium ice can be spread around, he might miss it again.
And it won’t matter.
“It would be nice to have guys with 90 or 100 points, but if everybody chips in you don’t need it,” he said. “You’ll have everybody playing that role. Now we have good depth. If one line has an off game, the other two lines can step up and play the role.
“We can’t rely on one guy, two guys or one line. We need everybody. And if we get everybody going it’s going to be fun.”