Hemsky likes Oilers' newfound depth

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:44 PM ET

TORONTO - It's not often you see a 27-year-old veteran of eight NHL seasons running drills with wide-eyed rookies at a mid-summer development camp -- but Ales Hemsky can't help it, he feels like a kid again.

He's also test-driving a surgically repaired right shoulder, but the kid part is definitely real.

He's going to be healthier than he's been in years, his buddy Ryan Smyth is back and the Oilers filled so many holes on July 1 there's a chance they might actually be half decent this season. After five straight seasons out of the playoffs, that's enough to bring out the inner child in anyone.

"Every year we talk about promise at the beginning of the season and then, at the end, it's something else," said Hemsky, trying to think of a word that means the exact opposite of promise. "But with the free agents they just added and the depth we had with the young guys, and another crop of young guys coming in, we've never had this kind of depth before.

"It will be fun to see them and see how the team will end up."

A future that seemed so far away for so many years seems a lot closer now. Close enough that Hemsky, heading into the last year of his contract before he's eligible for unrestricted free agency, likes the idea of sticking around and seeing this thing through.

"It's tough losing," he said. "It's been hard the last five years. It's never easy losing and to never make the playoffs. But it's a new generation now. You look at how the team can be long term, it can only make you happy for the future."

The short term is also much more palatable after GM Steve Tambellini brought in Ryan Smyth on June 26 and five new bodies on July 1.

"Of course," he said. "The players they signed will fit really well.

"We signed the things we didn't have. The toughness with (Ben) Eager and (Darcy) Hordichuk, the centre (Eric Belanger) for the faceoffs, we get a little bigger with (Andy) Sutton. Good fits. It's what we needed.

"This year might even be good for the playoffs. I want to make the playoffs, it's the only goal I have. Hopefully we can do it."

Hemsky, who hasn't discussed an extension with the Oilers, says testing the open market for the sake of testing the open market isn't a high priority.

"I never really liked to change places," he said. "I met a lot of great people here to help me. I have a lot of good friends here, I have a girlfriend who lives here. I can't complain. I don't mind the city. Everybody was nice to me every time I went out, I can't complain."

Maybe he and Smyth, also in the last year of his deal, will re-up at the same time.

"I played with him for a long time, it's nice to see a guy like that come back," grinned Hemsky. "He's the type of guy we've missed for a long time. Power play, in front of the net, leadership.

"We miss what he brings. It's a great addition for us. He's a leader on the ice. Even if he doesn't talk you can see he works every shift. He's in every battle and he cares about the team."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

TWITTER.com/SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


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