2013 EDMONTON OILERS – GAME 1 vs VANCOUVER

Nail Yakupov of the Edmonton Oilers makes his NHL debut tonight

Nail Yakupov of the Edmonton Oilers makes his NHL debut tonight.

Well, here we are.  The time has arrived for the 2013 Edmonton Oilers to get their season underway, and it’s against top team and major rival Vancouver.  The Canucks got pounded 7-3 by the Anaheim Ducks last night, so this could go one of two ways – either they’ll be pumped up, focused and angry, looking for revenge; or they’ll be tired and over-emotional.

As for the Oilers, they’re looking to make some noise this season.  A young but ever-improving line-up is finally ready to take the next step and become a playoff team, and that should be the goal.

Forward Nail Yakupov, the 1st Overall Draft pick in 2012, and defenceman Justin Schultz, the free-agent phenomenon signed by Edmonton last summer – much to the chagrin of Ducks fans, as he was originally drafted by them in 2008 – look to make their NHL debut’s tonight, with both being strong contenders for Rookie of the Year Award this season, although this year’s crop is extremely strong – they are contending with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz (STL), Mikael Granlund (MIN), Cory Conacher (TBL), Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA), Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), Mark Scheifele (WPG), Dougie Hamilton (BOS), Chris Kreider (NYR), Brendan Smith (DET) and others.

Yakupov is an electrifying sniper, with one of the best shots I’ve ever seen and speed to burn, along with a penchant for celebrating goals with flair.  Schultz meanwhile is an excellent two-way defender who tore apart the AHL this year – his first pro year after a stunning NCAA career – putting up 48 points in just 34 games for the Oklahoma City Barons to end up 2nd in league scoring by the time of his arrival in Edmonton for the NHL season, unbelievable numbers for any player let alone a defenceman.  Whilst he should be expected to struggle defensively with the speed and strength of NHL players, as all rookie defenceman do, he will likely put up good-to-great scoring numbers.

The line combinations for tonight look like this:

Hall—Nugent-Hopkins—Eberle

Yakupov—Gagner—Hemsky

Smyth—Horcoff—Hartikainen

Eager—Belanger—Petrell

Smid—Petry

N.Schultz—J.Schultz

Whitney—Potter

Dubnyk

Danis

Paajarvi, Hordichuk and new acquisition Mark Fistric are the scratches.  View the edmontonoilers.com preview here.

This should be a great game.  Go Oilers!

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