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Now that the lockout is over and the regular season is set to begin on Saturday, there are many questions leading into the highly anticipated 2012-2013 NHL season. One of the more talked about questions is: Can the Oilers make the playoffs? Over the past few seasons, the Oilers have been in a rebuilding stage, and they are certainly a team that has plenty of potential. But the question is whether this is year the Oilers re-emerge as a playoff team or not. Many people will say that this team is too young, and that they have not reached that "level" yet. I disagree.

The Oilers are a team on the rise. In fact, they are rising faster than any other team in the league. In recent seasons, they have brought on forwards Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and Yakupov are the last three first overall draft picks). They also signed defenseman Justin Schultz out of the University of Wisconsin this summer, and he has already lit up the AHL in scoring during the lockout with the Oklahoma City Barons (with 18 goals, 30 assists, for 48 points in 34 games). 

Eberle played in the NHL All-Star Game last year, and he certainly deserved that honor, as he had 34 goals and 42 assists, for 76 points. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was a Calder Trophy finalist, and Taylor Hall continued to improve in his second year in the NHL. The trio is certainly going to produce success for years to come. Now add Nail Yakupov to the mix. The 2012 number one overall pick dominated the OHL, with 170 points in 107 games. Also expect defenseman Justin Schultz to contribute a lot offensively, and to be a Norris Trophy candidate for years to come. It's safe to say that Edmonton's offense will be a key to this team's success for years to come.

However, Edmonton's scoring ability will not matter at all unless goaltender Devan Dubnyk has a strong season. The Canadian goaltender's numbers have improved gradually over his three seasons in the NHL, and he is poised for a breakout season this year. Dubnyk's play is the biggest factor in how successful the Oilers will be this season. Should he play badly, he will likely be traded in the off-season, as he will have one year left on his contract after this season. The Oilers need stability in net, and Devon Dubnyk definitely has the potential to fill that role for Edmonton.

While I think Edmonton can make the playoffs, I do not think they are a top team in the NHL (yes Sports Illustrated, I'm looking at you because of your ridiculous power-rankings) yet. In three to five years, the Oilers will be one of the top teams in the league. But after missing the playoffs every year since their Stanley Cup Finals run in 2006, they should not be considered a top team. They will likely be a lower-seeded playoff team this year, and will continue to rise in the years to come.

Whether you think the Oilers can make the playoffs or not, they are certainly going to be an interesting and exciting team to watch this season. 

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01/15/2013 11:03am

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01/16/2013 11:35pm

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