It's not too early to be on the lookout for potential NHL sleepers. Especially if you can isolate a team that didn’t qualify for the NHL Playoffs last season.

2013-2014 NHL Sleepers

Edmonton Oilers (20-1 to win the Stanley Cup)

Looking at the current NHL odds to win the Stanley Cup in 2014 the Edmonton Oilers at 20-1 jumped off the screen at me. I am sure that many of you out there are scratching your head at this choice considering the Oilers finished 12th overall in the Western Conference last season while finishing 10 points behind Minnesota for the 8th and final playoff spot. However, before you question my sanity let me run this by you. The Oilers have the same or lower odds as 8 teams that qualified for the playoffs a year ago. I have listed those teams below to review for our NHL picks.

  • New York Rangers 20-1
  • Minnesota Wild 20-1
  • Anaheim Ducks 22-1
  • Montreal Canadians 25-1
  • Toronto Maple Leafs 25-1
  • Washington Capitals 25-1
  • New York Islanders 33-1
  • Ottawa Senators 33-1

Image previewWhen researching the Oilers the most notable observation I made was there are 12 former first round draft choices on their current roster. A huge positive for the Oilers organization in my eyes is in spite of not qualifying for the playoffs since their Stanley Cup Final run back in 2005-2006. They have drafted extremely well and have done a good job of acquiring once prized possessions of other organizations at a very affordable rate. The organization has also done a terrific job of developing and being patient with their young talent. Well it’s time this club finally comes of age and puts it all together. This can surely be the year they take the league by storm. Obviously the odds-makers are seeing the same potential I am seeing based on their numbers. Edmonton will be a very dangerous club in 2013-2014 especially if they clean things up in their own zone, and goaltender Devan Dubnyk continues his steady improvement. Below is the list of the 12 former 1st round draft choices on the Oilers current roster.

1.     Nail Yakupov-1st pick overall in the 2012 entry draft by Edmonton. The right winger had a solid rookie campaign with 17 goals, 14 assists, and 31 points while playing in all 48 regular season games.

2.     Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-1st pick overall in the 2011 entry draft by Edmonton. The 20-year old center had a disappointing 2012-2013 campaign scoring just 4 goals while adding 20 assists for 24 points in 40 games. He has a huge upside and I look for him to bounce back with a solid 2013-2014 season.

3.     Taylor Hall-1st overall in the 2010 entry draft by Edmonton. It was widely recognized that Hall and 2nd overall pick in that draft Tyler Seguin were head and shoulders above everyone else in the pool of players that were available. Early return would indicate that the Oilers chose the better of the two players as Seguin vastly underachieved in his first 3 years in the league while with the Boston Bruins. Hall has had 3 solid seasons totaling 65 goals and 80 assists good for 145 points in 171 games. He’s only going to get better and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him emerge as a top 10 player in the league over the next couple of years.

4.     Jordan Eberle-22nd overall pick in the 2008 entry draft by Edmonton. Eberle has turned out to be a very productive player for the Oilers. Last season he tallied 16 goals and 21 assists good for 37 points while playing in all 48 games. He really came into his own during the 2011-2012 season scoring 34 goals while assisting on 42 others good for 76 points in 78 games. You couldn’t expect nor ask more from Eberle since he joined the organization.

5.     Sam Gagner-6th overall pick in the 2007 entry draft by Edmonton. Since the 2007-2008 season when he broke into the league with Edmonton Gagner has scored 13 goals or more in each of his first 6 seasons. Last year he put together a stellar campaign scoring 14 goals with 24 assists and 38 points while playing in all 48 games.

6.     Deva Dubnyk-14th overall pick in the 2004 entry draft by Edmonton. Dubnyk has emerged as the clear cut #1 goaltender for the Oilers. Last season Dubnyk appeared in 38 of 48 regular season games while posting a solid .920 save percentage and a solid 2.57 GAA including 2 shutouts. With some improved play in their own end of the rink by his teammates look for Dubnyk to really shine in the upcoming season.

7.     Ladislav Smid-19th overall pick by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2004 entry draft. The 6’3 and 207 pound defensemen has been with the Oiler organization since 2006-2007.

8.     Dave Perron-26th overall pick by the St. Louis Blues in the 2007 entry draft. Perron was obtained in a trade during this offseason. He tallied 10 goals and 25 assists for 35 points while playing in all 48 regular season games with the Blues a year ago.

9.     Dennis Grebeshkov-18th overall pick by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2002 entry draft.

10.  Ales Hemsky-13th overall pick by Edmonton in the 2001 entry draft. Hemsky has never reached his full potential but still has a ton of skill in the offensive zone while still possessing above average speed. Hemsky had 9 goals and 11 assists for 20 points in 38 games last season.

11.  Ryan Smyth-6th overall pick by Edmonton in the 1994 entry draft. Smyth has sandwiched in stops with Colorado and Los Angeles between his long tenure with the Oilers organization. Smyth has scored 30 goals or more 4 times in his NHL career, and 20 or more 11 times. He’s nowhere near the player he used to be at 37 years old for obvious reasons. However, he brings a vast amount of leadership ability and character to the table which is essential on a young club.

12.  Boyd Gordon-17th overall pick by Washington in the 2002 entry draft. Gordon was acquired from Phoenix in the offseason where the 6’0 and 200 pound center scored 4 goals and had 10 assists good for 14 points while playing in all 48 games.

Justin Schultz is another player to keep an eye on. He’s a former 2nd round draft choice in 2008 by the Oilers. Schultz is an offensive minded defenseman who scored 8 goals and had 19 assists for 27 points while playing in all 48 games last season. Schultz needs to improve play in his own zone if he wants to be considered an elite player in the NHL. Last season he was a -17 which is a horrible number considering it was just a 48-game season.

The Oilers were able to obtain a key free agent acquisition this offseason with veteran defensemen Andrew Ference. Ference has spent the last 7 seasons with the Boston Bruins. He played in all 48 regular season games last year scoring 4 goals and had 9 assists for 13 points. Ference has improved his play dramatically in his own zone as his career has progressed. He was a very respectable +9 last year during the regular season with the Bruins. Ference also played in 2 Stanley Cup Finals with the Bruins in 2011 and 2013. In the 2010-2011 season when Boston won the Stanley Cup Ference was a career best +22. In 2012-2013 Ference posted another career milestone when he accumulated 24 points in 72 games played.

The new Oilers coach will be Dallas Eakins. Eakins was the coach of the AHL Toronto Marlies the last 2 seasons. The Marlies advanced to the Calder Cup finals in 2012 and advanced to the 2nd round in 2013. Eakins was one of the most coveted commodities this offseason for teams looking for a new head coach.

Other Sleepers:

  • Toronto Maple Leafs (25-1)
  • Washington Capitals (25-1)
  • New York Islanders (33-1)
  • Columbus Bluejackets (40-1)