a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

Welcome to Oil Acumen. All Oilers, all the time... Occasionally other stuff.

Friday, 25 May 2012

05/25/12 Hemsky's Age and Drafting Yakupov

With Eberle and Hemsky in the fold, everything looks peachy-keen at right wing for the Oilers. Hemsky has been around so long it's easy to take him for granted and hard to remember that he was drafted eleven long years and several surguries ago.

The peak point production years for NHL players is around 25 years old, give or take. Even if you're suspicious of hockey numbers and advanced stats scare the hell out of you, it's intuitive that once a player reaches a certain age they will slow down. On August 13th Ales Hemsky will turn 29 years old.

Does that mean that he's finished as an NHL player, or that the Oilers made a mistake in re-signing him? Heck no. What it does mean is that not too far down the road he will need to be replaced.

Assuming that Jordan Eberle continues his upward trajectory, or at least carries on as he has been, the Oilers have their top line right winger for the next ten seasons or so (fingers crossed). It's safe to say that Hemsky will continue to be effective for at least the next two years, provided that he stays healthy. When his new contract expires on July 1st of 2014 he will be just over a month removed from his 31st birthday. Two months after that, Nail Yakupov will turn 21 years young.

By the time Yakupov turns 25 on October 6 of 2018 (feel old yet?), Ales Hemsky will already be 35 years old, and well beyond his peak years. Assuming that he isn't retired by then, Hemsky is a good enough player that he may still be useful to an NHL team, but to expect him to be a difference-maker is probably asking too much. Odds that Hemsky will be anywhere near Yakupov at that time?

It's a nice problem to have, really. Assuming that Yakupov joins the organization and all three (Hemsky, Eberle, Yakupov) remain with the team for their whole careers, the Oilers will be set at right wing for the better part of twenty years. Even better, Eberle and Yakupov stand to have their most productive years intersect, possibly on the same team.

But this isn't how things typically shake out. Teams don't hold onto their players forever, and even if they wanted to they couldn't always do it. Even without Yakupov the Oilers have Hemsky for two more good years at least. Any number of things could happen between now and then. Right Wingers Corey Perry and Nathan Horton become UFA eligible after next season. Marian Gaborik, Phil Kessel, Jason Pominville, Ryan Callahan, Dustin Brown and Devin Setoguchi are Unrestricted in 2014. If the Oilers have actually made the playoffs by that time, the team won't be singing the blues if Hemsky doesn't come back when his contract is up.

So on the one hand it makes sense in terms of organizational depth to have Yakupov waiting to take over for Hemsky, but if the Oilers use the pick for an upgrade in another area it wouldn't be the end of the world. Always assuming that Eberle is truly a top line talent, there are plenty of other ways to find players for the second line - including another three drafts before the Oilers even have to worry about it.

Suddenly we're talking about having too many assets. Feels kinda neat.

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