Shawn Horcoff was on pace for a career season in 2007-2008, but it was unfortunately cut short due to injury. His numbers were much different than his career totals. His goal total for 53 games was 21, only one off of his career high – which he set in 79 games in 2005-2006. Does he have the talent to build off of those numbers, or was it an aberration?
Horcoff has always been known as a dedicated, two-way center that wears his heart on his sleeve. He has worked a lot over the past few years to add an offensive element to his game – his shot. In the past, he has possessed an average wrist shot. Not great, not bad. However, last season he started to show glimpses of his hard work paying off. He was scoring legitimate sniper goals – like beating goalies clean from the slot area. He has never been someone that is thought of as a dynamic offensive player – but that is where his career appears to be heading. The Oilers have one of the most explosive offences in the West, and Horcoff will be right at the top of that for at least another four or five years.
Stud rookie Sam Gagner will eventually take over as the number one center, but right now Horcoff’s all-around game is the perfect complement to Ales Hemsky – who is also due for a big breakout. Either Dustin Penner or newly acquired Erik Cole will be the third wheel on the top line for the Oilers. Grab Horcoff if you can, he will score at least 30 goals, with an outside shot at 40. Grab Hemsky as well – he has way too much talent not to have a huge breakout season soon. Things are looking up in Edmonton, especially offensively.
Keeping with the Northwest division – Steve Bernier is perhaps the sleeper of the 2008-2009 season. The big winger has been training in Ontario with the Canucks player development staff, and is reporting to camp early to workout with the trainers. He is in a contract year (motivation), and will be skating with the Sedin twins. On paper, he appears to be a natural fit. Big, skilled, strong down low and off the boards, and perhaps most importantly a right-handed shot. The Sedins’ turned Anson Carter into a 33-goal man, and Taylor Pyatt into a legitimate offensive player. Bernier breaks 30, and could reach 35-40 if he clicks early.