September 29, 2017 6:01 pm
Updated: October 25, 2017 8:11 pm

GM Peter Chiarelli sees Edmonton Oilers as Stanley Cup contenders

Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli speaks to the media during the Edmonton Oilers' end-of-the-year press conference in Edmonton, Alta., on Sunday, April 10, 2016.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan
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Peter Chiarelli is entering his third season as the general manager of the Edmonton Oilers. In year two under Chiarelli’s watch, the Oilers took a massive step forward by finishing the season with 103 points.

That qualified the Oilers for the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

READ MORE: Patrick Maroon determined to have another big year for Edmonton Oilers

“The Anaheim series was disappointing because when you’re there you’re thinking we can win this,”  Chairelli said on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer. “When I go to my perch 30,000 feet above and look down, you know what, it was a great experience and were going to get better because of it.”

LISTEN: Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli on Oilers NOW with Bob Stauffer


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The question now is how much better will the Oilers be because of that playoff experience.

The new 2018 Stanley Cup odds from Las Vegas sportsbook Bovada has the Oilers with the second best odds to win the Stanley Cup at 9-1, only behind the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

“We’ve made some mistakes but we’ve done a lot of good things and were contending, and were contending now,” added Chiarelli. “Did I think that we would be contending in year three? Maybe I was a year off. Maybe this year I thought would be like last year, but things are falling into place. I’m happy with where we are right now.”

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As the Oilers get set to open the season against the Calgary Flames on Oct. 4, there are a few questions about the current roster that could prevent the team from reaching its ultimate goal.

One is who is going to emerge at right wing and fill the 51 point void left by Jordan Eberle’s departure?

The answer to that question could be a player by committee approach. 2017 first round pick Kailer Yamamto has been the story of the pre-season for the Oilers.

It’s a surprise to many that the small but skilled right winger looks poised to crack the opening night roster, but not so much to Chiarelli who was ecstatic when the Oilers were able to get their hands on him with the 22nd overall pick.

READ MORE: Kailer Yamamoto closing in on Edmonton Oilers opening night roster spot

“I’m mildly surprised but based on what we saw from last year in juniors, you know I told [Oilers head coach] Todd [McLellan] at development camp that he might be challenging for a spot and he has,” Chiarelli said. “He’s done everything to make the team right now. Frankly, it will be a decision on our hands in a few days.”

The other question mark for the Oilers is the blueline.

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Andrej Sekera is expected to start the season on the injured reserve after tearing his ACL in Game 5 of the Oilers second round playoff series against Anaheim.

The Oilers did bring back Kris Russell on a four-year-deal, but not having Sekerea for months into the season could become an issue for the team if one of the younger guys doesn’t seize the opportunity to fill some of Sekera’s minutes.

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“We’ve elevated Matt Benning to the second pair. He’s going to get a look there. Darnell is improving, so we will see, and Kris Russell is skating the best I’ve seen him skate in a while,” said Chiarelli. “Sekera is a big loss, but I’m going to be relatively patient with this, so we will see what unfolds.”

The Oilers are 6-1 so far in the pre-season. They play their final tune up game is in Vancouver Saturday night. The Oilers quest for the Stanley Cup officially begins on Wednesday night at Rogers Place when they host the Calgary Flames.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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