For a player whose worth is supposed to derive from his offensive ability, the seven points Cogliano has put up through 23 games isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire. But this is the most crucial season of the speedy centre’s young career.

Living off a one-year contract, there is no guarantee the 2005 first round draft pick will be given another chance if he doesn’t show marked improvement in the rest of this campaign.

Cogliano’s fate will forever be tied to teammate Sam Gagner, who was also taken in that 2005 first round. Both players were rushed into the NHL by Edmonton, as the team was bereft of young talent at the time and the initial returns were great. Great rookie years were followed by dreadful sophomore slumps and Cogliano in particular never recovered.

Even with his two-point performance against Ottawa, Cogliano is once again on pace for his worst season yet. To be blunt, every season since his first has been a step back.

The silver lining is that with all the younger talent Edmonton has now, Cogliano is not the focus.

Taylor Hall’s dynamic flourishes and enthusiasm have been a joy to watch and Jordan Eberle has come as advertised in terms of his production. So Cogliano has some cover. He’s not facing the opposition’s top lines and his speed is still very much in tact. Playmaking is also a strength.

Some players thrive in contract years. Of course, most top-end picks don’t face the scenario of fighting for their NHL lives so early on in the game.

Maybe Cogliano would have been better served spending a third year at the University of Michigan, but that path cannot be altered. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he would have to settle for a two-way contract next season, meaning the Oilers could send him to the American League.

It would be a disheartening step back for a once highly-regarded prospect, but the Oilers are in no position to be nice guys. With another high-powered forward in the chute — Linus Omark is tearing up the AHL — Edmonton cannot give Cogliano a free pass. He must earn his next contract, but the good news is he has the talent to do so. He just needs to convert it into numbers again.