It's not often you see a 27-year-old veteran of eight NHL seasons running drills with wide-eyed rookies at a mid-summer development camp -- but Ales Hemsky can't help it, he feels like a kid again.

He's also test-driving a surgically repaired right shoulder, but the kid part is definitely real.

He's going to be healthier than he's been in years, his buddy Ryan Smyth is back and the Oilers filled so many holes on July 1 there's a chance they might actually be half decent this season. After five straight seasons out of the playoffs, that's enough to bring out the inner child in anyone.

"Every year we talk about promise at the beginning of the season and then, at the end, it's something else," said Hemsky, trying to think of a word that means the exact opposite of promise. "But with the free agents they just added and the depth we had with the young guys, and another crop of young guys coming in, we've never had this kind of depth before.

"It will be fun to see them and see how the team will end up."

A future that seemed so far away for so many years seems a lot closer now. Close enough that Hemsky, heading into the last year of his contract before he's eligible for unrestricted free agency, likes the idea of sticking around and seeing this thing through.

"It's tough losing," he said. "It's been hard the last five years. It's never easy losing and to never make the playoffs. But it's a new generation now. You look at how the team can be long term, it can only make you happy for the future."

The short term is also much more palatable after GM Steve Tambellini brought in Ryan Smyth on June 26 and five new bodies on July 1.