I am not going to do a review of every game during the regular season but I will do reviews of games that I believe are key and I believe last nights 6-5 victory qualifies as a key victory for the club.
One reason I think of it is an important win is simply because of the fun factor. It was exciting for the fans right from the start and the excitement continued to grow with every goal and defensive miscue as the game wore on.
Another very important result of this game was the involvement of some of the players in the bottom 6. Nygard and Haas teamed up on a very nifty play off an O zone face off for the 4th goal. Jurco with a dirty dangle and sweet set up to Nurse for the fifth goal. These players performance last night gives us hope at least, that the Oilers will be able to count on more support from the those outside of the big 3 up front. Nygard was good all night on wether he was on RNH’s wing or on with Haas. He uses his speed to get in on the forecheck where he is surprisingly physical and does not have a fear to “get in the guts of the game” as Stauffer puts it.
James Neal. What can we say? In just the 2nd game already 1/3 of the way to Lucia’s goal total from last year. Scored 2 last night including the Game Winner and was a real nice presence on the pp.
Another reason I think this to be an important win is the team showed a resilience in overcoming some horrible goaltending early. Previous incarnations of the team would have rolled over and played dead after some of those early goals Smith gave up. Not this one and I think it’s good for them to establish that resilience early on. Smith, to his credit, battled through that early poor play to make some big saves later in the game.
This game review is almost complete and we haven’t even spoke of Mcdavid’s 4 point night or another dominant performance from Draisaitl. It’s refreshing to talk of contributions from other players for once. Let’s hope for all of our sake that they can keep it going.
One of my favorite things to do while following hockey is to track the progress of prospects, both with the Oilers and prospects in general. Maybe because as Oiler fans we have been perpetually looking to the future for at least the last 12 years and continue to do so today even with the likes of Connor Mcdavid and Leon Draisitil on the roster. Today I am going to take a look at the top 10 prospects in the Oilers system. My cut off for this exercise is 25 NHL games played or less to get a focus more on the prospects coming in the system as opposed to players who have been on NHL rosters but are still finding their way in the NHL like a Jesse Puljujarvi.
1. At the top of the list we have Evan Bouchard the Oilers First round selection from the 2018 NHL Draft where he went 10th overall. It has been many years since the Oilers have had a prospect equipped with the tools that Bouchard has in his arsenal. His ability to move the puck with the pass has not been seen in these parts since Chris Pronger patrolled the blue line some 13 years ago. Bouchard also possesses an elite hockey sense which allows him to operate with a certain calmness and poise that his detractor’s often confuse with apathy. Once his apprenticeship is complete in the AHL Bouchard will be the first option on the Oilers PP almost right out of the gate where an elusive, accurate, sneaky hard shot from the point will give opposition PK’s fits. It was close between Bouchard and Broberg as #1 but I give Bouchard the edge as his skill set will be something that’s unique the Oilers roster once he arrives.
2.Second on our list is Philip Broberg. At the draft I was actually quite critical of then newly appointed GM Ken Holland and his staff for making this selection. Even though I still maintain that the team would have been better off drafting a player such as Trevor Zegras as I feel he would have filled both the BPA as well as the organizational need it does not change the fact that after doing more research I am excited about this prospect. Broberg’s combination of speed, size and skill make him a very intriguing prospect and one that could form an elite first pairing with Bouchard down the road. Broberg’s greatest asset is without a doubt his skating ability. Not only his flat out speed when skating forward but also his lateral movement and what I heard one scout describe as “the best backwards skater we seen come through the draft in years”. It is a tantalizing package that will leave Oiler fans clamouring for his arrival in North America.
3.At 3 I have Tyler Benson. Benson was a prospect that seemed destined to play for the Oilers since he was the 1st over all pick in the WHL’s Bantam draft when he played for the South Side Athletic Club. I have him at 3 due to the fact that he is not only a promising prospect for the Edmonton Oilers but also a very important one as the team is severely lacking in Forward prospects that can play with skill outside of the big 3 already in the NHL. Benson possesses a very high Hockey IQ that allows him to make highly effective plays from all areas of the ice in the offensive zone. He is primarily a playmaking winger. Benson recorded a very impressive 66 points in 68 games as a rookie in the AHL. If any of the projects that the Oilers have currently on the wings in the NHL flounder, Benson coud find himself on the roster sooner than later. His smart, offensive play will be a welcome addition when Hockey Opps deems him ready for NHL action.
4. I have ranked Russian born Defenceman Dmitri Samorukov as my 4th ranked prospect. Prior to last years WJC Samorukov may have not even been on a lot of Oiler top 10 prospect lists. His outstanding play at that tournament seemed to give him a massive boost in confidence that he carried over to the rest of his season where he led the Guelph Storm to a Memorial Cup appearance last May. Described as a 2 way defenceman Samorukov makes a smart, crisp and accurate outlet pass, possesses a good shot from the point and can surprise unsuspecting opponents with his physical play in his own zone. The Oilers hope that his meteoric rise last season carries over to his first pro season in the AHL. If it does look for Dmitri to start playing some NHL games as early as next season depending on injuries etc.
5. I have Ethan Bear at #5. Was a tough decision at this point but I had to go with Bear as he appears to be the most NHL ready of the prospects given his performance this fall at training camp and in his first game of the season. A real nice package of skating, passing, hockey IQ, and defensive acumen has Bear projecting as a solid #4 Dman sooner than later. A prospect that, in years past, has maybe not taken his off season regimen as seriously as he should have, came to camp in much better shape. It showed with an excellent camp which Bear looks to build on this season. Probably does not posses the high end of skill of other Oiler prospects like Bouchard and Broberg but a real nice package that could play a lot of NHL games.
6. Kailer Yamamoto is who I have ranked at 6. If you would have asked me 1 year ago Yamamoto most likely would have been 3-4 spots higher on this list and if you ask me in April he may very well be 3-4 spots higher again. Yamo is in dire need of 2 things in my opinion. #1 stay healthy for a full season and #2 have the organization leave him alone in the AHL and develop and have success with what should be a powerhouse in the AHL.
7. Ryan Mcleod draws in at #7 for me. It was close between him and Lavoie for me but Mcleod gets the edge because of his elite skating ability which is so important in todays game and something that the big team lacks outside of a couple forwards. Definitely has things to work on and needs to pick up the Offence IMO as his numbers in Jr were relatively pedestrian for a legit NHL prospect last year. Toolsy player that will benefit from at least 1 year, if not 2 in the AHL. Probably projects more as a 30 point, good skating 3rd line Centre than a high end offensive guy.
8. Caleb Jones is at 8 and it was difficult for me to rank him this low. I love his skating ability and I’m almost certain that he will get NHL time this year and will be a full time NHL player at some point in his career even thought I am not sold it will be with the Oilers given what they have in the pipeline on the blue line. He is versatile as he can play both sides which is rare. However, needs to prove to the new Oiler regime that he can play on his off side effectively before he will get a chance. Tippett really likes his Left /Right combos intact.
9. William Lagesson is another player I had a difficult time rating as low as #9. The fact that he does lots of things good but nothing great probably led me to rank him here. Lagesson projects as stay at home, penalty killing, 3rd pairing defenceman. I believe that much of his year will be spent splitting time between Bakersfield and Edmonton and if he can persevere through that it will greatly improve his odds of becoming a full time NHL player.
10. Raphael Lavoie gets the edge in what was a hotly contested internal debate over who would crack the top 10. His size, shooting ability, and ability to read the game and put himself into positions to score give him the edge over other prospects in the system as the organization has precious little in the way of natural goal scorers in the pipeline. Looking to build on a very successful 2018-2019 campaign Lavoie has a chance to represent Canada at the WJC’s which would be great experience that would surely help in his development.
Honorable Mentions-Olivier Rodrigue, Cooper Marody, Joel Persson, Kiriil Maksimov
Ahhh one of my favourite teams of year. When the autumn air becomes crisp enough to light the first fire of the year to take the chill out of the air in the house. Aaaaaaaand when your a die hard Oiler fan the first taste of misery after just the first game of the year. When we learned yesterday that Adam Larsson was going to be out 6-8 weeks it seemed like a story that us Oiler fans have seen all too often over the last generation basically. One step forward with a nice win over division rival Canucks and 2 back with the loss of one of the few defenceman capable of playing top 4 minutes on the blue line.
Instead of wallowing in the grim details of the day we will, in the wise words of Ken Holland “dig in”. So with that in mind let’s take a look at the Oilers options to pick up the slack left by the injury to Adam Larsson.
Yesterday the Oilers recalled Evan Bouchard and sent down Ethan Bear in conjunction with them putting Larsson on LTIR. Everything I’ve seen and read this is strictly a paper move designed to recapture as much cap space as possible when putting Larsson on LTIR. Although Bouchard is most likely the Oilers most talented Offensive dman I don’t view him as a likely replacement on the roster for Larsson. I think Holland and the Oilers Player Personnel department want Bouchard, as with all prospects, developing in the A not on an NHL roster.
With that in mind let’s have a look at who are viable options to step in and play and what impact they will have on the Oilers on ice success. The most likely scenario, out of the gate is to move Persson off of IR and on to the active roster as word came down yesterday that he is very close to being ready for s return to active duty. With him in the line up the pairings could look something like this: Klefbom w/Bear, Nurse w/ Benning and Russell w/Persson. Bear had a good start in the 1st game but with Larsson out they will have to take on more and tougher minutes. A little scary asking Benning to play more and tougher minutes as well. Was strong vs the Canucks but playing up in the line up is a proposition that makes many of us Oiler fans shudder.
Another scenario the club is mostly likely contemplating is moving Russell up to play with Nurse and then either putting Manning on the 3rd pairing with Benning or recalling Lagesson. This would allow the Nurse/Russell pairing to take on tougher minutes leaving the other pairings to play softer minutes. Russell definitely not a great option and is a downgrade from Larsson in that role but he’s done it before albeit with limited success but the Oilers may have little options at this point.
Whatever path the club decides to go down I will be watching curiously on Saturday night as the Oilers welcome the LA Kings to town. Despite the horrible news with Larsson the team has to “dig in” and put 2 points in the bank against a very venerable Kings team.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Thanks for joining me in my first attempt at the blogging game. Today also marks the Oilers season and home opener and my inaugural blog will serve as my rendition of the Pacific Division and Oilers preview and how I see them fitting into what I believe will be a closely contested division.
First off our Oilers. Where to begin? Quite frankly I have this version of the Oilers on the outside looking in on the playoff picture in the Pacific Division. Their recipe for success will look a lot like their first game and win of the season did tonight. Hope the big 3 dominates, the Goaltending is above average and the bottom 6 limits their mistakes so as to not lose the game on the rest of the team’s behalf. The bold strategy led to a victory tonight, however, I believe the lack of depth up front and the goal tending will not be strong enough to get this team into the playoffs. I have the Oilers finishing 4th in the division and narrowly missing out on a Wildcard spot.
As for the rest of the Pacific Region here is how I see it shaping up:
1st-Vegas Golden Knights. For my $$ the deepest team in the division, if not the conference. Despite the loss of key contributor’s like Colin Miller and Erik Haula they remain a deep and motivated team after their untimely exit from the playoffs. Throw in the best Goaltender in the division and you have a recipe for success.
2. Calgary Flames-Although the Flames did little to improve their team this offseason (one could argue they took a step back) they should still have enough talent up front to supplement what is a very good D. Ultimately it will come down to, as it so often does, if Rittich can keep enough pucks out of the net.
3. Arizona Coyotes-I might be going off the board a bit here but I think the Yotes are finally poised to take a run at a playoff spot. They’ve got a good nucleus of young forwards and a D anchored by all world Dman OEL. Chychrun is at the point in his career where he’s ready to take a big step forward. An underrated goaltending tandem is another factor that could very well lead to a resurgent Coyotes team this season.
4.Edmonton Oilers-as discussed above. The Central Division should be very strong again and will most likely produce 5 playoff teams.
5.San Jose Sharks-Although the Sharks have what is arguably the best top 3 dmen in the league they are poised to take a step back this year and miss the playoffs for only the 2nd time in the last 5 years. The loss of Joe Pavelski leaves not only a giant hole in their roster but in the dressing room as well. Always assumed he’d play out his career in San Jose but they elected to let him walk to the benefit of the Dallas Stars.
6.Vancouver Canucks-Vancouver is definitely a team on the rise led by a talented group of forwards led by Bo Horvat and the uber talented Elias Pettersson. I’m a huge fan of Quinn Hughes and firmly believe the Canucks have a young star on their hands in this player. Solid net presence in Markstrom and a very good coach, combined with the talents mentioned above will be enough for them to give some very good teams fits on many nights but going to need more experience and maturity before I can call them a playoff team.
7. Anaheim Ducks-Our old friend Dallas Eakins wades back into the NHL coaching game followed by another successful tenure in the AHL. Did he learn enough from the disaster in Edmonton? Time will tell. Anaheim is headed definitely for a retool if not a complete rebuild. Although they still have a nice Defence their Forwards need to be rebuilt which will keep them from contending for a Playoff spot for a few seasons.
8.Los Angeles Kings-A team headed for a rebuild. They have some very good prospects coming, the best of which is Alex Turcotte who they will most likely see on the roster next season. Will probably most likely finish low enough in the standings to be able to have their choice of number of franchise altering forward talent from the #2020nhldraft.
One thing is for certain there are many interesting story lines to keep an eye on for the 2019-2020 season. I am going to look forward in tracking the seasons results vs my October predictions.