Nail Yakupov is one of the major stories we’ll be watching in 2015, along with Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz, the goalies and damn near every other player on the roster. We can expect major change but the value on these players—ground into a fine white powder with all the losing—means Craig MacTavish will have a difficult time getting value.
QUESTION MARKS, BY POSITION
- Left Wing: Those Taylor Hall rumors got out there somehow and made it all the way to Elliotte Friedman’s 30 thoughts. I do not for one minute think MacT trades Hall, it’s too damn dangerous. The club has David Perron to decide on (2016 UFA, he may not sign back here anyway) and there’s some question about where Benoit Pouliot plays on the roster (I like him on the skill lines, so Hall—Pouliot would be fine by me 1-2). Matt Hendricks is a solid checker and Luke Gazdic is a valued member of the team. The players in the system who might be close to ready (Kale Kessy, Curtis Hamilton, Jujhar Khaira) are unlikely to move the needle. If the Oilers draft McDavid, it’s possible he or Leon Draisaitl could move over.
- Center: I don’t think they’re going to trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and he’s coming into his own. Leon Draisaitl will be part of this team and Boyd Gordon has another year on his contract (so he might be a deadline 2016 trade option). Mark Arcobello may be a little shy offensively but this is a good hockey player, hope he stays (in at least) a utility role. Anton Lander is still hanging around and has some ability in a two-way role. If the club drafts McDavid or Eichel they may have a player who can step right in, Strome and Zacha are less likely to have an immediate impact. Edmonton does have a future option in pro (Bogdan Yakimov) but he’s not a player they should count on for 2015-16.
- Right Wing: There are plenty of Jordan Eberle rumors but he’s an important player on this team. Teddy Purcell has another year left on his contract and may return. Nail Yakupov‘s entry-level deal is done this summer, no idea what happens but don’t think it turns out Disney. Steve Pinizzotto is a UFA and Tyler Pitlick is an RFA, one or both may be on next year’s team (Oilers seem to be giving Pitlick a push which may mean trade or he’s here for awhile). One player I would like to see more of is Iiro Pakarinen and he appears to have the most offensive potential among the fringe wingers.
- Left Defense: Niki Nikitin and Andrew Ference will lead the way again in 2015-16 unless the Oilers decide to trade one or both (or buy one or both out). The club is paying major dollars to these men for little cover. Fortunately, the team has Oscar Klefbom and Martin Marincin—two exciting young defensemen who are gaining NHL experience this year—and young Darnell Nurse who could play in the NHL next season. The organization also thinks very highly of Brad Hunt, an undersized defender with speed issues but a plus passer and shooter. He is RFA in the summer, as is Keith Aulie who supplies reliable defense with a physical edge and little else in the way of puck-moving ability. Brandon Davidson seems to have an edge (so far) on minor league options Dillon Simpson, Jordan Oesterle, David Musil and Martin Gernat. Some of these men can play RH side.
- Right Defense: Jeff Petry is in his walk year and that’s just what he appears to be doing, there’s a real chance he’s gone at the deadline. Mark Fayne is signed through 2018 summer and looks like a nice addition. Justin Schultz has exceptional offensive potential but has struggled in all parts of the game this season. His future could involve a bridge deal, a long-term contract or a trade—it’s wide open.
- Goaltenders: Ben Scrivens is No. 1 and signed but hanging by a thread. The next game that matters for this franchise is October 2015 and I cannot see him starting it. Viktor Fasth is trade bait if someone is interested, Richard Bachman is a solid AHL starter and NHL No. 3. The intriguing Laurent Brossoit may find his way into the picture as early as this spring based on progress, but another year in the minors might be the best plan. Tyler Bunz and Frans Tuohimaa are also in photo.
It’s exhausting just thinking about the change. I’ll guess we see more than five new faces and fewer than 12. Gone? Petry, Yakupov, Nikitin, Fasth, Perron. After that, we’ll see. A lot of changes now may not happen if Todd Nelson can work some magic in the chem lab. The new coach could do Edmonton an enormous favor by getting some of these kids better boxcars. The possession numbers are up (mostly) but the gap numbers are down and there are many Oilers who are off last year’s numbers. Nelson’s early returns on the offense have been good.
This is early days and nothing can be concluded but the team has been scoring reasonably well under Todd Nelson. However, a strong closing 47 games should give the Oilers better asset quality to go to market with this summer. The gap between this and last year (in terms of boxcars is incredible):
PROJECTED BOXCARS OILERS COMPARED TO LAST YEAR (VIA THN)
- Taylor Hall 76, 27-30-57 (.750 projected from 1.07 one year ago)
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 80, 22-33-56 (.700 from .700 one year ago)
- Jordan Eberle 81, 15-34-49 (.600 from .813 one year ago)
- Teddy Purcell 82, 12-29-41 (.500 from .519 one year ago)
- David Perron 82, 12-29-41 (.500 from .731 one year ago)
- Justin Schultz 81, 5-27-32 (.400 from .446 one year ago)
- Mark Arcobello 82, 17-10-27 (.330 from .439 one year ago)
- Benoit Pouliot 68, 10-17-27 (.400 from .450 one year ago)
- Boyd Gordon 77, 13-8-21 (.270 from .284 one year ago)
- Steve Pinizzotto 64, 8-8-16 (.250 from .330 one year ago)
- Jeff Petry 81, 7-12-19 (.240 from .210 one year ago)
- Nail Yakupov 82, 10-10-20 (.240 from .380 one year ago)
- Matt Hendricks 78, 5-13-18 (.230 from .090 one year ago)
- Niki Nikitin 70, 6-10-16 (.230 from .230 one year ago)
- Leon Draisaitl 81, 5-12-17 (.210 in his rookie season)
- Brad Hunt 57p, 6-6-12 (.210 in his rookie season)
- Mark Fayne 82, 2-10-12 (.150 from .150 one year ago)
- Andrew Ference 79, 3-5-8 (.100 from .250 one year ago)
- Tyler Pitlick 58, 6-0-6 (.100 from .100 one year ago)
- Oscar Klefbom 60, 0-5-5 (.080 in his rookie season)
Down, down, down. Lordy. The Nuge is on par with a year ago, Teddy Purcell and Boyd Gordon are close enough for jazz and Jeff Petry is up slightly. After that it’s pretty much everyone in the red year over year. Man it’s been a tough season for this crew, I don’t think any of the fellows we’re talking about MacT trading (Perron, Schultz, Yakupov) have close to the same value as in summer.
THE FULL NELSON
- Todd Nelson on Nail Yakupov: “We’re trying to create more offence as a team, and he’s a guy who can provide that for us. We have to get him into a position where he can shoot the puck. We just have to keep on working with him and getting him into those scoring areas. We talk about going to the net — that’s one aspect, but with the system we’re implementing and going to play, it should open up things for everybody. Last night, we had just one power play and we scored right away. He didn’t get an opportunity to go out, but he’s going to be a big part of that other unit.” Source
I hope for Nail as I do for all these kids, from Chris Hajt to Poo to Theo Peckham. I do think it might be best to get him out to Montreal so he can get on with his life, though. The Oilers have one scoring line (the Hall line) and are trying to gather a second one. Yak? He’s on the third line and that’s no place for him to succeed. Get him to Montreal and Galchenyuk and he should be able to recover and flourish. All I ask is a better return than Greg Joly for Bryan Watson.
GAME IN A BOX VIA NHL.COM
It’s fairly even on paper and with the Coyotes playing last night Edmonton should have the advantage. However, this season is a wonderful lesson in ‘we hoped for the best’ so expecting an OT loss is probably the sane way.
CURRENT DRAFT NUMBERS 2015
If the season ended today, Edmonton would pick:
- No. 1 overall (pending lottery) Connor McDavid, C, Erie Otters
- No. 31 overall Filip Ahl, LW, HV 71
- No. 70 overall (Hemsky trade) Thomas Schemitsch, D, Owen Sound Attack
- No. 91 overall Vladimir Tkachev, LW, Quebec Remparts
- No. 121 overall Jordan Papirny, G, Brandon Wheat Kings
- No. 151 overall Travis Dermott, D, Erie Otters
- No. 181 overall Dexter Dancs, LW, Michigan Wolverines
Edmonton doesn’t have their third round pick, lost in the Viktor Fasth trade.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Happy Festivus! 10 this morning on the Lowdown (TSN 1260), we’re scheduled to welcome:
- 10:05 Jonathan Willis, Cult of Hockey, Oilers Nation, Bleacher Report, Sportsnet. Oh those Oilers.
- 10:25 Kent Wilson, Flames Nation. What a team, what a town! Kill me. Kill me now.
- 11:00 Sarah McLellan, Arizona Republic. Coyotes versus Oilers and Devan Dubnyk’s emergence in the desert.
- 11:25 Jeff Hauser, Radio Hauser. NFL playoffs and offseason.
10-1260 via text, @Lowetide_ on twitter. See you on the radio!