LOTS OF ROOKIES, WITH AN EXPLANATION

The Edmonton Oilers will probably have more games played by rookies than a year ago, but there’s an explanation. In projecting the roster during the RE series, it looked to me as though Edmonton would make room for one forward (McDavid) and find room for one defender (basically dividing one full defensive slot among rookies Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart. I still feel the same way, but let’s have another look at this group and see if we can find a way to wrestle more at-bats from veterans.

ROOKIES PROJECTIONThe McDavid spot is a given (I nicked him some GP because he did lose some time in junior) but the rest is up in the air. Let’s go one by one.

ROOKIE DEFENSE

  • Darnell Nurse: Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli have enough veteran blue to keep him down on the farm but Nurse has enough natural talent to trash that plan by Christmas. There are lessons to be learned, including the notion that being a puck moving blue doesn’t mean leading the rush, but this is an exceptional talent and a fast learner based on all we know. I’m still comfortable with the RE but do think the Oilers could keep him on the farm all year long.
  • Griffin Reinhart: I have him playing 27 games and—unlike Nurse—I don’t see any chance of Reinhart spending the entire season in the minors.
  • Brandon Davidson: Nine games seems about right, that’s over 10% of the season and suggests he will be among the first short term callups during the 2015-16 season. He is waiver eligible, but I don’t think that’s going to be enough to land him an NHL job. It might have been enough during the Steve Tambellini era, but the team is likely to be more aggressive about NHL wins and losses (thankyou Jesus).
  • David Musil: It’s tough to be ‘down the middle’ fair about players you cheer for but Musil’s place in the organization seems to be increasing as the years roll along. I have him at seven games, suspect he gets them this year.
  • Jordan Oesterle: There’s a slight chance he gets passed on one side by a veteran (Brad Hunt) or a rookie (Joey Laleggia) but he’s a pretty good prospect and I think Edmonton values him. Four games seems right.

ROOKIE FORWARDS

  • Connor McDavid: I have his points-per-game total at .886 and that’s low compared to pretty much everyone. I didn’t plan it like that but then again Edmonton’s defense still has to get that puck to the forwards. Hope he kicks the daylights out of the RE.
  • Andrew Miller: It might seem high (26 games) but I well remember Miller’s foot speed and believe he’s the kind of player who could flourish under Todd McLellan. Also, I’ve mentioned this before but Miller is a very good positional player, similar to Mark Arcobello. He has some nice arrows.
  • Iiro Pakarinen: Many of the same reasons I chose Miller apply to the Finn. He’s an aggressive winger with speed, willing to go to the high traffic areas and does have some skill. Pakarinen also impressed from the start one year ago and may do the same during this training camp—getting noticed early is always a good idea.
  • Anton Slepyshev: I have him as a big part of the Bakersfield team but have Slepyshev playing very little in the NHL. Why? His skill set (all bat, no glove) is duplicated across the Oilers’ NHL roster at this time. I think he’ll need some seasoning and the big club will need time to make room on the roster for yet another high-skill player.
  • Bogdan Yakimov: I wanted to make room but there is none. Nuge, McDavid, Lander and Letestu are the top 4C and Draisaitl or another veteran would probably step in as needed during the year. Yakimov is a talented guy and will get noticed—this prediction could look silly this time next year.
  • Kyle Platzer: It was basically a coin flip between Chase and Platzer for this cup of coffee. I felt Platzer, who appears to be a more natural center, might have a positional edge. Complete shot in the dark.
  • Mitch Moroz: As is the case with Platzer, I chose between Moroz and Kale Kessy, thinking a strong start in year two might cause the organization to reward him (it does happen). We’ll see, Kessy had a helluva start last fall but Moroz was still recovering from injury during rookie camp and early in pre-season.

The last man in the baker’s dozen of rookies I predicted is Laurent Brossoit. I have him playing three games this season. Is that total enough for Connor McDavid to win the Calder Trophy? Maybe. I hope he wins it going away, with the best rookie season since Crosby (or before).

Can’t wait.

(Photo by Connor Mah)

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31 Responses to "LOTS OF ROOKIES, WITH AN EXPLANATION"

  1. v4ance says:

    I know some people have their hearts set on acquiring OEL but do we really need a #1D tofind success?

    If Nurse, Reinhart and even one of the second tier defensive prospects make the leap to the NHL in the next season or two, we’ll have a nice cluster of cheap young defencemen to go with all the talented and highly paid forwards already on the club. As a way of managing the salary cap, it’s not a bad way to go.

    The defence two years down the line can be a balanced group of Sekera, Fayne, Klefbom, Nurse and Reinhart with all the other contenders percolating down on the farm or taking the #6 and #7 slots on the big club.

  2. RexLibris says:

    Interesting article in the EJ today about the Calder race by Michael Traikos.

    Mentioning not only McDavid and Eichel but also Ehlers, Panarin, Bennett and others.

    Could be one heck of a season for young players.

  3. RexLibris says:

    Ever wonder what Gary Bettman dreams about in his happy place?

    http://www.tsn.ca/talent/sources-penguins-owners-looking-for-record-750m-for-team-1.354678

  4. godot10 says:

    Quibble: Isn’t MIller too old to qualify as being a rookie?

  5. RexLibris says:

    Just saw the return on the Nichols’ deal with the Bombers.

    A conditional 7th rounder in 2017.

    And we thought the Horcoff return was modest.

  6. Lowetide says:

    godot10:
    Quibble: Isn’t MIller too old to qualify as being a rookie?

    Sure. Pakarinen probably doesn’t qualify either. I don’t like the NHL rules so don’t follow them, but apologize for the misleading presentation. The NHL made me do it.

  7. RexLibris says:

    Lowetide: Sure. Pakarinen probably doesn’t qualify either. I don’t like the NHL rules so don’t follow them, but apologize for the misleading presentation. The NHL made me do it.

    #BettmanMadeMeDoIt sounds like a good hashtag.

  8. Bad Seed says:

    RexLibris,

    When you’ve got the lowest qb rating in the country, I would guess that the Esks are lucky to find a team who wants him.

  9. oliveoilers says:

    Wasn’t the majority of McDavid’s loss of games in junior due to punching somebody and breaking his hand?

    I can virtually guarantee this won’t happen this year.

    Idiots taking runs at him, however, are a different story.

  10. Hammers says:

    More games for Slepy and Reinhart for me

  11. Kmart99 says:

    Is it Sept 11 yet? Jeez.

    Cant wait to see Nurse just completely outplays Nikitin, Ference, Gryba, and Jultz.

    I remain convinced, as do many of you, that it is going to be so difficult to send Nurse down after camp. Even if he ends up in Bakersfield I can’t imagine it being for more than 20 games. He just brings so much of what the Oilers need.

    Finally a prospect that can play a western conference game, and dominate at it.

  12. Kmart99 says:

    v4ance:
    I know some people have their hearts set on acquiring OEL but do we really need a #1D tofind success?

    If Nurse, Reinhart and even one of the second tier defensive prospects make the leap to the NHL in the next season or two, we’ll have a nice cluster of cheap young defencemen to go with all the talented and highly paid forwards already on the club.As a way of managing the salary cap, it’s not a bad way to go.

    The defence two years down the line can be a balanced group of Sekera, Fayne, Klefbom, Nurse and Reinhart with all the other contenders percolating down on the farm or taking the #6 and #7 slots on the big club.

    Still need a #1. Nurse projects as a quality #2 but is unlikely to become one of the 16 best dmen in the league. Without one of those top 16 dmen it is very difficult to win a cup.

    A 30min/night monster on the back end that helps the PP, PK, and EV helps sooooo much. CFP being the most ridiculous example. Look at St Louis after he left. Look at Edmonton, anaheim, and Philly.

    Guys like that make life hell for the opposition.

    Hopefully Nurse can do the same, but his PP skills aren’t near the level of the top PP dmen in the NHL.

  13. Bag of Pucks says:

    You and I are equally bullish on Miller, LT. I think there’s a glaring opportunity on this roster for a RW that can play with speed and skill. And the lad does seem to have a some puck sense unlike his Yakupovian competition. Korpikoski likely gets the early push.

    A couple things have occurred over the last few days.

    1) Outside Souray, there’s almost zero evidence to support the idea that Katz has an appetite for buying out players. Unlike a Leonsis or Snider, Katz seems to have actually retained his fiscal sanity upon becoming an NHL owner. With that in mind, arguments to buy out Ference or Nikitin are likely moot.

    2) What will this power play look like under McLellan with McDavid dishing and possibly Draisaitl down low? It may be the early success story of the season. Gonna take TMac time to implement yet another system. Improved goaltending and a stellar pp may get us through the woods while the even strength foundation is built.

  14. Bag of Pucks says:

    Kmart99: Still need a #1.Nurse projects as a quality #2 but is unlikely to become one of the 16 best dmen in the league.Without one of those top 16 dmen it is very difficult to win a cup.

    A 30min/night monster on the back end that helps the PP, PK, and EV helps sooooo much.CFP being the most ridiculous example. Look at St Louis after he left.Look at Edmonton, anaheim, and Philly.

    Guys like that make life hell for the opposition.

    Hopefully Nurse can do the same, but his PP skills aren’t near the level of the top PP dmen in the NHL.

    Small sample size but if Nurse can be the best Dman in the WJC, he could theoretically be a Top 16 D in the NHL.

    Think the best comp for Nurse is Bouwmeester. Extremely similar in terms of size, wheels and range. Thankfully Darnell has more of a mean streak.

    You can be the Top Dman on your team without being the Top PP D. Early in his career, Pronger was killing it in St Loo but Al MacInnis was the top point producer with the extra man.

    Wouldn’t surprise me if that pp savant ends up being Oesterle instead of Schultz.

  15. Bag of Pucks says:

    Bad Seed:
    RexLibris,

    When you’ve got the lowest qb rating in the country, I would guess that the Esks are lucky to find a team who wants him.

    Nichols is the classic example of a QB as ‘game manager.’ Minimal upside.

    Franklin looks to have the full toolkit. Can see why Reilly is pushing hard to get back in the lineup. I’d be worried if I was him. Franklin has the best arm on the team.

    Now if we could just find a way to unintentionally maim Bo Levi this weekend, we might have a shot.

  16. JD¡™ David O'Connor's Reel says:

    According to Zepp over at ON, Slepy was a first overall pick in the 2011 KHL junior draft. We could potentially see 5 1OV picks in the lineup for a time this season.

    5 in 7. Oh yeah…

  17. RexLibris says:

    Bag of Pucks: Nichols is the classic example of a QB as ‘game manager.’ Minimal upside.

    Franklin looks to have the full toolkit. Can see why Reilly is pushing hard to get back in the lineup. I’d be worried if I was him. Franklin has the best arm on the team.

    Now if we could just find a way to unintentionally maim Bo Levi this weekend, we might have a shot.

    What do you mean “unintentionally”?

  18. RexLibris says:

    JD¡™ David O’Connor’s Reel: 5 in 7. Oh yeah…

    Read this with the Kool-Aid man’s voice in my head.

    Thanks for that.

  19. Oddspell says:

    Kmart99,

    To be fair, very few of the current top 16 dmen projected as top 16 dmen in their +1/+2 year. I don’t think you can really project these number one studs until they’re knocking on the door. Aaron Ekblad and Seth Jones are probably the only guys who are of a similar age who are being projected down that path.

  20. geowal says:

    Powerplay accumen is a ridiculously overrated skill for a “#1D”. If you have a good enough top pair, that regularly play in the 25 min a night range, you can have a Marc-Andre Bergeron or whatever that plays 15 minutes a night or less.
    The #1 (and #2) D need to shut down the opposition on EV and PK and send the puck the other way. Having a nifty one-timer suitable for a powerplay is not at all essential for that role.

    As for the need for a “true #1 D”, I think it’s far more important to have an excellent top pair that can play both sides of the ice as opposed to one side, than to have a single absolute stud and shoe-horn in someone else to ride the coat tails.

  21. Kmart99 says:

    Oddspell:
    Kmart99,

    To be fair, very few of the current top 16 dmen projected as top 16 dmen in their +1/+2 year. I don’t think you can really project these number one studs until they’re knocking on the door. Aaron Ekblad and Seth Jones are probably the only guys who are of a similar age who are being projected down that path.

    I ran some numbers on the top 32 dmen currently in the league using all their draft +1 and draft +2 nbrs. For the most part, you really can see them coming. There are some Mike Greens, and Dennis Widemans that gum up the works because they are one dimensional but for the most part you can predict their ceilings.

    Darnell will most likely be an elite shutdown d man with 2nd pairing offense(on a playoff team.). The kind of dman that ends up being the number 1 on lower level teams in the NHL but a #2 on a cup contender.

    There’s a chance he could be a true Elite #1, but I’d put that at <25%

  22. Kmart99 says:

    Based on my findings, Griff could end up getting #2-#3 EV TOI but very little PP unless he really takes some big steps forward.

    Nurse is likely to get #1 EV minutes, #1 PK minutes and #2 PP minutes at his peak. Likely 25+ quality minutes a night by the time he’s 23.

  23. Optimism is Foolish says:

    Kmart99,

    It can and has been done in recent years where teams with no single dominant defenseman can win the cup. Penguins in 09, carolina in 06 and tampa in 04. That said it is far better to have that #1 guy. Some might even say he would be more important than top wingers …

  24. v4ance says:

    http://www.tsn.ca/talent/sources-penguins-owners-looking-for-record-750m-for-team-1.354678

    Currency analysts with Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in August that the Canadian dollar could fall to 65 U.S. cents before the end of 2016.

    The NHL’s Canadian national television revenue is worth $433 million (CAD) for each of the 30 NHL teams — roughly $14 million (CAD) per season. With a Canadian dollar that averages 90 cents U.S., that yearly income converts to about $13 million (U.S.). If the dollar is worth 75 cents U.S., the Canadian income converts instead to $10.7 million (U.S.).

    “I know some NHL teams are nervous,” one banker said. “They may have banked on getting $13 million American per year from the Canadian TV money. But if the Canadian dollar keeps falling, and the NHL expands by two more teams, your share is 1/32nd instead of 1/30th. So maybe you’re looking at less than $10 million a year. The Canadian TV money is the single biggest revenue for some teams, so this is a big deal.”

    Basically, this was a worse case scenario that I predicted on Oilfans.com back in 2012 when the NHLPA was assuming a consistent 5% growth rate throughout the length of the new CBA. There was no downside protection on the revenue growth projections.

    Now the players will have to decide if they want a bigger cap with a huge escrow bite when they activate the escalator or a decreasing cap with a manageable amount of escrow and deflating player salaries if they decide not to use the 5% escalator.

    As a side note, this might be a huge benefit for the Oilers in the second contract of McDavid. Canada’s dollar might still be in the doldrums going into 2017 and the resulting max cap could be down to $65 million or so. At that level, it’s possible that the team could convince McDavid to sell his UFA years at a cheaper rate to bring his overall cap hit down to about $7 million/year. The team’s bargaining position would be that if McDavid wanted a max contract, he could get it OR he could leave some on the table and let the team build a championship roster around him with the dollars he didn’t take. Plus as the team’s best player and leader, he would set an artificial cap on team salaries just like Taylor Hall did on his second contract.

  25. meanashell11 says:

    v4ance:
    http://www.tsn.ca/talent/sources-penguins-owners-looking-for-record-750m-for-team-1.354678

    Currency analysts with Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in August that the Canadian dollar could fall to 65 U.S. cents before the end of 2016.


    The NHL’s Canadian national television revenue is worth $433 million (CAD) for each of the 30 NHL teams — roughly $14 million (CAD) per season. With a Canadian dollar that averages 90 cents U.S., that yearly income converts to about $13 million (U.S.). If the dollar is worth 75 cents U.S., the Canadian income converts instead to $10.7 million (U.S.).

    “I know some NHL teams are nervous,” one banker said. “They may have banked on getting $13 million American per year from the Canadian TV money. But if the Canadian dollar keeps falling, and the NHL expands by two more teams, your share is 1/32nd instead of 1/30th. So maybe you’re looking at less than $10 million a year. The Canadian TV money is the single biggest revenue for some teams, so this is a big deal.”

    Basically, this was a worse case scenario that I predicted on Oilfans.com back in 2012 when the NHLPA was assuming a consistent 5% growth rate throughout the length of the new CBA.There was no downside protection on the revenue growth projections.

    Now the players will have to decide if they want a bigger cap with a huge escrow bite when they activate the escalator or a decreasing cap with a manageable amount of escrow and deflating player salaries if they decide not to use the 5% escalator.

    As a side note, this might be a huge benefit for the Oilers in the second contract of McDavid.Canada’s dollar might still be in the doldrums going into 2017 and the resulting max cap could be down to $65 million or so.At that level, it’s possible that the team could convince McDavid to sell his UFA years at a cheaper rate to bring his overall cap hit down to about $7 million/year.The team’s bargaining position would be that if McDavid wanted a max contract, he could get it OR he could leave some on the table and let the team build a championship roster around him with the dollars he didn’t take.Plus as the team’s best player and leader, he would set an artificial cap on team salaries just like Taylor Hall did on his second contract.

    This is something that bugs me. I am “in the business” and there is no way a multibillion dollar organization signs a contract like that knowing their “costs” are in USD and not hedge into USD. Rogers has a contractual obligation and while there is credit risk on the CAD side of the payments I have to believe this was hedged and all this handwringing wrt FX risk is baloney.

  26. jake70 says:

    meanashell11: This is something that bugs me. I am “in the business” and there is no way a multibillion dollar organization signs a contract like that knowing their “costs” are in USD and not hedge into USD. Rogers has a contractual obligation and while there is credit risk on the CAD side of the payments I have to believe this was hedged and all this handwringing wrt FX risk is baloney.

    Don’t worry, in a few years, the players will be wearing clowny euro uniforms, with all that advertising – it’s the leagues secret plan for revenue. Heard on PTS the Canadiens and Leafs aren’t all that enthused about the idea.

  27. godot10 says:

    One should presume McDavid’s 2nd contract is going to be a max contract. And one should offer after the 2nd ELC, so one can offer him 8 years.

    If one waits till the 3rd year, someone will offer sheet him the max contract times 4 years to make him unrestricted at 25.

  28. russ99 says:

    “Edmonton’s defense still has to get that puck to the forwards”

    McLellan is running the show now, so both the defense and forwards will get the puck moving out of the defensive zone. If you watched the Blackhawks playoff run the last few years, you can see how effective this can be if done well, even against the tougher teams to zone exit against like L.A. and Anaheim.

    The improved overall D group with near-ready kids challenging for jobs, the forward help, the NHL-quality defensive systems and even an average year from Talbot should make a huge difference this year.

    I have more of a concern about space and creativity in the O-zone under McLellan’s dump-cycle systems than the Oilers playing as poorly in the D-zone as under Eakins/MacT.

  29. oilswell says:

    godot10:
    One should presume McDavid’s 2nd contract is going to be a max contract.And one should offer after the 2nd ELC, so one can offer him 8 years.

    If one waits till the 3rd year, someone will offer sheet him the max contract times 4 years to make him unrestricted at 25.

    Can you explain the concern a little more? If it is max contract all the way through, then at the point of offer sheet how is adding McDavid’s UFA years to a contract any different if it is after matching the offer sheet? Is it because you can’t ask for the extension to 8 years right away?

  30. Really? says:

    In watching the WJC and the Memorial Cup this year I was supremely impressed by the stamina displayed by Darnell Nurse. In watching him it immediately brought to mind the stamina levels of other top D Men such as Duncan Keith, Drew Doughtty and Chris Pronger.

    We all agree that to be a #1 D man in the NHL you have to be able to munch minutes and play effectively. It would seem to me that Mr. Nurse has an excellent start. Please note that Mr. Klefbom also appears to have elite level stamina. Could this mean we may have something special?

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