I am about to fight an uphill battle. Arguing the Edmonton Oilers should slow-play the phenom that is Jesse Puljujarvi is probably not going to go well—but I do think that should be the mindset heading into training camp. Make JP earn the job, full stop. If he isn’t ready, 20 games—or 40, or 60—could benefit this young man and the Oilers in a big way. Now, back to regular programming.
OILERS ASSUMED ROSTER
- This is the lineup I think we may see opening night (all things being equal).
- Todd McLellan may find a need to break up the top line at some point, but I bet that 1line is going to get a real chance to run together.
- The 2line could go any number of ways—Leon could be on the wing—but Jesse Puljujarvi is a dynamic player with size. I think the Oilers, God love them, will give the young Finn every chance to slide in on a skill line.
- The 3line could be a high-scoring trio if they can face the soft parade for big segments of the season. The line could also help offense the other way if things do not go well. I will tell you that (for me) there are major concerns about this line—and my ideal roster (below) addresses it.
- I like Mark Letestu on the fourth line, and he can help on the PP. Matt Hendricks and Zack Kassian are the veterans on the line, I would like to see more speed on the wings.
- I am generally fine with the defense. The top two pairings appear to be solid to good, and the third pair has Davidson with Nurse either settling in or replaced (and I do think the Oilers will send him down if he is ineffective).
- Talbot will be the starter and Gustavsson will be the backup opening night. Will that tandem be in place all year?
LOWETIDE PREFERRED ROSTER (5×5/60)
- Nail Yakupov on the McDavid line will not happen—but I think it should, at least until there is some legit trade value. Look, I get the issue with Nail, he makes many brain fart moves. He is a prime example of a player who has one year’s experience four times—as opposed to having four years experience. I look at it from the Oilers pov—they need three lines who can produce, and Nail can produce with McDavid.
- The McDavid factor is certainly in play here—Edmonton can make life more difficult for opponents by spreading out talent—and 97 scored well with Yak in 2015-16. If Nail can have success, maybe Edmonton saves 10 in the months following the Hall trade. A bizarre script, but it is possible.
- Pouliot—Nuge—Eberle has been successful in the past and gives Todd McLellan a line he can count on from the opening faceoff.
- Leon’s trio has one experienced hand in Maroon, I placed Puljujarvi here to help the speed. The more I stare at this roster, the more speed is a real worry.
- The fourth line is too slow with Hendricks, so I moved Pakarinen up. You may hate it, but I think this is likely the season Hendricks becomes a part time player. Adding Kassian to the roster gives the team too many slow wingers.
- The key to the defense as constructed here is the top pairing. If Klefbom—Larsson can play the tough opposition at par, that should mean the second pairing can push. Brandon Davidson as the anchor for the third pairing is a pretty nice position to be in.
- I like Oesterle over Fraser.
- Laurent Brossoit was the reason (imo) Edmonton went cheap on the backup, might as well give him the job from the start.
- The Black Book: Rasanen is a hard-working right-shot two-way center who plays a sound game in the defensive zone and doesn’t mind sacrificing his body to make plays, as he is willing to engage in one and one battles. He’s got an active defensive stick, can cause turnover and is a quite good penalty killer. Rasanen’s skating is only average, he can bring the puck up ice and has good enough vision to make plays. His puck skills are just OK and despite the improvement in his offensive game it is more realistic to project him as a checking forward at the next level, as he lacks a dynamic element to his game. Source
- Ryan Biech, Canucks Army: The right-handed centre possesses the whole package, he can skate well, he has good awareness and is adept at burying his chances. If he is available for the Canucks or any team for that matter in the late second or early third round, they would be very wise to add him to their prospect pool. It’s possible that after being selected this June in the draft, that he will play next season in the CHL via the import draft. Source
- Chris Dilks, SB Nation: I think we’ve already covered the best case scenario, but even if Rasanen doesn’t meet those lofty expectations, I think he’s capable of playing center on a lower line at the NHL level and being a smart, effective two-way center. Rasanen will come over to North American to play in the USHL next season and then presumably will pick up a scholarship offer to play NCAA hockey, meaning the team that drafts him will get ample time to let him develop. Source
- Corey Pronman: He’s a very smart center who can slow the game down and create chances while appearing to exert minimal effort. He can deke defenders, but he’s more effective making quick passes and beating opponents with pace. Rasanen is at his best as a playmaker, but he takes his shots when he gets a lane and has a decent cannon when he does so. His skating is his most noticeable hole to me; his top gear is below average, and he can have trouble pushing defenders back too far off the blue line on a rush. He is quite good defensively, often being leaned on for critical defensive situations and faceoffs.
- Pronman had him No. 56.
Sekera had 15 even strength pts last year. That was playing with McDavid/Hall. Larsson had 17 ES pts playing with the ghost of Patrik Elias.
— Ben from Edmonton (@benoliver_1) July 13, 2016
New Jersey is one weird team, and that’s for sure. In watching Larsson, I think we can draw a reasonable thumbnail sketch. He is a good coverage defender, clearly has ability to win battles and clear garbage from the slot. He has a ‘good stick’ which is an accepted hockey term while also being somewhat ribald in terms of verbal.
I like his passing, and rate that as a big area for defensemen. I do not think this is a player who is going to scoot out of the zone with the puck ala Lubo, but a first rate tape-to-tape pass is effective as well.
We are going to need 40 games, folks, and the truth is it may take one full year to adjust. You should also be prepared for a very negative reaction to Adam Larsson, as people evaluate defenders differently. Adam Larsson is a far better player than Mark Fayne—and is younger—but much of his value will come from the defensive side of the game. If you don’t like Mark Fayne, you may not like Adam Larsson. I hope you will join me in giving him 40 games before passing judgement on the player.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A very busy day on the show, begins at 10am on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Darcy McLeod, Because Oilers. I will ask some questions about the new G Money/McLeod numbers, and we will discuss the goaltending situation.
- Tom Lynn, Veritas Hockey. The NHL expansion draft next summer has impact now, with agents and players positioning themselves to take advantage of 50 new pro jobs in the fall of 2017.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!