The fancy stats never did take a liking to Iiro Pakarinen, but Todd McLellan valued his speed, size, shot and rambunctious play. For a team desperate for offense from the bottom of the order, Pakarinen’s 16 points in his first 80 Oilers games was enough for him to be an option.
Pakarinen was hurt for most of last season and signed to a deal at least partly due to expansion requirements. Among possible Oilers for 2017-18, Pakarinen’s potential role is very close to a mystery.
IIRO PAKARINEN 2016-17
- 5×5 points per 60: 2.04 (4th among EDM forwards with >100 minutes)
- 5×4 points per 60: nil
- Corsi for 5×5 %: 45.5
- Corsi Rel 5×5 %: -3.6
- DFF Elite 5×5 %: 46.90
- DFF Elite Rel 5×5 %: -2.2 (22 percent of TOI v. elites)
- Shots on goal/percentage: 15 shots/13.3%
- Boxcars: 14, 2-2-4
- (All numbers via Puck IQ, Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com and hockey-reference)
RE 16-17: 10GP, 1-1-2 (.200)
- What role will Pakarinen apply for? Todd McLellan used him in a specific role during Pakarinen’s healthy season: 9:15 EV per game; 1:09 SH; 0:19 PP. I expect Pakarinen to be applying for that job (4line winger).
- Does he have a real chance? I think he’s coming in behind, by that I mean the Oilers are more likely to use Jujhar Khaira and or Brad Malone ahead of him on LW, possibly Ty Rattie ahead of him on RW. Pakarinen can close the gap but I don’t think he’s the favorite for a roster spot going in.
- What makes him attractive for this roster? Pakarinen has some sneaky offense, not at a Zack Kassian level but it’s likely he has more than Khaira and he certainly has more than Brad Malone. He can also penalty kill for Todd McLellan.
- What will his role be in Bakersfield? Pakarinen has enough offense to play on a skill line in the AHL (he is 48gp, 18-14-32 in Bakersfield).
- What one thing will get him to the NHL? Todd McLellan has a history with him and has a comfort level. Pakarinen needs to stay healthy and play the game expected and that should get him NHL time, if not a spot on the opening night roster.
- What will keep him from getting an NHL look? He’s kind of at the mercy of Jujhar Khaira on LW and Ty Rattie on RW, as I see it. If the young winger Khaira comes into camp and slams opponents, scores a little and shows some PK acumen, Pakarinen is in some trouble. If Rattie displays the goal-scoring acumen the Oilers believe is there, that’s another avenue suddenly unavailable.
- How many players can he reasonably be expected to pass in one winter? On the LW depth chart, I think Pakarinen is just behind Khaira, putting him No. 6. After that comes Joey Laleggia, Braden Christoffer and the AHL-only contracts. On RW, he is behind LD/Strome, Puljujarvi, Slepyshev, Kassian. That puts Pakarinen No. 5 on the list, and Ty Rattie is going to push him for playing time. Brian Ferlin, Patrick Russell and Greg Chase follow on the pro depth chart.
- Anyone else? This fall at training camp, Pakarinen is going to have real competition from a player who has matching skills. Mitch Callahan. The former Red Wings prospect is very similar, only difference being Pakarinen has played about 90 more NHL games. It is going to be fascinating to see these two battle for the identical spot in the organization. The Matt Hendricks role has a lot of candidates.