CATCH-22

For many years now, the Oilers have promoted AHL veterans and graduating college kids into prominent minor league roles, while slow-playing the drafted kids who have turned pro. Believe me, it is a thing.

I do not blame the coaching staffs—their job is to develop but also deliver a competitive team—but Keith Gretzky has a big job in getting more prospect forwards from entry-level pro to NHL success. That is not to say all of the issues that plague Edmonton’s draft and development system can be blamed on slow-playing the drafted kids. Why? You have to draft well enough to have players to sign and play in prominent positions age 20.

The Oilers signed exactly ZERO forwards from their own draft pool this summer. Edmonton signed no forward from the 2013 (Aidan Muir, Evan Campbell), 2014 (Tyler Vesel), 2015 (McDavid only forward) or 2016 (Benson already signed, McPhee and Rasanen in college this fall) drafts over the summer who can play in the AHL this fall. Joe Gambardella is the big name heading to training camp with Bakersfield in his future.

Someday soon, the Oilers will have a drafted forward turn pro (Tyler Benson is in the pipeline) and it’s important to play him out of the box. Six years ago, I wrote this about Curtis Hamilton when he was a rookie pro:

  • OKC Barons PBP man Jim Byers told me in mid-November that Hamilton had been in and out of the lineup at times and was “waiting his turn” with few special teams options. Byers said Hamilton was “feeling his way” into the lineup through mid-November. Since that time, Hamilton has played 7 games and is 1-2-3 +3. What’s more, 11 of his 19 shots on the season have come during that time. Although we don’t really know the TOI totals, all indications are that Hamilton is getting more opportunities since the injuriesSource

I’ve been ranting and raving about this for so long it’s certain you’ve tuned out, but it’s important. Kids need to play in the AHL age 20—and the Oilers draft and deployment suggests they have (in the past) chosen players incapable of doing same. Kyle Platzer was a third-round selection but two years later he isn’t an AHL regular. If it isn’t deployment, it’s the drafting, there is no neutral ground.

Russell, Khaira, R. Hamilton

Photo by Mark Williams

CONSIDER THIS

Using Prospect-Stats.com and their Quality of Team metric, I counted up the first 408 games for Bakersfield and San Jose Barracuda (won the division) forwards and placed them in veterans/prospect categories. The 408 games measure is important, that represents six forwards who would play on the top two forward lines for each team.

CONDORS

  • Bakersfield veterans: Josh Currie (67), Ryan Hamilton (49), Anton Lander (42), Taylor Beck (40), Justin Fontaine (15)
  • Bakersfield prospects: Patrick Russell (68), Joey Laleggia (43), Jesse Puljujarvi (39), Jujhar Khaira (27), Anton Slepyshev (9), Joe Gambardella (6), Iiro Pakarinen (5)
  • Total games: 410
  • Total games devoted to veterans: 213
  • Percentage devoted to veterans: 52 (60 percent a year ago)

One thing I’ll say about this past season in support of Gerry Fleming: He played the prospects who moved the needle offensively. Puljujarvi received playing time with Anton Lander and Josh Currie as his centers, Jujhar Khaira being the other noteworthy pivot. Fleming needs more talented prospects, that’s my takeaway. However, there’s also an argument that Kyle Platzer would be farther along if the Oilers placed him in the lineup every night.

Photo by Mark Williams

BARRACUDA

  • San Jose veterans: Ryan Carpenter (54)
  • San Jose prospects: Rourke Chartier (67), Daniel O’Regan (63), BarclayGoodrow (61), Adam Helewka (58), Nikolay Goldobin (46), Marcus Sorensen (43), Kevin Lebanc (19).
  • Total games: 411
  • Total games devoted to veterans: 54
  • Percentage of games devoted to veterans: 13 percent

San Jose basically runs an AHL team of younger players who are NHL-ready or damned close, none of whom is far from their entry level deal. It would will take years for the Oilers to get there, but this has to be the goal. I know the Patrick Russell signing doesn’t look sexy, but signing college men until Tyler Benson pushes them out is the right thing to do. More Gambardella’s!

LEON TO PITTSBURGH?

File this under “things I never thought anyone would think of, but an article from Wil Tomer at FanSided discusses Leon Draisaitl to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The club has $3.28 million in cap space, so an offer sheet is out of the question. I don’t see any player making large coin who is a candidate for LTIR, and the only player that makes sense based on cap is Phil Kessel. I don’t think that’s a trade Edmonton would make even if Phil the Thrill set aside his NMC. I think we’re safe in saying this is several miles past mission impossible.

NO RAGRETS

  • Joe Haggarty: A couple of B’s draft picks, defenseman Ryan Lindgren and center Trent Frederic, are at the USA Hockey camp vying for world junior roster spots, but it’s 5-foot-8 Kailer Yamamotothat’s taken the summer hockey exhibition by storm. That’s the same skilled, explosive Yamamoto that the Edmonton Oilers took 22nd overall and just four spots after the Bruins played it safe in the first round with solid, stay-at-home defenseman prospect Urho Vaakanainen. Source

Haggarty’s article is an interesting one, recommended reading. I think there’s a tendency to undervalue Kailer Yamamoto as a prospect due to size but that’s unfair to the player. Kailer Yamamoto is a very impressive offensive prospect and we are probably looking at a fabulous 1-2 tandem on RW by the end of the decade (Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto). Who plays with McDavid? Who plays with Leon?

Burda was Euro scout beginning in time for the 2005 draft. During his tenure with the Sens, he was or may have been helpful in the procurement of Erik Karlsson, Jakob Silfverberg, Robin Lehner, Mika Zibanejad, Andreas Englund. I’m heartened by the hiring, would like to see more additions to Euro pro scouting (the Lenny Petrell wing of the scouting staff). I do think Chiarelli has done a fine job on the scouting side, Edmonton has been drafting well and the template seems to be targeted toward home runs.

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43 Responses to "CATCH-22"

  1. JDî says:

    Looking forward to the ads for wood during the SSE.

  2. jp says:

    Could Letang be an option out of Pittsburgh?

    Injuries, but 30 yrs old and signed for 5 more yrs at $7.25M. I dunno.

    Not saying I like it, but makes at least as much sense as Kessel.

  3. dustrock says:

    I think what might get Yamamoto a longer look is that he plays the way McLellan probably wants all his forwards to play and his heavy metal to be : fast and hard.

    Yamamotorhead or something.

    5v5, PP, PK, forechecks like the Hound of the Baskervilles

  4. JDî says:

    dustrock,

    Get your Moto runnin’…

  5. OriginalPouzar says:

    jp:
    Could Letang be an option out of Pittsburgh?

    Injuries, but 30 yrs old and signed for 5 more yrs at $7.25M. I dunno.

    Not saying I like it, but makes at least as much sense as Kessel.

    I think the better option is to sign Leon Draisaitl and have him play for the Oilers for the next decade – even more, I’m highly confident that is going to happen.

  6. OriginalPouzar says:

    Looking forward to watching the CAN/USA summer showcase game tonight and seeing Yamamoto play for the first time.

    At the end of the day, I won’t put too much stock in his play at a tournament like this as I expect such a highly skilled player to be among the best at a tournament of other teenagers.

    I expect Kailer to also dominate the WHL and the WJCH this winter.

    Where push will come to shove with this prospect is his ability to play against bigger and stronger men and, frankly, camp will give us our first indication but moreso camp in the fall of 2018.

    I haven’t checked his birth date but am wondering if he’ll be eligible for the AHL next year or if it’ll be NHL or CHL.

  7. slopitch says:

    Nice to hear about KY. One thing I’ve learned about prospects is that the narratives change quickly after the draft. Some regress, some develop and some stay flat. Given how few actually make it, staying flat is regression. Another reason why Tyler Benson needs to stay healthy and post offense. A good development year from 3 of AS,DC, JP, TB and KY and this team is rocking. It’s already on the cusp imo. Could even absorb a Nuge for futures trade 😉

    Not worried about Leon. Especially on the Pittsburgh front. I’m more interested in what the team does with the extra cap space. I’d really like an Oilers Jagr jersey. I’d also take Iggy on my 4th line. Maybe a college fa would be the best long term play. Good post LT!

  8. OriginalPouzar says:

    Be careful of acquisitions at this point unless they are good bets to materially improve the team – we are at 50 contracts (48 with the two slides) – acquiring another contact limits the ability to improve in-season so management best make sure that any acquisition is a good bet for team improvement.

  9. BornInAGretzkyJersey says:

    OriginalPouzar,

    He’s bound for Spokane, with the stated goal of leading the WHL in points.

  10. Acumen says:

    I am still looking at that extra cap room that is basically limited to just this year, the chance for Puljujarvi to dominate the AHL, and the question marks still surrounding RW, and man oh man does Lucic-Draisaitl-Jagr sound appealing. Jesse could slide right into Jaro’s spot the following year with some nice seasoning and confidence to boost him.

    Also put me down for Kailer with Connor for speed and forechecking prowess, and Jesse with Leon for size overload.

  11. OmJo says:

    Was watching the US-Finland game yesterday, and I think it was Button who mentioned JP is eligible for the Work Jr’s this year. If you’re the Oilers, do you let him go? That’d give a small window for one of the AHL wingers to audition for a spot, and would likely do wonders for JPs confidence.

  12. OriginalPouzar says:

    BornInAGretzkyJersey:
    OriginalPouzar,

    He’s bound for Spokane, with the stated goal of leading the WHL in points.

    Yes, this year, I was thinking about next year – I haven’t checked his birth date but I’m hoping that AHL is an option for next season 2018/19 – he won’t necessarily be ready for full time NHL next season.

  13. OmJo says:

    jp:
    Could Letang be an option out of Pittsburgh?

    Injuries, but 30 yrs old and signed for 5 more yrs at $7.25M. I dunno.

    Not saying I like it, but makes at least as much sense as Kessel.

    I’d do a Leon for Crosby trade. Just sayin’.

    I feel like if we trade him for anybody but Crosby or Malkin (assuming we trade with the Pens) we lose out in the long run. At the very worst, Draisaitl is a 80-point RW on McDavids line or a 50-point 2C. Again, that’s worst case scenario. We don’t have another C in the system with the potential and skillset as Draisaitl to replace him, and we likely won’t be drafting in the top 3 for the next 10 years to get another to replace him.

    The return has to be big.

  14. OriginalPouzar says:

    OmJo:
    Was watching the US-Finland game yesterday, and I think it was Button who mentioned JP is eligible for the Work Jr’s this year. If you’re the Oilers, do you let him go? That’d give a small window for one of the AHL wingers to audition for a spot, and would likely do wonders for JPs confidence.

    If he’s made the NHL and is helping the Edmonton Oilers win hockey games, not a chance.

    If he’s still developing in the AHL then, maybe but probably not – playing in the AHL against men is more beneficial than playing against teenagers.

  15. Bruce McCurdy says:

    OriginalPouzar: Yes, this year, I was thinking about next year – I haven’t checked his birth date but I’m hoping that AHL is an option for next season 2018/19 – he won’t necessarily be ready for full time NHL next season.

    He’s got one year of junior left. Birthday is Sep 29, if he was two weeks older he would have been eligible for the 2016 draft.

  16. jp says:

    OriginalPouzar: I think the better option is to sign Leon Draisaitl and have him play for the Oilers for the next decade – even more, I’m highly confident that is going to happen.

    Haha, I agree. I certainly wasn’t endorsing a Draisaitl for Letang move, just suggesting a somewhat plausible speculation following from the article LT posted.

  17. Woodguy v2.0 says:

    This was from yesterday’s morning thread, but I wanted to answer it as I find it interesting:

    jp: Above average for PP2s? Or above average for all PPs?

    Above average period ought to be pretty damn fine for a PP2, no?

    Yes, damn good.

    Oilers last year had the 6th best overall PP in terms of GF/60 with 7.78.

    The median was 6.63.

    These results actually under represent how good the PPs were after Eberle was moved off PP1 and on to PP2 with Letestu taking his spot on PP1.

    This significantly helped PP2 and PP1.

    After Eberle moved to PP2 they put up 7.56 GF/60 (was 4.85 before)

    After Letestu moved to PP1 they put up 11.8 GF/60 (!!!) (was 7.28 before)

    This change happened in late Nov or early December, I forget exactly where.

    If we use Dec 1 as the split we see this:

    Oct – Dec 1: EDM PP GF/60 = 6.67 – 12th in NHL (over that time period)

    Dec 1 – Apr 16: EDM PP GF/60 = 8.87 – 3rd in NHL (over that time period)

    EDM’s power play is a huge weapon. Unit 1 is Elite. Unit 2 is above NHL average, which is great for a 2nd unit.

  18. Pescador says:

    Good morning Lowetide, thank you for this excellent blog post/topic today.
    I have read a plethora of comments about how the Oilers deploy their AHL prospects on this fine blog over the years.
    My take away is that AHL teams that are successful whilst still giving their prospects The majority of “at bats” also tend to graduate more players to the NHL. Is that the concensus?
    Also, do you have any other colleagues aside from Jason Gregor that enjoy the same media access with the Oilers?
    The reason I ask is, the questions you pose regarding the Condors & prospect usage seems way to important a question not to be asked. I would love to hear an answer straight from the horses mouth, wouldn’t you?

  19. jtblack says:

    Bruce McCurdy,

    Wonder if he would have been a 1st rounder in 2016? doubt it.

    IMO Kailer should get a few games as a teaser. Then focus on improving all apsects in Spokane and Rip up the WJC.

    Then next year see if he can make the jump.

    Oilers have rushed / ruined too many prospects. Time to take the patient , long term approach.

  20. godot10 says:

    dustrock:
    I think what might get Yamamoto a longer look is that he plays the way McLellan probably wants all his forwards to play and his heavy metal to be : fast and hard.

    Yamamotorhead or something.

    5v5, PP, PK, forechecks like the Hound of the Baskervilles

    Toronto had the discipline to send Marner back to junior. The ability to delay gratification is one of the surest signs of maturity. The pursuit of instant gratification is one of the surest signs of immaturity.

  21. jtblack says:

    Woodguy v2.0,

    Great stuff. I think we will have the #1 overall PP this year. Connor has learned what works ad what doesn’t. I think Jokinen, Strome, JP etc will help PP 2 stay in a similiar range.

  22. jp says:

    Woodguy v2.0,

    Yeah, wow. Exceptional.

    Thanks for the reply!

  23. commonfan29 says:

    What happens to that Elite PP1 when McDavid starts shooting?

    The mind boggles.

  24. OriginalPouzar says:

    Bruce McCurdy: He’s got one year of junior left. Birthday is Sep 29, if he was two weeks older he would have been eligible for the 2016 draft.

    Ya, I checked earlier this morning – turns 19 before the season starts this year so will be 20 next year and eligible for the AHL if he’s not ready for the NHL – good stuff.

  25. Woodguy v2.0 says:

    godot10: Toronto had the discipline to send Marner back to junior.The ability to delay gratification is one of thesurest signs of maturity.The pursuit of instant gratification is one of the surest signs of immaturity.

    Godot the Tantric.

  26. Woodguy v2.0 says:

    jtblack:
    Woodguy v2.0,

    Great stuff.I think we will have the #1 overall PP this year.Connor has learned what works ad what doesn’t.I think Jokinen, Strome, JP etc will help PP 2 stay in a similiar range.

    I think the personnel is critical to the PP.

    When Letestu joined PP1 it wasn’t just goals that jumped, but shots as well.

    97 + 14 shots/60 = 46.6
    97 + 55 shots/60 = 64.9

    97 and 29 make that PP go, but having the right pieces is crucial.

    This is why I disagree with LT that McLellan will start trying different RW on PP1. Its so good right now that you don’t want to mess with it.

    Also,

    NOTE:

    All the PP data I posted is for ALL PP. That includes 5v3 so it skews a little higher than what we are used to as regular 5v4 GF/60 rates.

    That said, EDM’s units still killed it after the changes.

    Eberle spent a lot of his time on PP2 running it off the half way (97 spot on PP1)

    Will be interesting to see what they do there this year.

  27. Woodguy v2.0 says:

    jp:
    Woodguy v2.0,

    Yeah, wow. Exceptional.

    Thanks for the reply!

    You’re welcome.

    It was a good question that had an interesting answer.

  28. Woogie63 says:

    Drafting in the top 5 hurts the number of players developed in the AHL?

  29. jtblack says:

    Woodguy v2.0,

    I think Edm needs to find a younger, more permanent PP1 Shooter. Letestu did great and TMac has him in the back pocket. But Strome or JP should be the long term solution ….. if they can deliver.

  30. jtblack says:

    Woodguy v2.0,

    “After Letestu moved to PP1 they put up 11.8 GF/60 (!!!) (was 7.28 before)” ….

    What was #1 GF/60

  31. Woodguy v2.0 says:

    jtblack:
    Woodguy v2.0,

    “After Letestu moved to PP1 they put up 11.8 GF/60 (!!!) (was 7.28 before)” ….

    What was #1 GF/60

    For the year (using McDavid as the proxy) unit #1 GF/60 was 9.72

  32. BornInAGretzkyJersey says:

    Woogie63:
    Drafting in the top 5 hurts the number of players developed in the AHL?

    Shouldn’t… if you think about it, that also means the team would be picking early each subsequent round. Poor drafting past the first round has hampered the team as much as deployment, IMO.

  33. Woogie63 says:

    BornInAGretzkyJersey: Shouldn’t… if you think about it, that also means the team would be picking early each subsequent round.Poor drafting past the first round has hampered the team as much as deployment, IMO.

    I get your point. The numbers are out there for success by round selected. By taking a first rounder to directly to the NHL, it has to reduce your AHL development number, no?

  34. OriginalPouzar says:

    Damn, US/CAN not on TV until much later (9:30 on tape delay) – TSN showing CFL on all channels.

    Is there another way to watch?

  35. BornInAGretzkyJersey says:

    Woogie63,

    In a way, yes. In a perfect world, we’d be drafting and developing players who had a strong chance to begin with instead of so many coke machines walkabout picks early (Moroz, Musil, et al). Drafting so high in the first round you tend to expect the prospect as ready or likely to make the jump, it’s the later selections you’d expect to need some development time. But for whatever reason the previous regimes wasted prime picks that could have ripened in the minors over a few years before making the jump to the show and contributing on a regular basis.

  36. BornInAGretzkyJersey says:

    OriginalPouzar,

    Try reddit for a link to a stream (if that jives with you). I believe our host has asked those links to not be posted or I would dig one up for you.

  37. Bruce McCurdy says:

    Woodguy v2.0: This change happened in late Nov or early December, I forget exactly where.

    If we use Dec 1 as the split we see this:

    Oct – Dec 1: EDM PP GF/60 = 6.67 – 12th in NHL (over that time period)

    Dec 1 – Apr 16: EDM PP GF/60 = 8.87 – 3rd in NHL (over that time period)

    Great data, & great guess as to when the change happened, which was in fact on Dec 01. As I wrote in my CoH season review of Letestu, as November wound down the Oilers had gone 0-for-9 in two butt-ugly regulation home losses to Arizona *spits* and Toronto *pukes*, so McLellan shook things up for the Dec 01 game in Winnipeg. Letestu had 0 PPP all year until then, but scored two goals with the man advantage that night, & the unit as a whole went on a 10-for-23 roll over the following two weeks and basically kept ‘er rolling the rest of the way (NHL’s best PP in terms of % for the rest of the season after being #18 through Nov 30).

  38. Bruce McCurdy says:

    Assist for Aapeli Rasanen as Finland ties it up against Sweden for a third time. He’s been in the middle of their 1-3-1 powerplay and has been involved on a couple of goals. Good on the dot, which helps.

    4-4 with 8 minutes left in the 3rd.

  39. OriginalPouzar says:

    BornInAGretzkyJersey:
    OriginalPouzar,

    Try reddit for a link to a stream (if that jives with you).I believe our host has asked those links to not be posted or I would dig one up for you.

    Thanks – never used Reddit before.

  40. Bruce McCurdy says:

    Rasanen with another helper as Finland ties the game yet again at 5-5 on a 6v4 powerplay in the last minute. Rasanen essentially has a third, a second, and a primary helper on the three Finalnd goals this period, all scored on the PP and all by the same guy — Montreal prospect Joni Ikonen.

    Game going to OT.

  41. sliderule says:

    JP will not be going to 2018 WJC.

    He will be playing and contributing with oilers .

  42. Lowetide says:

    sliderule:
    JP will not be going to 2018 WJC.

    He will be playing and contributing with oilers .

    I wouldn’t be surprised. Seriously.

  43. Woodguy v2.0 says:

    Bruce McCurdy,

    Thanks Bruce

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