We’re about two decades into the century, watching elite talents emerge alongside mere humans with a work ethic. We appear to be heading into something of a lull in terms of rookie forwards who can impact immediately and that gives us a chance to look back and review. One of the questions I always have when it comes to rookies is this: Can we tell which of these kids will grow into useful skill forwards? My means of measuring offense from forwards is 5×5 scoring per 60 minutes. In the words of the great Martha Reeves, there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. For the following look back, I used NHL.com (even-strength-per-60) for the first few years, 5×5 per 60 afterwards (as noted).
ROOKIE FORWARDS, 2000 TO 2004
- Glen Sather and Barry Fraser drafted Mike Comrie, Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani and Jason Chimera, so there’s still a lot of those two men that drifted into this century.
- All of the rookies who posted 1.90 or better had substantial NHL careers. Is that the line in the sand? Doesn’t explain Jarrett Stoll, who posted just 1.39/60 as a rookie.
- Who had the best career in this group? I’ll say Ales Hemsky, you may choose another.
- Hemsky was a killer right out of the box. The entire city spent a decade driving to that rink in the bitterest cold imaginable just to watch him play. Next time someone jokes about Hemmer, you remember that. Absolutely no fear from that guy, not one time.
ROOKIE FORWARDS, 2007 TO 2008
- No season in 2004-05, no rookies of note in 2005-06.
- The men listed here under 2006-07 were part of the group impacted by the years when Edmonton had no designated minor league team. Offense was a big issue, Jacques didn’t piss a drop in 37 games. I really thought Pouliot would have a career, turned out Stortini and Winchester hung around the longest.
- That’s a nice list of rookies in 2007 fall, all three heading to camp exactly one decade later. Cogliano had a terrific rookie year, Gagner got a lot of attention as the next big hope and Brodziak was similar to Chimera in that the Oilers didn’t know what they had in him.
- If we use 1.90 (Chimera) as the cut line, then Jarret Stoll is the only outlier through 2008.
ROOKIE FORWARDS, 2009 TO 2011
- The motherlode season for rookies was 2010. There were five pretty good wingers pushing, but only two of them shine on as bona fide skill wingers now.
- I think the Oilers got in the way of Magnus Paajarvi, coach Tom Renney admitting at the time he got lost in the shuffle. He skates so well MP will be around until he’s past 40, hope he returns to the Oilers and wins a Stanley.
- Linus Omark could have been a solid NHL player on a more organized team. I believe that to be true.
- Teemu Hartikainen was progressing in the organization right up until the point he was no longer in the plans. I wish I knew what happened there, he seemed at least a solid bottom 6F.
- The three wingers (Hall, Ebere, MPS) true performed below 1.90 but that team was very poor and these kids were boats against the current even as rookies. If we say 1.75/60, Stoll remains the only one to emerge as a bona fide NHL player with a lower number.
ROOKIE FORWARDS, 2012 TO 2014
- Nuge had a fine rookie season and has been inconsistent in 5×5 scoring since. One of the chief reasons the Oilers are (reportedly) moving him to McDavid’s wing is in an effort to jumpstart that offensive touch. It isn’t the worst idea.
- Nail Yakupov had the best 5×5/60 number of any Oilers No. 1 previous to McDavid (I am using NaturalStatTrick or Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com).
- Mark Arcobello was an older rookie and he had no draft pedigree but I was always impressed with his intelligent play. I bet he’d make an excellent coach.
ROOKIE FORWARDS, 2015 TO 2016
- Leon Draisaitl’s number looks poor because he was unlucky and unready, but he’s made up for it since.
- Connor McDavid’s 2.77/60 is the best of the century among Oilers rookie forwards. My what a player.
- Jesse Puljujarvi was 1.45/60 at 18, one of the reasons I ran this was in search of a comparable. The closest? Jarret Stoll.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
We’re across two decades here and a diverse group of teams in terms of quality. Usage as rookies is also a gigantic challenge and of course some of these men were 18 and others were 25. One of the reasons I wanted to look at these numbers was Jesse Puljujarvi, who continues to be a fascinating and yet elusive study. What did this look tell me about JP? I’m not sure anything. The McDavid effect is easily the largest sun in the prospect sky over these years, so, Puljujarvi’s performance with and without remains “God’s flashlight” in the JP story.
- Jesse Puljujarvi 5×5/60 scoring with Connor McDavid: 2.86
- Jesse Puljujarvi 5×5/60 scoring without Connor McDavid: 0.59
Small sample size alert on both fronts but you can clearly see why this might be an issue. Jesse Puljujarvi posted glorious numbers with 97, he was Luke Gazdic without. That’s a major league zoom.
An article up at ISport.cz includes an interview with the big man and is highly recommended. You will want to hit google translate and the part about ‘angina’ clearly isn’t the same as your aged auntie’s maladies, but it’s an excellent read.
- Leon Draisaitl on the 80s Oilers: “I would love to be successful once. It’s nice to compare us with them. They are legends, big names, but on the other hand we play for ourselves. We must do the name for ourselves. It’s up to us how we can do that, what we’re going to do.” Source
I love this quote, it acknowledges the past without being too over the top. Work to do, what’s past is past. I lived the 80s, enjoyed every minute. However, it’s also time for a brand new day, new heroes and memories. You push, Leon, break on through to the other side.
The next big rookie forward in the pipeline is the smallest in forever, Kailer Yamamoto. He is 2gp, 2-2-4 in WHL exhibition games and will be a feature player in Penticton and then back here for the Nait/MacEwan game. After that? Logic and reason dictate a full year in the WHL. And yet, I return to the Achilles heel of the current group of NHL hopefuls—offense. Yamamoto has a 25 percent shot by my estimate to play at least nine games with the Oilers this season. The normal move is this: Edmonton sends the young man back after a couple of exhibition games with the big club. Based on the team’s own past, I think it is reasonable to suggest that may not happen. We wait.
Note: The Lowdown takes a break today, slight chance the Oilers release their rookie roster for Penticton. If they do, I’ll update right away. Otherwise, expect another post at 5pm Edmonton time.