The Edmonton Oilers need two right wingers to emerge in one season. If we can agree the 1R will be the mirror man (Leon Draisaitl/Ryan Strome) and Zack Kassian has one of the other jobs locked up, we’re looking for two right wingers to emerge in one year. The club does have some bona fide options for the position, but they are unproven and offense is the question mark. Jesse Puljujarvi was a 2016 lottery pick, Anton Slepyshev has shown signs of being a legit NHL winger and Drake Caggiula improved markedly over the length of his rookie season. Are their bats good enough for the heart of the order? If your No. 5 and No. 6 hitters aren’t good enough, your offense will die on the vine. That’s a fact.
OILERS 1979-80: RIGHT WINGERS
What I’m about to show you can be proven with microfiche and a good month of digging, so you’re going to have to take my word for it (or ask McCurdy). During the 1979-80 season, the following right-wingers played for the Oilers:
- Blair MacDonald 80gp, 46-48-94 (played with 99 and filled the net all year)
- Dave Lumley 80gp, 20-38-58 (Impressive rookie season)
- Cam Connor 38gp,7-13-20 (traded to NYR for Don Murdoch, March 1980)
- Bobby Schmautz 29gp, 8-8-16 (acquired in December, dealt in February)
- Bill Flett 20gp, 5-2-7 (started the year with Oil, struggled, retired and became a scout for the team)
- Don Murdoch 10gp, 5-2-7 (acquired for Connor, March 1980)
- Dan Newman 10gp, 3-1-4 (traded to Boston for Bobby Schmautz, December 1979)
- Kari Makkonen 9gp, 2-2-4 (extended cup of coffee)
- Wayne Bianchin 11gp, 0-0-0 (Expansion claim, he didn’t have much left)
- Alex Tidey 5gp, 0-0-0 (acquired from Buffalo for John Gould, November 1979)
- Ron Carter 2gp, 0-0-0 (signed as underage free agent July 1978)
In truth, more men played right wing that season. There are 26 games not accounted for above, filled by centers and left wingers deemed more capable. The funny thing? Almost all of these players (certainly the top 8RW’s) were fairly productive when in the lineup. The following season, Edmonton iced six wingers, two of whom were fantastic rookies (Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson). Between those two men, Blair MacDonald (before he was traded), Dave Lumley and Don Murdoch, the position really belonged to five men in 1980-81—six fewer than the previous season. As we’ve discussed previously, expecting Kurri and Anderson is too much to dream—perhaps Ales Hemsky and Fernando Pisani (emerged in 2002-03) is a more suitable dream.
SNIPERS AND CHECKERS: THERE’S A DIFFERENCE
Back a decade or so, the common discussion on this blog surrounded two center prospects, Marc Pouliot and Rob Schremp. I was a Pouliot man, and people would often call me out on it, but I would always counter with the same retort: They were not applying for the same job, not ever. Schremp was always going to be on a scoring line (if he made the grade), while Pouliot was going to be playing a two-way role. Come to find out that my view matched that of Craig MacTavish—but the player vehemently disagreed.
- Louise (Ice_Dragoon), July of 2008: Interesting bit of radio I just heard. Bob Stauffer said that MacTavish told Pouliot that he sees a ‘Guy Carbonneau’ in him. And apparently, our young C was not impressed. hmmm… Guess the kid still has dreams of grandeur. Certainly can’t fault him for that.
By 2008 Marc Pouliot was well past his draft year (2003) and through his entry-level deal. At some point, he needed to either buy into the idea of being a checker (third or fourth line) or get a second opinion (another NHL team) and the latter happened, followed by Europe.
Young scoring stars in junior develop into skill players. Young scoring stars in junior also develop into checkers. Checkers in junior develop into other industries not related to playing professional hockey. Marc Pouliot scored more than a point-per-game in his draft season, posted a strong rookie AHL season and had the look of a future NHLer for much of his entry-level deal. He didn’t make it to 200 NHL games and that is a shame, but part of it probably has to do with Louise’s quote above.
During this year’s training camp, we are going to see players whose offense may not imply a top 6F future placed into a scenario where they may in fact have an opportunity to hold the job for a time. What should we expect from that kind of equation? Well, my RE reflects exactly this outcome:
- Jesse Puljujarvi 65gp, 14-14-28
- Anton Slepyshev 70gp, 12-13-25
- Drake Caggiula 70gp, 12-10-22
Ideally someone grabs the job and by spring I’m sure we’ll have a winner among the three men. That doesn’t mean any of these fellows is the long term solution. Are any or all of these men Ales Hemsky long term? Or do they have more in common with Fernando Pisani?
OILERS FORWARDS (PROSPECTS) 5X5/60 SCORING
I don’t think there’s much doubt that Jesse Puljujarvi is going to be a capable offensive player in the NHL, but the questions (when and how much) are pertinent to 2017-18 and the uncertainty surrounding right wing. The others? I don’t know. I have been staring at these numbers since April, and can’t really see how we can confidently project any of these players as certain 20-goal men in the coming year. The Puljujarvi issue is merely time, I think, as displayed by his AHL scoring numbers (and age).
AHL POINTS PER GAME (AHL)
Assuming even normal scoring progression, Puljujarvi should be over 1/1 at age 20 and that’s a skill player in the NHL for certain. As an aside, look at the spikes in scoring for Edmonton’s forward prospects in the final seasons of their entry-level deals. I still think the club fades kids in the first two seasons, would love to know the TOI. We know the Oilers are going to track that internally this coming season, I think it will be quite revealing. But not to us.
AHL FORWARDS, PRIMARY POINTS (5×5)
This is courtesy Prospect-Stats.com. Primary points are (for me) a cleaner way to measure offense because we’re drilling down to where the bullet hits the bone. I wish we had these measures for the Pouliot-Schremp era. Puljujarvi was 18 and most of his 5×5 points (15 of 19) were of the primary variety. Slepyshev also scores well but he’s four years older. Caggiula was in the NHL, but I’m not convinced he would have ripped up the blacktop.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
We fool ourselves all the time, looking for a new way to drift away to a better tomorrow. And yet, one day we wake up with Pouliot in the alps and Schremp in Ikea surrounded by blondes. What do we know for sure? Nothing. I think we’re on solid ground says Jesse Puljujarvi will eventually play a substantial role on a prominent line but we don’t have his offense surrounded yet. I also believe we’re fooling ourselves if we express certainty about Slepyshev and or Caggiula being a long-term solution on a skill line. We don’t know what we don’t know. I’m not even certain two of these guys should be applying for a skill job.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, fun show on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Jonathan Willis, The Athletic and Nation Network. We’ll talk about these RW hopefuls, Chris Kelly and a rookie tournament held without the normal spotlight.
- Scott Cullen, TSN. Scott’s fantasy hockey numbers are out, we’ll discuss. Also CFL, NFL and lord knows.
- Derek Taylor, TSN. A crazy CFL week answers little, tightens much.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!