The first time I saw him, Caleb Jones was flying. He arrived same summer as Connor McDavid, so getting noticed in that company was something else. This fall, and mind it’s early days, Caleb Jones seems to have added calmer feet. If he can combine those wheels with good decisions and calm feet, the Edmonton Oilers may have a gem from the fourth round. Manna from heaven.
THE 2018 DRAFT
Bob McKenzie’s pre-season list is here and my early favorite is a man named Ty Smith. Hopefully Edmonton is drafting No. 31 overall in 2018 but this is the year of the defenseman across the first round.
There was a time in the 2016 entry draft when I felt certain the Edmonton Oilers were going to trade up to draft Logan Stanley. He is a giant defender who has most of his value on the defensive side of the spectrum and would be best suited for a third round selection. Winnipeg grabbed him, always wondered how tempted PC was to trade up.
This summer, the Oilers shocked me to the shoes when taking Kailer Yamamoto. Small, violently skilled, motor that wouldn’t quit and pure aggression in puck pursuit, you can see in these games why the Oilers liked him. There’s nuance in his game, he’s not just a small player, but I’ll argue there was a time when the Oilers would have passed on him. I watched him this week with dogged determination on the forecheck and backcheck, and it was so good. He tried to do too much with the puck, I’d rather see that kind of performance than an invisible prospect. Remember those first rounders? I can list all of them from the past 25 years if you wish, but you’ll need to pack a lunch because it’s going to take all day.
- LC Lane Bauer. He showed well, although not offensively.
- L Luke Coleman. Big winger with a long stride, he got lost a little.
- R Trey Fix-Wolansky. He’s 5.08, 165 and highly skilled. He buzzed quite a bit in this week, difficult to do because of the duplicate skill higher up the food chain.
- RC Austin Glover. A 6.02, 187 center with good speed, he was effective mostly in a checking role.
- RD Sahvan Khaira. Huge defender (and Jujhar’s brother), I saw him good.
- C-W Davis Koch. He always impresses me.
- RC Steve Owre. We didn’t see him much.
- LC Grayson Pawlenchuk. I was very impressed by him, speed and determination.
- LC Brandon Saigeon. Strong on the puck, good passer.
- LD Liam Schioler. Big blue had good and bad moments.
- RD Austin Strand. He has size, grit and skates well. Had some chaos and some brilliance.
- RC Ethan Szypula. An excellent performance, he showed up in good spots on the ice.
CAN YOU FEEL IT?
Watching all of the defensive talent last night, it was easy to imagine what decisions may be available for this team two years from now. There’s no hurry on Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, Ziyat Paigin or Ryan Mantha, nor is there a rush with William Lagesson. Dmitri Samorukov can develop on his own timeline (by the way, what a player!) and when Kris Russell’s NMC arrives my guess he’ll be leaving town in favor of a less expensive (and less experienced) option. Peter Chiarelli is building up a substantial group of assets here, I want them all to play as Oilers. This will not happen. I haven’t found my Jim Dorey yet (he was my favorite of the new Leafs back in about 1970, the most popular was Jim McKenny. Girls loved Jim McKenny. You could look it up) but this Jones fellow may have the inside track.
ESTIMATED TRAINING CAMP ROSTER (60)
- G Cam Talbot, 30. Aside from McDavid, the most important player on the roster.
- G Laurent Brossoit, 24. I believe he’ll keep the job but 25 starts should tell us a lot about him.
- G Nick Ellis, 23. One of the top players to watch in training camp and preseason.
- G Eddie Pasquale. AHL backup or Co-No. 1 goalie is my guess.
- G Shane Starrett. Another college goalie turning pro. Strong resume.
- G Dylan Wells. Quality performance in rookie camp.
- G Stuart Skinner. He rocked Penticton with the save of the tournament.
- L Oscar Klefbom, 24. He can wheel, his shot is a rocket and he is just coming into his own.
- L Kris Russell, 30. Todd McLellan values him highly, the Woodmoney tells us what he does well.
- L Andrej Sekera, 31. He won’t be back for at least 20 games, maybe as many as 40. Gack!
- L Darnell Nurse, 22. Big, strong, fleet and with a substantial mean streak. A big season ahead.
- L Yohann Auvitu, 27. He has dynamic qualities as a puck mover.
- L Ryan Stanton, 27. He appears poised to battle Auvitu for the 7D spot this fall.
- LD Dillon Simpson. Excellent chance he plays some NHL games this year.
- LD Keegan Lowe. Top 4D in Bakersfield and I think he might get NHL time in 2017-18.
- LD Ziyat Paigin. ETA for Paigin is fall 2018 imo, the organization loves him. You can tell based on verbal.
- LD Ben Betker. Big man should get a full AHL season.
- LD Caleb Jones. Fastest and most mobile of the new pro defensemen.
- LD Dmitri Samorukov. He was a revelation at rookie camp. My can he scoot.
- R Adam Larsson, 24. He is an actual NHL defenseman and one mean SOB. I love it.
- R Matt Benning, 23. He’s a smart player, good-to-excellent with the puck and cool as a cucumber.
- R Eric Gryba, 29. I think he’ll be in the mix for regular third-pairing activity until Sekera retuns.
- R Mark Fayne, 30. He can defend but speed is poor, does not play a rugged game and no offense.
- RD Ethan Bear. A player to watch in Bakersfield, his passing and his shot are going to get him noticed.
- RD Ryan Mantha. Big man, big shot, good speed. Duplicates Bear’s skill set and he is a year older.
- C Connor McDavid, 20. The most exciting thing since Al Gore invented the internet.
- C-R Leon Draisaitl, 21. I love him as a center, hope the club sticks to it.
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 24. Todd McLellan is going to ride him hard on the PK and at evens.
- RC Mark Letestu, 32. Unique skill set fits the Oilers perfectly. Ultimate utility knife.
- LC Brad Malone, 28. Malone can play center, wins faceoffs, penalty kills.
- C Joe Gambardella, 23. He is not a high end prospect but could emerge as an NHL option.
- C Grayson Downing. Skilled center coming off subpar second AHL season.
- RC Josh Currie. Back on an AHL deal, he has skill and two-way ability.
- RC Kyle Platzer. Platzer is pulling in to the last chance Texaco.
- RC Chad Butcher. Penticton superstar, he has momentum entering camp.
- L Patrick Maroon, 29. All he’s done since arriving is score goals. Walk year, look out!
- L Milan Lucic, 29. If he can get the 5×5 back, Lucic might push 60 points (career high 62).
- L Drake Caggiula, 23. He may not emerge as a scorer, but there are other things he can bring.
- L Jussi Jokinen, 34.He will be valued for his penalty killing and for ability to play up and down the lineup
- L Jujhar Khaira, 23. The Oilers like his size, speed and grit, with scoring the one worry.
- L Chris Kelly, 36. Has a chance as PK option.
- L Joey Laleggia, 25. Scored damn near 20 in AHL second half.
- L Ryan Hamilton. AHL only deal, he’ll get some time with the big club in camp.
- L Braden Christoffer. Final year of entry deal coming up, Christoffer hasn’t shown enough offense.
- L Evan Polei. Size and skill (6.02, 227 and 33 WHL goals) are intriguing. Strong Penticton.
- L Tyler Benson. He is skating now, can’t imagine the frustration.
- L Ostap Safin. Size, speed and skill. Lacks consistency.
- L Kirill Maksimov. He’s a real straight shooter, exactly what the Oilers need.
- C-R Ryan Strome, 24. This is a grand opportunity for Strome, who gets to be 97’s wingman.
- R Jesse Puljujarvi, 19. Puljujarvi is an impressive prospect with great skills.
- R Zack Kassian, 26. I feel we are looking at a brand new player who could surprise.
- R Anton Slepyshev, 23. I see him as being a big part of this year’s forward group. Injury a worry.
- R Iiro Pakarinen, 25. He plays with the abandon, a bubble player entering camp.
- R Ty Rattie, 24. He’s just one year older than Slepyshev and could push for a roster spot.
- R Mitch Callahan, 25. Consistent AHL performer, he brings skill with some physical play.
- R Kailer Yamamoto, 18. Electric skills and he can score goals. Uneven Penticton.
- R Patrick Russell. Scored only 8 times as rookie pro, posted strong offense in the NCAA.
- R Greg Chase. Final year of entry-level deal ahead, another last chance Texaco.
- R Brian Ferlin. Effective when healthy. Has had substantial injury issues.
- R Dave Gust. Small skill winger signed to an AHL deal.
- R Zach O’Brien. Played mostly in the ECHL a year ago, can also play center.
We’ll get the actual list sometime before opening night, maybe even today! I wouldn’t rule out a Dennis Wideman, but seems to me this roster looks set.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun show with crazy good guests, 10 this morning on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. We’ll chat about the training camp roster and what we saw from rookie camp.
- Rob Vollman, NHL.com and ESPN. The Pastrnak contract, a case for the defense.
- Frank Seravalli, TSN. Duchene trade coming?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!