This Edmonton Oilers team is incomplete. If we can see the problems, it’s certain Todd McLellan can but fixing the hole where the rain comes in is easier said than done. I count defense and penalty killing as the main issues, you can bring you list to compare. The club may address both (acquiring Colin Miller for the defense, signing Chris Kelly for the PK are moves we might see) before opening night.
GOALS LAST NIGHT
- Zack Kassian (1) from Chris Kelly (3) and Yohann Auvitu (1)
- Milan Lucic (1) from Leon Draisaitl (3) and Connor McDavid (5)
- Connor McDavid (2) from Drake Caggiula (3)
- Connor McDavid (3) from Kailer Yamamoto (2) and Kris Russell (1)
Laurent Brossoit got the shutout with 30 saves. If that was your first hockey game, I expect you would buy a 97 jersey and plan a trip to Edmonton for another game to see the most exciting athlete on the planet.
FROM THE COACH
- Todd McLellan: “There’s still competition. By no means is this camp over.”
It was a funny night in regard to the bubble group. Yohann Auvitu had moments good and bad, seemed to lose his mark a couple of times and that has to be a concern. I remain impressed when he has the puck on his stick. Here’s a quick note on the group who played in Saskatoon last night.
Patrick Maroon Connor McDavid Kailer Yamamoto
The line showed well (a bunch of their points came on special teams) but you’d like to see them get more games together before making a final call. I don’t know if Yamamoto gets another game, but my guess is that the coach is at least considering this trio for opening night. McLellan on KY: “He’s been tremendous throughout training camp and probably deserves the right to carry on.”
Milan Lucic Leon Draisaitl Jesse Puljujarvi
A couple of points on the night, for me each man had his best game of the preseason. Important for all but JP played a sound game and seemed to be far more involved. Lucic used that size and aggression well and Leon was flying with the puck on his stick. I liked this unit quite a bit.
Drake Caggiula Ryan Strome Zack Kassian
All three men did good things on the night, Kassian is a terror when he gets clean air. Strome took a shot off his foot but returned, he has good instincts around the net and I expect he’ll score a few on the power play. Caggiula might play on one of the top two lines opening night.
Brad Malone Chris Kelly Iiro Pakarinen
They had trouble 5×5 with Carolina, hemmed in pretty much every time I noticed them. PK work from the group was solid, I think Pakarinen is the only one who’ll stay.
Kris Russell Matt Benning
Defended well, I am warming up to this pairing. Edmonton’s 5×5 offense depends on getting the forwards the puck with some clean air in front of them. It was a strength for Benning a year ago and I liked the work from both men last night.
Darnell Nurse Eric Gryba
Nurse seems to have better pace on his passes this fall, small sample size but there does seem to be improvement. He skated miles last night. Gryba was grumpy and physical, he owns the No. 6 job in my opinion.
Yohann Auvitu Adam Larsson
Larsson was terrific, I really like his game. Excellent defender, smart player. I don’t think we’re every going to see 30 points but he helps at the other end. Auvitu is sublime with the puck, indifferent without it. I don’t know that McLellan will employ him for an entire year, but the other option is Mark Fayne. Hell, maybe he keeps them all.
He was excellent in the shutout, stopping a lot of difficult shots and playing angles well. A nice way to end training camp as he heads into his first season as an NHL backup.
YOU DON’T PULL NO PUNCHES
The number one thing we’re going to keep track of this season is performance without 97 on the ice. When Connor McDavid is playing for the Edmonton Oilers, this is a championship team. Without him? That’s a different story. I’m pleased to see all four lines performing well during the preseason but that has to continue through the season. The Letestu line should get the soft parade but could not dominate a year ago. Nuge may well see far fewer top minutes, he should be able to get closer to 50 percent of the goals at 5×5.
I think it comes down to Leon Draisaitl. If he can push the river (he’ll be playing against tough opposition) and win the goal share 5×5, this Edmonton Oilers team may be able to push for Stanley. Even a sawoff by Nuge and Letestu puts this team in a good spot but with Leon playing a feature role Edmonton could dominate the heart of the game. If Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl win the 5×5 GF-GA by a substantial margin, this team could be a Stanley winner come spring. Enormous weight to put on Leon, we’ll see how he shines.
Jim Matheson has been mentioning Colin Miller and Vegas on twitter the last couple of days, uncertain if he’s doing some blue sky or is hearing something. He chose a really good name for the Oilers, Miller would be a solid fit for the club. If this deal is going to come down, suspect it happens soon.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Today’s show is drunk with terrific guests. At 10 this morning, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal. A look at last night’s game and we’ll chat about the RW options.
- Rob Vollman, ESPN and NHL.com. We’ll chat about the Pacific Division and the impact of injuries in Anaheim and Edmonton.
- Frank Seravalli, TSN. The top 50 players in the NHL.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. We’re less than one week away!