In the days before training camp, the final 23-man roster seemed to write itself. As is the case every year, surprising performances good and bad have us here. Using this list as the opener, the following players went either north or south during training camp.
- Kailer Yamamoto. I mentioned in the TC prospect primer that he might get a 9-game look but the fact he went out and earned it is breaking news. How high can he fly?
- Jujhar Khaira. He had a good chance but there was plenty of competition. Khaira made the team in a starting spot and that was a great development.
- Yohann Auvitu. I am a fan of this player but did not think he separated himself from the group. With the news of Mark Fayne being waived today, Auvuti appears to be No. 7D.
- Iiro Pakarinen. He had a tough injury one year ago and there was increased competition. Pakarinen earned the job with fine play.
- Chris Kelly. His job is not assured but he’s still here and it looks like he may have earned a job or damned close. That’s a win for the veteran.
- Jesse Puljujarvi. It’s a difficult turn for the big Finn, but a strong showing in Bakersfield beginning this weekend will get him back here soon. He was beaten out for a job but has a range of skill that will eventually land him in Edmonton. I’m not certain he’ll be in the part of the depth chart we once thought but might turn into a strong outscorer and that has exceptional value.
- Anton Slepyshev. Not his fault, injury cost him all of training camp. Today’s transactions may keep him on the roster, and allow someone like Iiro Pakarinen to draw in until the big Russian winger is ready.
OILERS CURRENT ROSTER (healthy)
- G Cam Talbot, 30. Had an average camp, with a couple of fine starts thrown in.
- G Laurent Brossoit, 24. He looked good in final tune up.
- LD Oscar Klefbom, 24. Seems to lack usual extra gear, not 100 percent.
- RD Adam Larsson, 24. Thunderous hitter, very good in coverage.
- LD Kris Russell, 30. I think he looks better LH side.
- RD Matt Benning, 23. The bet is 25 points for young blue.
- LD Darnell Nurse, 22. A big season ahead for big defender.
- RD Eric Gryba, 29. He won the 6D job by defeault.
- LD Yohann Auvitu, 27. I think he won 7D but his position is uneasy.
- C Connor McDavid, 20. I projected 110 points.
- C-R Leon Draisaitl, 21. The German Beliveau.
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 24. Nuge needs to post 5×5 offense this year.
- RC Mark Letestu, 32. Letestu’s 5×5 time limited due to special teams work.
- LC Chris Kelly, 36. He is still here. It’s going to be close.
- L Patrick Maroon, 29. He wants to be back, feeling is mutual.
- L Milan Lucic, 29. He appears focused on the 5×5, and we wait.
- L Jussi Jokinen, 34. Can play anywhere, looks like it might be third line.
- L Jujhar Khaira, 23. Won 4L job on merit.
- L Drake Caggiula, 23. He is edging closer to the McDavid job in my opinion.
- R Kailer Yamamoto, 18. Tremendous run all the way to opening night.
- C-R Ryan Strome, 24. Played his best game of preseason in Vancouver last night.
- R Zack Kassian, 26. His foot speed is the best of his career, brand new player.
- R Iiro Pakarinen, 25. He has a big shot, hammers people and the coach loves him.
- LD Andrej Sekera, 31. He could be out until November of January. Major story.
- LD Ryan Stanton, 27. Headed to IR. They like him, injury was bad damned luck.
- R Anton Slepyshev, 23. May be on opening night roster, could see Bakersfield.
- L Tyler Benson, 19. Headed for IR. Bob has him in Vancouver sometime in October.
- R Brian Ferlin, 25. Headed for IR. Didn’t hear much about him.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
For Mark Fayne, his skill set isn’t a match for Todd McLellan’s style and Peter Chiarelli prefers bruiser types. That’s not the same as saying he can’t play and perhaps we’ll see a trade tomorrow after Fayne clears. Vegas Golden Knights should be looking at him, although they can lose without him so maybe there isn’t a fit.
Jesse Puljujarvi is a different deal. I find his checking ability and coverage to be impressive but remain uncertain of him offensively. He’s going to score, but how much? His release is not quick and pretty much all of the goals I’ve seen him score in pro are off broken plays close to the net and breakaways where speed is as much a factor as his shot. We’ve discussed this before, but it makes me wonder if he is perhaps less dynamic offensively than thought on draft day. I am not suggesting he will be unsuccessful as a player, but rather something other than a sniper. A power forward who can reach Nathan Horton levels is a fantastic value. I do like the idea of starting in the AHL and finishing with the Oilers a much better path than one year ago.
Chris Kelly is still here and that’s interesting.