One of the ways we can track Todd McLellan as he susses out this roster is even-strength time on ice. The coach doles out those minutes with great care, idea being perfect deployment based on personnel available. If someone is performing well, we should expect a jump in time on ice, and if the player is in a slump, then a dive in minutes should be expected. Let’s start with a quick comparison year over year.
TIME ON ICE, 5X5, OILERS FORWARDS
- Patrick Maroon—Connor McDavid—Leon Draisaitl have all seen an increase in their time on ice per game, which should come as no surprise. Todd McLellan’s job depends on one thing—wins! If his team is struggling, makes complete sense for him to go with what has been proven. It’s the number one reason why I projected Leon Draisaitl playing 70 percent of his even-strength time with Connor McDavid.
- Milan Lucic—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Kailer Yamamoto (who replaces Jordan Eberle’s 14:30) are all seeing fewer minutes, and in the case of Lucic over one minute. This is interesting for several reasons, including the more productive 5×5 point totals for Nuge and Lucic we discussed this morning. Perhaps something around 13 minutes is right for this trio, the results at 5×5 offensively are better so far this year.
- Drake Caggiula—RyanStrome—Zack Kassian are a mixed bag, with Strome’s time increasing from his final season with the Islanders and the other two seeing less time. That’s probably due to Strome getting a push on the skill lines from time to time. This is where the heartache begins for Edmonton, simply not enough 5×5 offense from the third and fourth lines. Strome has three even-strength points, Kassian one point in the discipline. That’s a problem. Kassian seems to be off so far this year, important we see some of that timely even-strength offense soon.
- Jussi Jokinen—Mark Letestu—Anton Slepyshev are all down, and Jokinen’s lack of usage is probably the most telling portion of the entire exercise. I thought Jokinen would be a strong addition but his speed is a concern and coach McLellan doesn’t appear to like his game. Anton Slepyshev was mentioned today in a Mark Spector article as a possible trade piece, so that tells you we may be in the “Brad Winchester needs another opinion” portion of the relationship.
- That Spector article is a good one, if you have the time take a moment.
- NHL.com quotes Todd McLellan as saying it’s possible Kailer Yamamoto remains after his audition. Suspect they flat out like him more than Jesse Puljujarvi, Drake Caggiula and Anton Slepyshev in the role of skill winger. JP showed well in Bakersfield with Peter Chiarelli in the crowd, perhaps that becomes a consideration. These coaches (as mentioned above) run with the guys who they believe can help them win.
- It’s also possible Peter Chiarelli makes a trade. Rumors and innuendo keep mentioning left-wingers (Max Pacioretty and Chris Kreider via Elliotte Friedman/Bob Stauffer), leading me to believe Leon Draisaitl is a right winger for the rest of the season.
- The Spector article mentions Matt Benning as a player of interest, likely in exchange for another young NHL defender. I really like Benning’s game, despite the struggles.
My key takeaway from this day surrounds Kailer Yamamoto. In Todd McLellan’s opinion, the young man remains the strongest option for 2R. He is averaging 14 even-strength minutes a night when he plays, and was lined up at 2R today during practice. Failing a trade, this is us.