The Edmonton Oilers may have done it again. Although the club has had all kinds of trouble with contracts, addressing needs and making the playoffs this decade the one thing they’ve been really good at during the Lowe era is identifying and procuring defensemen inexpensively.
Steve Staios, MA Bergeron, Jan Hejda, Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov–the list is quality and trumps their drafted men, but they’ve added one that way too (Matt Greene) plus there are a few on this list who might get there one day.
I’ve already dealt with Theo Peckham (#5), Jeff Petry (#7), Taylor Chorney (#8) and there are three defenders to follow in this year’s top 20 after we discuss Johan Motin.
I didn’t plan on listing him here, in fact at the beginning of the fall Motin was still somewhat of an unknown. Although he was listed at #16 in the summer and headed for Springfield, you never really know if the player is going to be Tom Gilbert or Josef Hrabal when they turn pro and face those American Hockey League hitters.
Motin was selected 103rd overall in 2008 and is described as a stay-at-home type defender with good size and strength. The Falcons site lists him at 6.02, 202 and he just turned 20-years old in October. Motin had quite a bit of pro experience before entering the AHL courtesy 102 games in the SEL (with not much offense, he was 0-9-9). We read about his mean streak and picked up that consistency may be a problem (anyone who has watched the Oilers develop youth at the NHL level these last seasons can tell a tale about inexperienced players and their lack of consistency). There was also some concern about footspeed and mobility.
At the end of August I listed Motin as a “training camp hopeful” and pegged him well down the depth chart: “I’d put him behind the 7 men who’ll play in Edmonton and also behind Falcons Peckham, Taylor and Arsene. He’s in a group with AHL vet Bryan Young and former college kids Wild and Chorney. I’ll say he’s the number 4 defender on the Falcons, so that’s 11th on the overall depth chart.” As it turns out he is at least 11th. The Oilers have employed the original 7, along with Arsene, Chorney, Peckham and we’ll have to see which defender gets called up next (if anyone else gets injured).
I’ll confess to not knowing how difficult the minutes are for the Falcons defenders so far this season (in 08-09 the top 4D were Peckham, Chorney, Roy and Wild) but would guess that Motin is facing the soft parade. However, even allowing for that, the current plus minus totals are very interesting:
- Dean Arsene +4
- Johan Motin +4
- Theo Peckham +2
- Jake Taylor -1
- Alex Plante -5
- Chris Armstrong -6
- Cody Wild -8
Taylor Chorney was -4 but only played in 4 games so I didn’t include him. It is reasonable to assume that Arsene, Peckham, Taylor and Wild are the top 4 with Chris Armstrong in there somewhere. Having said that, and considering that Alex Plante and Johan Motin are probably facing similar competition (please let me know if Plante is climbing a mountain every night) it looks like Motin’s Swedish experience and level of ability have him ahead of the Canadian in the race to the majors. There’s no real difference in age, as they were born within a few months of each other.
At Oilers training camp Motin said he felt things were going well and that he was adjusting to the smaller North American rinks quickly. He told Bob Stauffer that his areas of strength were the physical part and the defensive game and the he enjoyed jumping into the rush sometimes. He lists Mattias Norstrom as one of his role models.
Johan Motin is 20-years old, playing in a very strong league (and came from another one where he performed well) and it is a smart bet that he’ll improve as he gets more established at this level. It could be a mirage, but history tells us these Edmonton Oilers can find defensemen at midnight in a snowstorm. Johan Motin might be the latest gem.