Ralph Krueger is an interesting interview, a well spoken guy and a man with the ability to get his point across in a winning way. I imagine all of those things have value in the coaching job he’s now doing for Edmonton, and it gives us a chance to have a close look at his vision. Lots of verbal=lots to discuss.
In this article from Jonathan Willis, he quotes Krueger discussing Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz during a Bob Stauffer interview:
- Krueger: “They will be strongest, probably, in those [power play] situations early on. It’s the 5-on-5 game in the National Hockey League that truly tests young players – to find their way defensively first of all and then to create offensively is quite difficult when you’re new into the league. On the power play their skillset will have a little more time and space and they should be able to add to our power play strength immediately.”
Skilled rookies probably enjoy the PP time, no real heavy lifting and extended periods in the offensive zone riffing off other talented players.
Question: are rookies a good option for the PP? Fortunately for us we have a fairly large group of players we can look at over the past few seasons. Here are Oiler rookies, their PP TOI totals per game as rookies, their 5×4/60 and where it ranked among regulars in their freshman season:
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (11-12) 3:00; 7.30/60 (1st among regular forwards)
- Jordan Eberle (10-11) 2:32; 3.92/60 (3rd among regular forwards)
- Sam Gagner (07-08) 2:48; 3.88/60 (4th among regular forwards)
- Magnus Paajarvi (10-11) 1:50; 3.45/60 (6th among regular forwards)
- Linus Omark (10-11) 2:38; 3.35/60 (7th among regular forwards)
- Taylor Hall (10-11) 2:43; 3.27/60 (8th among regular forwards)
- Tom Gilbert (07-08) 2:15; 3.01/60 (1st among regular defensemen)
- Andrew Cogliano (07-08) 2:01; 2.52/60 (9th among regular forwards)
- Jeff Petry (10-11) 2:11/1.67/60 (4th among regular defensemen)
- First conclusion: Nuge is a freak. That was actually the best number in the entire NHL last season among players who would be considered regulars on the PP.
- Beyond that, Eberle and Gagner posted nice numbers and after that everyone is in a bunch. You really can’t tell Linus Omark from Taylor Hall after Gagner on the list.
- Among defenders, Tom Gilbert shows up nicely in a lot of areas over the years. Don’t trade that guy.
- If we’re counting “top 3″ among forwards and “top 2″ among defensemen, then only Nuge, Eberle and Gilbert qualify as rookies who were able to establish themselves as quality options during their rookie seasons.
What does this tell us about Yakupov and Schultz? The biggest item is that the coach is of a mind to use them on the powerplay. After that, their individual performances will dictate the future. I would say that with the forward talent available on the current Oilers, Yakupov getting 1st unit PP minutes would seem to be a tough assignment. Hall, Eberle and Hemsky would be stronger bets for top unit usage.
For Justin Schultz, opportunity knocks and in a big way.