Peter Chiarelli worked very hard during the draft and free-agent period to add help where it was most needed for Edmonton. He addressed goaltending (Cam Talbot, Miroslav Svoboda), defense (Andrej Sekera, Griffin Reinhart, Eric Gryba, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, John Marino, Ziyat Paigin) and center (Connor McDavid, Mark Letestu). He added one winger—ONE!—during the week (Lauri Korposki). Why? Extreme quality and depth. A team with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Benoit Pouliot and Nail Yakupov isn’t exactly desperate for an NHL-ready player and the team’s prospect group has some nice options.
We’re at the point in the summer where I begin to peg the fall roster and the 2015-16 season. It’s part of the RE series and helps me project what might happen. It’s funny, because the process forces some frustrating conclusions (Niki Nikitin inside the top 4D) and some interesting possibilities (on the road, Lauri Korpikoski could get a lot of play).
I’ve been staring at the wingers this weekend, trying to get the depth chart set. There’s a tremendous amount of talent here, most of the names below this group won’t see the NHL unless there are injuries.
- Skill LW: Hall, Pouliot
- Skill RW: Eberle, Yakupov, Purcell
- Two-Way LW: Matt Hendricks
- Two-Way RW: Lauri Korpikoski, Rob Klinkhammer
- Luke Gazdic: Luke Gazdic
The Oilers are set for as far as the eye can see on skill wing, the worry (I believe) of dealing Yakupov has past. This is an excellent set of skill wingers—shy on the defense but let’s be real they aren’t here for the checking—and Hall—Eberle plus Pouliot have genuine NHL experience now. If Nail can emerge as a 25-goal man, music! Eberle and Pouliot are signed through 2019, Hall 2020 and Yakupov should be signed beyond those outposts if he earns a long-term deal. One thing we should be aware of? Cost. When the McDavid cluster starts to get paid in 2018 summer, an emerging winger with skill may allow Chiarelli to trade one of the established wingers. The ‘Hawks are currently writing the book on this subject.
The checkers are a veteran group, penalty killers and shot blockers. There’s nothing like a role player who knows he’s a role player and I think Korpikoski might be able to jump up from time to time. Gazdic has a chance to make the team and be a factor, McLellan will want to see him do some actual hockey things but one suspects he makes the grade. All in this group are easily replaced, either via minor leaguer or trade.
AHL OPTIONS AND EMERGING TALENTS
PC didn’t spend a nickel on adding to the skill winger group, definitely because of the bona fide group above. They’re already in the NHL and have miles and miles of blacktop under control. That’s good management. However, it’s also good management to develop areas of strength for trade purposes (or to protect from injury) and as time rolls along, and balance is attained, I think we’ll see some attention paid here.
- Skill LW: Anton Slepyshev, Josh Winquist (minor league deal)
- Skill RW: Andrew Miller
- Two-Way LW: Ryan Hamilton
- Two-Way RW: Tyler Pitlick, Iiro Pakarinen, Greg Chase
- Luke Gazdic: Mitch Moroz, Kale Kessy
There are no top 10 picks on this list but there are some talented hockey players. Oilers fans can watch Slepyshev, Winquist, Pakarinen and Chase closely this season, all have a chance (imo) to emerge as legit NHL talents. The value of having a Slepyshev pop (“pop” isn’t a word I heard used until Chiarelli, is it a new reference?) is huge. It’s also a reason none of us should be the least surprised if the Oilers quietly sign some more Winquist/Holmberg types this summer on AHL deals.
One final item here: Chase is listed under two-way winger but he has enough skill to play higher on the depth chart. Among the bubbling under group, he along with the Russian Slepyshev have (imo) the best chance to have real sustain with the elite group of Edmonton forwards. Even one of these players emerging could be huge summer 2018.
Silence about him, no draft for the Russian and no word at all about the future. He was born October 5, 1995 and I’m uncertain about his status. IS he a free agent? OR does he qualify for the 2016 draft because of his October birthday? Either way, he would be a nice addition to the ‘skill winger’ portion of the team’s depth chart.
BUTTON LOVES THE DRAFT
I posted an ISS look at the Oilers draft the other day and continue the series here with Craig Button’s view. Button is a divisive figure for many, this blog’s comments have been very punishing in the past while the blog’s author respects his view. Button’s list is not meant to predict the draft (as Bob McKenzie’s does) or rely on consensus, it’s Button’s view alone. Like Red Line report, it’s a (free) independent look from a man who had real and quantifiable success in the position of scouting director once upon a time. Here’s how he ranked the Oilers picks:
- No. 1 overall: Connor McDavid. Button had him No. 1. “Two words; unprecedented speed. Skating speed, hand quickness and mental processing that he executes simultaneously to threaten defenders and create opportunities. He would be the first pick at every draft since Sidney Crosby in 2005, perhaps even in Crosby’s draft year.”
- No. 117 overall: Caleb Jones. Button had him No. 81.
- No. 124 overall: Ethan Bear. Button had him No. 77. “There is a lot of ability in his game to impact the game in a positive way. He gets where he needs to be, he never gets himself in trouble. He’s a body-on-body one-on-one competitor. If you want to play against him in the defensive zone, you’ll have to earn everything you get. He can get the puck out of the zone well, he knows what his options are, doesn’t get himself into trouble. Smart player.”
- No. 209 overall: Ziyat Paigin. Button had him No. 86
Today is the deadline for Justin Schultz to file for arbitration. He’s a special case because of his first contract and a difficult player to marry cap to value. Schultz as a third pairing blue and PP specialist—the MA Bergeron role—may in fact be a valuable player. How much do you pay for that? The Washington Capitals just sent away Mike Green because they didn’t want to pay $6M for that slot in their batting order.
The difficulty for me is how he was used last season. Edmonton spent much of it chasing the game, so Schultz received monumental minutes many nights. His boxcars might get him a significant raise in arbitration and leave Edmonton with a player whose trade value and actual value are miles behind his actual cap cost.