I sincerely believe Peter Chiarelli tried to keep the kids on the farm last season, but in many cases (specifially Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse) it was impossible. Why? The performance of the NHLers (Andrew Miller, Griffin Reinhart, others) didn’t warrant keeping the youngsters in Bakersfield.
The addition of Drake Caggiula gives the organization another chance to get things right. The new man’s NHL equivalency (82gp, 22-22-44) tells us he has the potential to crash the NHL party soon—and he should push, being 22 in June—but projecting him into the lineup would be a mistake. He has played some center, but for our purposes we are going to discuss him as a winger—specifically LW, although one assumes he could play right side, too.
The Oilers had several pleasant surprises among the callups last season. I thought Jujhar Khaira showed well—better than we might have expected based on the numbers since draft day—and there’s no reason the Oilers can’t be patient with a more offensive prospect like Caggiula.
Anton Slepyshev has some competition, but Caggiula has a range of skills and we might be looking at a player who could push Iiro Pakarinen and others in the fall. He is a winger, so getting on a skill line could be difficult, but in actual fact the man he could be replacing is Nail Yakupov.
OILERS CURRENT LW DEPTH CHART
- L Taylor Hall, impact NHL player.
- L Benoit Pouliot, underrated by many. Trade rumors.
- L Patrick Maroon, big winger has been exceptional since arrival.
- L Lauri Korpikoski, Oilers should try to offload him this summer.
- L Matt Hendricks, checking NHL W.
- L Drake Caggiula. A nice addition, let’s not go crazy on projecting him.
- L Jere Sallinen, Newly signed, you can never have too many Finns.
- L Mitch Moroz, AHL winger/enforcer, matriculating.
- L Braden Christoffer, rugged winger, matriculating.
This is without addressing possible in-house additions like Josh Winquist, Kale Kessy and Iiro Pakarinen (all without contracts). I will guess Edmonton signs Pakarinen and does a buyout or trade on Lauri Korpikoski. Looking at the depth chart, I think it is safe to say Caggiula will have a feature role in Bakersfield—if all things remain as they are this morning. And that will not happen.
Among the very best things Craig MacTavish accomplished in his short time as GM was the signing of big winger Benoit Pouliot. He is a solid possession player, effective shotgun rider for Connor McDavid and a brilliant outlet killer (plays get derailed often via a deft stick from Poo). I think he is a candidate for leaving town. A smart NHL team is going to see his line and jump at the opportunity. This is his player card for last season:
- 5×5 points per 60: 2.05 (4th among regular forwards)
- 5×4 points per 60: 3.75 (6th among regular forwards)
- Corsi for % 5×5: 51.0
- Qual Comp: 6th toughest among regular forwards (2nd line opp)
- Qual Team: 5th best teammates among regular forwards (2nd line linemates)
- Corsi Rel: 7.9
- Shots on goal/percentage: 109/12.8%
- Boxcars: 55GP, 14-22-36
We talk about trading value, well this is what it looks like. Benoit Pouliot is a better player than all the LWs but Taylor Hall, and I think the signing of Caggiula starts the clock on an eventual trade. The question becomes when will that happen? Possibly this summer, I imagine.
CHIARELLI ASSET LIST
- No. 4 overall selection
- Benoit Pouliot
- Jordan Eberle
- 2017 1st round selection
- Young LHD (Darnell Nurse, Brandon Davidson, Griffin Reinhart)
- Nail Yakupov
- Cap space (Edmonton might be able to get a player like Bozak on the cheap because of it)
I had Pouliot on this list previously (here) at No. 5, but have moved him up to No. 2. He has real value—little doubt in my mind he could fetch a legit NHL defender—and the free-agent move with Caggiula may partly address that area.
CHIARELLI SUMMER LIST
- Top-pairing D to partner with Klefbom (think Travis Hamonic/Jason Demers)
- Second-pairing RHD to partner with Sekera (think Tyson Barrie/Sami Vatanen)
- Acquire RHC with some skill (Small group available. Tommy Wingels? Tyler Bozak?)
- Offload unwanted contract (Lauri Korpikoski)
- Backup goalie (Jhonas Enroth)
- Find value contracts (Davidson, Maroon, possibly Caggiula)
- Re-stock the system partly through college and CHL signings (big summer)
- Build up the system (especially forwards) via draft (big summer)
I think Caggiula could end up being one of those value contracts Edmonton needs so badly. If he finds his way onto one of the skill lines, this young man could be very helpful and a real cap buster.
Drake Caggiula has all kinds of connections to the Oilers. Bob McKenzie mentioned last night on twitter that the youngster might have been a member of the Erie Otters if not for the UND decision. That would have made him Alex DeBrincat and we should watch closely in TC to see if there is some chem between Caggiula and 97. Those two with Eberle seems unlikely, but perhaps with Maroon or (preferably) Benoit Pouliot playing portside it could work.
Dillon Simpson was a teammate to Caggiula in UND for a couple of years (Bob Stauffer pointed this out on twitter last night) and that may have contributed to the final decision.
THE 2014 DRAFT
I think the aggression shown by Peter Chiarelli in college free agency this spring is a direct result of the silly 2014 draft—where the Oilers apparently felt they had too many actual prospects and decided to draft some distant bells to relieve the stress of all those prospects in the system. The mind boggles.
I would love to tell you this morning about structure and balance and real depth. I would love to guarantee you a Jeff Petry timeline (he turned pro just before turning 23 and spent 41 games in the AHL before getting the call) and that may happen.
The Oilers under Chiarelli tried to do it last fall with Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl, but the poor major league depth chart dashed those attempts. If the Oilers keep Hall, Pouliot and Maroon on left wing, and have three reasonably skilled RWs opening night, then Caggiula will have a chance to get his feet on the ground in Bakersfield. That one thing will probably increase his chances of NHL success a great deal, and is a very important piece of the puzzle.
I would be lying to you if I said it was a lock to happen, or even likely. As much as I think Peter Chiarelli will eventually get this team on the highway and at some point take it to the limit, this scenario probably plays out for the next Caggiula, or the one after that Caggiula.
I fully expect a fantastic training camp, cashing McDavid passes, energy galore, and the beginning of a long love affair with a fairly ideal player for this market. The Edmonton Oilers, since 2006, have not been much for delayed gratification. I suspect they are not patient again this fall.