There are reports out this morning that KHL team Ak Bars Kazan has shown interest in acquiring the rights to Jesse Puljujarvi for the rest of the season—implication being the club feels there is a chance Edmonton would release him to play in the Russian league.
It isn’t a terrible bet, the rights could be acquired, the agent could be approached and the Oilers might feel the KHL offers better competition for JP—and he might be more comfortable there. Using google translate, we get this:
- It’s hard to believe, but one of the most promising players in the world Jesse Pulyuyarvi, for our edition, this winter could be in the “Ak Bars”. Kazan look for options to strengthen the North American market, and the young Finn is not always found himself in the “Edmonton”. For both sides, this option would be beneficial: Pulyuyarvi would get match practice in the second-best league in the world, and “Ak Bars” would get excellent gain before the playoffs. The stumbling block was the fact that the right to belong to the KHL Pulyuyarvi “Torpedo”, drafted by Jesse last year. Kazan citizens would have to pay a substantial compensation of Nizhny Novgorod. Source
My opinion is this: The Oilers will prefer to keep Puljujarvi here for recall unless the plan is to have him off the roster for the rest of the season in order to retain an extra year of RFA rights. Forty games on the roster means Edmonton loses a year of RFA rights, but if they can get him to another league and leave him there without recall, then the only loss is one year off the ELC. They can basically do with JP the same thing they did with Leon Draisaitl. If this is the player’s preference, then I am in favor of it. Very much doubt it happens, and would reiterate that my personal preference would be to play the young man. Someone in the Oilers office is being stubborn.
DOUBLE TAKE, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0, goal differential -7
- Oilers in October 2016: 7-2-0, goal differential +10
- Oilers in November 2015: 4-7-2, goal differential -6
- Oilers in November 2016: 5-8-2 goal differential -3
- Oilers in December 2015: 7-6-1, goal differential -9
- Oilers in December 2016: 6-2-4, goal differential +1
- Oilers after 36, 2015: 15-18-3, goal differential -18
- Oilers after 36, 2016: 18-12-6, goal differential +8
Our line in the sand was 14 points in 14 December games, Edmonton has posted 16 points with two games left to play. The team is +26 in GD year over year and on pace for 41 wins. This team has turned north!
OILERS IN NHL SCORING
- No. 1 Connor McDavid 36gp, 13-29-42 (on track for 30-66-96)
- No. 13 Leon Draisaitl 36gp, 14-17-31 (on track for 32-39-71)
- No. 48 Milan Lucic 36gp, 10-14-24 (on track for 23-32-55)
- No. 57 Jordan Eberle 36gp, 8-15-23 (on track for 18-34-52)
- No. 144 Mark Letestu 33gp, 7-10-17 (on track for 17-24-41)
- No. 144 Andrej Sekera 36gp, 4-13-17 (on track for 9-30-39)
- No. 167 Patrick Maroon 36gp, 10-6-16 (on track 23-14-37)
- No. 167 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 36gp, 6-10-16 (on track 14-23-37)
- No. 247 Oscar Klefbom 36gp, 5-7-12 (11-16-27)
- No. 274 Tyler Pitlick 31gp, 8-3-11
- No. 321 Zack Kassian 33gp, 2-7-9 (on track for 5-17-22)
- No. 354 Jesse Puljujarvi 24gp, 1-7-8 (on track for 3-20-23)
- No. 384 Benoit Pouliot 31gp, 5-2-7 (on track for 12-5-17)
- No. 416 Adam Larsson 36gp, 2-4-6 (on track for 5-9-14)
- No. 454 Drake Caggiula 18gp, 1-4-5 (on track for 4-14-18)
The Oilers are having issues with line chem, but the club sure can score. After popping 199 goals one year ago, this team is on pace for 235—and you can see where more goals will come as the team adds more substantial wingers (and some of the current Ws develop more).
The biggest surprise for me? Leon. I thought he would finish shy of last year’s point total (51) and am delighted to be wrong. He has shone this winter.
5×5 TEAM STATS (COMPARED TO LAST YEAR)
- Goals For Percentage: 51.6 (44.3)
- Goals For per 60: 2.30 (2.04)
- Goals Against per 60: 2.16 (2.56)
- Shots for per 60: 30.5 (28.4)
- Shots against per 60: 29.5 (30.2)
- Shots for percentage: 50.8 (48.5)
- Fenwick: 51.1 (48.3)
- Corsi: 51.0 (48.8)
- Shooting percentage: 7.55 (7.17)
- Save Percentage: .9266 (.9153)
- PDO: 100.2 (98.7)
So many angry people on my timeline who cannot enjoy these numbers for love nor money. The Edmonton Oilers are winning hockey games and have good underlying numbers. It took exactly forever, and I am disappointed so few are here to enjoy it with me. I guess we all died a little in that damned war.
The Edmonton Oilers chose Tyler Benson over Alex DeBrincat last summer, and that decision is something many fans and observers suggest was a mistake. DeBrincat cashed an actual pile of goals as McDavid’s winger in Erie, and if the club had chosen him in the second round of 2016, well maybe we are talking about a possible scoring winger for 97 next season.
Why didn’t Edmonton take DeBrincat? Two reasons, in my opinion. Let’s begin with DeBrincat, and what may have kept the Oilers away.
- Ryan Lambert on why DeBrincat didn’t make Team USA this week for WJs: The probable guesses as to why have little to do with production, and everything to do with some rather tangible intangibles. DeBrincat is listed as 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds. And unlike, say Johnny Gaudrau, whose skating and speed are superlative, DeBrincat doesn’t get around at an elite level. So the feeling is that he’s a guy who’s going to score in junior, but it might not translate to the pros. Adding in the fact that he played pretty much his entire OHL career next to high-level talents, and you can see where teams rationalize the decision to drop him down the draft board. Source
Lambert is one of my favorite hockey thinkers and writers, guarantee you will walk away smarter if you click that link. As for our conversation, I do think there is some merit in staying away from small players who are average in speed—Sam Gagner being an example—but will go to my grave believing NHL teams badly underrate talents like DeBrincat.
The second reason I believe the Oilers liked Benson better is contained in a very strong scouting report from The Black Book. I recommend you grab the 2017 edition, really insightful writing and the entire report is basically the size of the Bible in 24 font.
- The Black Book: Benson is not the speediest of skaters but does have above average acceleration and ability to create space with a powerful lower-body. He shows an ability to fend off body contact, using his body positioning well to hold off defenders and keep them on his back and away from the puck. He more often than not comes out of scrums with the puck. This flows from strong edge work where above average strength is obvious. At times can show flashes of high end puck handling but doesn’t consistently show the skill that we expect from a top end prospect. The strength of Benson’s game is his high-end accuracy on both his forehand and backhand passes. He exhibits soft hands and heads up play with a quick strike mentality. Benson shows a strong compete level with a bulldog mentality. He’s the type who would rather go through you than around you.
There are about 20 trigger words in that scouting report that scream Chiarelli, and I think those things represent skills Edmonton values a lot. If the Oilers have a choice between a scorer with average speed and a gritty skill player with what sounds like equal speed, this regime will take the aggression over the skill.
How much skill are the Oilers leaving on the table? A tough question. CHL teams can differ greatly in terms of offense, as some teams have two impact lines and other clubs struggle to get one line that can beat you. Here are the boxcars for each man, along with goals-per-game by their respective teams this season.
DeBrincat is ripping up the OHL this season, he and Taylor Raddysh (28gp, 23-38-61) lead the OHL in points. Dylan Strome returning (seven games with the Otters now) should mean these boxcars increase in the second half of the season. Benson plays on a team with fewer dynamic offensive players. Radovan Bondra (29gp, 18-11-29) is the team’s No. 2 scorer so far this season.
I had DeBrincat No. 15 and Benson No. 34 on my list (here) last summer, but it came as no surprise to me when Benson was the name called. Peter Chiarelli’s Oilers will have smaller players (Drake Caggiula is 5.09, 185) but they are going to be skaters and play a rugged style. Brad Marchand is probably the gold standard.
You may say, well Jordan Eberle plays that style, and that is true. I don’t think Edmonton is going to draft a smaller winger for some time—unless finding a complementary scoring piece for Connor McDavid becomes a real problem. I am just in the beginning portions of looking at the 2017 draft and there are a pile of interesting players who can score but are also smaller men. Kailer Yamamoto of the Spokane Chiefs is such a player, and he will probably rank inside my top 30 in January. I do not think the Oilers will draft him. The template for Oilers draft picks is pretty clear by now and the job of sniper on McDavid’s wing is very likely going to be won by a man over 6.01 and 200 pounds. Pretty sure.