A month from now, at the end of August, I’ll write an update on this post. The ‘riesen to believe’ posts are designed to give us an idea about individuals and their chances of making the opening night rosters. Lots of things can happen before then, including college free-agent signings and trades, but today’s post gives us a starting point, a chance to gather up the strays and corral the names. In honor of famous Bulldog Michel Riesen, let’s get this party started.
- C Connor McDavid, 20. A gift from the hockey Gods to the true north strong and free, hockey’s future is primed to take it to the limit and then some. Coming October to 20,000 people near you. 100%.
- C-R Leon Draisaitl, 21. Leon is not yet signed and we’ll have to wait and see about the money. After that, we’ll have to wait and see about the alignment. Either way, a tower of strength and skill showed us he could dominate during the playoffs. That Leon is going to help this team get to the promised land. 100%.
- L Patrick Maroon, 29. All he’s done since arriving is score goals. He’s heading into a contract year and every goal he scores probably gets him farther from our shores. No choice. Fill your hat, Patrick Maroon. 100%.
- L Milan Lucic, 29. Suspect he’ll arrive with a burr in his saddle and something to prove. He scored 50 points in a year when nothing rhymed 5×5, if he can return to career normals and remain a power-play savant, we could see 60 points. 100%.
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 24. A big season for Nuge, talk of his moving to wing but it seems such a shame to waste his considerable marking skills. Needs a breakout offensive season and hopefully he gets lots of power-play time. 100%.
- C-R Ryan Strome, 24. He’ll get plenty of opportunities to show up the Islanders and there’s a long list of players who have done just that thing. Peter Chiarelli made his third risky trade in the summers, this one could work out and give Edmonton a value scorer. 100%.
- L Drake Caggiula, 23. The job is there for the taking but we’re all liars if we claim knowledge about the winner. Caggiula will get a chance and his time is now. 100%.
- R Zack Kassian, 26. Big man plays the Chiarelli style and posts crooked numbers 5×5. His playoff run showed he has real skill and his new contract should give excellent value. May play inside the top 9F from time to time, wonder if Todd McLellan would try him with Jokinen and Nuge. 100%.
- L Jussi Jokinen, 34. The only question I have about him is where he’ll line up every night. Jokinen gives the forward group some excellent options and cover for injuries and Pouliot level slumps. 100%.
- RC Mark Letestu, 32. I think his role may be reduced on the power play this season, with Strome or possibly Slepyshev taking some of his time. Letestu can still help out in other areas and his righty faceoffs give the team much needed depth in that area. 100%.
- R Anton Slepyshev, 23. He has a lot going for him, including cap hit. Slepyshev showed offensive potential internationally, but last year he stepped forward at the pro level (including playoffs). Outside chance of playing prominent role this season. 90%.
- R Jesse Puljujarvi, 19. They are going to give him a shot. What will he do with it? There’s so much natural talent there, getting him settled in at the NHL level would be a major step forward. 90%.
- L Jujhar Khaira, 23. The Oilers like his size, speed and grit, with scoring the one worry. That’s the case for basically all of the kids, which could work against him this fall. 69%.
- R Iiro Pakarinen, 25. He has many of the same skills as Slepyshev, except in lesser amounts. McLellan likes him and he has a chance. 40%.
- LC Brad Malone, 28. Malone can play center, wins faceoffs, penalty kills and it won’t hurt him to sit in the pressbox for long stretches. Edmonton signed him early in free agency, possibly for his ability to slip through waivers and back again. 40%.
- R Ty Rattie, 24. Rattie is a goal-scoring option, wonder if the Oilers feel like he could be a hidden gem. Whenever you see a higher pick with skill change organizations, always a good idea to remind ourselves how motivated he’ll be this season. 25%.
- L Joey Laleggia, 25. He is a long shot but what he brings is very valuable. If we see him getting some time with the NHLers and extra games in pre-season, we’ll have a story. 15%.
- R Mitch Callahan, 25. Consistent AHL performer, he brings skill with some physical play and that combination appeals to the Oilers. He may show very well in camp. 15%.
- R Kailer Yamamoto, 18. Electric skills and he can score goals. A small winger, he will impress if given chances. If he is here late in camp, the club may give him nine games. 10%.
- C Joe Gambardella, 23. He is not a high end prospect but could emerge as an NHL option (over time, likely a season or two). I’ll give him a slight chance to slide into a useful utility role at the back of the roster. 6%.
- L Oscar Klefbom, 24. Klefbom is emerging as a quality NHL defenseman and a key player in this team’s future. He has the full range of skills and looks comfortable with Larsson. 100%.
- R Adam Larsson, 24. His first Edmonton season was impressive, as the defense and coverage improved with him on the ice. Showed ability to make solid outlet passes and to jump into the play at times. 100%.
- L Andrej Sekera, 31. His absence for the first portion of the season will have a major impact on this team’s fortunes. Losing a defender from the top of the pile is something this Oilers team cannot afford. 0.
- L Kris Russell, 30. Todd McLellan values him highly, the Woodmoney tells us what he does well defending but the overall stats tell us he defends too much. Key item for me: Russell keeps the youngsters farther down the depth chart until ready, that may well be his biggest contribution. 100%.
- R Matt Benning, 23. He’s a smart player, good-to-excellent with the puck and cool as a cucumber in pressure situations. If he does it again, I’m calling him Dan Boyle. 100%.
- L Darnell Nurse, 22. Big, strong, fleet and with a substantial mean streak. Nurse improved a lot year over year, can he do it again? The truth is the Oilers badly need him to blossom in year three of his pro career. 100%.
- R Eric Gryba, 29. Played 40 games as 7D last season, saw action in three playoff games. I think he’ll be in the mix for regular third-pairing activity but may not hold that job. As of now, he is a lock for the roster. 100%.
- L Yohann Auvitu, 27. New signing gives the team a much needed addition to the mobile passers on the roster. I don’t think he’s a lock for the roster but he has a good chance. 50%.
- L Ryan Stanton, 27. He appears poised to battle Auvitu for the 7D spot this fall, the edge goes to the player whose skill set best matches the required role. In a way, Stanton is more in competition with Gryba. 40%.
- R Mark Fayne, 30. He can defend but his foot speed isn’t great, he does not play a rugged game and the offense is minimal. I don’t think he’ll be on the team. 10%.
- Cam Talbot, 30. Aside from McDavid, the most important player on the roster. Posted a fantastic season and there’s no reason (injury aside) to doubt his ability to repeat it. 100%.
- Laurent Brossoit, 24. I have him pegged for 20 games and if he struggles badly we might see an early-season move. He’s done everything asked, it’s time to see if he can carry the load. 90%.
- Nick Ellis, 23. I include him because there’s always a chance someone gets hurt and the Ellis resume is very good. 10%.
- G Eddie Pasquale. AHL veteran could get some NHL time.
- G Shane Starrett. Another college goalie turning pro. Strong resume.
- G Dylan Wells. Slide rule, he’ll spend one more year in junior.
- G Stuart Skinner. He has a solid resume and the Oilers love him.
- LD Dillon Simpson. Excellent chance he plays some NHL games this year.
- LD Keegan Lowe. Top 4D role in Bakersfield, where does he sit on callup list?
- LD Ziyat Paigin. The verbal coming out on him is very strong.
- LD Ben Betker. Big man should get a full AHL season.
- RD Ethan Bear. A player to watch in Bakersfield, could get NHL cup of coffee.
- LD Caleb Jones. Fastest and most mobile of the new pro defensemen.
- RD Ryan Mantha. Big man, big shot, good speed. Duplicates Bear’s skill set.
- LD Dmitri Samorukov. Intriguing two-way defender.
- C Grayson Downing. Skilled center coming off subpar second AHL season.
- RC Josh Currie. Back on an AHL deal, he has skill and two-way ability.
- RC Kyle Platzer. We’ll know by Christmas if the Oilers have any plan for him.
- L Ryan Hamilton. AHL only deal, he’ll get some time with the big club in camp.
- L Braden Christoffer. Final year of entry deal coming up.
- L Evan Polei. Size and skill (6.02, 227 and 33 WHL goals) are intriguing.
- L Tyler Benson. Slide rule, may get some pre-season games if healthy.
- L Ostap Safin. Size, speed and skill. First Oilers camp on the way.
- R Zach O’Brien. May end up being an important player for the Condors.
- R Patrick Russell. Scored only 8 times as rookie pro. Needs to fill the net this year.
- R Greg Chase. Final year of entry-level deal ahead, has shown only flashes.
- R Brian Ferlin. Effective when healthy. Has had substantial injury issues.
- R Dave Gust. Small skill winger. AHL deal.
- R Chad Butcher. AHL deal, skilled RW played in Medicine Hat 2011-17.
- R Kirill Maksimov. High risk skill winger has some real skill.
Over at Oilers Nation last night I had a (very early) look at the 2018 summer cap situation. It is not good.
One thing to watch for this fall is how much playing time Yamamoto gets during training camp and preseason. He is extremely unlikely to make the team, Todd McLellan has to find out about Jesse Puljujarvi, Drake Caggiula and Anton Slepyshev. However, as I have mentioned before, Yamamoto clearly thinks the game at a high level and has elite puck skills. He’s going to find kindred spirits at the top of Edmonton’s depth chart—if he gets the opportunity—and he’s not that much younger than Jesse Puljujarvi.
Everything about PC’s summer activity tells me the organization is going to give JP his 500 at-bats. The only question is where he lands on the depth chart. In staring at things for a long time, I’ve come to the conclusion that the ideal place to start is on a soft minutes No. 3 line with Jussi Jokinen and Ryan Strome. If that line can cash, the Oilers should be able to put together three lines that can push possession and score enough at evens to push for the Pacific Division crown. JP is going to get the push, starting October.