I’m a big believer in NHL equivalency, if not in the exact number the formula spits out for each player, then the spirit of what it tries to do. Rob Vollman publishes a new set of numbers each year and talks about it annually in his Hockey Abstracts (new one out soon!). For me, it seems there is in fact a line in the sand for offense among forwards. If a player can’t reach it, then there’s not a lot of NHL hope.
NHLE, SUMMER 2015, OILERS FORWARDS
- There were seven men who reached 25 or more NHLE in the summer of 2015, and five of those men have reached the NHL for a large number of games 2015-2017.
- Connor McDavid is on another level, and Leon Draisaitl’s total is a strong indicator of future success.
- Andrew Miller is the first pro player on the list and the Oilers did use him for six games in 2015-16 (0-0-0) before heading back to the minors and posting a strong season (and getting himself ‘loaned’ to Charlotte Checkers).
- Kyle Platzer was wrapping up his junior career with a monster run for Owen Sound. That performance got him onto the Bakersfield roster fall 2015 but we haven’t heard much since. A player getting massive TOI in junior can sometimes reach heights beyond actual ability.
- Anton Slepyshev was scoring pretty well in the KHL and his 15-goal campaign earned him a North American contract and the chance to rise to the NHL (which he appears to be doing at this time).
- Iiro Pakarinen scored well in the AHL and received his first NHL chance. He is now a veteran of 94 NHL games and has a good chance to land with the Oilers this fall.
- Tyler Pitlick played well enough to post 25 NHLE but the truth is 2014-15 was another injury-plagued season for the rambunctious winger. He did spend some time in the NHL that season.
So is 25 NHLE the line in the sand? Not sure. A lot of it has to do with need and opportunity, slumps and injuries at the big league level. It is interesting though, seeing that 25 NHLE worked summer 2015. One of the men below that 25 NHLE mark did emerge as NHL options in 2015-16. Jujhar Khaira spiked in the following winter and emerged as a bona fide NHL prospect.
NHLE, SUMMER 2016, OILERS FORWARDS
- Drake Caggiula was a college free-agent signing and towered over other prospect hopeful via NHLE summer 2016. He won an NHL job and kept it all year.
- Jujhar Khaira spiked again offensively in Bakersfield and made his NHL debut in 2015-16.
- Tyler Benson was injured in his draft season but the numbers showed promise.
- Tyler Pitlick had a solid half-season in the AHL but didn’t get into NHL games. Injuries were such a big part of his time in Edmonton.
- Jesse Puljujarvi played regularly in the Finnish league, posting good numbers. The NHLE on the Sm-Liiga has take a kicking though, so his numbers were shy compared to other high picks in his draft year.
- Anton Slepyshev and Bogdan Yakimov posted similar numbers in Bakersfield, with Slepyshev making his NHL debut.
- Tyler Vesel shows up on the radar.
Only one man was 25 NHLE or better in this season, and it got him an NHL contract. Caggiula didn’t spend a day in the minors and part of that came from the quality of competitin available in the system.
NHLE, SUMMER 2017, OILERS FORWARDS
- Joe Gambardella is 8.5 months older than Jujhar Khaira, that’s an important point to keep in mind when it comes to tracking him. His NHLE is similar to Drake Caggiula’s after his final college season (44 NHLE) and he’s seven months older than Caggiula. Still, Gambardella is a player to watch, especially since his forechecking prowess might be helpful on the Oilers PK.
- Kailer Yamamoto is a very good prospect, posting a fine NHLE in his draft year. Can he pass Leon’s draft +1 number?
- Tyler Vesel is a difficult player to project, because he doubled his NCAA point total this past season. He is 4.5 months younger than Gambardella so that’s a positive but there’s not a lot of resume suggesting he’ll be on this list next summer.
- Jesse Puljujarvi had a difficult year but he did post offense in the AHL. He’s an exciting player and brings real chaos to opposition defenses. If there’s one thing we should be hoping for from the prospect area of the organization, a big step up at the NHL level by JP should top the list.
- Tyler Benson is a quality prospect and the only worry is injury. It’s a big worry.
- Jujhar Khaira has done exactly what you hope a third-round pick will do at the pro level, improve each season and emerge as a bona fide option at the end of his entry-level deal.
- Joey Laleggia is 25, well over one year older than Gambardella and the oldest prospect on this list. Doesn’t matter, his path has had many a winding road and his main skill is scoring goals.
The players who are certain to play in the NHL this coming season? Puljujarvi and Khaira and Gambardella could get there is he smokes California. Yamamoto may wow training camp and it’s not impossible for him to see nine games (I am not projecting it). My takeaway from this three year look is this: Oilers need more men who are NHL-ready and waiting in Bakersfield. They need some Rem Murray! That’s why Caggiula and Gambardella were signed.
PROJECTED CONDORS 2017-18
- Peter Chiarelli added only Joe Gambardella (so far) among college free-agent forwards this year, instead choosing to be very aggressive in AHL free agency.
- My RE has Gambardella and Joey Laleggia playing some NHL games this coming season, both men appearing on the RE list above (along with Puljujarvi).
- I also have Chiarelli UFA signings Ty Rattie, Mitch Callahan and Brad Malone playing NHL games this coming year. Those games should be going to Marco Roy, Bogdan Yakimov, Kyle Platzer and Greg Chase, but the 2013 draft (so far) brought only Darnell Nurse and Anton Slepyshev.
- The defense RE begins next week and should be a lot of fun!
CONDORS FORWARDS WHO ARE IN MY RE 2017-18
- LC Brad Malone 20, 1-1-2
- R Ty Rattie 6, 1-1-2
- R Mitch Callahan 6, 0-1-1
- L Joey Laleggia 4, 0-0-0
- LC Joe Gambardella 4, 0-0-0
The player I think could emerge as a substantial addition during that unusual free agent period is Ty Rattie. He’s coming from way back but the Oilers need scoring on RW. Rattie is a name to keep in mind.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy Friday morning as we get ready for the long weekend! 10 this morning, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Steve Lansky, BigMouth Sports. We’ll chat about Connor McDavid’s next step, the Jays and how Steve spent his summer vacation.
- Jeff Krushell, Krush Performance. Jeff will drop by to talk pennant race, football players contemplating retirement, making sure injuries are properly diagnosed and recovery/rehab timeline is followed.
- Matt Iwanyk, TSN1260. Is the Eskimos-TiCats game tonight a worry or will Edmonton mop the floor with them?
- Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst. We’ll talk about WJSS and Kailer Yamamoto’s performance.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter.