The Edmonton Oilers have a system, a coaching staff that can teach it and a team that can execute it. Huzzah! On a night when the Winnipeg Jets won the possession battle 33-22 on the 5×5, hammered iron more than a blacksmith the day before a cattle drive, and lost the damned game, Edmonton had structure, a quality power play, and dressed just enough veteran savvy to win the day. It was an enjoyable evening.
- Ryan Stanton had a good night and is (as we have discussed) in the mix for No. 7 or No. 8 D opening night. He kept up to my eye, had some crushing hits (credited with just one hit btw). Played over three minutes on the PK and that is a big deal.
- Kris Russell is better at LHD based on first blush, and he did make some good passes along with some that were errant missiles. Played a bunch on both special teams and I thought last night’s top pairing had a solid night overall.
- Eric Gryba had some clumsy moments early, the big man left his legs on the plane and it took one period to find them. Settled in afterward and played well, taking no penalties. I think he held serve in the 6D battle.
- Matt Benning was the best defenseman on the ice to my eye, he played a strong, physical game and got the puck out well. Had a couple of difficult moments (two giveaways) but for me Benning was a key player.
- Ryan Mantha isn’t NHL ready but I liked his game a lot. Big shot from the point (ask Zack Kassian) and impressive recovery times. The Oilers have a really good prospect here.
- Yohann Auvitu is a player I’m cheering for, and he was paired with a rookie, that often means chasing. He barely missed the corner on a power-play shot and is extremely mobile—something that appears to be even more important this year. That speed helped him on offense and defense last night.
- Laurent Brossoit stopped 13 of 14 (.929) and got help from a half dozen pieces of iron. He didn’t look sharp! early in the game, but the Joe Jackson moved in maybe 10 minutes into the first period and he was solid after the early storm.
- Nick Ellis stopped all 20 shots he faced, looking good mostly after (once again) taking a short time to settle in. The Oilers goaltending is shockingly better than five years ago, even with the understanding the entire roster is more focused on doing things that win games.
Jokiness, Yamamoto and Nuge top the CF% leaderboard for #Oilers at 61% despite 33% off. zone start 🔥
— Minnia Feng (@minniafeng) September 21, 2017
- The Nuge Line was outstanding, all three men were excellent. Nuge was fast as lightning, Jokinen is Finnish for “Giant Brain”, and Kailer Yamamoto is a turnover machine but in a good way. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this trio. McLellan on Jokinen: “He knows who he is, he knows how to play with his skill-set & he’s positionally sound.”
- Khaira-Letestu-Kassian played well on a night when the Jets dressed the better crew. I really like a 4line that can move up, don’t know if this trio is there yet but there are some elements. Khaira is really showing well, has scored in every game (and scrimmage) he’s played in. Also saw lots of time on the penalty kill. Good arrows.
- Callahan-Kelly-Rattie had a difficult time against clearly superior opposition. I get giving the wingers a chance on the power play, these games are reward for hard work in Bakersfield and the promise of a possible recall. Kelly? I liked him on the PK but didn’t see much at evens. Todd McLellan: “I thought our penalty kill, after the first period, did a really good job.” Being associated with that success will help Kelly but he must do something constructive at evens.
- Laleggia-Malone-Russell got 10 minutes at evens and no special teams time. Russell got a couple of extra minutes somewhere, six hits and loud noises on each one probably get you an extra shift or two. This was Russell’s high-water mark, he might get another game out of it.
TODD MCLELLAN ON CUTS
- Todd McLellan: “We’ll sit and talk and evaluate, by tomorrow morning we’ll have a pretty good idea of who we’d like to see again and who we would like to get down to the minors so they can start working on their games there.” Source
We talked about this last night, Edmonton hasn’t culled much of the herd yet and we should see as many as one dozen players sent out. I’ll guess the following 12: Braden Christoffer, Ryan Hamilton (AHL), Evan Polei (AHL), Josh Currie (AHL), Kyle Platzer, Chad Butcher (AHL), Brian Ferlin (AHL, we haven’t heard much about him), Greg Chase, Patrick Russell, Zack O’Brien (AHL), Ben Betker and Edward Pasquale. Ferlin may have to go on IR, so maybe it’s 11.
- Todd McLellan: “We’ll practice tomorrow (today) and then we’ll make some decisions on a large group of players. Make some reassignments, whether that’s back to junior or the the American league. We’ll get down to a more workable number—yet we have a number of back-to-back games coming up.” Source
The ‘back to junior’ quote is interesting, I count only two junior eligibles still in camp. Tyler Benson is injured and just coming back from surgery, so IR at the end of camp seems more likely than being sent to the Vancouver Giants today. The other player is Kailer Yamamoto, who played well last night and is 2gp, 2-1-3 through two pre-season games. There is some logic and reason to sending the young man back now, before temptation to keep him, backed by solid performances, makes it impossible to rob the player of his nine-game audition. I don’t think they’ll do it, but this would be the day.
ABOUT LAST NIGHT
Pre-season games can’t be overrated but are effective in sussing out the contenders from the pretenders. Edmonton iced two NHL lines (Nuge and Letestu) but had a wrinkle (Yamamoto, Khaira) in each. Both hopefuls passed the test and earned another game in a feature role. This is very important, as it ‘moves the chains’ for each man and gives the organization fewer holes to worry over late at night when the cold winds howl. I’m not sure either man has secured an NHL job but they sure as hell haven’t lost one either.
It’s more difficult to impress from the back of the pack, for me Patrick Russell did more to help himself than any of the other forwards. He hits like a ramrod and the reaction from opponents resembles road kill, plus he appears to be doing it within the rules. I’m not sure his boots get him an NHL job, but another look in training camp is possible and that’s the goal.
Among defenders, seems as though everyone is holding serve. During the RE series, the most important estimation is games played by each defender. I had a terrible time deciding, a lot of it coming down to guessing player type as opposed to specific ability of each individual. I finally settled on Auvitu (29), Gryba (28), Mark Fayne (16), Ryan Stanton and Dillon Simpson (11 each) and Keegan Lowe (7) dividing 100 games. I’m fascinated to see how Todd McLellan makes the decision for opening night.
Corey Pronman has an article up (here, it is paywall) talking about prospects who have impressed the most in training camp to this point. Pronman singled out Jones among Oilers’ hopefuls, saying “I see a player who can eventually be a reliable, all situations defenseman.” Pronman is good, you can trust him. He was so far ahead on Anton Slepyshev as a prospect no one caught up one year later when the Oilers drafted him.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy morning on the Lowdown, beginning at 10 on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. Thoughts on last night’s game and camp overall.
- Simon Boisvert, Hockey Insider. What to do about RW, with emphasis on Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi.
- Rob Vollman, NHL.com and ESPN. McDavid vs. Crosby, the Demers trade, Koivu extension and Colin Miller if we have time.
- Frank Seravalli, TSN. Rosters are coming into view across the NHL but questions remain and some movement is anticipated.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk in 90 minutes!