In 1979, the NHL folded four WHA teams into the great league, turning 17 into 21. A flood of free agents appeared, as veterans from the now defunct teams were pushing for work. The NHL also reduced the draft to six rounds (from 22 rounds) and moved the draft age from 20 to 18. Imagine a world with (suddenly) 85 new jobs, turning the league into an employment pool of 440. Now. Imagine the 350 (or so) men who cashed their paycheck in the 1978-79 NHL looking over their shoulder at about 80 displaced men in search of jobs and another 100 or so graduating juniors who were cheap, fast and hungry. It was a mess but astute teams and players found each other. Edmonton found Charlie Huddy, and he rewarded them with years of sublime efficiency. Time to find another.
Give The Athletic as a gift or get it yourself and join the fun! Offer is here, less than $5 a month and your Dad will love a unique gift. I find myself reading both the hockey (Willis, Dellow, Pronman, et cetera) and the baseball coverage a lot, it’s compelling reading and a pure pleasure to visit. We’ll sell you the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge.
- New Lowetide: Is Evan Bouchard NHL-ready?
- Lowetide: Oilers are finally over walkabout draft picks.
- Corey Pronman: NHL draft grades.
- Scott Wheeler: Ryan McLeod (excellent article) to the Oilers
- New Jonathan Willis: Oilers second-round pick (mentions McLeod)
- Lowetide: Evan Bouchard a perfect fit for need, will the Oilers fast-track him?
- Jonathan Willis: Oil will get a crack at another high-end prospect in round two
- Corey Pronman: Pick by pick breakdown of round one
- Lowetide: Low budget free agents can deliver Oilers big bang
- Lowetide: The maturation of Daryl Katz, or heading down a dangerous road?
- Lowetide: Oilers top 10 prospects in front of the 2018 draft.
- Lowetide: Draft 2018: Oilers scouting directors: A history.
- A year ago, Kailer Yamamoto was the leading junior NHLE performer (36.2), he was one of five men over 30.0 NHLE. Joe Gambardella (NCAA-39.5); Tyler Vesel (NCAA-31.6); Jesse Puljujarvi (AHL-31.2) and Tyler Benson (WHL-30.3) all showed enough offense to be projected as possible NHL options at maturation. Jujhar Khaira (AHL-28.5) was just outside the range. One notable item from a year ago: Three of the 30+ NHLE’s were teenagers.
- There are two teenagers over 30 NHLE, Kailer Yamamoto and the surprising Kirill Maksimov. Tyler Benson is close.
- Ryan McLeod has a good number, it suggests he could be a complementary scorer or a productive third liner. Both have value. The highest NHLE I’ve seen? Connor McDavid, 23-40-63 in the year before he was drafted.
- Cooper Marody is an interesting player. Although his NHLE is shy of Joe Gambardella’s a year ago (and Drake Caggiula’s 44NHLE), he’s younger and his trajectory may be higher. You could say the same thing about Cameron Hebig.
- If these numbers are true, Evan Bouchard is a game changer. I went back in time looking for an offensive player (drafted) in the upper echelon and couldn’t find a prospect who delivered that kind of wallop at 17 not named Paul Coffey (102 points in 75 games). Danny Syvret scored well but he was drafted at 20.
- Joey Laleggia and Brad Hunt were over 30 points NHLE in 2015, Darnell Nurse (about to enter pro) was 23 NHLE at age 19. Can Dmitri Samorukov reach close to that level at 19?
- Ethan Bear has a window of opportunity to push up the depth chart, chances are his competition is Matt Benning and that will play out during Bear’s entry deal.
- Joel Persson.
LOW BUDGET FREE AGENT LIST
I’m using Matt Cane’s free-agent list and I have just $4 million to spend. I’m in search of a No. 2 right-wing, a No. 4 center and a No. 7 defenceman. I have in-house options (Kailer Yamamoto, Jujhar Khaira and Keegan Lowe) but we’re looking for external options that are value.
- RC Derek Ryan. Cane’s number ($2,483,222 times 2) is more than half of the allotted budget, expensive but he solves a lot of issues. It would require running Yamamoto and Lowe in their roles, I could live with this option.
- RC Riley Nash. Cane’s number ($2,277,827 times 3) includes an extra year, but I like Nash a little more than Ryan. I would consider this a stronger option.
- L Matt Calvert. Cane’ number ($1,543,611 times 1) is another good option, but Khaira would need to move over to center and I like him better on the wing. We’ll table it for possible discussion later.
- RC Derek Grant. Cane’s number ($1,011,602 times 1) would make Grant a very tempting bet but I think he goes for me. Grant is 28, can win faceoffs and scored 12 goals in a support role.
- RC Austin Czarnik. Cane’s number ($715,773 times 1) is as an RFA, but I don’t know he’ll cost more as a free agent. He posted a strong AHL season and I think Czarnik would be a solid option for No. 4 center.
- There are no right wingers in free agency so I chose Matt Calvert as the best option for procurement. It means moving Jujhar Khaira to center, and that may not work. I have Shawn Matthias and Austin Czarnik as depth options, Czarnik might also grab some of Pontus Aberg’s playing time (and Kailer Yamamoto would be in Bakersfield just a call away).
- As of now, Cooper Marody has a great chance to play some games this season. If he performs well in camp, suspect we’ll see him.
- I think a trade is coming, just don’t know who is going. Boston, Montreal, Carolina and the Rangers are teams who Edmonton might be able to do business with over the next 10 days.
These are the Puck IQ numbers from last season. Adam Larsson played most against the elites among RHD, followed by Kris Russell and then Matt Benning. Absent a trade, I wonder if Benning will take on some of the load for Russell as second pairing RHD. On the other side, Nurse played the most (as a percentage of individual playing time) against the elites, Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera should drive that number down in the coming year.
The Oilers published the orientation camp roster and schedule for the week (here). It’s a good list, people will want to see Evan Bouchard and the new recruits. These camps are important, the 2015 camp put Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse together and that trio has emerged as (from what we know) the heart of the order.
There’s a bit of a buzz about Jason Chimera to the Oil, if that happens we could see a left-wing depth chart of RNH—Lucic—Rattie—Chimera. What does that mean? Drake Caggiula on right wing as a regular, we could see the Oilers start the season Rattie—Caggiula—Puljujarvi—Kassian. If nothing changes, pretty sure center will be McDavid—Draisatil—Strome—Khaira and the extra men likely to be added in the coming days.
QUICK THOUGHTS ON THE DRAFT
More to come in the next few days (I’ll have a draft article at The Athletic this afternoon or tomorrow looking at the Oilers shopping this weekend) but I wanted to give a couple of quick thoughts this morning. I’ve always believed NHL teams should trust their board, make their list and stick with it. It’s also important to know the pressure points of the draft, when there’s a big falloff in quality.
In 2017, Edmonton had just one selection in the top 75, but drafted Stuart Skinner, Ostap Safin, Kirill Maksimov and Phil Kemp before they were finished. That’s some nice depth to the draft.
This year? The Oilers were basically done at the end of the second round. I think that reflects the general lack of quality after pick No. 75 or so, and the Oilers got three solid choices in Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod and Olivier Rodrigue. That’s a good haul, these prospects were highly rated and now we’ll see.
There are differences between this scouting team (Keith Gretzky has some role, Bob Green scouting director) and the past. There’s even a change from 2016 to the last two years in my opinion, and the drafting is miles from 2014’s curio.
Since he arrived in 2015, Peter Chiarelli’s Oilers have drafted 27 times. Four goaltenders (one per year), 12 defensemen (three per year!), five centers and six wingers. Of the 27 players chosen, 21 are “up the middle” and 11 are forwards. The club is building defensive and goalie depth, little doubt there.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy morning, all starts at 10, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Pierre Lebrun, TSN and The Athletic. An eventful weekend leading into a major week ahead.
- Darren Dreger, TSN. John Tavares, the Flames trade, what’s ahead for Edmonton?
- Jason Gregor, TSN1260. Oilers draft weekend, what does this week hold?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!