If the Oilers stop doing business right now, I’m fine with the summer. Peter Chiarelli will tweak, especially on right wing, because the band as currently constructed is as loose as Crazy Horse at the Fillmore. A general manager with as much pressure as PC has right now is going to button down that engine like it’s 1962 in the bible belt. We’re going to see at least one move at right wing, pretty sure. I’m tempted to say let it ride. Seriously.
Give The Athletic as a gift or get it yourself and join the fun! Offer is here, less than $5 a month! I find myself reading both the hockey (Willis, Dellow, Pronman, et cetera) and the baseball coverage a lot, it’s a pure pleasure to visit. We’ll sell you the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge.
- New Lowetide: Three prospects on the upswing after orientation camp, free agency
- New Lowetide: Oilers grab Tobias Rieder in free agency
- New Jonathan Willis: Oilers hopes rest on players already on the roster
- New Lowetide: Frugal Oilers grab Kyle Brodziak in free agency
- Lowetide: Hard Target Search: Tobias Rieder.
- Lowetide: Oilers still preferred CHL and older prospects in 2018 draft.
- Jonathan Willis: How will Oilers manage rich collection of goalie prospects?
- Lowetide: Is Evan Bouchard NHL-ready?
- 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.
500 AT BATS AND THEN YOU KNOW
I saw every damn one of them and watched them succeed or fail. The Montreal Expos arrived in 1969, and the entire roster came from some other system. There were always a lot of Dodgers, Charles Bronfman loved them and the team collected a bunch every winter.
The Expos didn’t develop a homegrown outfielder who played as a regular until Pepe Mangual in 1975, I remember they played catcher Gary Carter in the outfield the same season. Learned over time that what you want to see from a young player is what they’ll do in 500 at-bats (about one full season). Mangual was a little shy offensively but could scoot, Carter could hit well enough but he was heading behind the plate as soon as Barry Foote went into a slump.
On through the decade, Bombo Rivera, Ellis Valentine, Andre Dawson, Warren Cromartie, Gary Roenicke, Jerry White, all the way through to 1981 and Tim Raines and Tim Wallach. Not everyone made it but you wanted to see 500 at-bats in a season, see what the boxcars read after a full summer in the outfield.
We are here with Jesse Puljujarvi, with Kailer Yamamoto, hell with Jujhar Khaira and Pontus Aberg. There are lots of unknowns but you have to give a man his chance at the plate. If the Oilers commit to JP and Yamamoto on skill lines this year, or at least the first 20 games, we’ll have a good idea about where they are at age 20. I don’t think the general manager is going to risk it, but it’s the play in this situation. Pepe Mangual? He didn’t make it. He just didn’t have the bat.
EDMONTON OILERS CURRENT DEPTH CHART
- Center: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Strome, Kyle Brodziak, Brad Malone
- Left Wing: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic, Jujhar Khaira, Drake Caggiula, Pontus Aberg
- Right Wing: Ty Rattie, Tobias Rieder, Jesse Puljujarvi, Zack Kassian
- Left Defense: Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Darnell Nurse, Kevin Gravel
- Right Defense: Adam Larsson, Kris Russell, Matt Benning
- Goal: Cam Talbot, Mikko Koskinen, Al Montoya
Oilers are at 44 contracts (three could slide, plus there’s Evan Bouchard) so there’s a chance to add as many as four names to this group (plus Bouchard) and have one open spot. I think they’re going to add a right winger. I don’t know if it’s Kailer Yamamoto, Josh Ho-Sang, Josh Leivo or Anthony Duclair, but someone is joining the party.
BAKERSFIELD CONDORS CURRENT DEPTH CHART
- Center: Cooper Marody, Cameron Hebig, Josh Currie, Colin Larkin,
- Left Wing: Tyler Benson, Joe Gambardella, Nolan Vesey, Braden Christoffer, Evan Polei
- Right Wing: Kailer Yamamoto, Tyler Vesel, Patrick Russell, Mitch Callahan, Ryan Van Stralen
- Left Defense: Keegan Lowe, Ryan Stanton, Caleb Jones, William Lagesson, Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin
- Right Defense: Ethan Bear, Ryan Mantha, Logan Day
- Goal: Shane Starrett, Dylan Wells, Stuart Skinner
My article for The Athletic today pertains (partly) to possible recall options who can help the Oilers this season. At some level, aside from prospects matriculating toward their peak, we should be concerned with recall options who could contribute. I’ll count Kailer Yamamoto, Cooper Marody, Ethan Bear, Keegan Lowe and Caleb Jones as possibilities.
OILERS FREE AGENTS
- G Nick Ellis RFA. Retired.
- G Laurent Brossoit UFA. Signed with the Jets ($650,000).
- LD Darnell Nurse RFA. Qualified, sounds like a contract is closer.
- RD Matt Benning RFA. Signed, more responsibility on the way.
- RD Eric Gryba UFA. Signed with New Jersey.
- LD Yohann Auvitu UFA. Signed with Sochi (KHL).
- RD Mark Fayne UFA. Crickets on his next destination.
- LD Keegan Lowe UFA. Signed, he will push for No. 7D.
- LD Dillon Simpson UFA. Signed with Columbus, $675,000 times two.
- LD Joey Laleggia UFA. Signed by St. Louis Blues.
- LD Ben Betker RFA. Destination unknown.
- RC Ryan Strome RFA. Qualified, contract soon.
- RC Kyle Platzer RFA. He will land somewhere in the AHL imo.
- LC Grayson Downing UFA. Likely to land another AHL deal.
- L Mike Cammalleri UFA. He can still do some things, might get NHL chance.
- L Drake Caggiula RFA. Signed, yesterday’s moves may reduce role.
- L Braden Christoffer RFA. Signed an AHL deal.
- R Anton Slepyshev RFA. Signed with CSKA Moscow, two years.
- R Iiro Pakarinen RFA. Signed one-year deal with Magnita, KHL.
- R Patrick Russell. RFA. Signed, outside chance he sees NHL cup of coffee.
- R Brian Ferlin UFA. Health is the big story.
Is Anton Slepyshev the modern Pepe Mangual? Part of Mangual’s problem is that he got run over by Andre Dawson in centerfield and didn’t have the bat to hold back Warren Cromartie or Ellis Valentine. Slepyshev’s story is more nuanced, he couldn’t find a groove in 2017-18 that would have allowed him to capitalize on the brilliant goals scored postseason 2017.
I think his story comes down to not being able to get on the ice during training camp fall 2017. He had one AHL game, got called back and was miles from ready. The coach moved on from him, as reflected in his usage (the number one line in terms of 5-on-5 icetime for Slepy in 2017-18 was 47 minutes with Ryan Strome and Jesse Puljujarvi, via Corsica).
Luck, good and bad, plays a part. I believe Anton Slepyshev is an NHL player, maybe he’ll have a lash again down the line. Sail on, Russian bear.
In a recent article for The Athletic, I discussed the Oilers and Russian hockey players who were drafted in Russia (Yakimov, Slepyshev, et cetera). These men came over with an idea that the NHL was the only goal, and wasting away in the minors wasn’t an option worth pursuing (exception: Slepyshev).
Nail Yakupov was a different deal. He came over to North America, made it clear the NHL was his goal. In signing with a KHL team, as he did today, Yak City has either given up the dream or delayed the pursuit. I wish him nothing but the best, and wish the Oilers would learn from these difficult moments.
Young players need to flourish at a level, dominate that level, and then move to the next level. Same as it ever was. Nail was caught in that damnable crevice where NHL teams can play you or send you back to junior and he was getting a new coach per season.
I’ll blame the owner for hiring a rookie general manager and allowing that man to hire a rookie coach. If you’re blaming Nail this morning, you’re going the wrong way. He came to Edmonton in a time of addled thinking from smart men, and it cost all of them their NHL dream.
IS PULJU NEXT?
I think there’s just too much in the way of “NHL tools” for Jesse Puljujarvi to fail. A lot is being made of what line JP plays on next season, my own feeling is Todd McLellan will place him on a line with Ryan Strome. That’s not terrible, he’ll play the soft parade, but at some point power-play time and moving up to the Draisaitl trio should be in the cards. It’s another reason I’m onside with shutting off procurement, Puljujarvi has to be used in a feature role by the coaching staff as things stand here today.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
We’re back and oh my goodness there’s much to discuss. At 10 this morning, TSN1260, scheduled to appear:
- Jonathan Willis, The Athletic. Oilers make astute smaller moves, but the heavy lifting once again falls on McDavid, Draisaitl and Talbot.
- Grant Goldberg, Lakers SB Nation. Lebron hits LA, is this bigger that Kareem or Shaq?
- Scott Cullen, TSN. John Tavares moves to a bigger market and most of the nation sees a nightmare scenario unfold on Canada day. Is it good for the NHL?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!