It’s a Fast Train

In watching Oilers management after every draft, one gets the feeling the club goes through a series of mood swings right after their first selection. Before the draft, the usual conservative tones are used, draft night is filled with excitement but the proper route is acknowledged and by Saturday breakfast (after the first round pick is made), the new addition, the new ‘truth and the light’ is pencilled in for the fall NHL starting lineup. By the morning after the draft, rumblings about “NHL-ready” can be heard in the distance and begin a build that will ultimately allow the draft pick to catch a wave and be sitting on top of the world October 3.

When are these kids ready? It depends on the organization. Tampa Bay’s draft list shows one player chosen since 2015 who has played in an NHL game (Anthony Cirelli, 18 games). The Oilers? Every first rounder has been in the NHL in the year after his draft, and Ethan Bear (also from 2015) matched Cirelli’s 18 games this past season. It’s a fast train.


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Around this time every year, I like to handicap the Oilers prospect and minor league group into estimated time of arrival bins based on the team’s own past. Here are the player of note who can reasonable be placed in a two-year window.


  • R Ty Rattie. My own opinion on Rattie is (based on history) he will not begin and end the season as Connor McDavid’s right wing. I hope he makes me look foolish by scoring 30 goals. He’s been ready since maybe 2015, but the question has always been ready for what? How high can he fly? We are about to find out.
  • LD Keegan Lowe. Uncertain how much Lowe will play, the addition of Kevin Gravel in free agency blocks him and Evan Bouchard’s presence surely impacts all of the defensemen bubbling under. He played well during a brief look so he’ll be in the mix.


  • R Kailer Yamamoto. I think he’s close and would not be surprised to see him break camp with the NHL team this fall. My RE currently has him under 50 games, but McLellan argued for him over a lottery pick last year. The past informs the future.
  • RD Evan Bouchard. A lot will depend on how well he plays in training camp and preseason but the Oilers are going to put him in a position to succeed. I think he’s going to win a job opening night, which isn’t the same as saying it is the correct decision.
  • RC Cooper Marody. This is a bit of a stretch, he hasn’t seen much pro hockey. That said, his scoring rates in college spiked, he’s an intelligent player and he showed well in a brief look in Bakersfield.


  • RD Ethan Bear. I enjoyed much of his work after recall to Edmonton but the possession numbers are poor and his coverage is lacking. This might be a little aggressive, he may use most of his entry deal in the AHL, but that 18-game look last season had impressive moments.

13-24 MONTHS

  • LD Caleb Jones. Absent an injury or other malady we have to assume Jones had a more difficult adjustment than Bear in year one. He might pass Bear this winter but at this point probably best to estimate a little delay in arrival.
  • LD William Lagesson. He’s a different style (mobile shutdown) but there’s a chance the Swede jumps past this winter (he was drafted a year earlier than Jones). His strong SHL season put him on the radar and he could surprise.
  • L Tyler Benson. I think the Oilers are very strong on Benson, to the point where he’ll get a strong push in the AHL this winter. An NHL cup of coffee is possible this coming year, and if healthy, he might spend extended time in the NHL in the winter of 2019.

Kirill Maksimov, Ostap Safin, Filip Berglund, Cameron Hebig, Stuart Skinner, the rest of the prospects are either in the final category or should peak outside the NHL. The Oilers prospect list is not strong, but the 2017 and 2018 drafts have helped in a big way. The next thing to watch for is all of these wingers (Maksimov, Safin, Ryan McLeod, et cetera) to separate, leaving Edmonton with one or two top flight prospects. Maksimov seems the best bet today, but things can change in a quick hurry with prospects. Added to Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto, it’s an encouraging group on the wing.

This would be a fabulous pickup, would help one of the top two lines and give the Oilers a potential 30-goal man on left wing. The cost? Habs are going into a rebuild, Pacioretty has one year left at $4.5 million. A straight up trade is going to be costly, something shy of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (he has three years left at $6 million per season) and more than Ryan Strome. A first-round pick? A little early to be dealing that selection, it could be a lottery pick for a new general manager.

Three Oilers on the list, it should be fun to monitor what is now a large group of CHL prospects this coming season. Ryan McLeod will be an interesting player to follow, his foot speed is fantastic and might get him some looks we don’t anticipate during training camp.


I see the summer assessment’s going up across the universe, I don’t believe the Oilers are done and don’t do report cards anymore. That said, I’m pleased with the summer so far. The draft added three bona fide prospects, including Evan Bouchard who was No. 8 on my list, Ryan McLeon (No. 25) and Olivier Rodrigue (No. 60).

Free agency brought back two nice pieces (Tobias Rieder, Kyle Brodziak) and a third (Kevin Gravel) we’ll see about come fall. The only trade of note in summer was for the brilliantly named Hayden Hawkey and that cost only a future pick.

It’s what to come, the big business of summer, that hovers over the organization. Maybe the Oilers will kick the can down the road another year, hoping the young wingers (Puljujarvi, Yamamoto) and the struggling veterans (Milan Lucic, Zack Kassian) recover. It’s a damn sight better than sending the 2019 first rounder for Max Pacioretty, or packaging Puljujarvi with Lucic and getting out from under with a nuclear sweetener. Stay the course, draft, procure, develop. When you find yourself in a giant hole, stop digging. Will the Oilers change course late summer?


A fun show running from 10-11:30 this morning, TSN 1260. Scheduled to appear:

  • Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal. New faces for fall: Who will have the most impact?
  • Laura Armstrong, Toronto Star. Trade deadline, Vladdy Jr.

10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. World Cup Soccer pre-game 11:30.

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202 Responses to "It’s a Fast Train"

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  1. Jethro Tull says:

    Woodguy v2.0: SJS lottery protected the pick to BUF for Kane.

    If SJS misses the playoffs they get the option of keeping the 2019 pick and giving the 2020 pick which is not protected.

    I am not sure if SJS has to decide whether or not to keep the pick before or after the lottery.You’d think that they’d have to decide before but am not sure.

    Thanks WG. Splitting hairs, but isn’t that more of a conditional pick? To me, Lottery Protection would be ‘you get our first rounder unless we come up big (say above 5th) in the draft lottery.’ Of course compensation would still have to be made. And it would only work for teams in the draft lottery.

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