I was sitting in my Grandma’s living room in Maidstone Saskatchewan the day they handed out the 1980 Calder Trophy to Raymond Bourque. I was both thrilled (Bourque was a wonderful player, and a Bruin, plus the first Boston defenseman to win since Orr) and angered (Wayne Gretzky was ruled ineligible because the WHA—a league flogged far and wide by NHL bigheads—was suddenly deemed a league worthy of disqualifying 99 simply because he destroyed that league too). Will the Oilers ever have a Calder Trophy winner? Maybe. It’s likely to come in a season no one expects it. Like this one.
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- New Lowetide: No. 13 prospect—Ostap Safin
- New Jonathan Willis: No. 14 prospect—Olivier Rodrigue
- New Lowetide: No. 15 prospect—William Lagesson
- Jonathan Willis: No. 16 prospect—Cameron Hebig
- Lowetide: No. 17 prospect—Graham McPhee
- Jonathan Willis: No. 18 prospect—Ryan Mantha
- Lowetide: No. 19 prospect—John Marino
- Jonathan Willis: No. 20 prospect—Tyler Vesel
- Lowetide: Top 20 prospects: Forwards outside the top 20
- Jonathan Willis: Are Hayden Hawkey and Phil Kemp underrated gems?
- Lowetide: Oilers 2013 draft: Two NHL players and one crazy trade.
- Lowetide: Some lingering questions about Oilers 2018 draft and evaluating goalies.
- Lowetide: Oilers training camp: 28 men for 23 jobs.
- Lowetide: Is Evan Bouchard NHL-ready?
- Lowetide: The maturation of Daryl Katz, or heading down a dangerous road?
ROOKIE FORWARDS THIS CENTURY
I’ve been tracking rookies for approximately one forever, so feel somewhat qualified to discuss the issue. The Oilers have had some good candidates over the years, it might be an idea to review the happenings since the turn of the century. Back then, I tracked players by “even strength points-per-60” because that was all that was available to me. It changes to 5-on-5 per 60 down the page.
- All of the rookies who posted 1.90 or better had substantial NHL careers. Is that the line in the sand?
- Only one player below that number flourished in the NHL. Jarrett Stoll, who posted just 1.39/60 as a rookie.
- Mike Comrie arrived in time to grab Doug Weight’s wingers. He did well.
- Shawn Horcoff did not receive the same winger gifts but he did well.
- Ales Hemsky was Mr. Entertainment the moment he arrived. Proud to say I enjoyed every one of his offensive sorties and cheered until I had brain damage from which I have subsequently recovered. Seriously.
- Fernando Pisani was a terrific rookie, Jason Chimera was pretty damned good too.
- Nothing in 2004-05 (lockout), 2005-06 (trying to win a Stanley) and no one had much offensively in 2006-07.
- The J-F Jacques boxcars are not a typo.
- The 2007-08 group brought the lumber, but some in the group had trouble with the glove. All three remain in the NHL one decade later, I think the only career that turned out as predicted would be Kyle Brodziak.
- I think Andrew Cogliano outlasts the group here. He’s going to be fast at 50.
- We’re 5-on-5 per 60 now and we’re using Natural Stat Trick.
- Edmonton received 63 goals from rookie forwards in 2010-11. They’re all gone.
- Taylor Hall was thrown to the wolves, played a ton. Jordan Eberle, two years older, was a more efficient scorer.
- I always thought Linus Omark and Magnus Paajarvi should have made it, tend to blame the coaches. Then again, I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect a coach to develop rookie skill wingers four at a time.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins posted solid offensive numbers at 5-on-5 and 5-on-4 as a rookie, although injuries kept his boxcars from looking impressive.
- Nail Yakupov posted the best 5-on-5 per 60 scoring number among No. 1 overall selections 2010-12. It didn’t do much good but he did score well (especially late in the season) in the discipline.
- Mark Arcobello is an amazing story, if there is a Hockey God Marcobello will write a book about succeeding through willpower and belief in yourself, and then coach Pittsburgh to a Stanley Cup victory.
- Connor McDavid posted the best 5-on-5 number of the century for the Oilers’ rookie forwards, a mammoth 2.73. There’s zero doubt he would have broken the Calder drought had he stayed healthy. Probably looking at a playoff spring, too.
- Leon Draisaitl struggled in his rookie season, blossomed the following year.
- Anton Slepyshev and Drake Caggiula were two of ‘the 94s’ Peter Chiarelli mentioned as being important to the team. Neither man performed at a level where we can project them to stay a long time.
- Pontus Aberg is a dynamic young player who should get a solid look this coming season. There are several things to like about him, including good speed and terrific hands.
- Jesse Puljujarvi had impressive rookie spurts (1.99 5-on-5 per 60 in November) but couldn’t find consistency. He’s 20 now, this is his time.
- Kailer Yamamoto has a real chance, he has to win a job alongside 97 or 29. If he does, and finds his way to the power play (and can help make it successful), Edmonton may end its Calder famine.
OILERS RIGHT WINGERS VIA THE DRAFT
Two of the last three first-round selections were devoted to right wingers, and really we’re all just waiting for these men to arrive as bona fide NHL players. Over the years, the Oilers have drafted many outstanding RW’s, but have done so without using high draft picks.
- Glenn Anderson No. 69 overall in 1979
- Jari Kurri No. 69 overall in 1980
- Miro Satan No. 111 overall in 1993
- Ales Hemsky No. 13 overall in 2001
- Jordan Eberle No. 22 overall in 2008
- Nail Yakupov No. 1 overall in 2012
- Jesse Puljujarvi No. 4 overall in 2016
- Kailer Yamamoto No. 22 overall in 2017
Since 2012 the club has used higher picks, Nail Yakupov representing enormous opportunity lost. I remain confident in the two latest candidates, this season will tell us a lot. Reasonable expectations for Puljujarvi are a full NHL season, something close to 16-20 goals, and a springtime emergence as a difficult out in the postseason. Yamamoto’s path reasonably includes minor league time, I’m suggesting a 50-50 split between Bakersfield and Edmonton. We wait.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
We’re back, at 10 this morning with a wide range of guests and jocularity. TSN1260, scheduled to appear:
- Jimmy Morrison, Edmonton Prospects PBP. Prospects through to second round and facing tough Medicine Hat. We’ll chat about a fabulous season and postseason in Edmonton.
- Guy Flaming, The Pipeline Show. First blush at the Hlinka-Gretzky, who impressed yesterday?
- Scott Cullen, TSN. CFL Week in review and the one ahead, the Hurricanes-Sabres Skinner trade and when do NHL execs get back in the office?
- Devan Fink, Beyond the Boxscore. Why is MLB suffering in attendance?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!