Every training camp offers its share of surprises good and bad, for the Oilers there’s a giant list of things that have to go right. The KHL backup goalie needs to deliver saves on demand, the second-pairing RH defenseman needs to be in-house and effective, plus a four-pack of productive right wingers need to arrive in Sweden early October.
The Athletic made some big additions yesterday, including Daniel Nugent-Bowman joining the Edmonton staff. Daniel, Jonathan Willis, Minnia Feng, Pat McLean and me will deliver prose all winter long and there will be tons via the national desk from Tyler Dellow, Corey Pronman and Dom Luszczysyn. Special offer is here, less than $4 a month! Also, don’t forget to join us later this month (September 24, The Rec Room) for a get together and general merriment. I’m thrilled to be part of this group, hope you join us.
- New Lowetide: Ryan Mantha’s injury and uncertain recovery.
- Lowetide: Oilers rookie camp roster offers options and balance.
- Corey Pronman: The most intriguing prospect to watch at camp for every NHL team.
- Jonathan Willis: Three different KHL stars, three different paths to NHL success.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Bringing something different to the Oilers beat.
- Dom Luszczyszyn: 2018-19 season preview Edmonton Oilers.
- Lowetide: Who will win the McDavid-line lottery?
- Lowetide: The 2018-19 Oilers and what may come.
- The Athletic Cross Canada Tour Will hit Edmonton!
- Lowetide: The 2015 draft and what was lost
- Lowetide: Projecting the 2018-19 Oilers opening night roster
- Lowetide: Where will Tobias Rieder land on the Oilers depth chart?
- Lowetide: No. 1 prospect—Evan Bouchard.
- Lowetide: No. 2 prospect—Kailer Yamamoto.
- Lowetide: No. 3 prospect—Ethan Bear
- Lowetide: No. 4 prospect—Ryan McLeod
- Lowetide: No. 5 prospect—Cooper Marody.
- Lowetide: No. 6 prospect—Kirill Maksimov.
- Lowetide: No. 7 prospect—Tyler Benson.
- Jonathan Willis: No. 8 prospect—Caleb Jones.
- Lowetide: No. 9 prospect—Filip Berglund.
- Jonathan Willis: No. 10 prospect—Dmitri Samorukov.
What do we know for sure, as this team enters training camp? The Oilers are a very strong team with Connor McDavid on the ice, and are not close to a playoff team off the ice. The preseason predictions have the team either well outside the playoffs or fighting for that last spot in the Western Conference (and that last spot might be third place in the Pacific Division).
RE 18-19 PROJECTED GAMES PLAYED
The NHL roster equivalent of “too much month at the end of the money” is before you as September 2018 settles in. I said all spring and summer the best route was keeping their powder dry. Peter Chiarelli had already traded too many quality pieces, the idea of dealing Oscar Klefbom, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jesse Puljujarvi or even the No. 10 overall made no sense at all.
The path is not clear and the future fraught with danger. There are no guarantees for the general manager, the head coach, even young talents like Puljujarvi have to step up this winter or risk being on the outside in the spring.
The pressure on Connor McDavid is going to be enormous, but in all honesty that’s probably the least worrisome item on the worry list this fall. Can Leon Draisaitl outscore quality opposition with wingers who are likely to produce less than NHL average output? Can Ryan Strome deliver more in year two, on what should be a productive line facing soft opposition?
I think this team will finish between 90 and 94 points unless injuries or goaltending flushes their season again. What you want, if you’re an Oilers fan, is to arrive in April with more horses for the future. By that I mean more players, beyond 97, 29, 93 up front and the reliable defenders, more players who establish themselves as quality players for the future.
We’ve been arguing all summer about the best option on RW, or who can step up and finish that defense, but in reality the specific names are less important than actual success in addressing those roster needs.
I rarely do this, mostly because the idea of the blog is to chronicle the events surrounding the team as opposed to offering an (often emotional) opinion. I do have some thoughts about this team moving forward, mostly on the 5-on-5:
- I think the Oilers would do well to deploy Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tobias Rieder on separate (top) lines as the defensive conscience on their respective units. Nuge-McDavid and Rieder-Draisaitl fits as an example, but you could switch wingers to see if there’s chem.
- It’s time for Jesse Puljujarvi to get a push and I’d run the hell out of him on one of the top two lines. The sense I get in watching McDavid-Puljujarvi is that JP’s eagerness gets him in the way a little, so perhaps that duo will have to wait a little. Still, Draisaitl-Puljujarvi could be a solid set and it will give the Finn more chances at net to play with such a skilled center.
- I would run Pontus Aberg ahead of Milan Lucic on one of the skill lines. I can hear howls of derision already but for me Aberg is faster, more dynamic, and has enough offensive ability to play higher up the depth chart.
- Ideally we see Nuge-McDavid-Puljujarvi and Aberg-Draisaitl-Rieder, that would be my recommendation to start the preseason.
- Lucic on a line with Ryan Strome and one of several options (Ty Rattie, Jujhar Khaira who could play center, Drake Caggiula, even Kailer Yamamoto) is the best landing spot for the big man. If he can impact the game offensively, moving him up is an easy thing to do. This isn’t a Lucic hit job by the way, I’m a fan of his over many years. However, if the club forces him on to a skill line and then demotes him, the options are none and you’re at the crossroads maybe early November.
- The fourth line could very well be Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Zack Kassian, although Jujhar Khaira might squeeze in there somewhere.
- Oscar Klefbom with Adam Larsson is my choice for top pair, I’d run the living hell out of them early and often.
- Darnell Nurse needs a reliable veteran for the second pair but for me Matt Benning would get the first shot at the job.
- Kris Russell and Jakub Jerabek are the best option for third pairing in my opinion, we’ll have to see how well youngsters like Ethan Bear, Evan Bouchard and William Lagesson play.
- Cam Talbot needs to play 55-60 games this season, that means Mikko Koskinen gets a start every three games (or so). If the goaltending struggles in October, Peter Chiarelli should go find help.
I’ll be running my (modified) RE series beginning next week at The Athletic, will publish the final GF-GA by player here just before the start of the season.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Friday! A fun show to kick off the weekend, promise I won’t mention the Philadelphia Eagles even once! Scheduled to appear, beginning at 10 on TSN1260:
- Steve Lansky, Big Mouth Sports. Gearing up for the NHL preseason, Auston Matthews as captain in Toronto and the Blake Wheeler contract.
- Matt Iwanyk, TSN1260. Eskimos big game at Commonwealth this weekend, NFL kickoff weekend.
- Nick Dika, bass player for The Arkells. The brilliant bassman for the fabulous Arkells is also a wildly successful and brilliant writer of prose about baseball for Baseball Prospectus. The man, the myth, the machine, he’ll join us at 11:20.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!