The Edmonton Oilers play the final rookie camp game tonight in Red Deer, getting another shot at the Calgary Flames’ kids. Last night wasn’t much of a test, although it was a fine display of skills and gives us some insight into what the future might look like for the organization. Reading comments online, seems many fans believe last night’s game was a poor use of everyone’s time. I would argue that a group of prospects up against an inferior opponent should be expected to dominate, and that’s exactly what the Oilers rookies did for three periods. My ‘best players’ were Tyler Benson and Caleb Jones. Noticing a trend here, folks. That has value.
The Athletic made some big additions last week, 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 south side) for a get together and general merriment. I’m thrilled to be part of this group, hope you join us.
- New Lowetide: RE 18-19: Leon Draisaitl and the pursuit of a second outscoring line in ’18-19
- New Jonathan Willis: If the Oilers improve in ’18-19, they’ll do it on the back of special teams
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: How Ethan Bear is providing inspiration for Indigenous youth through his hockey camp.
- New Jonathan Willis: The arrival of Alex Chiasson gives the Oilers a crowd up front
- The Athletic Cross Canada Tour Will hit Edmonton!
- Lowetide: RE 18-19 Can the McDavid line lead the 2018-19 Oilers to the playoffs?
- Lowetide: For Oilers young forwards, it’s what you create versus what you leave.
- 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.
- 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?
- G Dylan Wells. Solid work in the first period, he wasn’t busy (4 saves). He made eight saves in the second period, including a late sequence that would count as his only real test. He played the first two periods.
- G Olivier Rodrigue. I’m not sure he spent any more energy in the third period than he did sitting on the bench in the first two periods. Gave up a late goal on a defensive breakdown, one hopes he gets a period in Red Deer.
- RD Evan Bouchard. He has terrific vision, just opens up so many opportunities. One pass to Vesel (I believe) was so good it was a crime the college vet didn’t finish it. Had two assists in the game (both on goals by partner Caleb Jones). Made a weak pass from his own zone late second, lost his stick, but recovered to end the play with no harm. Cerebral player at both ends, he wasn’t challenged and played well.
- LD Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin. Not a lot of creative work, he made the plays you’d expect and defended well when called upon. Errant pass at the opp. blue line mid-first. Got a second assist on the first goal.
- RD Logan Day. He has impressed me in both games with intelligent puck movement. Good penalty killing work too. He can play.
- LD Caleb Jones. He’s too good for rookie camp. Mobile again and good works with the puck, comfortable with Bouchard (including the offensive zone). Drew a penalty with a combination of skill and determination, late first. Went 2-2-4, both goals impressive. Dominant. I can’t wait to see him in main camp, Edmonton having Bear and Jones ready for recall in Bakersfield would be an enormous help.
- LD Jake Kulevich. He defended well and got into the offense as Woodcroft began pulling his first options from promising offensive situations.
- LD William Lagesson. He played a consistent game, moved the puck well and got some power-play time later on. Passed well, got pucks through. An offensive explosion with little time in the defensive zone isn’t an ideal showcase for this player.
- L Tyler Benson. He is the best forward in camp, with Caleb Jones his only competition for best overall Oilers player so far. Fantastic early sequence where he had the puck on a string, setting up some promising looks. His assist on the first goal was just pure skill, the second assist was one of many smart passes he made during the game. His goal was a gift but he’d already earned it long ago.
- LC Luke Esposito. He had a nice chance on a late penalty kill, drew a penalty later in the game and scored on a seeing eye shot in the third period. He can bring some things, wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up in Wichita.
- L Dave Gust. Didn’t notice him much in the first period, he got a lovely chance later in the second period just missed scoring on a backhand. Another chance late.
- RC Cameron Hebig. He drew a penalty early with some good work, got a couple of early shots. He hasn’t impacted this tournament as I thought he might based on his scoring prowess in junior.
- LC Colin Larkin. Back checked well, took a late first-period penalty. Scored a goal from range on a Caleb Jones feed. He’s a good skater, gets involved.
- R Kirill Maksimov. Quiet for two periods, scored a goal in the third period. He hasn’t been terrible but also not as noticeable as you’d like a dynamic scorer to be in this kind of a game.
- RC Cooper Marody. Very skilled, he had the puck a lot from the beginning. He was also impactful in the Calgary game and it’s clear Marody is going to be one of the best players in Bakersfield. He led a three-on-two with two defensemen late in the second, that’s fairly unique. Nicest play might have been the impressive pass the McLeod tipped late in the third period to make it 8-0.
- LC Ryan McLeod. You can see what he might be on the power play, nice chance in the first period (shot high) and later on a fine feed from Polei into the slot. His first goal came on a lovely feed from Benson, again on the power play, and his assist also involved Benson. I did see some battle along the wall in this one. Scored a fabulous goal late by driving to the net with abandon and keeping his stick on the ice.
- L Evan Polei. Some nice early jump had a deflection and a wraparound chance in the game’s early minutes. He is a good hockey player.
- R Ryan Van Stralen. I don’t know him at all but he impressed with the ability to make plays and win battles.
- RC Tyler Vesel. More prominent in the game, had a nice look on a feed from McLeod but didn’t cash. He has two-way ability, that will help him. Grabbed an assist on the Benson goal, scored a power-play goal in the third period.
- L Nolan Vesey. Played with some abandon, won a battle for the puck in the first and shook the puck loose in the offensive zone early in the second during a promising sortie. Edmonton’s most physical forward.
Puljujarvi has shortened his stick and changed the flex in his twig (less whip). I'm curious to see how that helps his game. He fired high often last year or just missed wide right. The change in flex was done to hopefully decrease missed shots. #Oilers
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) September 11, 2018
This is a big season for Puljujarvi, I have him playing 30 percent of his year on the Strome line and 70 percent with Draisaitl (it’s all in my article for The Athletic, above). I think confidence will be a large piece of his season, hope to see the coaching staff give him a push that includes power-play time. The Edmonton Oilers organization can’t lose this player, they simply don’t have alternatives who bring as much to a game as the big Finn.
WHAT WE’RE LEARNING
My assessment of the rookies after two games is mostly positive, despite the Calgary game result. Caleb Jones is dominant, Tyler Benson healthy and making up for lost time, Evan Bouchard showcasing his considerable skills in an inviting tournament. Cooper Marody leads the college men in quality, and Tyler Vesel plus Logan Day are worthy of mention. Ryan McLeod, Ethan Bear and William Lagesson have also played well.
Down arrows? Kirill Maksimov hasn’t displayed a lot of what has Oilers fans excited about him, Cameron Hebig has done very little to get noticed and the goalies haven’t been a factor in either game. Sometimes these tournaments don’t give you a chance to shine, but for Maksimov (who played on a checking line in Game One) last night was an opportunity missed.
TRAINING CAMP ROSTER (A GUESS)
The notes are mostly from a couple of weeks ago, but still apply. Upshall, Garrison and Chiasson have been added since you’ve seen the list.
- Cam Talbot, 31. Save percentage fell from .919 to .908, he went from being the team’s best penalty killer to an inconsistent stopper. I think the organization still believes in him but won’t hesitate to move on if it comes to saving the season—but my guess is he recovers. 100%.
- Mikko Koskinen, 30. His KHL save percentage (.937 SP) is stellar but those goalies from Russia are a little all over in Year One NHL performance. Anders Nilsson was a .936 KHL goalie and sported a .901 SP in Edmonton during 2015-16. I think Koskinen will perform better but Nilsson kept the job until the trade deadline (Oilers got the pick that turned into Graham McPhee for him). 90%
- Al Montoya, 33. Montoya didn’t impress (.906) after coming over in a trade but there’s every chance he’ll play well enough to be in the conversation at training camp. 10%
- Shane Starrett, 24. He was a regular in the ECHL (.912 in 38 games) with a .895SP in three games for the Condors. Depending on what happens with the three NHL goalies, he might be starting in Bakersfield (seems unlikely). Mike Griffith from Bakersfield.com has more on the goalies and new head coach Jay Woodcroft.
- Dylan Wells, 20. Peterborough allowed 36 shots per game, highest in the OHL. Wells save percentage (.896) doesn’t inspire but he may improve behind a better defense (Condors allowed 30.97 shots per game last year).
- Stuart Skinner, 19. He scorched junior shooters after being dealt to Swift Current, posting a .914SP during the rest of the regular season and .932 in 26 playoff games. I think he’s the best goalie prospect and would be intrigued by a push, but the Oilers never do that kind of thing.
- Oscar Klefbom, 25. Klefbom is “good to go” for training camp according to Jim Matheson, massive importance to the organization’s success. His defensive deficiencies are well documented, but Dangerous Fenwick via Puck IQ loves him both seasons they’ve measured. I think he’s key. 100%.
- Adam Larsson, 25. Like Klefbom, Larsson’s reputation suffered during a trying season but he remains the class of the group. Larsson is a player-type I enjoy watching and value, he defends well and has some offensive ability (that doesn’t always result in points). A valuable player. 100%.
- Darnell Nurse, 23. Nurse doesn’t have a contract yet but he’s another big part of Edmonton’s blue. He faced (again according to Puck IQ) elite opposition 35 percent of his 5-on-5 time a year ago, garnering 49 percent possession and 56 percent goal share. We know that was partly McDavid-aided but he’s improving and he’s young, fast and can move that puck out of trouble. Also performed well offensively (his 5-on-5 per 60 was 0.93, No. 58 among regular NHL defensemen). He has some room to grow but appears to be delivering on the promise of his draft day. 100%.
- L Kris Russell, 31. He could move over to LH side with the injury to Sekera and that’s a preferred result. That said, the right side has fewer options and Russell remains here on our little depth chart for now. 100%.
- Matt Benning, 24. I’m in favor of moving him up to the second pair no matter what happens with Russell but Dellow’s recent work is a revelation. I’d still try it. 100%.
- Jakub Jerabek, 27. He doesn’t have a lot of experience and this could be long-time forgotten by this time next year. That said, it looks like an astute bet, especially considering what was out there when the Sekera news hit. 70%
- Evan Bouchard, 18. He got a break when he was drafted, turned heads (fans and management) with a cannon at orientation camp and now the Oilers are down on defenseman. He keeps getting breaks. I think he gets nine games but the script for more is there to be written. 60%
- Kevin Gravel, 26. He gets a boost with the Sekera injury despite not being a similar player. Experience (70 NHL games) becomes a big consideration with the injury to Rej. Now, 70 games doesn’t seem like much but it’s a helluva lot more than zero. He’s a shutdown type, better speed and younger than Eric Gryba. He’s 6.04, 212 but appears to use finesse defensively more than the redass. 60%
- Ethan Bear, 21. In writing about him for The Athletic, I’m excited to see his future but convinced he is far enough away from ready the club shouldn’t count on him this fall. That doesn’t mean the Oilers agree. 20%
- Keegan Lowe, 25. The Lowe jokes continue unabated but he did good work in Bakersfield and we could see a lot of him this coming season. Similar to Gravel in style but brings a little more of an edge. 20%
- Ryan Stanton, 29. Injuries impacted his usage (and probably derailed a recall) in 2017-18 but his rugged style is a match for the Oilers. If he shows well in training camp, he might push Gravel for the No. 7 job. 10%
- Caleb Jones, 21. He struggled in his rookie season with Bakersfield, but the tools (speed, skill) suggest he could arrive quickly if he can put it all together. He has coverage gaps but that’s to be expected at his age. The speed will get him chances. 5%
- William Lagesson, 22. There’s a bit of the unknown with this player but the opening provided by Sekera’s injury means the coaching staff will be looking for options and strong play. Lagesson is in a good spot despite his placement lower on the current depth chart. 5%
- Jason Garrison, 33. It’s hard to estimate his chances of making the team, relying as they do on his current level of ability and things like Darnell Nurse’s contract. If he can keep up, he should hang around camp until late.
- Dmitri Samorukov, 19. Solid to very good last year in the OHL, played well in an AHL cup of coffee. He has a nice range of skills, but in reading on him via several sources he seems to be a tighter defender than some of his competition. A lock to head back to junior but he has a promising future.
- Logan Day, 23. Only geeks like me noticed, but Day was a big offensive player in college and might have an impact in Bakersfield. AHL deal.
- Jake Kulevich, 25. Big shutdown type played with the Manitoba Moose last season, I expect he’ll see action in both Wichita and Bakersfield. AHL deal.
- Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin, 22. Physical defender from the QMJHL who had a solid debut with the Wichita Thunder in 2017-18. He’s a depth player but looks like a solid pro based on one season. AHL deal
- Jared Wilson, 23. Not much on him, he came up through the AJHL and BCHL and then played for RPI (NCAA) where he scored more goals than you would expect for an obscure rearguard. AHL deal
- Connor McDavid, 21. Some of the point-total predictions I’m seeing are mind-boggling. I think he’ll finish shy of 135 points this season, the Oilers are going to use 97 in a “Mats Sundin will need to drag the team into the playoffs and make Dmitri Khristich a 20-goal man at the same time” role for much of all of the campaign. Note: This does NOT mean I hate Connor McDavid. 100%.
- Leon Draisaitl, 22. One of the main items to watch this coming season involves Leon and the No. 2 line. If they can outscore their opposition, I think the Oilers make the playoffs. I would put Nuge on his line. 100%.
- Ryan Strome, 25. There are some experienced observers of the Oilers who are predicting 40+ points, but that depends on usage in my opinion. Strome didn’t see the 97 line a lot this past season and will be getting the third set of wingers when he’s in the middle. 100%.
- Kyle Brodziak, 34. He’s going to be in the NHL for the next two years, but the style of player he is, and the production he brings, suggests we are close to the end of the line. It’s impossible to project him to repeat last season but if he can help the penalty kill then Edmonton will be paid in full. 100%
- Brad Malone, 29. Malone can play center, wins faceoffs, penalty kills and it won’t hurt him to sit in the pressbox for long stretches. He isn’t a sexy option but he’ll fit under the cap and can do some things. 5%.
- Cooper Marody, 21. Some buzz around Marody, whose final college season (40, 16-35-51) for Michigan was a quality junior season. He is one of the group on this fall’s roster who could surprise and push for a job. Smart player, slight chance he turns out to be the pleasant surprise of training camp. 5%.
- Josh Currie, 25. The nature of his contract tells me the club either sees him as a possible option for NHL play (this is unlikely) or it’s getting more difficult to sign AHL centers these days. He got a signing bonus and will make $160,000 in year two of the deal.
- Tyler Vesel, 24. His time is now, despite the fact Vesel has never played a game of pro hockey. That said, he has a nice range of skills and will probably fit well into multiple scenarios.
- Cameron Hebig, 21. He enters pro hockey with a team hungry for offense. Hebig averaged 4.6 shots per game, suspect he’ll be used in an offensive role in Bakersfield.
- Colin Larkin, 24. He appears to be an offensively shy center who is best suited for a checking and penalty killing role in the minors.
- Ryan McLeod, 19. Fast train rookie with some real promise, this will be a chance for him to see how he shines against older players.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 25. Patrick Maroon scored 29 goals in 1500 minutes (1.16 goals per 60, approx) with Connor McDavid over three seasons (in all disciplines). Leon Draisaitl has scored 39 goals in 2,400 minutes (all disciplines) with 97 (.975 goals per 60, approx). Last year, Nuge scored eight goals in 300 minutes (1.6 goals per 60, approx, once again in all disciplines). Can he score 30 with McDavid? 100%.
- Milan Lucic, 30. His best stat might be Corsi for 5-on-5, where he is 52.72 percent with Connor McDavid, 50.04 without. Lucic was over 50 percent with 97, 29, 93 and Strome last season. It doesn’t change the money v. production ratio but the puck was headed in a good direction. 100%.
- Drake Caggiula, 24. He scores 13-12-25 per 82 games, but his possession numbers are not strong. In my model it was fairly easy to replace his minutes and I think this is a big season for him. Edmonton can’t afford meager production. 100%.
- Jujhar Khaira, 24. May have done enough to find a home on the No. 3 line with Ryan Strome but more likely spends most of the year on the No. 4 line with Kyle Brodziak. Khaira is an improving penalty killer. 100%.
- Pontus Aberg, 25. If you look strictly at numbers and performance from one year ago, Aberg should contend for No. 2 LW. I don’t see it happening, suspect he’s in tough for a job during training camp. 70%.
- Scottie Upshall, 34. His numbers from last season impress (delivering offense from the bowels of the roster) in some ways, and are left wanting (PK prowess) in others. When he signed I was convinced he would make the roster, now not as certain. Oilers need a penalty killer. 20%
- Tyler Benson, 20. I think the Oilers believe it’s only a matter of time and where he slots on the depth chart and wouldn’t be at all shocked if he’s an early recall. The first forward who enters pro hockey for the first time who is guaranteed a feature AHL role in several years.
- Joe Gambardella, 24. He came on offensively later in the season and has speed plus two-way acumen. I’m not saying he is a lock for an NHL career, but there’s a story here.
- Nolan Vesey, 23. He doesn’t have a lot on his resume that stands out, the big question is how much playing time he’ll get with the Condors.
- Ostap Safin, 19. He’s a mature prospect physically and has some power forward tendencies. I think he might make the grade based on potential and what’s left to learn in the QMJHL.
- Evan Polei, 22. He has slow boots but a fine shot and a nose for the net, Polei should make a living in the minors and who knows maybe he sees the NHL someday. AHL deal.
- Ryan Van Stralen, 24. He scored well (8 goals in 16 games) for Wichita after finishing up at Carleton University, mostly a wild card but he can score in the ECHL. AHL deal.
- Ty Rattie, 25. Per 82 games in the NHL so far, he’s 15-17-32, but if he plays 82 games with Connor McDavid he might score 30. I don’t think he’ll hold on to the job, which is different than cheering against him. 100%.
- Tobias Rieder, 25. Per 82gp, he’s 14-19-33, I think he’ll play enough on a prominent line to score at a higher rate. A lot of people are saying the Oilers didn’t do much to help themselves this season, for me Rieder is a perfect fit. He’s the Pisani. 100%.
- Jesse Puljujarvi, 20. My guess is he blossoms this season, scoring 16-20 goals and establishing himself as a reliable young two-way forward. There’s a chance he blossoms and scores 35, and with his next contract looming, that does fall into the Oilers ‘luck of the Irish’ contract storylines. 100%.
- Zack Kassian, 27. Edmonton needs secondary scoring and one of these days Kassian is going to score more than seven goals. He absolutely gets enough chances to score 15 a year. His emerging penalty killing gives him more utility, but is he good enough at the job? 100%.
- Kailer Yamamoto, 20. I am predicting about half a season in Bakersfield before recall but wouldn’t be at all surprised if he makes the team out of camp. If he does, Jordan Eberle’s 69, 18-25-43 totals seem a reasonable projection. 50%.
- Alex Chiasson, 27. I think he has a chance, rugged player who has some skill and some track left in his career.
- Mitch Callahan, 26. The Condors badly need a recovery season from Callahan, who was a solid AHL player before last year’s 45, 2-7-9 derailment. Before last year, per 82 games, he scored 21-21-42.
- Patrick Russell, 25. He was one of the last forwards standing at last year’s training camp, he can penalty kill and is rugged. The boots fail him but he might get another long look.
- Kirill Maksimov, 19. He’s a sniper, which is rare indeed for these Oilers. I don’t think he’ll get a long look but if they give him a preseason game don’t be surprised if he makes some noise.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, we’ll spend quite a bit of time on Humboldt and the big game tonight covered across the TSN network. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. We’ll talk about the rookies, the PTO’s and McDavid, baby!
- Mike Murphy, Blueshirt Banter. The rebuild in Manhattan is underway, we’ll check on the Rangers.
- Aaron Portzline, The Athletic. The Blue Jackets just signed John Tortorella to an extension, what are the expectations for Ohio hockey?
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!