Today we could see any number of breaking stories involving the Oilers. Players sent down, players waived, players picked up on waivers, trades, Ryan McLeod’s contract announcement. It will be a strong news week as the club gets down to the serious business of finalizing its 23-man roster (with an additional goalie). Let the good times roll!
Last night in Winnipeg, the third and fourth lines, along with the Nurse-Benning pairing, fought against a fairly complete Jets team. I was impressed through 30 minutes and then things began to fall apart. Results don’t matter in preseason but you want to see who plays well in difficult situations. We learned a lot last night, many impressive showings in some areas while cracks are forming in others.
I’ve been writing for The Athletic since December last year and have enjoyed every day of it. It’s the one-year anniversary tonight, at The Rec Room (south side) between 6pm and 10pm. You don’t have to come for the entire four hours, but please drop in if you can and I’ll introduce you around to the various peoples, even tell you about the balance photo. It’s been a pure pleasure for me to be part of the group and our coverage will be even greater this coming season.
The Athletic Edmonton lineup will be there, including Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Eric Duhatschek will attend! I’ll be there rolling my eyes, making smartass remarks and mocking Jon. If you haven’t subscribed yet, now’s your chance. Special offer is here, less than $4 a month!
- The Athletic hits Edmonton tonight!
- New Lowetide: Oilers farm system beginning to resemble the real thing
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: A pair of Ryans: Oilers McLeod, Strome strengthen families’ bond as teammates.
- Lowetide: After more Oilers’ cuts, roster decisions coming into focus.
- Tyler Dellow: Is Connor McDavid good enough to make a power play with five left shots work?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Former Oiler Dave Manson on coaching, nicknames and his raspy voice.
- New Lowetide: RE 18-19: Cam Talbot is key to Oilers success in 2018-19
- Lowetide: RE 18-19: A case for the defence.
- Lowetide: RE 18-19: Ryan Strome and the Oilers long journey to competent third and fourth lines
- Lowetide: RE 18-19: Leon Draisaitl and the pursuit of a second outscoring line in ’18-19
- Lowetide: RE 18-19: Can the McDavid line lead the 2018-19 Oilers to the playoffs?
- New Jonathan Willis: Challenge accepted: Young RW’s showcase skill in Oilers preseason game.
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Assessing the aftermath from Darnell Nurse’s deal with the Oilers.
- New Jonathan Willis: Pleasant and unpleasant surprises from Tuesday’s training camp cuts.
- New Lowetide: Oilers sign Nurse to a two-year deal.
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Can Tobias Rieder be the perfect complement to Leon Draisaitl?
DEFENSE, LAST NIGHT
- Garrison-Bear went 17-6 in 13:52, 10-2 shots and 0-1 GF. I know, I know, it was a weird game. Went 10-2 against Perreault-Little-Laine and were dominant against Myers-Byfuglien who were very poor (15-2 against that pairing alone). Garrison was good, but mobility is what I notice no matter what he’s doing with the puck, I think it’s a deal breaker. Bear looked quite good, fast and good decisions plus the power-play marker. He made a very poor pass on the 5-on-4 that Caggiula had no chance to do anything with, ended up in the back of the net. Bear is close to NHL-ready, in my opinion, closer than I thought he was going to be this fall.
- Gravel-Jerabek were 24-17 in 14:46, 14-9 shots at 0-1 GF. Pairing went 10-8 against the Little line, these two are both looking at NHL time this season. Gravel pinched on the fifth goal, Jerabek didn’t play it well at all. Jerabek’s contract tells us he is going to make the team but will need to be much better the rest of preseason. Gravel has had the better camp of the two, Jerabek’s issue is there is no one thing he does so well that keeping him is necessary.
- Nurse-Benning were 11-11 in 16:49, 8-3 in shots, 1-0 GF. Both men did great things with and without the puck, I’m more convinced than ever this should be the second pairing. Nurse’s drive down low for the second Yamamoto goal was impressive but he was also terrific at the other end. Benning’s decision-making is excellent. Very impressed with both men.
- Mikko Koskinen stopped 12 of 14, .857 at 5-on-5. I’d have to go back and look but my notes say the goalie wasn’t the culprit on any of the goals. At some point, it won’t matter, he is going to have to make more than nine stops for every 10 shots, but at least he was more settled in this game and did flash a good glove a couple of times. If Montoya has a good outing this week, suspect we have some kind of backup goalie soap opera leading up to opening night.
FORWARDS, LAST NIGHT
- Khaira-Strome-Puljujarvi went 19-8 in 11:25, 13-5 in shots and no goals either way. Puljujarvi was a ramrod, my goodness he has a run going this preseason. Khaira was strong as always and at this point I’m wondering if the club should just drop Leon Draisaitl between these two wingers and call that the No. 2 line. Strome is good, but vanilla. Edmonton needs a No. 3 center who can do something very well, even if it is penalty killing or winning faceoffs. Strome’s range of skill is good, what does he do exceptionally well? It’s going to cost him someday on this roster, especially as youngsters begin to push at his position.
- Caggiula-Brodziak-Kassian went 14-7 in 11:16 (Kassian) and 8-5 in 9:28 (Caggiula). The line did well, Caggiula made more plays last night than he did in any games I can recall. Brodziak was solid defensively, shy on offense but that’s the fourth line’s job. A strong early shift set the tone for the duo. Kassian’s penalty was the only aberration to my mind.
- Yamamoto-McLeod-Rieder went 16-12 in 12:22, 9-4 shots and 1-1 goals. Yamamoto had a fabulous night, he’s such a smart player and creates all kinds of opportunities. I don’t know that he makes the team, but do believe he’s going to be a successful NHL player when he arrives. McLeod is going to get sent out, but he has outplayed some veterans. He is the best teenaged center without the puck in Oilers’ camp since Nuge (we don’t invoke McDavid when discussing mortals), and I cannot give a higher compliment defensively to a center. Rieder had three takeaways but also took the wrong turn at Albuquerque a couple of times. Yamamoto on left wing makes one wonder about the team’s thought process at this point in time.
- Malone-Marody-Aberg went 5-7 in 9:36, 2-2 in shots and 0-1 goals. Aberg was the most dynamic player on the line (had a breakaway) but he needed to do more. He’s also not completely trustworthy without the puck. I think the die is cast, hope I’m wrong. Malone was poor, Marody imo is very close to NHL-ready.
- Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com.
— Bakersfield Condors (@Condors) September 23, 2018
CONDORS ROSTER TODAY
There will be more to come, but let’s concentrate on the 31 names who will be in Condors’ camp today and their futures.
- G Shane Starrett. Edmonton doesn’t have Nick Ellis on the roster (retirement) so Starrett is the most experienced hand in camp among goalies. He played 38 games with Wichita Thunder (ECHL) posting a .912 save percentage, good for No. 15 among qualified goalies.
- G Stuart Skinner. Part of me is hoping Jay Woodcroft will give the two new pro goalies a real shot at the starting job in Bakersfield. It goes against the Oilers’ grain going all the way back to Steve Passmore but I prefer playing prospects a lot in their entry deals. Skinner is a famous goalie courtesy a fabulous run with WHL champion Swift Current Broncos in the spring.
- G Dylan Wells. Finished his junior career with the Peterborough Petes 2017-18, now turning pro. I think many Oilers fans believe he’s well below Skinner as a prospect, but that Petes team was a wayward group for much of Wells’ time there. I think it wise to observe these two men as they play for the same team and not pre-judge either man.
- LD Caleb Jones. Entering his second pro season, his training camp and preseason suggest we can look for a step forward this year. Jones is the fastest defenseman in the system and there might be an NHL job for him as early as next fall if he continues to develop. Oilers’ fans should be paying special attention to him this winter.
- LD William Lagesson. This is my kind of player, the shutdown defender with good speed and mobility. He lacks the creativity with the puck someone like Bear or Bouchard possess, but Lagesson can make plays and move the puck well. He could see some NHL action this season and we’ll look for him to quickly establish himself as a top 4D option in Bakersfield. The last of three NHL contracts on the current roster among defenders, the rest are either AHL deals or tryouts.
- LD Ryan Stanton. Veteran will play a major role in Bakersfield, as he did a year ago (46, 2-6-8) when healthy. Edmonton might have called him up last year save for injury, we’ll see if the opportunity knocks again in 2018-19.
- RD Logan Day. He scored 10, 2-0-2 after signing an AHL deal with Bakersfield, and for me he’s the most interesting minor-league contract in this group. He was splendid in rookie camp, clearly has creativity with the puck on his stick.
- LD Jake Kulevich. Another AHL signing, he played for the Manitoba Moose one year ago (33, 0-3-3) so could see some Bakersfield time. He’s a shutdown type, 6.03, 210, stays out of the penalty box.
- LD Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin. My sincere hope for him this season is we find, as a group, some way to shorten his name. Secondarily, it will be good to see if he can step beyond his ECHL debut (68, 2-17-19) one year ago.
- LD Jared Wilson. He is fresh out of college (RPI) and appeared a step slow in rookie camp. That doesn’t mean anything, but it’s likely he’ll see more time in the ECHL than AHL this season.
- RD Justin Lemcke. I followed his junior career a little, Wichita did a nice job getting his name on a contract. Scored nine goals (exactly) in three different OHL seasons. He is on a tryout with Bakersfield.
- RD Jeremy Beaudry. He’s an offensive defender who played for Wichita last season (69, 13-24-37) and will probably be there this season, too.
- LD Keoni Texeira. A solid junior career with the Portland Winterhawks, he has enough speed and skill to be intriguing at the pro level. Tryout.
- LD Dylan Labbe. Don’t have much on him, fourth-round pick from 2013 (Minnesota Wild) peaked out at the AHL level and has been in the ECHL for a time. Tryout.
- RC Josh Currie. Armed with an NHL contract and the ability to play up and down the lineup, Currie is a valuable player for new coach Jay Woodcroft. He has passed 20 goals each of the last two seasons and will be counted on to mentor some young wingers.
- L Tyler Benson. He turns pro healthy and coming off a solid training camp, suspect Benson would have taken that after some dark days in junior due to injury. I believe the Oilers are going to turn over some of their left wingers a year from now, if Benson flourishes in Bakersfield he could be in the NHL 2019-20.
- L Joe Gambardella. He’s a small p Pisani for me, I like his checking game and believe he may have more offense in him than implied one year ago. He has a chance imo.
- R Patrick Russell. He can play in all situations and is a sturdy winger. If he had a little more speed, I think he would have an NHL career. A useful player at the AHL level.
- RC Tyler Vesel. Another college checker, his issue (like Gambardella) surrounds offense and foot speed. I think Vesel has the fundamentals down, can he find a way to score goals in pro hockey?
- L Nolan Vesey. Lacks top end skill for this level but he’s a rugged player and that is going to get him playing time in the AHL. Broken record about college offense, all of these young guys like Vesel, Vesey and Gambardella could be shy but it’s not a bad idea to audition several at a time.
- R Cameron Hebig. A strong WHL season got him an NHL free-agent contract but he was pedestrian in training camp and I wonder if he can win a job on one of Bakersfield’s skill lines. It might take him some time to adjust to this level.
- LC Colin Larkin. He’s a good skater, can penalty kill and I think that’s what he’ll thrive on in the AHL. Will Acton would be a comparable. That said, we haven’t seen any signs of offense.
- R Mitch Callahan. He enters AHL camp on the outskirts of the roster after a very disappointing 2017-18 season in Bakersfield. Career crossroads possible.
- R Evan Polei. I’m a fan of his skill and if he can figure out a way to get to more plays, then I think he’s going to make some money in this game. I wonder if he’s thought of hiring a power skating instructor? He has plus skills.
- R John McFarland. Not sure what to expect, he was once a highly touted prospect.
- L Braden Christoffer. Now on an AHL deal, he’ll likely battle guys like Vesey and Van Stralen for playing time on the bottom 6F. He could see ECHL time.
- R Ryan Van Stralen. AHL deal, he comes from the Canadian college ranks (Carleton) and scored at a point per game clip with Wichita. Showed some things in rookie camp.
- LC Luke Esposito. He has been hanging around the organization for a few summers, has some talent and it wouldn’t shock me if he got a minor-league contract. Tryout.
- R Ralph Cuddemi. Scoring winger popped 31 for Wichita a year ago. Tryout.
- R Colin Jacobs. Fourth-round pick by Buffalo, he has played most of his pro hockey in the ECHL. Tryout.
- R Matt Berry. Skill winger has had ECHL success. Tryout.
— Willy Palov (@WillyPalov) September 22, 2018
Safin has been in limbo since getting optioned out and it’s definitely time for him to be playing hockey (Kirill Maksimov scored twice in his first game yesterday). Will update as available.
God I love waivers season. I didn’t have time yesterday and won’t today, but would ordinarily write a piece on the waiver eligible players who can be picked up today. The list is here, and names like Michael Bunting (wrote about him here), Tobias Lindberg and others are worth contemplating. My hope is the Oilers hold out for a hero (Josh Leivo) later this week.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, we’ll roll out a fabulous group of guests and have a great time. Scheduled to appear:
- Murat Ates, The Athletic Winnipeg. We’ll talk Jets and expectations, drill down on the Myers-Byfuglien pairing from last night and discuss some of those impressive Jets prospects who are knocking at the door.
- Ryan Holt, Bakersfield Condors PBP. We’ll chat about this camp, playoff expectations and the improved quality and depth of this year’s roster.
- Jason Gregor, TSN1260. Since Jason dumped the Dolphins, they’re unbeaten! Coincidence? Also, Eskimos lose a big weekend game and the Oilers cuts (may have occurred by 11:05).
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon! (I’m also on the round table today).