There are times when things are not as they appear. After signing Andrej Sekera in free agency 2015 summer, and then Milan Lucic the following year, Peter Chiarelli’s big signing July 1, 2017 was Ty Rattie. It was a mid-level signing, the kind teams make a couple of weeks into free agency. I wrote about it at the time, putting things into perspective.
- He is from the Sam Gagner player tree (undersized, highly skilled, average speed) and is more of a scorer historically. I had him ranked No. 29 overall in his draft year and still think he’s NHL calibre. He is a good scorer at the AHL level, but size (6.0, 195) and speed are average. Right shot. Source
It could turn out to be the best signing of the whole damned bunch. Early days, let’s not get too excited, but this is turning into a major story in real time. McDavid to Rattie is shining like a diamond.
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- New Lowetide: Impressive Cooper Marody preseason could lead to NHL recall.
- 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
- Klefbom-Larsson went 19-14 in 13:30, 10-11 shots and 2-0 in goals. Went 4-8 against Baertschi-Horvat-Eriksson (2-0 GF) and both men made several fine plays at 5-on-5. Klefbom scored a goal, made some good passes (wobbly on the 5-on-4, though) and Larsson was physical and quality in coverage.
- Russell-Bouchard went 15-13 in 13:28, 7-4 shots and 1-0 in goals. Bouchard made some lovely passes (especially on the second Puljujarvi goal) but he also made some very poor decisions with the puck. That’s what rookie blue are about, it’s growing pains in the early stages. Ask Bruce McCurdy about the early days of Paul Coffey. Russell-Bouchard had two offensive, eight neutral and six defensive zone starts, curious the rookie was used in this way.
- Garrison-Jerabek went 8-16 in 14:16, playing the most 5-on-5 minutes among the three pairings. Were 3-6 in shots, 1-5 in HS scoring chances. Garrison was the better player on the night, Jerabek had some good moments but several chaos events too. John Shannon has Garrison 60-40 to make the team.
- Cam Talbot was quality, stopping all 35 shots on net. If he does that consistently this year, Edmonton will be playing well into spring.
- NHL.com and NaturalStatTrick.
- Nuge-McDavid-Rattie were 13-9 in 10:30, 8-7 shots and 2-0 goals. Went 9-5 against Hutton-Tanev and tore up the blacktop on the night (eight points for the trio). I think this is phase two (Maroon-Leon being the first phase) linemates for McDavid’s career.
- Chiasson-Brodziak-Kassian went 9-8 in 9:40, 3-4 shots and no goals. This line worked well, although Chiasson missed some time after getting hit behind the Canucks’ net. I wonder if Chiasson makes this team as a utility forward.
- Lucic-Draisaitl-Yamamoto went 11-15 in 11:13, getting plenty of minutes but not getting a lot done (4-6 in shots as a group). It’s better with Yamamoto there but this line isn’t firing on all pistons. The third line might pass them, crazy as it sounds. The Finn is more dynamic than Draisaitl this fall.
- Rieder-Khaira-Puljujarvi were 6-7 in 10:01, 4-1 shots and 1-0 goals. Puljujarvi is dangerous every shift now, Khaira can make plays and Rieder offers veteran experience. I’m not sure we see this combination much but I would like to see it again.
TAKE HEED, TAKE HEED!
Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts has a passage about the San Jose Sharks (Point 4) and defenseman Tim Heed being available. He’s a righty blue with 5-on-4 rising, someone Edmonton would and should be interested in. On a slightly related note, ‘Boots of Spanish Leather‘ is a gorgeous song.
Mr. Friedman also has an interesting item on John McFarland, who is trying to get back to where he once belonged, this time in the Oilers’ system.
WHAT DO WE KNOW FOR SURE?
All teams are a series of bets surrounding sure things and this preseason has been mostly good for the Edmonton Oilers. Ty Rattie and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are flying with the best player in the game, Connor McDavid. Evan Bouchard is showing outstanding skill combined with calm feet and the ability to shake off rookie mistakes. Cam Talbot looks impressive, Darnell Nurse solid and Jesse Puljujarvi is the new Eddie Shack.
There are a few downbeats, though. Mikko Koskinen would give everyone involved a good night’s sleep with a quality performance in his next game, and Leon Draisaitl’s line isn’t taking part in the fun of a 4-1 start. That’s an issue. Here are the 5-on-5 points-per-60 totals for Oilers skaters so far this preseason (more than one game).
- Ty Rattie 15.08
- Connor McDavid 14.98
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 6.11
- Kailer Yamamoto 3.8
- Ryan McLeod 3.37
- Tyler Benson 2.85
- Ryan Strome 2.80
- Milan Lucic 2.45
- Jesse Puljujarvi 2.39
- Evan Bouchard 2.28
- Oscar Klefbom 2.14
- Kevin Gravel 2.08
- Cooper Marody 1.98
- Adam Larsson 1.92
- Alex Chiasson 1.72
- Pontus Aberg 1.77
- Darnell Nurse 1.66
- Jujhar Khaira 1.28
- Leon Draisaitl 0.00
Leon has only played in two games, 23 minutes, and he does have a power-play point. Still, his line at 5-on-5 is running under 40 percent Corsi and it’s pretty damned noticeable for those of us who have watched the games. Peter Chiarelli was on Toronto radio talking about Lucic and his improved conditioning (“The speed and agility testing we have four tests – I would probably say from last year to this year between 45 and 60 percent improvement. Significant improvement. You know those pro agility tests, those shuttle runs – significant improvement. You can see it on the ice”) so I think 29 has Lucic stapled to him for the immediate future.
I’m going to write about this today at The Athletic but we have always talked about the gap between McDavid on the ice and McDavid at rest. We are reaching the same point in preseason where, one year ago, Todd McLellan shuffled his roster and put 29 and 97 back together again. I don’t believe that’s an option now, McDavid is on record as wanting consistency in linemates (McDavid is smart) and breaking up that line would be professional suicide.
This is going to be painful, now or later. Maybe the next game will see Lucic-Draisaitl hit 60 percent possession, they were over 50 percent together a year ago (with a ghastly 37.50 goal percentage). If this continues, how far into the season will management and coaching go before throwing their $8.5 million center a life line? I wrote about moving Lucic to the third line during the spring, maybe I’m stubborn and overreacting to what is clearly a ridiculously small sample size. Maybe I’m jumping on this story too soon. It doesn’t look good, that No. 2 line. I know that’s true.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun morning with some of my favourite guests today, we start at 10 on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal. We’ll chat “McDavid, baby!”
- Sarah McLellan, Minneapolis Star Tribune. We’ll preview the Minnesota Wild season to come. It was a quiet summer but the organization retained Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker and will look to repeat a strong 2017-18 campaign.
- Scott Cullen, TSN. The CFL playoff seeding remains a complete mystery but the Eskimos are on the wrong side of the Roughriders. Plus we’ll talk NHL training camps.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Love this lineup!