In his first six games this season, Leon Draisaitl was delivering offense (2-4-6) but bleeding goals at even strength (2-9 goals while he was on the ice). In the six games since (via NaturalStatTrick), Leon is 5-3-8 and the even-strength goal differential is 8-1. His linemates are now two veterans (Tobias Rieder and Alex Chiasson) and the crew has performed well together (Corsica says the trio are 48.51 Corsi for 5-on-5 and 5-0 goals in 51 minutes) so far this season.
We tend to think of current successful solutions as both useful and potentially long term. I don’t think anyone believes the Leon Draisaitl line will contain Rieder and Chiasson for the next five years, but as a bridge to the future it’s rock solid and likely to remain intact for the coming weeks.
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- New Lowetide: Oscar Klefbom takes a step forward for the Edmonton Oilers.
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Forty years later, remembering the forgotten trade that brought Wayne Gretzky to Edmonton.
- New Tyler Dellow: Isolating issues with the NHL’s slower paced power plays.
- New Lowetide: Oilers reach a pressure point on defence and right wing
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Does Caggiula’s recent performance warrant another chance alongside McDavid?
- New Jonathan Willis: Predicting the impact Ethan Bear and Edmonton’s other top AHL prospects will make at the NHL level.
- Lowetide: Zack Kassian market value.
- Lowetide: Everything’s coming up Oilers as young AHL hopefuls in Bakersfield hammer Flames’ farmhands.
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi gets scratched, so what’s next for Edmonton’s lottery winger?
We aren’t close to 200 minutes for any single line yet but there are some units coming into view. Here are a few totals so far in 2018-19 (via Corsica.hockey, ranked by TOI):
- Nuge-McDavid-Yamamoto: 63 minutes, 51.06 Corsi for 5-on-5, 1-1 goals
- Nuge-McDavid-Rattie: 56 minutes, 50.51 Corsi for 5-on-5, 3-0 goals
- Rieder-Draisaitl-Chiasson: 51 minutes, 48.51 Corsi for 5-on-5, 5-0 goals
- Khaira-Brodziak-Kassian: 42 minutes, 50.85 Corsi for 5-on-5, 1-1 goals
It looks like there are three units that can dance, looking for something to rhyme on a Strome line (although possession numbers look good) and part of that may be that there have been so many combinations at the No. 3 line. The most successful Strome line so far is probably with Lucic and Yamamoto. No goals, 57 percent possession but all in a small sample (17 minutes). Need to find stability and success there.
OILERS AFTER A BAKER’S DOZEN
- Oilers in October 2015: 5-8-0, 10 points; goal differential -5
- Oilers in October 2016: 9-3-1, 19 points; goal differential +8
- Oilers in October 2017: 4-8-1, nine points; goal differential -13
- Oilers in October 2018: 7-4-1, 15 points; goal differential +2
The 2015 and 2017 teams were in real trouble by now, the 2015 edition No. 5 in the Pacific Division after 13 games, and the 2017 team was No. 7 in the Pacific Division. The 2016 team was No. 1 in the Pacific and the current Oilers are No. 1 at this time using the correct math.
OILERS IN NOVEMBER
- Oilers in November 2015: 1-1-0, two points; goal differential +1
- Oilers in November 2016: 0-1-1, one point; goal differential -3
- Oilers in November 2017: 1-1-0, two points; goal differential +2
- Oilers in November 2018: 1-0-0, two points; goal differential +4
None of the previous teams started November 2-0 but this year’s Oilers have a very good chance based on quality of competition. In previous years, even 2016-17, Edmonton would sometimes play down to competition. It cannot happen today, not if this team is seriously going to contend for a playoff spot.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN NOVEMBER
- At home to: Chicago (Expected 1-0-0) Actual (1-0-0)
- On the road to: Detroit, Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida (Expected 2-2-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Colorado, Montreal (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Calgary (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Vegas (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles (Expected 2-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Dallas, Los Angeles (Expected 1-0-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 8-5-1, 17 points in 14 games
- Current results: 1-0-0, 2 points in 1 game
This is a team with enormous gifts and galling weaknesses, and things like luck and health and hot streaks will be the difference. Points gathered in November will have exceptional value in March because they’ll be banked. Big month ahead.
RATTIE’S BACK; WHAT TO DO?
I can’t wait to see how the coach handles this roster item. Rattie on the McDavid line was having success, and Drake Caggiula scored twice in the last game played by the Oilers. It’s a classic coaching dilemma and the answer is blowing in the wind. Here is what I would do tonight:
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Connor McDavid—Ty Rattie
- Tobias Rieder—Leon Draisaitl—Alex Chiasson
- Milan Lucic—Ryan Strome—Jesse Puljujarvi
- Jujhar Khaira—Kyle Brodziak—Drake Caggiula
When I was speaking to Jason Gregor and Jason Strudwick on Friday I mentioned scratching JP, but the more I think about it this is the better plan. Edmonton has all kinds of mid-game options if Rattie flags, and the only issue with this group might be finding three sets of PK forwards. I imagine McLellan would run Nuge-Rieder, Khaira-Strome and Brodziak-Caggiula or some combination (he also slides 97 and 29 in there at times) on the 4-on-5. Caggiula has some of the elements you look for in a penalty killer but his suppression numbers (as is the case at even strength) are not strong.
AHL ESTIMATED 5-ON-5 SCORING (FORWARDS)
Young Condors are scoring goals at an impressive clip, but how is the forward group doing 5-on-5? That’s the minor league version of God’s flashlight and it’s an interesting stat to check in on. The brilliant prospect-stats.com site has all kinds of fun things, including an ‘estimated 5-on-5 per 60’ scoring number. Here are the Condors forwards with at least one point so far this season:
- Patrick Russell 2.93
- Joe Gambardella 2.71
- Brad Malone 2.71
- Luke Esposito 2.50
- Josh Currie 2.35
- Dave Gust 2.33
- Cameron Hebig 2.20
- Cooper Marody 2.13
- Evan Polei 2.01
- Tyler Benson 1.89
- Nolan Vesey 1.70
- Tyler Vesel 1.62
- Braden Christoffer 1.60
- Mitch Callahan 1.15
Interesting names at the top of this list (more veteran crew than we’re seeing at the top of the overall scoring). Nothing wrong with using veterans at even strength as long as the kids are also playing (and it looks like they are). Benson’s 1.89 is a solid number considering his age and lack of pro experience, could say the same thing about Hebig and Marody who are a touch older. I wonder if Russell and Gambardella find their way to the NHL at some point.
I mentioned the other day that the work toward my Winter Top 20 is underway (it’ll be at The Athletic) and one of the things that interests me is Benson’s trajectory. Assuming continued health, how does he compare to other Oilers kids at 20? Here is a somewhat exhaustive look at him compared to players you may have followed over the years. I did not include men who didn’t sign with Edmonton and the names below are 20 in the seasons listed. This is estimated 5-on-5 scoring per 60 again via prospect-stats.com:
- Rob Schremp 2006-07 (1.92)
- Tyler Benson 2018-19 (1.89)
- Greg Chase 2015-16 (1.76)
- J-F Jacques 2005-06 (1.65)
- Marc Pouliot 2005-06 (1.64)
- Philippe Cornet 2010-11 (1.63)
- Ryan Martindale 2012-13 (1.60)
- Slava Trukhno 2007-08 (1.44)
- Tyler Pitlick 2011-12 (1.39)
- Bogdan Yakimov 2015-16 (1.35)
- Kyle Platzer 2015-16 (1.29)
- Zack Stortini 2005-06 (1.12)
- Travis Ewanyk 2013-14 (1.07)
- Jujhar Khaira 2014-15 (0.99)
- Curtis Hamilton 2011-12 (0.99)
- Mitch Moroz 2014-15 (0.76)
The players on this list who made it (over 100 games) all had some range in their skill sets save for Rob Schremp (who had a lot of offensive ability at lower levels). Benson has more offense than (say) Pitlick and has nice range, so that’s good. It will come down to speed and health in my opinion.
Edmonton sent Evan Bouchard to junior on Friday, while recalling Kevin Gravel to replace him. In a separate roster move, Cooper Marody was optioned to Bakersfield to allow Ty Rattie back on the roster. In all cases, you hope for the best future for each of these men, while also knowing Bouchard is likely the only lock. It can go badly, believe me. Let me give you an example of a depressing transaction from the past.
- January 8, 2007: Oilers option Marc Pouliot and Jean-Francois Jacques to Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.
That was a tough day. Pouliot was a first-round draft pick and he was in the second year of his entry deal. He would play 46 NHL games that season (4-7-11) and 33 AHL games (14-17-31). He was not establishing himself as a successful player in the world’s biggest league.
Craig MacTavish believed in him. MacT said of Pouliot “from what I’ve seen from him, he plays a responsible game. There’s no reason he can’t play a third-line role if he can’t fill a top-two line spot. There are a lot of players, of which we have a few, who have to play on your top two lines, otherwise they’re not going to play. He’s not one of those guys. He’s a guy who can play that third-line centre spot.”
They can’t all make it, that’s a fact. We can say the Oilers have some good ones, a few in California and the teenager who looks 25 heading back to London.