I’ve been writing these for years now, in October and April, with a mid-season update in recent years. To be honest, the early years of this decade were meh, but there’s a real buzz going on in Bakersfield last year (defense) and this year (forwards). I write 10 bullet points, review progress, and at the end I give you a list of names I’m picking to succeed (100 or more games). We’ll review that too, today, and project this year’s group.
The Athletic Edmonton brought it yesterday, there’s a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of the group. Outstanding offer is here.
- New Tyler Dellow: A deeper look at Connor McDavid and the Oilers’ 5-on-5 offensive changes under Ken Hitchcock
- New Corey Pronman: 2019 NHL Draft midseason rankings
- New Jonathan Willis: An Oilers blueprint for the 2019 NHL trade deadline.
- Lowetide: Edmonton’s 2019 entry draft plans may change with new GM but needs are clear
- Lowetide: Caleb Jones has impressive first showing in the NHL with Oilers.
- DGB: Weighing the pros and cons of some top candidates for the Edmonton Oilers GM job.
- Scott Burnside: Connor McDavid answered unwanted Oilers questions with poise and defiance, which is a good thing. (this is a terrific article).
- Tyler Dellow: Four questions that the Oilers should be asking candidates for the GM job
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: New Oilers caretaker Keith Gretzky caught between earning playoff berth and keeping future assets
- Lowetide: Bob Nicholson’s press conference attempts to set the tone for Oilers moving forward.
- Craig Custance: How desirable is the Oilers GM opening and what questions are prospective candidates asking?
- Jonathan Willis: With Peter Chiarelli gone, this is what the Oilers need to do next
- Pierre Lebrun: Possible candidates to replace Peter Chiarelli as Oilers GM
- Lowetide: Peter Chiarelli’s inability adjust, poor trades and free-agent misses at the centre of his firing.
- Jonathan Willis: Rushed Mikko Koskinen deal was one Peter Chiarelli should not have been allowed to make.
- Tyler Dellow: What can the NHL’s last three turtle derbies tell us about the playoff race in the West?
- Lowetide: Oilers sign Mikko Koskinen long term, signalling the end of the line for Cam Talbot in Edmonton.
- Lowetide: The Oilers’ way forward and the smartest route to finding an impact winger this summer.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Goalless Tobias Rieder hopes to follow Zack Kassian and Milan Lucic and end his offensive funk.
- Lowetide: Complete Oilers top 20 prospects, Winter 2018
FUTURE NHLERS (FARM WORKERS EDITION)
It’s been a fun ride over many years, choosing ‘farm workers’ to emerge as NHL players and play 100 or more NHL games. Here are my picks by season, and NHL games played (players listed only once, in the first season I named them).
- 2009-10: Devan Dubnyk (464).
- 2010-11: Jeff Petry (578), Linus Omark (79), and Teemu Hartikainen (52).
- 2011-12: Magnus Paajarvi (435) and Tyler Pitlick (181).
- 2012-13: Anton Lander (215) and Martin Marincin (187).
- 2013-14: Oscar Klefbom (286) and Mark Arcobello (139).
- 2014-15: Iiro Pakarinen (134), Jordan Oesterle (121).
- 2015-16: Griffin Reinhart (37), Jujhar Khaira (140) and Anton Slepyshev (102).
- 2016-17: Jesse Puljujarvi (132) and Laurent Brossoit (41).
- 2017-18: Ethan Bear (18), Ty Rattie (78)
Men who are over 30 and come out of the minors to establish (or re-establish) themselves are pretty much a thing of the past.
- Al Montoya turns 34 next month, it seems unlikely (he’s been out since mid-December with an illness) but he could technically return to the NHL if the club deals Cam Talbot. Brad Malone and Ryan Stanton (both 29) have NHL contracts and are in the recall window. All three men might see Europe as the next step option for their careers.
If a prospect can establish himself as an AHL regular age 20, it bodes well for an NHL career but does not guarantee it.
- Tyler Benson is 20 and playing a key role on the Condors. Kailer Yamamoto, Jesse Puljujarvi, Stuart Skinner and Dylan Wells are also 20 and have played for Bakersfield at times this year. Benson is the tenth real prospect since 2010 to play as a regular at 20 (Teemu Hartikainen, Tyler Pitlick, Magnus Paajarvi, Martin Marincin, Martin Gernat, Bogdan Yakimov, Jujhar Khaira, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones) and we’ll see how many men have substantial careers. Paajarvi is over 400 games, he would have to be considered the most successful prospect among the group. I’m not counting Jesse Puljujarvi as an AHL player this year.
Pretty much everyone who is in the AHL past (say) 21 has some issues and is going to do some meandering
- This is another strength of the AHL cluster. Cooper Marody, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones and Cameron Hebig are 21, William Lagesson is 22. Not only are these men performing well in the minors, they have enough NHL experience to be in the recall window. If the Oilers make some trades at the deadline, these names will be flying north. Some may be traded in the coming days.
- All of these players have something that keeps them from the NHL at this time, That means these kids have much in common with names from the past like Anton Slepyshev and Anton Lander. One hopes the current crop can overcome obstacles and emerge as productive NHL regulars for several years.
If you haven’t established yourself as a prospect of interest by 22 you are in trouble. The players who have graduated to useful NHL careers have at least played some NHL games by the end of their entry level deals.
- Players 22+ who are in some difficulty include Josh Currie and Patrick Russell, Keegan Lowe as well. Edmonton has fewer men in this category than at any time in memory. There are 10 names age 23 or over who are regulars and signed to an NHL deal. That number in 2014-15? 15.
Exceptions are college men. Playing 4 NCAA seasons means turning pro at 22, meaning a “late start” for some quality prospects.
- Lots of college men, including Cooper Marody who qualifies in several categories in our farm report. Also college: Joe Gambardella, Tyler Vesel, Shane Starrett. I think this is a promising group. Both Gambardella and Starrett are showing very well this season. Marody and Gambardella have played in NHL games in 2018-19.
A large group of players on the current team could be described in the “tweener” division.
- The truth is that ‘tweeners’ are the biggest AHL category and point totals can fool you. Rob Schremp was a tweener, he scored 53 points in 69 AHL games at age 20 (Benson levels). Anton Lander was a tweener, Ty Rattie is a tweener and maybe Kailer Yamamoto will be a tweener. I don’t think he will, but this blog thought Teemu Hartikainen and Linus Omark would make it (still don’t know how they missed). Marc Pouliot qualified here, too. I swear he had the talent to play in the NHL.
If we make a list of the minor league RFA’s each summer, we can probably as a group pick the cuts and be fairly close.
- Oilers have very few RFA’s for 2019 summer, but will have to make decisions on Tyler Vesel, Joe Gambardella, Patrick Russell, Colin Larkin, Robin Norell, Joel Persson and Shane Starrett. I’ll pick Gambardella, Persson and Starrett as keepers.
Daniel Cleary, Fernando Pisani and Jason Chimera became productive players in the toughest league on the planet. THEY are the stars in this study.
- This is important and it might offer us some advice on a player like Marody. As talented as he is (32 points in 32 games at age 21), he isn’t a bullet train. He might make it via his impressive passing and vision, but if that isn’t enough he may not be as well-suited to an NHL future as someone like Gambardella. The older player is a good forechecker, has plus speed and can learn to iron the wrinkles out of his defensive game. Marody probably spent most of his pre-AHL career being able to get the puck whenever he wanted, and the adjustment may take time. Most AHL grads don’t arrive in the NHL and apply for the scoring role on McDavid’s line (or Nuge, or Leon), but rather land alongside Strome or Brodziak. That’s the deal.
Pure offensive players can succeed after prolonged AHL time but it’s rarely with their drafting team.
- This is my Marty Reasoner rule. Reasoner was a first-round pick who scored at will for Boston College and was too good for the AHL from the opening faceoff. Still, he shuttled between Worcester and St. Louis (and then Edmonton) before adding dimension to his game after Kevin Lowe waived him. He developed into a helluva player and mentor.
The future NHL players on tonight’s roster are:
- The 2018 additions to the list above are Cooper Marody, Tyler Benson, Kailer Yamamoto and Caleb Jones. I think they’ll all play 100+ games. Of course, the real hope is one or more play 500.
OILERS NUMBERS 2018-19
- Goals For: 141 (rank No. 21)
- Goals Against: 163 (rank No. 23)
- Goals For Percentage: 46.38 (rank No. 24)
- Shots For Per 60: 28.55 (rank No. 26)
- Shots Against Per 60: 30.83 (rank No. 17)
- Fenwick 5-on-5: 48.23 (rank No. 23)
- Corsi 5-on-5: 48.38 (rank No. 22)
- Shooting Percentage: 9.8 (rank No. 14)
- Save Percentage: 89.51 (rank No. 25)
- PDO: 993 (rank No. 23)
All numbers NaturalStatTrick. This is not a playoff team based on the numbers.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun, busy morning on the Lowdown, we hit the trail at 10, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Jonathan Willis, The Athletic. Jon’s first of two pieces on an ‘Oilers blueprint for the 2019 deadline’ is up, we’ll chart about the rational way forward.
- Mike Zeisberger, NHL.com. The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Jake Muzzin last night. How important was this move to the Leafs’ Cup hopes? Is there another shoe to drop?
- Scott Wheeler, The Athletic. Toronto made their deal early and paid with three assets. Did they give up too much? Was it worth it anyway?
- James Herbert, CBS Sports. The NBA trade deadline is February 7. Pelicans’ Anthony Davis won’t sign a contract extension and has requested a trade. Will that trade happen in the next 10 days?