Evan Bouchard made his AHL debut last night, picking up a goal and two assists in helping the Condors to a 2-1 lead in the series. Bouchard is a key element of the 2019-20 team, we just don’t know if it’s Edmonton or Bakersfield. His progression will impact the careers of Matt Benning, Joel Persson, Ethan Bear and others. How close is he? I suspect he’s close.
The Athletic Edmonton features 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.INSANE NEW OFFER IS HERE!
- New Jonathan Willis: Top Oilers prospect Evan Bouchard stars in his first AHL game as Condors dominate.
- New Lowetide: Adam Larsson’s importance to the Oilers and why trading him is a bad idea.
- Lowetide: Tyler Benson’s comparables offer Oilers fans plenty of hope for the future.
- Lowetide: Making the call on the Oilers’ RFAs with a new general manager on the way.
- Lowetide: Red Wings front office shuffle could impact Oilers’ future.
- Jonathan Willis: Potential coaching candidates and why the Oilers don’t need to rush the GM search to get one
- Lowetide: What would Glen Sather do with these Oilers?
- Jonathan Willis: Some creative solutions to address the Oilers’ goalie problem
- Lowetide: The Milan Lucic saga rolls into Year 4 for Oilers with no easy answers
- Jonathan Willis: Who stays and who goes? An early projection of which players will remain on the Oilers’ roster in 2019-20
- Lowetide: How high can these Condors fly?
- Lowetide: The Oilers possible summer trade pieces, and which longtime players might be saying goodbye.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Ten prospects likely to be available when the Oilers make their first-round pick.
BOUCHARD AS AN NHL PLAYER
He has calm feet, too calm for an inexperienced defenseman. Recovery is going to be an issue in his early NHL career. I love his outlet passing and his AHL debut is a fabulous story. I mentioned this with Tyler Benson a few days ago, but Edmonton isn’t going to be able to keep these kids on the farm for long, or maybe at all, if they perform well. These prospects will tell us who they are in September and October, but Bouchard is a top-10 overall pick and he’s 20 just before Halloween. It’s go time, or damned close.
One of the weird things about Bouchard since he was drafted is the verbal surrounding him. Craig Button left him off a list of prospects during the winter, and that set fire to all conversations involving the player. It’s almost like people decided that he isn’t Cale Makar so he had no value. Let’s all calm our tits. Let’s go back to the beginning, the draft, and see what everyone thought at the time.
Bouchard wasn’t ranked inside the top 10 on all lists, but McKenzie and Button had him there. I ranked him No. 1 among Oilers prospects in January (complete list here) but the truth is he had a meandering start to his season.
Peter Chiarelli said after the draft there was no certainty about Bouchard making the team (“I know he wants to play in the league next year, we’ll see. Hockey sense is terrific”) but we know the Oilers way. He did have some success in his brief NHL stint. New management and coaching staff need to bring him to training camp, give him a chance to succeed, and make the call at that time. It’s my opinion the organization can safely shop Ethan Bear (another RH blue looking for work) but should keep Matt Benning around for another season.
The reason Bouchard’s being NHL-ready is important now is that it gives the new general manager some room to make trades. Back a few days (“Pet Sounds”) I gave my list of possible assets out:
1 Adam Larsson
2 No. 8 overall 2019
3 Jesse Puljujarvi
4 First-round pick 2020
5 Jujhar Khaira
6 Matt Benning
I think we can add Ethan Bear to that list, because there’s enough cover on RH defense behind Adam Larsson (Kris Russell, Bouchard, Joel Persson). It’s also possible to move Benning up the list. Now, the big question is how much value does Bear have? Enough to list him, I think.
What about Larsson? I wrote about the insanity of trading him over at The Athletic, he’s been money for two years and then among the best defensemen on the team in his down year. Still, his name was out there at the deadline, so I’m going to include him in my updated ranking (from most to least valuable this time). Here’s my new ‘assets out’ list:
1 Adam Larsson—As I mentioned yesterday, extreme insanity to deal Larsson, no one on the team can replace him. However, if the plan involves a more mobile blue, it might happen. Larsson would fetch quality.
2 No. 8 overall 2019—Another unpopular idea, but if (say) Mark Hunter has a chance to grab a scoring winger who can help this year and is under control for the next five? You have to look at it.
3 First-round pick 2020—Perhaps the most attractive (for fans) of the major assets that could be sent out, it’s too distant a bell to have the kind of impact the new GM will need in his first summer.
4 Jesse Puljujarvi —I think he’ll be dealt, a case of getting a second opinion. Tyler Yaremchuk suggested yesterday on the Lowdown a straight swap for fellow struggling prospect Eeli Tolvanen and that’s an interesting idea. I remain convinced keeping JP is the right call.
5 Kris Russell—The presence of Sekera allows Edmonton to shop Russell, and this might be the summer to send him away. A RH depth chart of Larsson, Benning and Bouchard isn’t strong, but getting Russell off the roster frees $4 million to sign a forward like Brett Connolly in free agency. It’s at least a consideration.
6 Matt Benning—His name was mentioned in deadline trade rumours, Connor Brown among those who were thought to be heading back. A depth chart opening night RH side of Larsson, Russell and Bouchard or Persson may better fit the new GM’s eye.
7 Jujhar Khaira—He’s one of the young players with value higher than the boxcars. I think Edmonton could acquire a valuable piece by trading a value contract like Khaira. I wouldn’t do it.
8 Ethan Bear—The change from “Pet Sounds” in my mind is that Bouchard is likely to get the push over Bear. I could be wrong, Bouchard would benefit from time in Bakersfield, but if Bear can be dealt to acquire a young forward, the new GM has enough cover at RHD to deal away this player. Sucks, because he’s a personal favourite.
9 Buyout/retain—Sekera is the easiest buyout, Gagner is another to consider. I hope any thought of a Lucic buyout has been flushed.
The smoke from a distant fire over Mark Hunter is getting closer to the outskirts of the city. Although there are over one million souls within easy driving distance of Rogers, it’s really about 20 communities of 50,000 people. Things go from a whisper to a scream in a quick hurry. If Kelly McCrimmon tells Bob Nicholson he isn’t interested, suspect Mark Hunter is announced in the next seven days, possibly as early as Friday.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
We have a great show this morning, kicks off at 10 on TSN1260. Bruce McCurdy from the Cult of Hockey will talk Evan Bouchard, the Condors and the apparent choice between Kelly McCrimmon and Mark Hunter.
Andrew Beaton from Wall Street Journal Sports will drop in to talk NFL draft and Jon Campbell from OddsShark will tackle NHL & NBA playoffs, plus I have a Kentucky Derby question.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Crack the mic in 90 minutes!