Although this is a math blog, I also pay a great deal of attention to what the industry says specifically about prospects. Scouts are charged with looking far into the future and it’s my belief they do a great job. Not every player works out but the words from the scouts (along with the math) guides the way.
Consider this quote from a rival general manager about an Oilers draft pick earlier in this decade (on the day the player signed his first NHL contract): “Physically mature, great skater. Projects to play against best players and some offense.” I’m not going to give you the name, you already know who it is from the description.
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, here’s an incredible Offer!
- New Jonathan Willis: Projecting the Oilers’ opening night lineup, line combinations and more.
- Lowetide: Does the James Neal acquisition impact Oilers’ prospects in 2019-20?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ acquisition of James Neal could add badly needed scoring to the top two lines.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Ken Holland puts his stamp on the Oilers with first big move in Lucic-Neal trade
- Jonathan Willis: Ken Holland ends an ugly situation for the Oilers by trading Milan Lucic for James Neal
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Potential free-agent options for the Oilers in 2020
- Jonathan Willis: Which Oilers defencemen can make an outlet pass?
- Kent Wilson and Lowetide: Why the Flames and Oilers would (and wouldn’t) trade Sam Bennett for Jesse Puljujarvi
- Lowetide: Looking ahead to Oilers training camp: 35 players for 23 jobs
- New Jonathan Willis: What the Oilers’ 2020 cap situation suggests about Ken Holland’s master plan.
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: With free agency all but over, Oilers’ Ken Holland has tough work ahead on the trade front
- Jonathan Willis: Josh Archibald won’t fix the Oilers’ biggest problems, but he’ll help with some key issues.
- Lowetide: Will the 2019-20 Bakersfield Condors be the Oilers’ best minor-league team ever?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: The Oilers have a new amateur scouting director. What can we learn from Tyler Wright’s track record at the draft?
- Lowetide: Projecting Darnell Nurse’s next contract and possible trades
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: A missing mom, aching feet and looking for Kevin Lowe: A week in the life of Oilers prospect Raphael Lavoie
- Lowetide: What to do when Connor McDavid rests: The Oilers’ ideal No. 2 line for 2019-20
- Jonathan Willis: How often do goalies like the Oilers’ Mike Smith rebound?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘He comes as advertised’: Philip Broberg’s skating makes him development camp standout for Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Oilers plan to skew younger on defence could open the door for Evan Bouchard, Dmitri Samorukov
- Lowetide: Oilers top 20 prospects summer 2019.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO ‘OH DEAR’
Currently in the comments section of this blog we’re steaming toward a showdown that will take place in the next 15 months. As was the case in the old hippie days of “Petry, Chorney and Wild” posters are choosing sides on the collective futures of William Lagesson, Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear.
There are math arguments, saw him good arguments, and they are well reasoned arguments. Here’s the thing: There’s so much you don’t know, that you can’t know. There are injuries and coaching biases and management decisions and trades all ahead.
If you believe in Caleb Jones, or William Lagesson, or Ethan Bear, you keep on rocking. I have been impressed by all three at various times, and have landed on a pecking order (Jones, Lagesson, Bear) that may or may not line up with your own views.
In 2013-14, Oscar Klefbom and David Musil manned the blue for Oklahoma City. Both men were chosen in the top 35 during the 2011 draft, but Klefbom was the faster man and could move the puck. Musil was the better shutdown defenseman, but lacked foot speed. One of them made it as an NHL player.
In 2016-17, Griffin Reinhart and Jordan Oesterle both posted strong even-strength goal differentials. Oesterle, who has great wheels, beat the odds and made it as an NHL defenseman despite having far less pedigree. Oesterle entered the 2016-17 very deep on Edmonton’s pro LHD depth chart (Klefbom, Sekera, Davidson, Nurse, Reinhart, Oesterle, Musil) and played well enough to get an NHL contract and stick with the Chicago Blackhawks the following season. That might be the career path of one of the young defensemen were are discussing.
Caleb Jones is my pick to emerge as the best of the three men. He is fast, like Klefbom and Oesterle. His five-on-five goal differential went from -24 to +18 year over year. That’s jumping the Snake River Canyon. On a bicycle. Am I sure he’s going to make the NHL over the other two? God no. Too soon to know. This is a big year for the trio.
William Lagession is in competition for a job as a shutdown blue, so his route to the NHL doesn’t run through the same towns as Jones or Bear. The men who are blocking his path, Kris Russell, Adam Larsson, are unique to him. If Lagesson is the real deal, then the way forward includes a trade of Kris Russell or an injury. If he makes it to the opening night roster, that should be considered an enormous accomplishment. He has the shutdown chops, as reflected by his +22 even-strength goal differential. I hope the Oilers make sure to keep him around long enough to find out who he is as a player.
Caleb Jones has all the good arrows and they’re all shining bright. He’s an electric skater and his improvement in year two at the pro level was outstanding. His NHL debut showed his potential and I believe the Sekera buyout was (in part) executed to get him on the 2019-20 opening night roster. His competition for that job, which includes Lagesson, Bear, Evan Bouchard, Joel Persson and others, are likely to wait in line for Jones to adjust and move up the NHL depth chart. His speed, his experience, his readiness, are a deadly combination in this competition.
Ethan Bear was the first of the trio to make his NHL debut, but staying healthy is emerging as a major issue. Bear is an excellent passer and owns a howitzer from the point, but (as is the case with Lagesson) foot speed is a factor. He is a RH defenseman, an advantage for sure. His acension to the NHL is complicated by Joel Persson and Evan Bouchard, as well as the difficulty in introducing all of these kids into the NHL at the same time. Like all of these youngsters, he’s a year away from waivers, meaning a trade could be in his future.
Draft day scouting reports
Caleb Jones, via Phil Myre at International Scouting Services: “Competitive defenseman, Plays with a lot of urgency, takes the body, competes. He is a good skater with good mobility. Not creative, he can make a good first pass. Not committed and drafted by Portland in the WHL. Will follow his brother’s footstep in the W but not as talented. Work ethic will help his projection but not dominant in any area”.
William Lagesson, via McKeens: “A scrappy, physical hard-nosed competitor who competes for every inch on the ice. An ‘in your face’type of defender who reacts quickly to loose pucks and is able to identify threats. Under-stated offensive ability as the third highest scoring defenseman in the SuperElit J20 behind only Aho and Kylington, both of whom graduated to the SHL. Employs a better than average shot and good hockey sense, improved on his puck handling ability following the 5 Nations tournament in February showing the ability to shift out of danger to create added time and space for himself and not just dumping it down the ice. Feet are subpar especially when defending in a reverse movement, resorting to skating forward which makes him easy to blow by. Speed and power is not quite there yet despite having a short, stocky build with a developed core. Plays with sand paper and is not unlike Ulf Samuellson in his ability to get under the opponents skin to goad them into penalties.”
Ethan Bear, via Red Line Report: Shutdown rearguard plays against opposing teams’ top line every night and refuses to give away even an inch of space. Owns a laser shot that often finds the net – keeps it low and often produces dangerous rebounds. A good skater who likes to take the puck deep into the offensive zone and create chances, yet still has the speed to get back on defence. Excellent lateral agility makes it easy for him to mirror puckhandlers and stick with quicker forwards down low in 1- on-1 coverage. Sharp tape-to-tape passer. Will block shots and uses an active, aggressive stick to challenge puck carriers and strip pucks. Needs to refine his defensive zone positioning; plays a hard, physical game, but takes himself out of position looking for big hits. Gets good leverage in board battles. Not a good fighter and was injured in an early season scrap.
I think this is a quality trio, don’t know if there’s a Jeff Petry in the group but will say that imo the three listed here are better as a group than Petry, Chorney and Wild. We wait, but not for much longer.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, it’s going to be a fun show with great guests. Jonathan Willis kicks things off at 10:20, we’ll talk about the big Neal-Lucic deal and what may come, plus Jon’s terrific overview of the entire Oilers organization (link above), just published. Scott Miller will be by from Bleacher Report to talk mlb trade deadline in what is a crazy run up to the end of the month. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!