I have followed every Oilers minor league season since 1979, first via The Hockey News and then later the Al Gore. The 2018-19 season in Bakersfield was incredible. I don’t think we’ve seen more individual performance spikes by an AHL collective in the franchise’s history. Seriously.
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 Lowetide: Revisiting the Oilers’ 2016 draft and the opportunities missed
- New Lowetide: Examining the potential waiver-wire opportunities at hand for the Oilers
- New Lowetide: Cooper Marody’s utility gives him an edge for an Oilers roster spot in 2019-20
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s roster construction options for the Oilers over the next seven months.
- Lowetide: Kailer Yamamoto has the talent to win a job with the Oilers on merit, if he’s healthy.
- Jonathan Willis: Jesse Puljujarvi still has upside and the Oilers’ patient approach is the right one
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Q&A: Dave Tippett on rounding out his coaching staff, fixing Oilers’ special teams and using Connor McDavid
- Lowetide: Handicapping the Oilers’ young defencemen and their chances of replacing Andrej Sekera
- Lowetide: Is Kirill Maksimov progressing as the Edmonton Oilers’ next great hope for a true homegrown sniper?
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers ease pressure on crowded defensive pipeline by trading John Marino to the Penguins
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: What the 2021-22 Oilers might look like after their steady build toward contender status
- Lowetide: Joel Persson is ideally situated to win an opening night roster spot with the Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: What the 2019-20 Oilers might look like without trade missteps.
- Lowetide: Finding the best candidates for the final two spots on the Oilers skill lines in 2019-20.
- 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?
- Lowetide: Looking ahead to Oilers training camp: 35 players for 23 jobs
- 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?
- Lowetide: Oilers top 20 prospects summer 2019.
What was the most impressive thing about Woodcroft’s first AHL season as coach? He had nine rookies and all nine had a positive story to tell about their game. From Marody and Benson (who were stellar) to Hebig, Yamamoto, Day, Starrett, Wells, Skinner and Vesel, each found an area of the game in which they could flourish. Impressive.
You say that, but all nine guys can’t make the NHL. Sure, but the first step in allowing the cream to rise is competition for playing time and usage in prominent positions. Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody and Cam Hebig started out as a line together, but the three men finished in different spots. Woodcroft is giving everyone a chance, and they ride ’til they can’t no more. He is giving each new hand a chance to find his level.
How did Woodcroft do it? Well, he had some veterans and some high end rookies and decided on a kid line. They were fire to start the season, the line had a strong 14-game stanza: Marody (14, 5-12-17) was the catalyst, with Benson (14, 3-11-14) and Hebig (14, 7-6-13) not far behind. Now, the trio didn’t hang together and didn’t finish in the same way. In their final 14 games of the season, Marody went 6-13-19, Benson 5-14-19 and Hebig 1-6-7.
So Hebig is out? No, he had to find a different role in 2018-19 but he could emerge as a scorer this coming season. Remember, they were all rookies.
What did Yamamoto do in his final 14 games of the AHL season? Before getting shut down with the wrist injury, he went 6-4-10 in his final 14. That was good, but he had only 17 shots. In his first 13 AHL games, Yamamoto went just 4-4-8, but he had 28 shots. When he’s shooting the puck a lot, good things happen. The wrist had an impact. Yamamoto had 31 shots in the final 10 games of his WHL regular-season career.
How did Woodcroft bring along the veteran forwards? I think he tried to build two lines made up of veterans and or college men. Brad Malone and Josh Currie were staples, with Joe Gambardella and Patrick Russell major players. It’s kind of incredible, all of the forwards who had success were, at least marginally, legit NHL prospects.
What did Woodcroft run in the playoffs? He went with Benson-Marody-Currie before Marody’s injury and that line was very effective. The No. 2 line was Gambardella-Malone-Russell, but that line would often get the top opposition (to my eye). Polei-Vesel-Gust and Hebig-Esposito-Callahan also appeared but I will tell you Esposito pushed up the depth chart during the playoffs.
Defense and goal? Lagesson-Jones top pair, Lowe-Bear played second pair and Stanton-Day also played a lot. Evan Bouchard got a push during the final eight games and Brandon Manning was a ghost. Shane Starrett was the starter early in the playoffs, Wells had one strong game and Stuart Skinner had a game to remember. As I said, every rookie had at least one story to tell about his season.
Who will stick in Edmonton this fall? Don’t know. My guesses include Caleb Jones plus Tyler Benson and Joe Gambardella. They are guesses.
Who will be the AHL rookies this time? The likely freshman are Evan Bouchard, Dmitri Samorukov, Kirill Maksimov, Ostap Safin and Ryan McLeod. All should find Woodcroft’s coaching style a benefit. I don’t know what role McLeod will play, his speed is going to be a big asset but his skills might be used on the defensive side if the young man can’t find the range offensively. I worry about Safin basically losing an entire year to injury.
What is Woodcroft’s future? Five years from now, if he’s the head coach in Edmonton and Keith Gretzky is the GM, I wouldn’t be the least surprised.