What if the Oilers organization, and the key free agents currently on the club, decided to come back for 2020-21 and have a full lash at the Pacific Division? What would it look like? Could the Oilers push to win the division?
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 Athletic, check it out here.
- New Lowetide: Swedish export Noel Gunler offers Oilers a worthy draft target
- Scott Wheeler: Why Oilers prospect Raphael Lavoie is the shot creation king.
- Lowetide: How can Andreas Athanasiou — Ken Holland’s big bet — help the Oilers?
- Lowetide: What are Evan Bouchard’s chances of making the Oilers in 2020-21?
- Jonathan Willis and Lowetide: Who are the Oilers’ top 10 prospects and where do they project in the NHL?
- Jonathan Willis: How do Connor McDavid’s first five NHL seasons compare to the all-time greats?
- Lowetide: Oilers 2020 draft: Are fans ready for Oil Kings’ Jake Neighbours?
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers need to keep feeding their currently rich pipeline of defensive prospects
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: How a series of oddball jobs prepared Ken Holland for his front-office career
- Jonathan Willis: 2020 NHL offseason goalie market: Team needs, free agents and trade possibilities
- Lowetide: Oilers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins far more than ‘also in photo’ contributor
- Jonathan Willis: Building the best all-time Oilers roster, with a twist
- Lowetide: What are Tyler Benson’s chances of making the Oilers in 2020-21?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘They were looking outside the box’: Oilers’ distinctive third jerseys still stand out
- Lowetide: If Oilers draft for skill, Seth Jarvis likely to be best available
- Jonathan Willis and Lowetide: Should the Oilers pursue Taylor Hall this summer?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis: The results are in: How you voted in our inaugural Oilers fan survey
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: How the Oilers are preparing for an NHL draft in June
POSSIBLE OPENING NIGHT LINEUP 2020-21
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Connor McDavid—Zack Kassian. This is the trio Dave Tippett deployed against Winnipeg in the final game of the season. I expect we’ll see Andreas Athanasiou on this line in 2020-21, the investment in AA needs some time. I think Yamamoto, Nygard and Ennis are interesting backup options. Nuge gives the trio a concerned citizen defensively and that’s a good thing.
Tyler Ennis—Leon Draisaitl—Kailer Yamamoto. I imagine this line with Nuge will get lots of leeway at the start of the year, my suspicion is Yamamoto could slide up to 97’s line eventually as well. Ennis was quite useful in his nine games and the cost shouldn’t be too dear. If he could make things rhyme with Leon, it frees Nuge for work with 97 or a line of his own.
Andreas Athanasiou—Riley Sheahan—Josh Archibald. Sheahan hasn’t signed yet but is one of the experienced free-agent centers so one imagines he’ll get a small boost in salary. I’m intrigued by the speed on the wings. Athanasiou had a great game on this line, he was rambunctious and a real worry for the Jets. Archibald showed great utility all year and won a new contract.
James Neal—Jujhar Khaira—Alex Chiasson. The idea of having increased depth has appeal, and this ‘grumpy old men and Jujhar’ trio can play it as heavy as Spinal Tap at the airbase. They didn’t get much done against Winnipeg, though.
Gaetan Haas, Joakim Nygard. These two characters are more likely to play than some of the names listed above but the dollars make sense in terms of listing them as extras. I’m looking forward to seeing what both men can bring in the second year of their NHL journeys.
Oscar Klefbom—Adam Larsson. Veteran duo settles down the entire team when they’re on. Later in the campaign Larsson showed why he has great value and Klefbom is the team’s best defenseman by some margin.
Darnell Nurse—Ethan Bear. It would be ideal to have this pairing face elite competition less often in 2020-21. Both men played big minutes in 2019-20, but a ‘share the land’ deployment among all three pairings is likely a better idea.
Caleb Jones—Mike Green. This is a nice combination of old and new, and both men have the potential to move up the depth chart. Remember, Dave Tippett used Green as a second pairing option in that very brief time before the injury.
William Lagesson. This could be Matt Benning or Kris Russell but I have to pretend to be saving money somewhere. Lagesson is unproven but he ran with an impressive pack in Bakersfield.
Mikko Koskinen, Mike Smith. I know many of you will balk, but Tippett trusts him and Holland does not fear the reaper, in fact he embraces the elderly.
TOP 10 BAKERSFIELD RECALLS
Holland won’t have Detroit Red Wings 2005-06 levels of AHL depth to call upon but there’s some good things down on the farm.
- RD Evan Bouchard. Chances are he makes the team but as I wrote recently for The Athletic, Bouchard has not yet dominated the AHL. A big lift is possible if he’s a mid-season recall.
- LW Tyler Benson. His AHL career, now two seasons long, has been the most impressive for an Oilers prospect forward since Jason Chimera. He’ll need to adjust once in the NHL (speed, fast breaks the other way) but he’s very close.
- LD Theodore Lennstrom. It’s difficult to rank him but ‘need’ suggests he’ll be an early recall if required. NHL teams routinely use 10 or 11 blue in a season. Edmonton used 11 in 2019-20.
- RC Cooper Marody. He needs to rebound and the Oilers need Marody. He has enough skill to land an NHL job in my opinion, as long as he’s healthy.
- LW Joe Gambardella. The time is now for the two-way winger, I think he has an open shot at a roster spot in 2020-21.
- LC Ryan McLeod. He needs more time, perhaps an entire season. However, McLeod’s trajectory is impressive and I think he’ll be the eventual No. 3 center on the Oilers.
- G Stuart Skinner. Holland may bring in a more veteran option for the No. 3 job, hell the team might bring back Shane Starrett. As things stand, Skinner is the first recall option.
- LD Dmitri Samorukov. He played sheltered minutes last season, so the first thing to look for in 2020-21 is a feature role for the rangy blue. His even strength on ice numbers in the AHL as a rookie were better than Bear and Jones, look for a nice step forward in the year to come.
- RW Kirill Maksimov. Unlikely to get a call this year but I expect the young winger will emerge as a legit AHL scorer this season. Could get an NHL look.
- RW Raphael Lavoie. I have him playing the entire season in the minors but Lavoie will be getting lots of attention in Bakersfield.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Everybody’s working for the weekend, and we’ll start the fun at 10 this morning, TSN1260. For those who don’t live in Alberta, the Thursday before May long is for securing supplies and making sure everything is set for fleeing the city by 2pm Friday. Seriously.
At 10:20 Scott Wheeler from The Athletic will join me to talk about his brilliant article on Raphael Lavoie (link above). At 11 Gianluca Nesci will help us suss out the opening weekends for soccer, beginning with Alphonso Davies and the Bundesliga this weekend. At 11:25 Steve Hamilton, head coach of the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, will help us look back on the Memorial Cup game in 2014 that made the Edmonton Oil Kings champions. It’ll play tonight at 6 on TSN1260. Stay tuned!