In the summer of 1969, Rejean Houle was chosen No. 1 overall in the NHL draft by the Montreal Canadiens. He led the OHA in points, scored 53 goals and appeared destined for a storied NHL career as an impact offensive winger.
In 1971 spring, Houle began taking more of the load away from linemate John Ferguson on the Habs’ checking line. That spring cemented Houle’s reputation as a checker, partly because he was very good at it and partly because he was unable to dominate the NHL offensively. He was an effective two-way winger, scored 30 goals once, but his one regret came from not bringing all of his junior offense with him to the show. Welcome to the club, Mr. Houle.
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: Mike Green’s playoff role and possible future with the Oilers
- New Lowetide: Oilers’ most likely recalls from Bakersfield for the playoff run
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘We rallied and regrouped’: How the Oilers won the 1990 Stanley Cup
- Lowetide: Why Kailer Yamamoto represents ‘Money Puck’ value for NHL teams
- Lowetide: Exploring hidden-gem draft options for the Edmonton Oilers
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘He set his place in history’: On Bill Ranford’s Conn Smythe run, 30 years later
- Jonathan Willis: Why NHL teams should gamble on defencemen over forwards later in the draft
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers’ offseason decisions will be influenced by 2021 Seattle expansion draft
- Jonathan Willis: Ken Holland’s likely approach to the Oilers’ offseason goalie question
- Lowetide: Oilers GM Ken Holland should shop for picks at the draft
- Lowetide: Exploring Oilers prospect Ryan McLeod’s possible NHL path
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Ales Hemsky on his health, alumni games, tough opponents and the Oilers’ stars
- Lowetide: Swedish export Noel Gunler offers Oilers a worthy draft target
I haven’t written on Kuffner because his story, like that of Gaetan Haas, has some things that are difficult to explain. Let’s start with the Red Wings glowing release on him back on his signing day (March 12, 2019).
Kuffner, 22, has spent the last four seasons at Princeton University, where he totaled 75 goals in 132 games to become the university’s all-time leading goal scorer. During his senior campaign in 2018-19, Kuffner’s 22 goals led the ECAC and was fourth in the nation. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound forward also led the nation this season in points-per-game (1.419). During his junior year, Kuffner paced Princeton with 29 goals and was second on the team in scoring with 52 points en route to being named a Second-Team All-American and helping the Tigers to an ECAC Tournament Championship and an automatic berth into the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament. In all, Kuffner recorded 152 points (75-77-152) in 132 games with Princeton. He was also a member of the ECAC All-Academic Team in each of his first three seasons (2015-18), with awards for this season to be announced in the coming weeks.
By year, Kuffner’s NHLE’s in college were 14.8, 24.3, 33.2, 32.6. He had 75 goals on 485 shots in 132 games. That’s a 15.5 shooting percentage and 3.67 shots per game. One never knows but, turning pro at age 22 (when he signed), with that kind of resume, expectations of pro success were real.
His pro career has seen Kuffner in chase mode. His NHL shots per game (eight shots in 10 games) and points per game (no points in 10 games) suggest he is not getting to the play. In 100 five on five minutes, DRW were 0-3 goals, 33-69 shots. His on-ice save percentage was .957, otherwise the goal share would have been a blood bath.
Kuffner’s AHL numbers are interesting. In 32 games with Grand Rapids, he scored 6-3-9 on 44 shots. He posted 1-1-2 on the power play, 5-2-7 at even strength. His shooting percentage was 13.6 and he averaged 1.38 shots per game.
His four Bakersfield games are even more interesting, partly because Eric Rodgers rocks and supplies us with great information. Two assists, one on the power play and one at evens, seven shots, 2-1 goal differential at even strength. Rodgers estimated Kuffner 13:53 a night, just shy of 13 at even strength. So, Kuffner posted one even strength point in just shy of 52 minutes (1.16 points per 60).
What about Ryan?
I have Kuffner behind Nuge, Athanasiou, Neal, Nygard, Benson, Gambardella on the depth chart, close to Ostap Safin and ahead of Nolan Vesey. Is he worth signing? He’s a shooter with two-way acumen and the Oilers need those player-types. His pro career so far is not strong.
Grant McCagg’s Recrutes 2020 NHL Draft Guide is out, featuring a mock from Simon Boisvert and contributions from Brock Otten. There’s so much talent there, I could see Holland trading down in the first round to grab a pick inside the top 100 overall.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun show this morning, we get started at 10, TSN1260. Jonathan Willis from The Athletic will help me compile the ideal Oilers roster for the opening night of the playoffs and talk draft seeding. Ryan Rishaug from TSN joins us at 11 to talk about the NHL’s timeline for return. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!