The Edmonton Oilers released the playoff camp roster yesterday and there was a surprise—a fifth goaltender (Dylan Wells) just to be safe. It makes sense from here, goaltending is a big damn deal and making sure you have enough of them is vital. Truth be told, there are only two names that a playoff Oilers team will play in front of, Oilers might be fishing for option No. 3 among Stuart Skinner, Dylan Wells and Olivier Rodrigue.
Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. I am proud to be part of The Athletic. Here are the most recent Oilers stories.
- New Lowetide: The Oilers’ approach to Russians at the draft? Trust but verify
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Mike Green’s opt-out isn’t ideal, but Oilers defence should manage without him
- New Lowetide: Joakim Nygard’s Oilers season reveals speedster with range of skills
- Lowetide: Dave Tippett’s postseason strategy against the Blackhawks
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Oilers notebook: Bear’s contract quandary, Broberg’s mini camp, bubble goalies
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi’s comparables suggest a possible future with Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: Every Oilers AHL prospect rated by how close they are to the NHL
- Lowetide: Setting the record straight on Oilers prospect Cooper Marody’s future
- Lowetide: Tough decisions face Oilers’ Ken Holland as cap forces painful choices
- Lowetide: How Oilers winger Kailer Yamamoto can increase his value
- Lowetide: Everything you forgot (but need to know) about Oilers’ 2019-20 season
- Lowetide: Injury is biggest factor in the Oilers’ hopes for extended playoff run
- Lowetide: Tyler Benson’s struggle to score might affect future role with Oilers
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s second Oilers draft should deliver high-octane offence
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘It’s all surreal’: Kevin Lowe’s Hall of Fame nod nets surprise and satisfaction
- Lowetide: 10 things to look for at Oilers training camp and the 2020 playoffs
- Jonathan Willis: Why Carl Soderberg is an intriguing free agent possibility for the Oilers
Mike Smith. The big man’s season (39 games, 19-12-6 2.95 .902) wasn’t strong and his .900 five on five percentage was close to league worst. On the other hand when he gets hot a team can ride his play for weeks. Going in to camp, he’s the starter because Dave Tippett and staff trust him.
Mikko Koskinen. He played so well Oilers fans rarely mention buyout anymore. He went 18-13-3 in 38 games, 2.75 GAA and a .917 SP. His .924 five on five save percentage put him in the league’s top 20 in that category. He’s my choice for starter. He’ll need some luck to get a start based on current conditions.
Stuart Skinner. He had a poor year in front of a ghastly AHL team, and his two pro seasons aren’t anything fabulous. In 44 ECHL games, his SP is .903, and in 47 AHL games his SP is .891. Oilers probably see him as the guy they drafted who has played in bad luck, but eventually you develop a past.
Olivier Rodrique. He’s a promising goaltender on the verge of his pro career and this camp may give him an opportunity to show what he’s capable of after a strong junior finish. One of the players I’m most looking forward to seeing in this camp.
Dylan Wells. I have him here because it didn’t sound like he was part of the original plan. In his two pro seasons, he has delivered .898 in 32 ECHL games, and .898 in 19 AHL games. Like Skinner, he needs a strong season to move ahead of the pack. I don’t think we’ll see him much.
LEFT DEFENSE (5)
Oscar Klefbom. He’s a quality NHL defenseman. I don’t usually say that out loud because when someone says it about a player the Oilers drafted the team trades his ass. Has come into his own as PP quarterback, his 4.77 points-per-60 in the discipline landed Klefbom No. 25 overall among NHL power-play blue. Big minutes, big part of Oilers defense.
Darnell Nurse. Led the team in five on five ice time, No. 3 in Corsi rel at five on five and Puck IQ tells us he led Oilers defensemen in TOI versus elites and was No. 3 in DFF%RC. A solid year, his 1.14 per 60 scoring at five on five ranked him No. 40 among NHL rearguards. He still has many critics, and there are moments like Max Domi turning him inside out early in the year that remain. Still, he is a substantial player on this team, I’m looking forward to seeing improvement during his second playoff run.
Caleb Jones. Exceptional numbers after his recall, he earned the third pairing job even tough Jones might not get it. Outstanding skater, 21-13 at five on five with multiple defensive partners and his passing looked divine. My goodness what a year for rookies!
Kris Russell. Veteran played 14:19 a night at five on five in 2019-20, that’s the sound of a veteran seeing his playing time reduced. I’ll be fascinated to see who wins the third pairing job, I think Jones earned it but veterans usually get the playoff minutes.
William Lagesson. Solid NHL prospect who played a little NHL this season. Unlikely to get into NHL games during the 2020 playoffs.
RIGHT DEFENSE (5)
Adam Larsson. He is a key to the Oilers during the postseason. In his final 10 games of the season, Edmonton outscored opponents 11-5 during five on five minutes. Larsson is a central figure in the series to come against Chicago.
Ethan Bear. I have always liked Corsi Rel to gauge a team’s defense. It’s a straight measure of a defenseman’s quality relative to his fellow defenders. Bear led the Oilers last season in Corsi Rel five on five (+2.44) and looked the part of a productive two-way player all year long. All he has to do is play at the level we saw during the season.
Matt Benning. He’s been a winner at five on five since he arrived in the NHL and still can’t get respect from Oilers fans. Some of you should have to witness the 42-game stretch by Taylor Chorney in 2009-10 where he went 15-33 five on five goal differential.
Evan Bouchard. He had a very strong second half in Bakersfield, specifically in even strength goal differential. I don’t think he’ll play much, but the Mike Green news does change the equation. I’m intrigued to see him but the slide year is very valuable.
Philip Broberg. Not one chance in hell he plays, but this should give the team at least a glimpse of this young man’s future. His speed should be noticeable.
Connor McDavid. He’s so good, every playoff berth represents the possibility of something special.
Leon Draisaitl. It’s incredible how much better he is than his draft number, especially considering his draft number was three.
Riley Sheahan. He’s an important piece, because what’s behind him isn’t a veteran option. Fine on the penalty kill, scores a little and can win some faceoffs.
Jujhar Khaira. Brilliant PK man who had zero confidence at even strength in 2019-20. His decision making with the puck bordered on criminal. Right at the end of the season, he found a spark at center. Oilers are no doubt hoping it continues.
Gaetan Haas. I spent quite a bit of time trying to get him into the every game lineup but can’t make it happen after the deadline. I like his ability to draw penalties and forecheck. If he could score a little more and win faceoffs he’d be the third-line center.
Ryan McLeod. He’s an NHL skater right now, and I believe McLeod will see NHL action in 2020-21. I don’t think he plays in the 2020 postseason.
LEFT WING (6)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. One of the great things about this season is the Nuge re-emerging as a substantial offensive player. His 2.23 points-per-60 is the highest scoring rate of his career. He reached his peak at 26, and beat goalies clean from range using a quick release and improving his sights. Damn that’s a beautiful thing.
Andreas Athanasiou. Big man has terrific speed and can score goals, making him a potentially valuable piece of the present and future. He has to prove himself on a skill line in order for the trade to have been worthwhile. A big playoff performance could have enormous impact on his contract situation.
Tyler Ennis was an astute pickup by Holland at the deadline, he can play either wing and has significant natural talent. The downside is his age (30) but he looked more than capable of contributing to the team’s success after coming over at the deadline.
James Neal scored 19 goals (No. 4 on the team) in 2019-20 but wasn’t a productive scorer at five on five at any time. I’m not sure where he fits and his spot in the lineup is somewhat vulnerable for these playoffs. Bet on him to start and to get power-play time, because Dave Tippett knows that when Neal gets hot he can have a major impact. Had a 1.92 points per 60 total at even strength three weeks into the season but could not sustain it.
Joakim Nygard changes the look of the bottom six with his speed, tenacity and ability to be on the right side of the puck when it’s turned over. I’d bet on he and Gaetan Haas forming a kickass third line someday but they’re both long in the tooth in terms of projecting into the future. A good player.
Tyler Benson is about where Kailer Yamamaoto was a year ago in terms of fan base faith. Many don’t believe he’ll play. I’m convinced Benson will have an NHL career but have tempered the upside. I think a Marcus Kruger career in style and success (500 games, useful bottom six forward) is a reasonable expectation.
RIGHT WING (6)
Zack Kassian had a fantastic five on five scoring season (2.21 points per 60) with Connor McDavid at center. His defensive work is not strong enough for him to sustain this role and his lack of discipline (suspensions, bad penalties) constantly threatens team success. I’m a fan of this player but he needs to overcome these issues.
Kailer Yamamoto is (along with Ethan Bear) proof that good drafting and development rewards the patient team handsomely. His recall may not have been the top reason for the January fire, but it was a major contributor.
Alex Chiasson is a throwback winger who could have been successful in 1975 or today. A rugged kind of fellow, he’s aware defensively and his possession game (over 50 percent Corsi and shot differential five on five) was solid. If he posts 1.25 points per 60, as he did in 2018-19, there’s a lot of utility. In 2019-20, it was just 0.87 owing mostly to a major fall in shooting percentage. Perhaps the Gods reward him in the playoffs.
Josh Archibald was a wise investment for Edmonton, his speed and utility obvious during the year. He was unlucky overall at five on five, as his shot differential (44 percent) and his goal differential (34 percent) represents a massive gap. Main reason: Save percentage when he was on the ice at five on five was .893.
Patrick Russell is a coach’s dream because he does everything asked and follows instructions like a demon. I don’t think he’ll play much.
Cooper Marody begins camp as a distant bell, I’m cheering like hell for him. He has more natural talent than several forwards who saw NHL action this year, but speed and injury have been hurdles. He’s a center but may find his way on the wing.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun and busy show as Oilers open up training camp, we have everything covered on TSN1260 today. I’ll join the part at 10 with Hart Levine from Puck Pedia at 10:20. Oilers and other NHL teams received some good cap news in the CBA agreement and we’ll detail the major parts of the agreement. Jason Gregor will join me at 11 to discuss the Oilers roster, Mike Green’s absence and more. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!