I believe you should wait five years before making the call on a prospect, because they rarely develop in a straight line. There are not very many Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl arrivals annually, the rest have to struggle and fight and grind their skills into useful pieces of the roster puzzle.
There is another side of that question you know. It’s kind of obvious but we never bother to ask it. Goes like this: How many players chosen outside the first round spend five or more years playing a feature role on a skill line? How many spend five years on a skill line full stop? Damned scouts know what they’re doing after all.
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New Lowetide: Oilers pick up an intriguing addition in free agent Dominik Kahun
- New Lowetide: Will massive free-agent pool give Oilers a late offseason lift?
- Lowetide: How close is Ryan McLeod to an Oilers roster spot?
- Lowetide: Jay Woodcroft oversees a spike in Oilers prospect development
- Lowetide: The 2020-21 Oilers and value contracts: Career opportunities
- Eric Duhatschek: For one season only, bring on the NHL’s Canada Division
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers’ organizational depth chart: Where does Edmonton stand today?
- Lowetide: Dmitri Samorukov’s KHL impact and what it means to the Oilers
- Lowetide: How many goals will Tyler Ennis score in 2020-21?
- Lowetide: Oilers extend Kris Russell, solve expansion issue
- Lowetide: Can Kyle Turris centre an outscoring No. 3 line in Edmonton?
- Lowetide: Tyson Barrie’s skills and how Oilers coach Dave Tippett will deploy him
- Jonathan Willis: Can Oilers unlock James Neal’s scoring potential at five on five?
- Lowetide: Why is Ilya Konovalov no longer starting in the KHL?
- Lowetide: Oilers Top 20 prospects, post-draft edition.
- Lowetide: Finding Connor McDavid’s optimal linemates among 2020-21 Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: A cautious free agent period boosts an Oilers team still on the upswing
- Lowetide: Oilers bring back Mike Smith for another year.
- Lowetide: Oilers sign Tyson Barrie to a team-friendly deal.
- Lowetide: Oilers sign Kyle Turris, Tyler Ennis in early hours of free agency.
- Lowetide: Jesse Puljujarvi signing overshadows a strong day for Oilers at draft
- Lowetide: Oilers draft Dylan Holloway on Day 1, with trades possible Wednesday
ACTIVE PROSPECTS AND THEIR NHLE
RW Jesse Puljujarvi Liiga (8, 5-2-7) NHLE: 32.4. The big man is signed and waiting for the NHL preseason, while the general manager went out and added a No. 3 center who is a veteran NHLer who can create. A huge season on the way for a player who should be able to help significantly.
LC Ryan McLeod, NLA (7, 2-3-5) NHLE: 27.6. He has most of the tool kit required to be a two-way center in the NHL, we await the returns from the counting room. I like McLeod’s pro career so far, including the seven games in a good European league.
RC-RW Raphael Lavoie, Allsvenskan (10, 6-3-9) NHL: 26.6. He might be an example of what I mentioned above, a second-round selection who spends five years on a skill line in the NHL. There’s a GIF online currently where he scores backdoor left side on the power play and he’s a tall player like Puljujarvi. Last players to spend several years on a skill line while being drafted outside the first round? Jarret Stoll or Mike Comrie.
LD William Lagesson, Allsvenskan (10, 3-5-8) NHLE: 23.6. He is enjoying a strong run in the Allsvenskan and appears to be the top candidate for No. 7 defender when the Oilers get back to work. This is a player Edmonton needs to know the value on at the NHL level before moving on from him.
LD Dmitri Samorukov KHL (21, 2-5-7) NHLE: 22.0. Most of the boxcars were posted early but this young man remains an effective even strength outscorer for his team. He is decidedly No. 3 among the young gun blue (Bouchard, Broberg) but might be the best shutdown option and has a great winspan. He hits like a Ural-4320, too.
LD Philip Broberg, SHL (13, 1-4-5) NHLE: 18.8. This pick is trending very well for Edmonton, the trajectory Broberg is writing from himself is exciting and might land him in the NHL over the next 12 months. He plays a ton, gets even strength and power-play minutes and, perhaps as important as anything, he is playing games in an excellent pro league.
RD Filip Berglund, SHL (8, 1-2-3) NHLE: 18.3. Two-way defenseman is playing a major role for his team this year. When he arrives in Bakersfield, Berglund will offer NHL depth behind Adam Larsson, Ethan Bear, Tyson Barrie and Evan Bouchard.
LW Matej Blumel, Czech (4, 0-2-2) NHLE: 17.8. Speedster is enjoying some early success in the Czech league this season (he was 31, 4-1-5 in the same circuit a year ago). We won’t know what he is until Blumel hits the AHL but good offensive numbers are a good indicator.
RD Evan Bouchard, Allsvenskan (13, 3-3-6) NHLE: 13.6. He is playing regularly and having an impact in a good league. Too many pims, don’t know what’s gotten into him (I kid). Some are down on this player, I expect he’ll be very ready when his NHL opportunity arrives.
LC Maxim Denezhkin, VHL (12, 2-3-5) NHLE: 12.98. This is an interesting player. He’s 19, undersized and has two-way acumen. I’ve said before and do believe he might have NHL potential but it’s also possible we never see him here.
LD Markus Niemelainen, Liiga (11, 0-3-3) NHLE: 10.1. His overall game appears to be improved this year, might be a blessing the big man got another year in Europe before tackling the AHL.
LW Maxim Berezkin, KHL (14, 0-2-2) NHLE: 9.4. He’s in the KHL and playing, just turned 19 in October. Berezkin shoots right and is an excellent passer, I think they might have something here. That doesn’t mean he’ll be lining up on the McDavid line in two years, but I can see him emerging as the best Russian winger drafted by Edmonton since Anton Slepyshev.
LD Theodor Lennstrom, SHL (9, 1-1-2) NHLE: 8.9. Speedy chaos blue is playing at previous levels, offense off a little and he’s playing less (15:15) than a year ago (17:50).
LW Jeremias Lindewall, Allsvenskan (5, 1-0-1) NHLE: 5.9. He’s 6.02, 187 and moves well, good hands and is already playing in the Allsvenskan (where he has scored). Earliest of the earlies but a nice start.
RW Kirill Maksimov, KHL (6, 0-0-0). He has scored well in the VHL (5, 4-2-6) but can’t get untracked in the big Russian league. Of all the AHL kids who need to get back to Woodcroft county, I believe Maksimov is top of the list.
LW Patrik Siikanen, Liiga (5, 0-0-0). His career is vague two years after the Oilers drafted him, I expect that’s a tell.
LW Tyler Benson, Swiss League (5, 1-4-5). Benson is playing in the second Swiss league and doing well, only point per game regular on the team. A big season ahead.
LC Tomas Mazura, Sarja U20 (3, 1-2-3). He is 20 and is playing junior hockey in Finland. I’m not sure about his career progression but it seems more leisurely than others on this list.
G Ilya Konovalov, KHL (8, 2.03, .933). He isn’t playing much but when Konovalov gets his chance the numbers shine. Ordinarily you see a trade in these situations, it would be a good idea to get him some starts down the stretch. He should get a contract from Edmonton in the offseason.
G Olivier Rodrigue, Austria (2, 2.00 .937). A fine goalie prospect who spiked late last season. I have him consistently behind Konovalov, doesn’t mean I’m right. He’s a real NHL prospect.
Back to the original question posed, and this time I’ll be strict about it. How many Oilers draft picks (forwards), chosen outside the first round, played five or more years on a skill line. Here’s the list: Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Jari Kurri, Esa Tikkanen, Miroslav Satan, Shawn Horcoff, Mike Comrie. You have to stretch a little for Comrie, all others are rock solid.
So, the question becomes why bother? Just pick your skill forwards in the first round and then fill in. Well, it doesn’t work that way. First of all, NHL checkers were all skill forwards in junior, they just couldn’t dominate at the highest levels because better players kept hogging the damned puck. Jerks.
I’d draft skill every pick, and the Oilers did that in 2020. After all the Coke Machines and checkers in the first round, it was a pleasing draft.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, we hit the airwaves rocking and won’t stop until the noon bell hits in Maidstone. Guests include Darryl Belfry, author of the new book Belfry Hockey tells us about what NHL athletes are doing to get ready for a season with no start date. Hart Levine from PuckPedia pops in to chat about Edmonton’s cap situation and I want to hear his thoughts on the Ethan Bear contract and what the cap hit might look like. We’re also scanning the internet for an NBA guest, looking for a rundown on free agency. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!