How valuable is Evan Bouchard? I’d rank him as a likely solution for 5-7 seasons of top-4 defense and a prime power-play performer. He’ll be costly after three seasons, but likely productive for another 7-10 years after his entry deal based on his pedigree. Valuable, right? What if the Oilers drafted brilliantly in the first round in the four years previous? What if the Oilers drafted brilliantly four years after? What kind of value could he deliver with all of those great teammates?
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’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: Goals against
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The Goals
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers defensive prospects are impressive overseas, but what comes next?
- Lowetide: Oilers pick up an intriguing addition in free agent Dominik Kahun
- Lowetide: How close is Ryan McLeod to an Oilers roster spot?
- Lowetide: Jay Woodcroft oversees a spike in Oilers prospect development
- 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: 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.
THE CHAIN GANG
I always think of prospects as a link in the chain. The ultimate is probably Sam Pollock who traded for extra first and second round picks 1971-75 and brought in enormous wealth for the Montreal Canadiens.
In 1971 his scouting staff chose Guy Lafleur in the first round and Larry Robinson in the second. Amazing. In 1972 it was Steve Shutt and Michel Larocque, Bob Gainey in 1973 and then 1974 (Doug Risebrough, Mario Tremblay) and 1975 (Pierre Mondou, Brian Englbom). I could go on.
The Oilers 1979-81 were like that, just an avalanche of talent in one cluster that guaranteed future success.
Those days are gone. Every team is better at drafting and there are soon to be 32 teams. Many teams are better at building links in the chain than Edmonton since the 1980’s.
Take the 2008-12 five-year period. Oilers hit a home run at No. 22 in 2008 with Jordan Eberle but nothing else from the draft. In 2009, Magnus Paajarvi and Anton Lander have promise but don’t land as hoped. Broke the chain. Taylor Hall arrives in 2010, and the team had several high picks (I liked Tyler Pitlick and Martin Marincin) but none cashed.
In 2011 Edmonton had a strong draft (Nuge, Oscar Klefbom) but the Nail Yakupov pick in 2012 broke the chain. Nurse, Leon, McDavid plus two fine young blue in 2015’s later rounds, and maybe there’s a chain!
Jesse Puljujarvi. I have high hopes for JP, partly because he has so many tools and partly because he’s so inexpensive. If you look at him as an entry deal, this has a real chance to work into a value deal.
If we start the cluster at 2014 (Leon) and run five years, you can get project seven possible foundation* players (Draisaitl, McDavid, Jones, Bear, Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, Bouchard) that’s seven players in the cluster and two of them are absolute killers. Puljujarvi is an important piece in the chain.
*I count a foundation player as any of the following: Starting goalie, top-4 defenseman, any player who lands on the top two lines, No. 3 center. There are 12 foundation players, so seven in a five year period would be a nice group.
Man these guys are hard to find. Links in the chain. By the time you start paying the back end of the chain real money, the middle of the chain needs to be ready. Why? Because you cannot just grab players 22-27 years old who can fill a foundation role without giving up tremendous assets.
Which brings us to Dominik Kahun. His draft year was 2013, but no one took him in any of his draft eligible seasons. Per 82 games in the NHL, he is posting 15-25-40 in the NHL. That puts him squarely on a skill line in Edmonton.
I don’t think he’ll be David Perron at 25 (Edmonton acquired the winger in time to score 28-29-57 in 78 games in 2013-14). I’m not sure he’ll even be Curits Glencross at 25 (Oilers grabbed him mid-season 2007-08 and he scored 9-4-13 in 26 games) but he has scoring talent and probably five productive seasons (or more) in his future. Let’s look at the cluster as it currently stands:
- Age 19: Philip Broberg, Raphael Lavoie
- Age 20: Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod, Olivier Rodrigue
- Age 21: Kailer Yamamoto, Dmitri Samorukov
- Age 22: Jesse Puljujarvi, Ilya Konovalov
- Age 23: Connor McDavid, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones
- Age 24: Leon Draisaitl, William Lagesson
- Age 25: Darnell Nurse, Dominik Kahun
- Age 26:
- Age 27: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson
Kahun gives some punch to the far end of the chain, and Puljujarvi can be the link between McDavid and Yamamoto, Bouchard and Broberg, et al.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A fun show as we steamroll to the weekend on TSN1260 beginning at 10 this morning. Steve Lansky from BigMouthSports will join me and talk Howie Meeker’s birthday, World Juniors and what an instant Covid-19 test could do for live events. Russ Baxter from FanSidedNFL will pop in at 11:25. Text 10-1260 and @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!