Back in 2007, the Oilers had some quality veterans (Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll, Tom Gilbert, Joni Pitkanen, Dwayne Roloson, others) and some interesting young players (Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Robert Nilsson, Ladislav Smid).
None of the young players who were new to the NHL could push the river or offer one unique strength to help “roster future”. Edmonton was caught in its own mediocrity, its best veteran (Hemsky) not having enough support and the best young player (Gagner) not representing an upgrade. They were dead in the water. That gives us an idea about the early moments of the rebuild that produced Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Many years later, the Oilers are in a completely opposite situation. Music!
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: Ideal style pairings for the 2020-21 Oilers
- New Jonathan Willis: The Oilers are better with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl apart at 5-on-5
- Lowetide: The Oilers and the Calder Trophy: 5 rookies, 1 strong contender
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The results
- 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.
In 2007 the Oilers had Hemsky and he was a fine player. He needed more than Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner (his 2007-08 linemates) to make things go. At five on five, Horcoff-Hemsky outscored opponents 27-20 that season in 461 minutes. In 2016-17 McDavid-Maroon outscored opponents five on five 44-27 in 735 minutes. Hemsky was brilliant, but he wasn’t McDavid brilliant.
McDavid and Draisaitl have the high end covered in a way no Oilers team has managed since 1991.
Even better, some of the up and coming talent has unique qualities. Raphael Lavoie has 8 goals in 13 games (45 shots) in the Allsvenskan, Evan Bouchard is 4-9-13 in 58 shots in 17 games in the same league.
Scott Wheeler has written wonderfully about three recent Oilers draft picks Evan Bouchard, Raphael Lavoie and Dylan Holloway. Philip Broberg has unique skating skills and may eventually be a quality two-way defenseman playing at the top of the depth chart.
TOP 20 PROSPECTS, SUMMER 2007
- Center Sam Gagner. Just drafted and he goes to the top of the chart. Nice range of skills: creative, terrific playmaker, good skater, can take and make a pass and make plays in traffic. I saw him take a terrific hit at the WJC’s and he got right back into the play. Scouts have said he can play well without the puck but we can also guess he’ll need work in that area. Played in the USHL and this was his rookie OHL season. Gagner’s ppg number at 17 (2.23) is exceptional, but we need to temper expectations for the same reasons Schremp’s numbers needed to have some air taken out of them (Schremp’s 17-year old ppg was 1.15 btw). I don’t think the Oilers will move him along as quickly as they did Hemsky, but he’s the most talented forward they’ve drafted since 83.
- Left Wing Slava Trukhno. Love this player. He is a quality offensive player, doesn’t shy from traffic and has some hustle, size and grit. That’s an extremely valuable set of skills. I like speeds’ take on him (which was basically that Trukhno represents everything the Oilers DON’T like and they took him anyway).
- Center Andrew Cogliano. Has the skills of those throwback centers like Dave Keon and Ralph Backstrom: amazing speed, aggressive on the forecheck and great anticipation. He also delivered a quality offensive season in the NCAA while still playing second fiddle. Cogliano has an outside chance of making the big club imo if he can impress as an “energy” type player. From what I’ve read, the fastest Oiler prospect.
- Defenseman Tom Gilbert. Looked very good in his NHL late-season audition and could very well pass some of the kids on D this season. Smart player with good offensive upside and seemed to impress coach MacTavish last year. There’s almost no negatives, the only one I can think of being that it would be nice to put him on the third pairing with a veteran defender (which the Oilers cannot do). Had the best AHL rookie season by an Oiler defense prospect since Doug Lynch, he should get a full 550 at-bats and would have to be considered a candidate for the All-Rookie team in 07-08.
- Center Rob Schremp. Has terrific puck skills but the learning curve is as steep as many NHL teams implied by allowing him to slip deep into the first round. I have him this low because his ceiling appears to be much lower than his OHL numbers implied (we HAVE to get ATOI) and because there appears to be at least some indifference about addressing areas of weakness. A clever one dimensional player, I think we’ll know he’s ready when Schremp stops doing circus-like things and gets down to the business of helping his team win. He remains a likely candidate to be traded.
- Defenseman Taylor Chorney. Undersized skill defenseman who has some strength issues which we saw at the World Juniors. He seems to have a nice range of skills and no major weaknesses (aside from size) that time and experience won’t improve (reads and coverage without the puck). He really stepped up offensively this season and had a major role for the Americans at the WJC’s. He should be the best defense prospect this team has developed since Tom Poti.
- Goalie Devan Dubnyk. Huge goalie played well in Double A and looks to play big minutes in the AHL this fall. I’m not a fan of holding prospects back, but the year in the ECHL may benefit Dubnyk as he got his feet wet as far from the spotlight as is humanly possible. His stats tell us he’s a very consistent goalie and the best news so far is his lack of injury.
- Center Ryan O’Marra. I’d rank him much higher save for the injuries. O’Marra is another player with a wide range of skills (versatile, terrific shot, no fear, drives to the net, smart player, excellent speed, he has size) and looks more like a MacTavish-type than pretty much anyone else on this list (I define a MacT player as someone whose skills without the puck are close to or equal to puck skills). He’s one guy who could challenge the top 3 on my list (if healthy).
- Defenseman Alex Plante. I’m pretty high on him because he has a nice variety of skills. The downside is coverage, agility and decision making, but the two really good scouting sources (ISS and RLR) both like him. High risk/reward pick, has a chance to be the new Niinimaki.
- Defenseman Josef Hrabel. I was going to nick him because of the questions over his Oiler status, but to hell with it. If we’re going to learn anything about stats predicting the future upside of individual players, this guy is the current poster boy. Skilled puck mover who lacks the size NHL teams look for but may find a career anyway.
- Defenseman Denis Grebeshkov. I liked him a lot in 2002 (he was drafted 26th spots ahead of Matt Greene) but there’s no real way to see if he’s progressed until training camp in the fall. He’s a physical player who can move the puck and would have to be considered a favorite to make the big club this fall (perhaps over Gilbert who I think is a better prospect).
- Left Wing Jean Francois Jacques. It’s like watching your son sing off key at the school Christmas concert: it’s a train wreck but you don’t love him any less. Jacques’ lack of effectiveness at the NHL level is somewhat baffling, as his AHL performance (plus his training camp) implied he was ahead of a few first rounders. I don’t think they can give up on him, but JFJ will need to show a lot this fall.
- Center Riley Nash. I like what Redline wrote about him: “A really well schooled, all-around player who can play it any way you want. Big, raw, naturally athletic kid who can skate, shoot and pass. Also likes to get his nose dirty and really carried his club down the stretch.” Redline is easily the hardest marker and those words don’t come easy.
- Defenseman Jeff Petry. I should have him higher but have decided to nick anyone who didn’t play in a measurable league. The USHL has produced some fine talent and this guy had a huge year, but let’s see what he can do in college. Impressive skill set and there’s little doubt he’d go much higher if they could do the 2006 draft over again.
- Center Kyle Brodziak. Looks to me like he’s the new Rem Murray. Brodziak is the highest ranking “future role player” on my list, but he’s earned it. Good size and strength and he’s coachable. Limited upside but I think he’s a player.
- Defenseman Theo Peckham. Just an amazing series of positive comments have Peckham here. Apparently he’s that steady defender who makes the right decisions without the puck with alarming regularity. Good size, uses it well and makes the right play. Love this player type.
- Defenseman Cody Wild. I was going to rank him lower but MAN this guy had a good season on a crappy team. It’ll be very interesting to see if he can put up big time numbers when he turns pro. Puck moving defender whose numbers went backwards (point total down from 21 to 14) on a team that went from 105 goals to 76. Providence hockey must be awful.
- Defenseman Mathieu Roy. Lacks the footspeed that NHL defenders possess, but otherwise he looks like a player. Lots of passion, loves to hit and stands out among Oilers prospects as a guy who punishes opponents. I’m betting he has an NHL career.
- Center Milan Kytnar. Reliable two-way center plays hard every shift. Great hand-eye, anticipates well, coachable. Strong skater with a minus first step, good hands and size. Accurate passer, can shadow his man. Good playmaker who sees the ice well. (Source: ISS).
- Defenseman Bryan Young: The new Tom Reid, steady and reliable but center ice is just a rumor. I like Young’s grit and energy.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning on TSN1260, we’re tracking two major stories. Steve Lansky from Inside the Truck podcast and BigMouthSports will address the Masters from a television/presentation point of view and talk about the the NHL’s RTP plan and the Canadian division. Matt Iwanyk from TSN1260 will also discuss the Masters and Tiger’s push for glory; plus the NHL’s chances of starting in January. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!