In the hours after the 2020 draft, director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright said the style his Oilers want to play is “fast, hard, physical, skilled” and that’s an interesting set of assets to pursue. Today, I’d like to talk about the 2020-21 Bakersfield Condors—a team we’ll never see—and how many of those elements each player brings to the table. If Ken Holland and Tyler Wright (and Archie Henderson) are going to build a team based on their own priorities, we know what it will look like (Philip Broberg, Dylan Holloway). How many “fast, hard, physical, skilled” players would be bubbling under in Bakersfield right now?
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: Projected training camp roster for the 2020-21 Oilers.
- Jonathan Willis: Will the Oilers repeat their power play magic in 2021?
- Lowetide: Why Dmitri Samorukov is an Oilers prospect with a big future
- Lowetide: Why hasn’t Ken Holland pursued college free agents for the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Increase in skill wingers adds mystery to Oilers preseason
- Lowetide: How many ‘peak seasons’ can Oilers fans expect from Connor McDavid?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ increased focus on drafting skill is key to future success
- Lowetide: A short history of Oilers’ impact prospects at the world juniors
- Lowetide: Why Dave Tippett’s training camp with Oilers will be so compelling
- Lowetide: Oilers first-round pick Dylan Holloway’s fast start has fans buzzing
- Jonathan Willis: A brief history of Oilers teams with goalie problems, and how they overcame them
- Jonathan Willis: The Oilers are better with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl apart at 5-on-5
- 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
- Lowetide: Oilers Top 20 prospects, post-draft edition.
The goaltenders (Anton Forsberg, Stuart Skinner, Dylan Wells) are a solid group, I think Jay Woodcroft and his coaching staff (Dave Manson and J-F Houle) could win with a healthy duo of Forsberg and Skinner.
Dmitri Samorukov is definitely fast, hard and physical and he does have some skill. I think he qualifies for the Holland-Wright Oilers.
Evan Bouchard has terrific skill and has worked on the “hard” since arriving in pro hockey. I believe there are those who follow the team who wonder if Holland-Tippett have worries about Bouchard as an NHL player, but those concerns shouldn’t keep Bouchard’s considerable talent out of the league. It could limit him to third pairing usage (plus power play) until he finds his way, but the handling and verbal on Bouchard matches the Holland ‘slow play’ and ‘frugal’ templates established long ago. Bouchard begins his entry-level deal in 2020-21 (based on age and NHL games), Holland trying to get his financial house in order after several years of Hunter S. Thompson excess previous to his arrival in Edmonton. I would recommend not listening to those who are framing Bouchard as a bust because of his development timeline, as it (at least in part) had to do with contract and the cap.
Theodor Lennstrom has gathered believers with extreme prejudice and his speed plus skill give him a spot on this roster. I’ll stop short of endorsing him for an NHL job, as he recently missed two games and then went -3 in a game yesterday after having a strong first period (source: Mike Zanier). William Lagesson qualifies under “hard” and he’s fast enough to play in the NHL and does bring skill. I will tell you that based on his usage in Bakersfield and recall history, it’s my belief Holland likes this player and that Lagesson won’t hit the waiver wire when the season begins. I’ll remind you when it happens either way.
Markus Niemelainen is a physical defenseman but I’m not certain he’s “hard” to play against defensively. His five on five Corsi for (116-149 43.8 percent) is poor and he doesn’t bring speed or skill. I don’t think Niemelainen will reach the NHL and I don’t think he matches the Wright 4-pak. Phil Kemp was just signed and he fits the Wright model in terms of hard and physical, with a strong resume in his years at Yale and at the WJ’s. I don’t know if he fits the bill though, we’ll have to wait and see.
Ryan McLeod has brilliant speed and he’s an aggressive player, definitely qualifies for the Holland-Wright brigade. I think he’ll play NHL hockey in 2021. Cooper Marody has been running bad luck for longer than Jesse in Breaking Bad. He had a strong rookie season, got hurt in the playoffs and hasn’t been able to play 40 healthy games in a row since. He turns 24 just before Christmas. Marody has skill and and he’s a game rooster but speed is an issue. Unsure if he’s a Holland-Wright type. Alan Quine is fast and his aggressive forechecking makes him difficult to play against.
Tyler Benson is an interesting case, he qualifies on skill, physical and hard to play against. I’m not certain they’re convinced but suspect the Oilers will give him a shot due to lack of options. Every year that passes from this one forward where Benson doesn’t land a regular job, he gets closer to a Tyler Pitlick career. Joe Gambardella is a strong forechecker and has skill, so he qualifies but has Marody’s problem (quickly! There’s no time!) as it pertains to an NHL career. Ostap Safin’s scouting report had plenty of skill and aggressiveness but he hasn’t been healthy and is following the Curtis Hamilton career path.
Patrick Russell qualifies under hard to play against and physical, I’ll add ‘coachable’ to the resume. Seth Griffith and Adam Cracknell can score goals and both can be a good replacement for Josh Currie because they can also play center. Raphael Lavoie is skilled and hard to play against, plus he’s the most talented scoring forward in the system. He is part of the future. Kirill Maksimov qualifies under skill and hard to play against, plus he has utility.
FIT THE HOLLAND-WRIGHT PLAN
- Dmitri Samorukov
- Evan Bouchard
- Theodore Lennstrom*
- William Lagesson
- Ryan McLeod
- Cooper Marody
- Tyler Benson
- Joe Gambardella
- Patrick Russell
- Raphael Lavoie*
- Kirill Maksimov
That’s a good list. Half of the team could fit into the description applied by Mr. Wright on draft day. The organization is also high on Stuart Skinner, making it an even dozen who would be bubbling under in Bakersfield in a normal year. Two of the names (*) were procured after Holland’s arrival.