The best spot for a prospect in the Oilers system right now? Scoring left winger. Fun fact: Since he arrived in Edmonton, Ken Holland’s Oilers have traded for James Neal, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis; signed Joakim Nygard and Dominik Kahun as free agents; and drafted Matej Blumel, Dylan Holloway, Carter Savoie, Maxim Berezkin, Jeremias Lindewall. That’s a lot of left wingers.
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: Why McDavid and Nuge together could be key to Oilers’ playoff success
- 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.
LEFT WING CLOCK
Ken Holland and Dave Tippett inherited a left wing depth chart that looked like this: Leon Draisaitl, Milan Lucic, Tobias Rieder (UFA), Jujhar Khaira, Tyler Benson, Joe Gambardella, Evan Polei (AHL deal), Braden Christoffer.
Heading into training camp 2020, the Oilers line up with Nuge, Kahun, Ennis, Neal, Nygard, Benson, Safin. The holdover is Benson.
Now, Holloway and Savoie are two years (or more) away from pro but both are interesting prospects who are getting the attention of the Oilers. Small sample for sure but three goals in two games (Savoie) and two in two (Holloway) is impressive full stop.
Clearly early days but some of these names are posting great totals. Konovalov, Lagesson and Bouchard are solid to excellent, Savoie super nova but small sample, Ryan McLeod terrific and anyone over 25 points NHLE among the forwards is doing well. For historical perspective, here are the top draft day NHLE’s by Edmonton’s high picks since 2010:
- Connor McDavid 25-42-67
- Taylor Hall 17-29-46
- Nail Yakupov 18-22-40
- Leon Draisaitl 15-25-40
- Kailer Yamamoto 16-22-38
- Ryan Nugent Hopkins 11-27-38
- Raphael Lavoie 12-15-27
- Ryan McLeod 10-17-27
- Tyler Benson 7-16-23
- Jesse Puljujarvi 10-11-21
Holy hell McDavid! It’s funny, you look at this list and wonder how in hell Yakupov missed, but he did. The top six are in a different tier and it doesn’t include young Jesse Puljujarvi, but there are plenty of ways to be useful and if he wins a job on a skill line in Edmonton he’ll score plenty (is my guess).
Does NHLE work? Well the junior numbers (as above) are pretty damn valuable, mostly because the players over 30 points NHLE coming out of junior are going to the NHL right away. Once a player turns 20 and then 21, there’s less of a chance that player will land on a skill line in the NHL. We’re seeing that with Tyler Benson now. Here are the 2018-19 numbers from March 2019. Notice the players over 30 points NHLE:
- RC Cooper Marody 12-30-42
- RW Jesse Puljujarvi 20-20-40
- LW Joe Gambardella 22-15-37
- LW Tyler Benson 8-28-36
- RW Kirill Maksimov 17-17-34
- RC Josh Currie 20-10-30
- RW Patrick Russell 14-16-30
- LC Ryan McLeod 8-19-27
- RW Kailer Yamamoto 15-11-26
- RW Dave Gust 12-11-23
- LW Ostap Safin 5-13-18
- RW Cam Hebig 8-9-17
- LW Evan Polei 8-8-16
- RC Tyler Vesel 4-10-14
- LW Graham McPhee 3-7-10
- RW J.D. Dudek 5-4-9
- LC Skyler Brind’Amour 3-6-9
- RC Aapeli Rasanen 5-2-7
Also notice the guy who made it, Kailer Yamamoto, didn’t have 30 points NHLE. That said, it was obvious to anyone who saw him in Bakersfield that Yamamoto was highly skilled. One of the questions I always have on these things is this: How many of the men listed here could rise to the level of pushing the river in the NHL? History suggests it’s extremely rare for a forward to spend extended time in the AHL and then emerge as an offensive force in the NHL.