The trick is to stay in the AHL a minimal amount of time. Recent grad Kailer Yamamoto spent 50 games in Bakersfield, that’s ideal for a drafted forward on his way to a career on an NHL skill line. That’s the fast track.
The slow track? Jujhar Khaira spent 127 games in the minors, never a threat to play on an NHL skill line.
Jesse Puljujarvi played in 53 AHL games and won’t be back. Tyler Benson? 120 and another year to go on his entry deal. What does the past tell us about these farm workers?
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: How secure is Zack Kassian’s role on Oilers’ top line?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ signing of Slater Koekkoek could be about more than depth
- Lowetide: Why fans should expect an Oilers playoff berth in Canadian division
- Jonathan Willis: Dave Tippett has more options now thanks to versatile Oilers forwards
- Lowetide: 7 big questions facing the Oilers heading into next season
- Lowetide: What if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doesn’t sign with the Oilers?
- Jonathan Willis: Left-side logjam will force the Oilers to make a choice, and perhaps a sacrifice
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s 2020 Oilers offseason report card
- Lowetide: Theodor Lennstrom is the Oilers’ latest European bet on defence
- Lowetide: Why Anton Forsberg could win the Oilers’ backup job in 2020-21
- Jonathan Willis: Team Draft vs. Team Trade: Which collection of all-time Oilers is better?
- Lowetide: Seattle Kraken expansion mock draft 5.0: Who could the Oilers lose?
- Lowetide: Why McDavid and Nuge together could be key to Oilers’ playoff success
- Lowetide: Projected training camp roster for the 2020-21 Oilers..
AHL FORWARDS OF RECENT VINTAGE (POINTS-GAME)
Anton Lander (215 NHL games), Anton Slepyshev (102 NHL games) and Jesse Puljujarvi (139 NHL games) all reached 1.00 per game at the AHL level during their entry deals. In two cases, it did not result in an NHL career but the Lander pick (second rounder) and Slepyshev selection (third round) are successful based on their draft number.
Yamamoto never got close to a point per game, but was a dynamic player at the AHL level and delivered when recalled to the NHL this past season.
Benson got close to a point per game in the AHL as a rookie and didn’t play a game in the NHL that season. What does that tell us? Let’s review the pertinent bullet points from the Farm Workers series.
If a prospect can establish himself as an AHL regular at 20, it bodes well for an NHL career, but does not guarantee it.
As a rookie, Tyler Benson became the tenth real prospect since 2010 to play as a regular in the Oilers system at age 20 (Teemu Hartikainen, Tyler Pitlick, Magnus Paajarvi, Martin Marincin, Martin Gernat, Bogdan Yakimov, Jujhar Khaira, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones). NHL regulars from that list of 10 include Tyler Pitlick, Jujhar Khair, Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear. Magnus Paajarvi spent several years as a regular. Oilers prospects who emerged in the AHL at 20 have been averaging about 50 percent success in climbing the NHL hill.
Pretty much everyone who is in the AHL past 21 is having some issues and may spend time meandering.
Tyler Benson lost Cooper Marody as his center in year two, and the offense faltered. That suggests a complementary player and when Benson arrived in the NHL for his first audition in 2019-20 his most common linemates were Riley Sheahan and Josh Archibald. The die is cast, or so it would appear.
If you haven’t established yourself as a prospect by age 22, you’re in trouble. The players who will be successful have played at least some games in the NHL during entry deals.
This brings us to Jesse Puljujarvi, age 22. Trouble is too strong a word, but we don’t know where he’ll land on the depth chart. Beginning with his draft year, JP’s NHL equivalencies were 21, 29, 25, 16, 35 and 28. We know he scores well with McDavid, will he get the chance? Does Dave Tippett run Tyler Ennis in right wing? Kassian? Archibald? Neal?
I think most of us believe JP will run on a third line with Kyle Turris. In a 56-game season, would you consider 20 points (say, 9-11-20) a successful season offensively for the big Finn?
CHL DRAFT-YEAR POINTS PER GAME (OILERS FORWARDS PICKS)
- Connor McDavid (OHL) age 17: 47 games, 44-76-120 (2.55)
- Leon Draisaitl (WHL) age 17: 64 games, 38-67-105 (1.64)
- Kailer Yamamoto (WHL) age 17: 65 games, 42-57-99 (1.52)
- Raphael Lavoie (QMJHL) age 17: 62 games, 32-41-73 (1.18)
- Tyler Tullio (OHL) age 17: 62 games, 27-39-66 (1.06)
- Ryan McLeod (OHL) age 17: 68 games, 26-44-70 (1.03)
- Tyler Benson (WHL) age 17: 30 games, 9-19-28 (0.93)
- Kirill Maksimov (OHL) age 17: 66 games, 21-17-38 (0.58)
DEVIN SHORE, RYAN STANTON
Devin Shore is another candidate for one of Edmonton’s depth line roles in 2020-21, and is likely competition for Jujhar Khaira at No. 4 center. Here’s the current list of players who could win the job, with NHL experience in 82-game notation:
- Devin Shore: 11-19-30, 45.6 percent faceoffs, 10.5 percent shooting percentage
- Alan Quine: 8-14-22, 46.8 percent faceoffs, 8.0 percent shooting percentage
- Jujhar Khaira: 8-11-19, 45.4 percent faceoffs, 9.1 percent shooting percentage
- Gaetan Haas: 7-7-14, 42.2 percent faceoffs, 9.3 percent shooting percentage
Shore’s five on five points per 60 over the last three seasons is 1.24; Khaira is 1.19. Quine is 1.08. Haas is 0.81, and will be delayed for camp due to Covid protocols. If I’m a betting man, I keep my money in pocket. Khaira is the incumbent but beyond penalty killing and some strong shifts with James Neal and Alex Chiasson in the summer bubble against the Chicago Blackhawks, this looks like a training camp sprint for all involved.
Ryan Stanton is a quality AHL defenseman and a solid addition to Edmonton’s training camp roster.
OILERS TRAINING CAMP ROSTER (40)
Goalies (5): Mikko Koskinen, Mike Smith, Anton Forsberg, Stuart Skinner, Dylan Wells
Defense (12): Darnell Nurse-Ethan Bear; Caleb Jones-Adam Larsson; Kris Russsell-Tyson Barrie; Slater Koekkoek-Evan Bouchard; Theodor Lennstrom-William Lagesson; Markus Niemelainen-Ryan Stanton.
Forwards (23): Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Dominik Kahun, Kailer Yamamoto, Zack Kassian, Tyler Ennis, Kyle Turris, Jesse Puljujarvi, Josh Archibald, Alex Chiasson, James Neal, Jujhar Khaira, Joakim Nygard, Ryan McLeod, Gaetan Haas, Tyler Benson, Devin Shore, Adam Cracknell, Cooper Marody, Patrick Russell, Alan Quine, Seth Griffith.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
It’s a busy morning on TSN1260, beginning at 10. Bruce McCurdy from the Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal will join me to talk about the additions of Koekoek, Shore and Stanton, plus his choice as “good surprise” coming out of Oilers camp in the coming weeks. Dom Luszczyszyn from The Athletic talks about his Oilers preview and a better roster in 2020-21 for Edmonton. At 11, Joe Osborne from OddsShark will join us to talk NFL’s final week, how these playoff matches could turn and NBA talk surrounds the tough start for Toronto Raptors. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!