The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames started building their respective futures at the 2015 draft. Edmonton took Connor McDavid No. 1 overall, traded for goalie Cam Talbot and signed defenseman Andrej Sekera in free agency. Calgary drafted extremely well leading up to it (Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan) and made a brilliant trade at the 2015 draft for Dougie Hamilton.
By 2016-17 both teams made the playoffs with rosters that boasted outstanding young talent. Calgary had a 23 and under group (Hamilton, Gaudreau, Monahan, Sam Bennett, Matt Tkachuk) that looked formidable, while the Oilers boasted McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse and three players who were 23 (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson) and had many productive years ahead.
As the 2020-21 season winds down, the empire remains under construction and several of the original key pieces are gone or going.
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: The Oilers’ big decision on defence — Caleb Jones or William Lagesson?
- New Lowetide: Oilers March report card
- Jonathan Willis: Who says no? NHL execs evaluate your Oilers trade proposals for Taylor Hall, John Gibson and more
- Lowetide: Lowetide’s Oilers trade deadline quiz: Test your knowledge
- Lowetide: Scouring the hockey world for a left winger for the Oilers’ skill line
- Lowetide: How the Oilers could benefit at the trade deadline from relaxed quarantine rules
- Lowetide: Every major transaction Ken Holland has made as Oilers GM
- Jonathan Willis: Five questions the Oilers need to answer by the NHL trade deadline
- Lowetide: Carter Savoie’s college season suggests Oilers could have a real goal scoring prospect
- Lowetide: Has Oilers goalie prospect Stuart Skinner turned a corner?
- Lowetide: Where does Zack Kassian fit on the Oilers, now and in the future?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ midseason depth chart informs their needs for trade deadline and beyond
- Jonathan Willis: A position-by-position look at the Oilers after 30 games
- Lowetide: How will Oilers GM Ken Holland make room in the lineup for Evan Bouchard?
- Lowetide: Are the Oilers and Elvis Merzlikins a trade match?
- Lowetide: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Dominik Kahun, Dylan Holloway and a perfect storm on the Oilers’ left side
- Lowetide: Why Oilers GM Ken Holland shouldn’t wait for the deadline to make a trade
- Lowetide: Three Oilers prospects form hottest line in the AHL
- Lowetide: Oilers’ top 20 prospects, trade deadline edition
- Lowetide: Why are some Oilers fans hesitant to give Darnell Nurse his due?
- Jonathan Willis: Can Oilers improve enough to beat TML it in May?
- Lowetide: Top trade targets for the Oilers at the 2021 deadline
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers 2021 trade value rankings
- Lowetide: Is this peak Connor McDavid?
OILERS AFTER 38 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 15-20-3, 33 points; goal differential -21
- Oilers in 2016-17: 19-12-7, 45 points; goal differential +6
- Oilers in 2017-18: 17-18-3, 37 points; goal differential -7
- Oilers in 2018-19: 18-17-3, 39 points; goal differential -6
- Oilers in 2019-20: 19-15-4, 42 points; goal differential -4
- Oilers in 2020-21: 22-14-1, 45 points; goal differential +13
Is this team better than 2016-17? Impossible to know because the opponents are so different this year. We can say it’s a conversation worth having.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN APRIL
- At home to: Calgary (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Montreal, Ottawa, Ottawa (Expected: 2-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Vancouver, Vancouver (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Winnipeg (Expected 0-1-0) Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Montreal, Montreal (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Winnipeg, Winnipeg (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Calgary (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Vancouver (make up game) (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Expected April record: 8-5-0, 16 points in 13 games
- Actual April record: 0-0-0
This would put Edmonton at 30-19-1 after 50 games, 61 points with six more games on the schedule. In other words, Edmonton should land safely inside the playoffs. I’ll say third, but any of the four spots is possible. Those Calgary and Vancouver games will be massive, I have it 4-1-0 Edmonton for the month against those two teams.
The Flames have delivered an uneven draft performance since Tkachuk was taken in 2016, although Juuso Valimaki (2017) looks like he’ll be something if he can stay healthy. The team dealt Dougie Hamilton but received good if not quite equal value in Noah Hanifan and Elias Lindholm. Many of the team’s trade targets (Alex Chiasson, Curtis Lazar, Brian Elliott, Mike Stone, Mike Smith, Travis Hamonic, Eddie Lack, Milan Lucic) were either a mixed blessing, an overpay, or no blessing at all.
The hiring of Darryl Sutter likely indicates a series of “Calgary trades Dillon Dube and a second round selection for Carson Soucy” deals designed to improve the short term and acquire rugged players that match his style. The price? Skill.
Frank Seravalli from TSN had some news on the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins negotiations yesterday on the Insiders. Seravalli said “no meaningful progress, but it’s not for a lack of trying. I’m told the Oilers tabled a recent offer to Nugent-Hopkins and his camp, but it was one that wasn’t flattering.” Huh. Ryan Rishaug from TSN was speculating previously he thought the contract discussions were in the $6.0 to $6.5 million range.
That’s a very large price to pay, has to be at least a little beyond the outer marker. I think, but I don’t know, that we might be heading for a large group of UFA’s being walked this summer, just as RFA’s were walked for fear of arbitration awards. Put another way, the Nuge-Oilers love affair may not survive Covid-19’s impact on the NHL salary cap.
POSSIBLE NON-NUGE ROSTER, 2021-22
The following moves were made to make room: James Neal buyout, dealt William Lagesson for a fourth-round pick, signed Ullmark, Barrie, Laughton, Tatar, Granlund, around $19 million. Did NOT sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson, Mike Smith, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Ennis, Gaetan Haas for a total of $15.7 million sent away. That plus the Neal buyout ($3.83 million) got me there. I have been informed by a very smart person there’s a better way than buyout out Neal, I’m still working on that idea and will have it for you on our next visit.
2021 DRAFT UPDATE
I am plugging along on the 2021 list, I should be able to provide you with a top 50 by the end of April. That means drilling down on the USHL, NCAA and Europe. I have managed to cobble together a top-10 overall for each of the Canadian leagues. Here they are.
- LC Mason McTavish Peterborough Petes and Swiss League. A pure goal scorer with a power forward’s tools. Fantastic shooter, good speed, hard worker.
- RD Brandt Clarke Barrie Colts and Slovakian League. Puck-moving defenseman with terrific speed and good size (6.01, 185).
- LD Daniil Chayka Guelph Storm and KHL. Fine skater, 6.03, 185, he’s a two-way defender who will play big minutes wherever he lands.
- LC Francesco Pinelli, Kitchener Rangers and Alps Hockey League. Smart, high skilled center who passes well and has plus speed. 5.11
- LW Brennan Othmann, Fint Firebirds and Swiss League. The best first-shot scorer among wingers in the OHL who are draft eligible.
- LC Brett Harrison, Oshawa Generals. A two-way center with good speed and a solid reputation for good penalty killing.
- RW Chase Stillman, Sudbury Wolves. At 5.11, 170 he has plus speed and is effective in all game disciplines.
- RC Connor Lockhart, Erie Otters. Probably the best skater among draft-eligible forwards in the OHL this year, his offense has lagged so far.
- RC Wyatt Johnson, Windsor Spitfires. Skill center posted solid offensive numbers and showed second half improvement.
- LD Ethan Dal Mastro, Mississauga Steelheads. A big, strong shutdown blue with good speed. He can transport the puck but is not a refined offensive player.
- RW Dylan Guenther, Edmonton Oil Kings. 6.01, 181. Has exceptional hands, very skilled, fast and quick. Great skater, has pure goal-scoring ability.
- RC Ryder Korczak, Moose Jaw Warriors. He’s 5.11, 170 and the top play-making center in the WHL this season.
- G Sebastian Cossa, Edmonton Oil Kings. 6.06, 207. He’s a giant goaltender with great athleticism.
- LW Eric Alarie, Moose Jaw Warriors. 6.01, 196. Big strong power winger with plus skill, he can pass well and is a good shooter.
- RC Logan Stankoven, Kamloops Blazers. 5.07, 165. He’s my kind of player, a demon on the forecheck with plus skills. Great passer.
- LW Conner Roulette, Seattle Thunderbirds. He has good hands and speed, can score goals and has a sixth sense for offense.
- LD Carson Lambos, Winnipeg Ice. A big man already (6.01, 200) he is a fine skater and can be deployed in any situation.
- LD Olen Zellweger, Everett Silvertips. He is undersized (5.09, 165) but very skilled and is enjoying a fast start to his season.
- LD Nolan Allan, Prince Albert Raiders. A big (6.02, 190) defender with good speed, lots of skill but the numbers are shy. It’s early.
- LD Graham Sward, Spokane Chiefs. He’s 6.02, 169 with plenty of room to grow. Physical shutdown blue with mobility.
- LC Zachary Bolduc, Rimouski Oceanic. A fairly complete talent, his offense is the main calling card but he is developing as a two-way center/wing. 25 NHLE
- LW Zachary L’Heureux, Halifax Mooseheads. Power forward is a streaky scorer who has an idea how to play away from the puck. 25.6 NHLE
- RC Xavier Bourgault, Shawinigan Cataractes. One of the older players in the draft (October 2002), there’s just too much offense (20-17-37 in 28 games) to ignore. 30.8 NHLE
- RW Oliver Nadeau, Shawinigan Cataractes. He is enjoying a splendid season, posting 33, 10-31-41 so far this year. More bull than beauty, he is effective.
- LD Evan Nause, Quebec Remparts. Two-way defender is 6.02, 186 and spiking offensively. He’s a fine passer, plays big minutes. 16.0
- RC Justin Robidas, Val d’Or Foreurs. He’s Yvan Cournoyer small, but a fantastic talent (17-17-34 in 34 games) and an absolute bullet on skates. 23.3 NHLE
- LW James Malatesta, Quebec Remparts. Speedy winger is small (5.09) but plays a rugged style and is a plus goal scorer. 16.7 NHLE.
- RC Riley Kidney, Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Another skill pivot, he’s 10-17-27 in 24 QMJHL games this season. He is a good skater.
- LW Viljami Marjala, Quebec Remparts. C-LW is highly skilled and a creative playmaker.
- LC Lorenzo Canonica, Shawinigan Cataractes. Another skill center, he is one of the best skaters in the QMJHL draft pool this year.
Non-zero chance he gets claimed. Ennis is a handy player. I’m onboard as liking Holland’s work for the most part, this move seems unnecessarily risky. We find out in 90 minutes.