Right after the 1979 entry draft, scouting director Barry Fraser said “we were very surprised when (Kevin) Lowe was still available when it came time for us to come up to bat.” Glen Sather also expressed surprise, using that old line about you can never have too many defensemen.
After that, the Oilers continued an aggressive plan to construct a high-octane offense based loosely on the phenomenal work of the Winnipeg Jets of the mid-70’s. Defense has rarely been the dominant trait of an Oilers team over more than 40 years.
There was a slight change in the weather at the draft table in 2015, and that trend has been ongoing in fits and starts since. Where is this thing 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 Jonathan Willis: Should the Oilers re-sign pending unrestricted free agent Tyson Barrie?
- Lowetide: Five Oilers prospects who deserve NHL tryouts now that the trade deadline has passed
- Lowetide: What are the Oilers’ ideal defensive pairings after picking up Dmitry Kulikov at the trade deadline
- DNB: Ken Holland’s quiet NHL trade deadline sets up Oilers for big moves later
- DNB: Why the Oilers not maximizing the trade deadline is both predictable and disappointing
- Jonathan Willis: What the Oilers are getting in trade deadline pickup Dmitry Kulikov: A cheap solution to a nagging problem
- Lowetide: What would the Oilers sacrifice if they traded their 2021 first-round pick?
- DNB: A year without Colby Cave
- DNB: To play them together or not? 97 and 29
- Lowetide: Are the 2020-21 Oilers better than the 2016-17 team?
- Lowetide: Evan Bouchard’s season of inactivity — what is the risk for the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Every major transaction Ken Holland has made as Oilers GM
- Lowetide: Oilers’ top 20 prospects, trade deadline edition
THE NEW ORDER
I’m trying to do two things this morning with this post. First, establish what the talent pool on defense will look like in the fall after the expansion draft and Oscar Klefbom’s decision. Second, I’d like to establish a time line for a fairly impressive group of young defensemen, focusing on NHL arrival.
- Lost to expansion: Caleb Jones. The Kraken and Jones are on a collision course.
- Oscar Klefbom: I expect he’ll return at some point in 2021-22, Edmonton welcoming him back and of course accounting for his cap hit.
- Adam Larsson: I think he’ll return.
- Tyson Barrie: He’ll sign for big dollars elsewhere.
- Dmitry Kulikov: He’ll sign elsewhere.
- Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear, Kris Russell, William Lagesson: Return.
- Evan Bouchard: Makes the team.
- Philip Broberg, Dmitri Samorukov, Markus Niemelainen, Phil Kemp, Filip Berglund and Mike Kesselring: Bakersfield or Edmonton.
That gets us to the 2020-21 Oilers opening night 7:
- Darnell Nurse-Ethan Bear
- Oscar Klefbom-Adam Larsson
- William Lagesson-Evan Bouchard
- Kris Russell
There’s little doubt the team will tweak in a spot or two, and I’m not convinced Ken Holland can get away from a Barrie extension. That said, this is the best available result considering the current options. I might try to get Kulikov on the roster and flush Russell depending on how well he plays. And the bubbling under Condors:
- Dmitri Samorukov-Filip Berglund
- Philip Broberg-Phil Kemp
- Markus Niemelainen-Mike Kesselring
This represents a lot of talent for a minor league team, with Samorukov and Broberg expected to play in the NHL. Niemelainen has been impressive this year, and I find Kemp’s game appears to be transferring smoothly to the AHL. Kesselring has a higher ceiling and he’s a bit of a raw talent but could land an NHL job during his entry deal. Here are the men who I have as Condors who could push Lagesson out in the fall, plus one option for RH defense if someone gets hurt:
I think it’s fair to suggest that Samorukov begins the race with a clear edge on Broberg, who might need to spend a year in the AHL (Oscar Klefbom spent most of the year in OKC when he was 20). There’s lots of talent here, and added to Bouchard, Bear and the others, Edmonton’s blueline pipeline might be the best in its 40+ year history.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
TSN1260 at 10 this morning, we’ll talk Oilers, Jays and more. Steve Lansky from Inside the Truck podcast and BigMouthSports will discuss the Canucks delayed return, Holland’s deadline and the stretch run in the Pacific Division. Hernan Salas from TSN1260 will talk Oilers at the deadline, Oil Kings’ Cossa and more. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!