It’s fitting Ryan McLeod will begin his career against the Winnipeg Jets, because the young center made it to the majors with fantastic wheels (he can almost fly!) and an ability to play in the middle.
Ryan McLeod earned it. The thing he needed to work on (go to the uncomfortable areas in order to score) appear to be accomplished and now he arrives in the NHL for his first game. For the Oilers organization, it’s a sign the system (draft, develop, graduate) works.
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.
- Lowetide: A look at the best value contracts on the 2021 Oilers, from Jesse Puljujarvi to Mike Smith
- Lowetide: Dominik Kahun’s season of struggle with the Oilers has a silver lining
- Lowetide: An early look at ideal Oilers’ free-agent targets for the offseason
- DNB: McDavid’s latest goal shows why he’s in a class of his own
- Lowetide: Why Oilers fans shouldn’t worry about Philip Broberg’s SHL season
- Lowetide: Let’s make a final call on the Oilers’ 2016 draft class
- DNB: Re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Free-agency targets? Oilers mailbag
- DNB: Oilers sign Dylan Holloway to ELC
- 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: Are the 2020-21 Oilers better than the 2016-17 team?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ top 20 prospects, trade deadline edition
OILERS AFTER 46 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 18-23-5, 41 points; goal differential -26
- Oilers in 2016-17: 24-15-7, 55 points; goal differential +6
- Oilers in 2017-18: 20-23-3, 43 points; goal differential -23
- Oilers in 2018-19: 22-21-3, 47 points; goal differential -7
- Oilers in 2019-20: 24-17-5, 53 points; goal differential -3
- Oilers in 2020-21: 27-16-2, 56 points; goal differential +14
Ten games into the season, two of the three playoff teams (2016-17 and 2019-20) were both 7-2-1 and had announced themselves. After 10, this year’s model was 4-6-0 with a goal differential of minus five. Since then, the 2020-21 club is 23-10-2, plus 19. Dave Tippett has delivered a strong year. You can tell because Oilers fans are merely wildly unhappy, with only the outliers calling for his resignation (I think).
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM APRIL
- At home to: Calgary (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- On the road to: Montreal, Ottawa, Ottawa, Calgary (Expected: 3-1-0) (Actual 2-1-1)
- On the road to: Winnipeg (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- At home to: Montreal, Montreal (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 1-1-0)
- 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)
- Expected April record: 7-4-0, 14 points in 11 games
- Actual April record: 5-2-1, 11 points in 8 games
I have the two teams splitting the next two games, suspect the Jets will have momentum tonight after a tough showing on the weekend. Mike Smith had a bit of a scare at practice on the weekend, Dmitry Kulikov will play and McLeod may be in the lineup.
I think Ken Holland and Dave Tippett have been focused lately on speed up front and trying to improve the center position. Here’s my suggestion for the forwards tonight (five on five pts-60):
- Dominik Kahun [1.2]-Connor McDavid [3.19]-Jesse Puljujarvi [1.32]
- Nuge [1.14]-Leon Draisaitl [2.62]-Kailer Yamamoto [1.46]
- Devin Shore [1.25]-Ryan McLeod (AHL)-Josh Archibald [0.82]
- James Neal [1.29]-Gaetan Haas [0.68]-Alex Chiasson [1.00]
Ideally he gets 97 or 29 but Tippett wants him at center and Shore plus Archibald are (imo) playing better than Neal and Chiasson right now. Kahun would also be interesting. Jets will be a fun team to face. I’d keep Nuge on the Draisaitl line, for the season at five on five Nuge is 2-1-3 in 66 minutes with LD (2.73 pts-60) and that’s a strong number. If those numbers fade, there’s either an injury we don’t know about (Nuge’s slump with 97 predates the recent injury and recovery) or this is a serious downturn in results that will impact RNH’s next contract. This is not a small sample size.
- Nuge with Draisaitl 2020-21: 2-1-3 in 65:58 (2.73 pts-60) five on five
- Nuge w/o Draisaitl 2020-21: 4-4-8 in 510:42 (0.94 pts-60) five on five
- Nuge with McDavid 2020-21: 4-3-7 in 386:46 (1.09 pts-60) five on five
DEVELOPMENT IN THE AHL
One never knows, but I think McLeod was handled pretty well in Bakersfield. The Oilers seem to have all of their prospect development arrows pointed in the right direction. Doesn’t mean everyone will succeed but consider these quotes from Oilers scouting director Kevin Prendergast in January of 2008:
- KP speaks on Rob Schremp: “We feel Robby’s skating at center is going to hurt him in the NHL. He just doesn’t possess that second gear.”
- KP speaks on Marc Pouliot: “We’ve moved Marc back to center he’s the #1 center down there now. Currently he’s playing with a bad shoulder at this point and still contributing. Kelly Buchberger has been working with him on things that coach MacTavish felt he had to work on. He has great hockey sense and an ability to make things happen.”
- KP speaks on Jean-Francois Jacques: “He got confused as to whether he should be an offensive player or a physical player. From our standpoint is we want him to be a physical player. We had a long talk a couple of weeks ago, and told him in order to make the NHL the physical play has to come back in there.”
One can never tell from a distance (insert Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors” here) but the verbal communicates some concerning messages here. Buchberger had lots of experience in working with prospects on MacTavish’s priorities? WHY was Schremp at center if that was part of his game? WHY was Jacques confused? Anyway, it’s pretty clear there are solid coaches in Bakersfield today.
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, we have an actual game to discuss! Our friend Murat Ates from The Athletic will join me at 10:20 to talk Jets-Oilers and Winnipeg’s difficult weekend. Jason Gregor from TSN1260 pops in at 11 to discuss the Oilers side, including Kulikov and McLeod. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!