This is a fun time of year for fans of hockey teams in playoff contention. The day-to-day activity of the season holds sway and the first sleepy stretches of the offseason can be heard from a distance.
In the past, Edmonton’s announcements were mostly about distant bells coming over from Europe (“Oilers sign Anton Belov!”) or someone the pro scouts loved at the World Championships and thought they were a solution for the top-four blue (“Oilers sign Anton Belov!”).
This spring there’s some real talent outside the NHL, from the taxi squad in Edmonton to the bonny bonny banks of Pardubice, better known in these parts as a town called Hemsky.
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 DNB: What are the Oilers’ pressing questions ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft?
- New Lowetide: Why Raphael Lavoie could be a perfect fit for the Oilers in 2021-22
- Lowetide: Oilers complete April report card
- DNB and Murat Ates: Edmonton vs. Winnipeg: Five things the season series taught us about how they match up
- Lowetide: What Kris Russell does well and how the Oilers deploy him
- DNB: A 2nd Hart Trophy is firmly in Connor McDavid’s grasp
- Jonathan Willis: Which Oilers need to step up down the stretch?
- DNB: Get ready for Ryan McLeod
- Lowetide: A look at the best value contracts on the 2021 Oilers
- 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 50 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 19-26-5, 43 points; goal differential -28
- Oilers in 2016-17: 27-15-8, 62 points; goal differential +14
- Oilers in 2017-18: 22-24-4, 48 points; goal differential -27
- Oilers in 2018-19: 23-24-3, 49 points; goal differential -13
- Oilers in 2019-20: 26-18-6, 57 points; goal differential 0
- Oilers in 2020-21: 30-17-2, 62 points; goal differential +19
Just look at the 2016-17 record and goal differential. That team caught fire around game 47 and are at this point in the season an actual rocket. The 2020-21 team is 27-11-2 in the last 40, that’s damned good.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN MAY
- At home to: Calgary (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- On the road to: Vancouver, Vancouver (Expected: 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Vancouver, Vancouver (Expected 1-0-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Montreal, Montreal (Expected 0-1-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Vancouver (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Expected May record: 4-2-2, 10 points in 8 games
- Actual May record: 1-0-0, 2 points in 1 game
It’s difficult to predict these games, as I assume we’ll begin seeing veterans rested and a caravan of part-timers thrown into the mix. There’s also a big part of the future (Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg) on the taxi squad and Bouchard is eligible for the playoffs. I imagine the coaching staff will want to make sure he can still skate backwards (he’s excellent at it by the way).
WHERE WILL THEY LAND?
This is one of my favourite times of year because we can begin to jigsaw puzzle the opening night roster together for the fall. Over the next week or so, I’m going to fill in my guess for opening night in Edmonton and Bakersfield. I’ll start with the men who are prospects on my top 20 list and we’ll play things out (RFA, UFA, trades) over the week.
OILERS GRADUATES FROM THE FARM
I don’t see a lot of youngsters playing for Edmonton opening night 2021-22. I see the club deploying three men on the roster who are not yet established as NHL players. Bouchard won’t be a rookie, McLeod and Benson will be eligible for the Calder Trophy.
GRADUATES TO THE FARM
I don’t see the Oilers running Holloway on a checking line in the NHL and suspect the No. 2 LW job will go to an expensive free agent. I have Holloway starting the season in Bakersfield.
Samorukov and Broberg start in California because Bouchard is the plug and play defenseman for the first 30 or so games. Konovalov is likely to spend the first season in Bakersfield.
THE POINT AFTER
It started before Holland arrived, but the general manager has changed the pace for prospects to graduate. The slower rate of ascension is galling to many fans, and I understand the frustration over Bouchard’s second half of 2020-21, but overall the benefits are coming into view.
We’re not talking Anton Belov today but rather we’re discussing Samorukov and Broberg. These are (possibly) five and ten year solutions. Same with Benson. People are down on him because he doesn’t project as a top-six winger, but it’s possible he arrives on the third line and moves up as he finds ways to use his skills at the highest level.
My projection has Benson replacing Jesse Puljujarvi from the opening night 2020-21 roster as No. 3 left wing, McLeod replacing Turris, Bouchard replacing one of the current trio as No. 3 RHD.
On the farm, the next group of very talented players are matriculating. This is normal, this is proper. It’s been so long for Oilers fans, they’ve witnessed so many fast-track graduations, normal looks radical.
This is the way.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN 1260, we tee up the Canucks-Oilers and talk expansion draft. Daniel Nugent-Bowman from The Athletic will discuss his article on Edmonton’s Kraken decisions and the most likely loss, and Jason Gregor from TSN 1260 will preview tonight’s game at 11. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter.