If things break right, the Oilers should be on the verge of building a pipeline of forwards that resembles the current state of the defense. It’s an important moment for a team that spent most of the last 20 years zipping through the prospects at lightning speed. Plug in, flush out and then fire the Pääjärvi, since about 2006.
It’s a bad way to go. You can’t possibly give everyone enough time to show what they can do. From Andrew Cogliano to Magnus Pääjärvi to Nail Yakupov, the Oilers were seemingly incapable of bringing even talented, early selection forwards along at pace.
I think the turn started in about 2013, you may have another date in mind. The scouts were finding solid prospects outside the first round, and embarking on a strong run of first-round selections. By 2015, the interesting prospects chosen outside the first round were legit NHL prospects, and the final fast-track first rounder was Evan Bouchard in 2018-19.
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’s the latest!
- Lowetide: The 7 Oilers roster spots GM Ken Holland must improve this offseason
- Lowetide: Caleb Jones, Oilers reach crossroads that could land Jones in Seattle
- Lowetide: What will Oilers do if they must replace Oscar Klefbom?
- Jonathan Willis: What comes next for the Oilers’ Jesse Puljujarvi?
- Lowetide: Why Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod and more prospects are options for Oilers in 2021-22
- DNB: Ten teams the Oilers should be targeting for trades ahead of the Kraken expansion draft
- Lowetide: How Ken Holland’s transaction history could foreshadow the Oilers summer to come
- Lowetide: How close to NHL-ready is Oilers prospect Dmitri Samorukov?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations eat dust during Connor McDavid’s dream season
- Jonathan Willis: Why some of the most popular moves Ken Holland could make would be mistakes
- Lowetide: Why huge Oil Kings goalie Sebastian Cossa could be the perfect first-round fit for the Oilers
- DNB: What I’m hearing about the Oilers’ plans for the Kraken draft
- Lowetide: The Oilers must decide now what to do about the Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl dilemma
- Lowetide: What is Kailer Yamamoto’s future fit on the Oilers’ depth chart?
- DNB: What a perfect offseason could look like for the Edmonton Oilers
- Lowetide: What now for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?
I posted this on twitter last night, it was interesting that most of the reaction came in regard to St. Louis’ style compared to Yamamoto. Important to note we aren’t talking about what style these men play(ed), we’re talking about results and finding comparable players from the past to guide us.
I wanted to post it today in order to drive home the importance of draft and successful development. Before I make the point, allow me to post the same graph for Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton’s other skill right winger.
I could have used several names but this one fit on several levels and both show up on each other’s comp list. If Puljujarvi has a career that is close to Granlund (591 games, per 82GP: 17-36-53) offensively, and is a bull in a china shop as he was a year ago, that’s a guy who can help you win.
The 2020-21 season was draft plus five for Puljujarvi, who went 55, 15-10-25 (.45 pts-game). In the same season, Granlund posted 63, 8-33-41 (.65). He would run in place for a couple of seasons before spiking.
So, Yamamoto is going to sign a contract this summer, let’s place it at two years, with a $2.2 million AAV ($2 million year one, $2.4 year two). Puljujarvi enters the final year of his deal at $1.175 million this fall. So, Edmonton’s skill right wingers will cost $3.375 million toward the cap. That’s fantastic! Music!
It’s temporary. The smart man is planning ahead, and that’s why I can’t use recent Oilers history in this example.
If Puljujarvi drills 25 goals next season and solidifies his role as a top-six giant man, his agent is going to be asking for a long contract with a higher crooked number than we’re anticipating. Although Ken Holland didn’t draft him, there’s an investment of time and resources attached to the player and his success is a reflection of good work. A good season gets paid, a great one will get paid well.
Yamamoto has more to prove based on his final weeks of last season, but in his most recent 82 NHL regular season games, he’s 19-28-47. If he does that two more times, he’s going to get a nice contract too.
If one blossoms and the other fades, Holland is going to need a plug-and-play option by the fall of 2022. If both blossom, there will be a big payday for JP in 2022 summer, and another for Yamamoto the following year.
Edmonton may not be able to afford both men. What will the organization have pushing for NHL work on a skill line by the summer of 2022? 2023?
OILERS DEPTH CHART AUGUST, 2018
Edmonton had been playing the hell out of Cam Talbot for three seasons, that was about to change with the addition of Mikko Koskinen. The left side of the defense needed Andrej Sekera to play 82 games (he would play 24).
The big right-wing addition (Tobias Rieder) didn’t score a goal all year. Ty Rattie (who would score four goals in 50 games), Jesse Puljujarvi (who would score four goals in 46 games), Kailer Yamamoto (one goal in 17 games) and Zack Kassian (15 goals in 79 games) appeared to round out the group.
Chiarelli saved the position by signing Alex Chiasson right at the beginning of October ($650,000, Edmonton had no cap room) and he would score 22 goals. In November, he would trade Ryan Strome, and Edmonton had no obvious recall option when Todd McLellan decided (early and correctly) Spooner wasn’t going to he his No. 3 center.
Let’s use Edmonton’s current ‘winger’ situation as an entire segment, as in adding left and right wing and treating that group as a whole. I’m going to assume Nuge signs and add Tomas Tatar as a proxy for what the depth chart may look like in August, 2021:
- Tomas Tatar (McDavid line)
- Jesse Puljujarvi (McDavid line)
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Draisaitl line)
- Kailer Yamamoto (Draisaitl line)
Now, the pipeline has no LW or RW skill options who could post a 22-goal season like Chiasson did in 2018-19 (he is a free agent), although Zack Kassian and James Neal have experience playing on skill lines. Josh Archibald does slide up from time to time but wouldn’t be considered a long-term option.
Currently bubbling under are two veteran AHLers (Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody), both of whom are RFA and will be waiver eligible.
From there, the depth chart (this is my estimate) goes Dylan Holloway, Raphael Lavoe, Kirill Maksimov, Ostap Safin and Seth Griffith.
That’s an improving depth chart, and one hopes Benson and or Marody emerges in the NHL this season, while Holloway and Lavoie make enough progress to be (at least) in the conversation for NHL work some time in the 2022-23 season.
There have been times in Edmonton’s history the young winger depth chart was ridiculous. It was one reason Miro Satan slipped through the cracks. Consider this group from 1995-96:
- LW Zdeno Ciger: Scored 31 goals at age 25.
- RW David Oliver: Seventh-round pick scored 20 goals in second full season.
- LW Miro Satan: Scored 18 goals at age 20 in 62 games. On depth lines.
- LW Dean McAmmond: Speed demon popped 15, age 22.
- RW Mariusz Czerkawski: Scored 12 goals in 37 games after coming over in the Ranford trade.
- LW Ryan Smyth: Just two goals at age 19, he would score 39 the following season.
That’s two extra skill wingers on the roster, and the club added Steve Kelly at the 1995 draft. The turnover rate in those years was crazy (because money), with Smyth, Andrei Kovalenko, Czerkawski and Satan (until he was traded).
His final rankings are up! They are are.
The Oilers aren’t there yet, but the AHL team has legit candidates. That alone represent progress.