I’m very much looking forward to Evan Bouchard’s first full season in the NHL. From cherry passes to skill centers that are so fine the big worry is surprise, to majestic floating smiley pucks available for deflecting by Edmonton’s wingers, Bouchard is a volume offensive opportunity generator. Bouchard thinks the offensive game so well, and the Oilers have so many fine-to-elite pieces already, this is going to be a blast.
The best thing of all? Bouchard is a lock for the team. Not all of the youngsters you’re expecting to see opening night will be in the lineup, or even on the roster, and it’s possible some of them don’t see Edmonton at all in 2021-22.
Bouchard? He’s a made man. Starting in October.
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!
- New Lowetide: How much playing time will Evan Bouchard get with the Oilers this coming season?
- Lowetide: What are reasonable expectations for the 2021-22 Oilers?
- Lowetide: What are the Oilers’ ‘perfect lines’ for next season?
- Lowetide: The Oilers and value contracts. Three now, two later
- Jonathan Willis: A resurgent Zack Kassian could be an important part of the Oilers’ scoring
- Lowetide: Oilers sign Darnell Nurse to a massive 8-year contract extension
- Lowetide: How many goals will Jesse Puljujarvi score for the Oilers next season?
- Lowetide: 8 unsigned free agents who could help the Oilers
- DNB: Rating the Oilers’ offseason
- Lowetide: What are Oilers’ ideal defence pairings for 2021-22?
- Lowetide: The future may come early for three Oilers prospect defencemen
- DNB: What I’m hearing about the Oilers offseason, 4.0
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers 2021-22 depth chart
- Lowetide: Warren Foegele acquisition possible key to improving the Oilers third line
- DNB: Ethan Bear on being traded, his time with the Oilers
- DNB: Ethan Bear out, Cody Ceci in, Tyson Barrie stays
- DNB: ‘Ultimate competitor’ Zach Hyman signs with Oilers
- Lowetide: Oilers top 20 prospects, summer 2021
- DNB: Oilers draft day notebook
- Jonathan Willis: Zach Hyman, by the numbers
- Lowetide: 5 players outside the NHL who could help the Oilers
- Lowetide: Why Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard is poised to exceed expectations
There are 17 names here, barring injury I expect each of them will be dressed for opening night 2021-22. I’m not sure the lines will be as we’ve discussed over the summer, but the pairings seem baked in—at least for now. I think it’s important to acknowledge that we’re so far into the offseason there’s not much chance of a huge change. Phil Kessel isn’t coming to Edmonton, Anton Khudobin will remain deep in the heart of Texas and Zdeno Chara hasn’t returned my calls.
This is it. If we can agree that the top two lines, top two pairings, starting goalie and No. 3 center are the heart of the order, then these Edmonton Oilers are complete. Are they better? I think they are if you believe forwards drive the results, and smart people tell me that’s the case. Me? I’m fascinated by the bet on defense. Management and coaching decided last year’s six were not enough, and made significant changes to the second and third pairings. Did Ken Holland check up, check down, or check out? We’ll find out.
There are six spots open for the ‘uncertain’ group, but in reality we can name our guesses from this list and sans injury hit top dead center. Yamamoto’s contract could take some time but one suspects it will get done. So, the final six are Yamamoto, McLeod, Shore, Benson, Perlini and Koekkoek. There’s a chance Edmonton goes with 8D, meaning Lagesson makes it over one of Benson or Perlini.
The two interesting names who could impact things are Kyle Turris, who is apparently lifting cars over his head on Jasper Avenue is preparation for training camp, and Samorukov. If Turris shows up healthy and moving the puck well, as center or right-winger, it could change the dynamic on the No. 3 line. Samorukov could force his way into an opening night assignment, but it would take outstanding performances in preseason and an injury to one of Russell, Koekkoek or Lagesson. Those KHL even strength goal differential numbers, if they reflect real progress, will make Samorukov extremely noticeable in this group.
Holloway was the toughest choice, but I think distant bell is the best description. That isn’t a knock, but based on the depth chart and Holland’s slow-playing prospects, this is the spot for him. If he makes the roster, it will be a monster story and this slotting reflects the difficult journey he will have this fall. If he makes it, he’ll have earned it.
Lavoie, Safin and Maksimov are extremely unlikely to make the opening night roster, yet each will write their own story in Bakersfield. The next gen wingers (Holloway, Lavoie, Savoie) pecking order is not yet established and there’s some room for Safin and Maksimov to slide in to the conversation. Their Bakersfield numbers will tell us how they’re doing, it’s a big year for both men.
Finally, the names in red caps are the invites listed on Edmonton’s site so far. I imagine there will be some additional names, but as of this instant the number of players listed here is 52.
Scott Wheeler has his NHL Top 50 prospects list up this morning, there are a couple of Oilers ranked. I have a piece coming later today at The Athletic on one of them.