I’ll plead guilty to missing Craig MacTavish’s media avails. He’s very bright but also a fine communicator. He married wit with clarity and a true gift for the one liner and it was magic. MacT also said things, smart things. Here are two:
October 2004: “We need, as an organization, an offensive player to step forward and become a star. We’re really hoping we have a number of players who have that capability. It’s still early yet for Ales Hemsky. It could be Raffi Torres. Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron has some pretty dynamic offensive skills. Defenseman Eric Brewer is a guy we need to step forward defensively to be an Adam Foote or Scott Stevens type of player. Those are lofty goals but you have to have that type of presence.”
August 9, 2007: “I think now we need either one more forward or we need one of our younger guys to develop, whether it’s (Andrew) Cogliano, whether it’s Robert Nilsson, whether it’s Robbie Schremp. It’s too early to put (Sam) Gagner in that list.”
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: Why Oilers fans should expect more trades and a deep playoff run this season
- 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
MacT pursued that ‘star player’ as a coach and later as a general manager in drafting Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl. He would have drafted Connor McDavid too, given the chance.
My question today is this: HOW MANY young players, drafted 2016 or later, have the potential to be a star? How many have the potential to be a skill player? If the prospect isn’t capable of those levels, and projects as a checker/role player, were they drafted late enough to justify the selection?
I would draft skill with every pick. Seriously. My list often delivers mock drafts full of undersized forwards who are speedy and skilled. That’s what I’d do. Trade the surplus, deploy the best ones.
- RHD Evan Bouchard. I can’t wait for his first full season. I haven’t done the final RE numbers yet but even with third pairing minutes and No. 2 PP time I expect he’ll post impressive boxcars.
- LW Dylan Holloway. His college season was so strong it looks possible Edmonton drafted a star player outside the top-10 overall. He could post strong offensive numbers as a winger on a line with 97 or 29, or possibly deliver as a two-way center.
- RW Jesse Puljujarvi. He scored 15 goals last season in 55 games, and his five on five goal differential was 42-38. He’s 6.04, 201 and runs over people for fun.
- LW Carter Savoie. His electric start for Denver (NCAA) confirmed what his AJHL numbers were screaming: Savoie is a natural born scorer. That skill is rare, and because of it Savoie lands in this category. He scored 13 goals in 24 games as a freshman, an outstanding total. If he tracks higher in year two, my guess is Edmonton signs Savoie and turns him pro. Goal scorers get the royal treatment every time.
- LW Tyler Benson. There’s nowhere else I can put him, so Benson lands where he belongs (among skilled men). If he gets a full chance in the NHL, say 50 games, I expect he’ll show enough to play 500. The Oilers have blocked him currently, suggesting to me that he will find his big league home elsewhere. If he comes to camp and does a “Brodziak 2007” we may see him thrive as an Oilers winger for years to come.
- RC Xavier Bourgault. I think the Oilers made a brilliant choice in this player. Efficient scorer, he posted 20 goals in 29 games and on 107 shots (18.7 shooting percentage, in the same range as Yamamoto at the same age). Bourgault also had 73 “dangerous shots” which is an innovative QMJHL stat that reflects high-danger. His even-strength totals (13-13-26 in 29 games) are also encouraging.
- LHD Philip Broberg. I expect much pushback on placing him here, but he’s tracking like Oscar Klefbom so what would you have me do? He’s big and fast, and last season in the SHL (3-10-13 in 44 games) showed offensive ability. Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson will help his development in Bakersfield and we’ll see. Oscar’s AHL season (1-9-10 in 48 games) didn’t show much offense but Broberg may play a bigger role (Klefbom had just one power-play assist in 2013-14).
- G Ilya Konovalov. I don’t usually rank goalies with the rest of the group, but in this case it makes sense. Konovalov has been playing very well in the world’s second best league for years now, and has a career save percentage in the KHL (.922) that should mean success in the AHL and eventually the NHL. He is small for an NHL goalie, so will need to overcome bias.
- F Raphael Lavoie. On his draft day I think there was at least some thought he would be a star player and that may happen. It’s less likely now, as his two seasons after the draft have been solid but unspectacular. If he delivers 10 goals in his first 20 AHL games this coming season, this rating will be incorrect. I suspect his development timeline may be longer than hoped.
- RW Kailer Yamamoto. He has posted 19-28-47 in 79 games over the last two seasons. A fantastic forechecker, he’s money with Draisaitl and he was 40-31 in five on five goal differential in 2020-21. Slumped last season, must show well, but I like his future if he stays healty.
- LC Ryan McLeod. Speedster has already played in the NHL and should find a home in the bottom-six in the next 12 months. The best thing about McLeod is that he’s been able to improve during his two pro seasons. He does many things well already in the NHL, led by retrieving loose pucks quickly and showing good position in coverage. The offense improved year over year in his AHL time, that’s something we’ll need to see at the NHL level.
- LHD Dmitri Samorukov. His shutdown ability may be front and center as early as this year’s training camp, as Tippett will be casting about in search of suppression help. Samorukov struggled in Bakersfield, flourished in Russia and I expect he’ll start back in California this fall. He could be an NHL player this time next year.
- RW Tyler Tullio. I’m a fan of this player, you can project him as a bottom-six forward (Red Line compared him to Paul Byron) with enough skill to score 10-15 goals while being a pain in the ass for opponents.