There are 23 spots available for the opening night Oilers roster, and I count 33 players with at least a five percent chance to make the roster. That’s five goalies, 11 defensemen and 17 forwards. Here’s Riesen to Believe, stage one.
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: What should Oilers fans expect from Zach Hyman in his first season?
- Lowetide: Dylan Holloway headlines new arrivals for Bakersfield Condors in 2021-22
- Lowetide: Will the Ethan Bear trade be the latest shortsighted move that haunts the Oilers?
- 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?
- DNB: Rating the Oilers’ offseason
- Lowetide: What are Oilers’ ideal defence pairings for 2021-22?
- 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: Why Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard is poised to exceed expectations
- Mike Smith, 39. He just signed a two-year deal so is a lock for the roster, with the only worry being injury. Since he missed the start of last season (first game almost a month after the beginning of the year) I’ve nicked his chances some. Injury is the worry early, middle and late, along with erosion. Chances of making team: 85%.
- Mikko Koskinen, 33. I’m not as down on him as many who observe the Oilers, but will admit the club is likely to move on from him by or at the deadline. He could surprise, the man is a giant, but if his SP is .915 or lower as Holland approaches the deadline, I don’t think he can afford to throw the dice with these two again. Chances of making team: 85%.
- Alex Stalock, 34. He hasn’t played an NHL game since March 7, 2020 and has to be considered a wildcard. He’s coming to camp with the right team, though. I can see him making the team out of camp. Chances of making team: 15%.
- Stuart Skinner, 22. He played one game a year ago, then played well in the AHL. The scenario that sees him make the opening night roster includes a strong training camp and preseason, one of the veterans struggling and injury worries from some of the veterans. Unlikely, but this is an unusual depth chart. Chances of making team: 10%
- Ilya Konovalov, 23. I give him very little chance, but more than zero because the competition, injury history and age of the NHLers in the group suggests there could be an opening early. This fellow is a fine goaltender, Edmonton has a need. I don’t think it’ll happen but there’s a chance. I also believe his chances of passing Skinner on the depth chart are excellent. Chances of making team: 5%.
- Darnell Nurse, 26. He’ll play a major role on this year’s team, his offensive numbers likely to fall off while his minutes could climb. He’ll play with McDavid and against elites for much of the 2021-22 season, and you’d like to see his five on five goals-against per 60 (2.81, 3.11 and 2.9 in the past three seasons) stay below three. I suspect scoring will go up at both ends of the ice, though. Chances of making team: 100%.
- Duncan Keith, 38. He is a good passer and should help the second pair in outlets. He can also battle and play with an edge but has more difficulty getting to the church on time and on a jailbreak his defensive partner is going to be a stone alone. His GA per 60 at five on five over the last three seasons (2.51, 2.56 and 3.10) suggests Keith and the ‘Hawks were in a tough spot. Keith cannot be a drag on goal differential, meaning he can’t be playing defense much at all. Chances of making team: 90%.
- Kris Russell, 34. I think he will play more than most believe, at least until he gets hurt. Russell’s goal suppression numbers haven’t been trusted but he has in fact delivered under 2.00 GA/60 at five on five for the last two seasons. The former puck mover doesn’t impact the outlet game positively but if you look at what doesn’t happen when he’s on the ice at five on five, it’s a good bet he’ll play more than anticipated. Chances of making team: 90%.
- Slater Koekkoek, 27. I like the player based on his overall track record, many observers are less thrilled due to his performance last season with Edmonton. He had a weird year, going from inactivity to feature player to injured and gone. He posted a fine season two years ago with Chicago and some parts of his previous resume are good arrows. I like the bet, while also knowing it may not work out. Chances of making team: 60%.
- William Lagesson, 25. Another member of Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, Lagesson spent 209 minutes with Adam Larsson at five on five and the numbers were crazy: 8-8 goals, 37.7 shot differential. Away from Larsson, Lagesson’s shot differential was 28 percent, Larsson 49.5 percent away from the young Swede. These are crazy numbers and the pairing ran luck to the moon to land 8-8. He’s in the mix but those numbers are scary. Chances of making team: 40%.
- Dmitri Samorukov, 22. He’s a little like Konovalov, with good numbers defensively in the world’s second best league. The third pairing and extra defenseman spots are open and Samorukov has the most promising resume from the group of hopefuls. Chances of making team: 10%.
- Philip Broberg, 20. Big, fast defenseman who has more success in North America than back home, I think he has a chance to play this season in Edmonton. Less convinced he’ll get a shot in the first half, as Evan Bouchard will need time to acclimate to the NHL pace as a regular. Many Oilers fans are down on him, this player-type is difficult to evaluate before AHL/NHL arrival. Chances of making the team: 9%.
- Tyson Barrie, 30. He led NHL defensemen in points one year ago and will have a chance to finish high on the list again in the coming year. His goals-against rates at five on five have been on the rise since leaving Denver, but he’s been at over above 50 percent in goal differential for four years running. Individual scoring rates five on five and PP are strong, if he can cut down on the chaos Barrie would be regarded more highly. Chances of making team: 100%.
- Cody Ceci, 27. His numbers since leaving Ottawa look good and his five on five GA/60 in the last two seasons (2.27, 2.03) are excellent. I don’t believe he’ll be suitable as a Larsson replacement but could help some on defense and in moving the puck. Depending on the role, he may have a good season in Edmonton. Chances of making team: 100%.
- Evan Bouchard, 21. He’s been ready for some time and now Bouchard will play as a regular in the NHL. His offensive numbers, at five on five and on the power play, are so good it’s fair to expect significant point totals even without 1PP time. I’m excited to see what he can do and suspect he will be a major story in the Oilers season. Chances of making team: 100%.
- Filip Berglund, 24. He is a mature defender from a good league and could be a solution for injury issues later in the year. He would have to blow the doors off to make it into the opening night lineup. Chances of making team: 6%.
- Connor McDavid, 24. The best player in the game. 150 points? 170? Stay tuned. Chances of making team: 100%.
- Leon Draisaitl, 25. Draisaitl combines brains, power and precision to form something diabolical. Chances of making team: 100%.
- Derek Ryan, 34. His numbers are impressive and he has a great deal of utility. It’s been a long time for the Oilers at No. 3 center, Boyd Gordon through Gaetan Haas. Ryan is a good bet, while also falling short of being a guarantee. Chances of making team: 100%.
- Ryan McLeod, 21. His speed is a weapon, and I was impressed with his quickness to loose pucks. Needs to post more offense and that means driving to the net. AHL exits and entries were terrific. Chances of making team: 80%.
- Devin Shore, 27. A strong penalty killer, Shore is death valley in five on five possession. His expected goals in the discipline is just over 40 percent and from this vantage point Shore is a fringe player on this roster. Chances of making team: 75%.
- Zach Hyman, 29. There are parallels to the Lucic signing five years ago, Hyman should have more success partly because he has more range. He’ll get a long chance with McDavid, my guess is he keeps it. Chances of making team: 100%.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 28. I’m glad he’s back and believe he’ll post better offense at five on five next season. His expected goals last year (55.5 percent) was miles from his goal differential (48.4) so one hopes regression has him above level. Chances of making team: 100%.
- Warren Foegele, 25. His five on five pts-60 last season (1.60) and expected goals (55.6 percent) suggest he is well suited to an outscoring third line. That makes him a unicorn in Edmonton, he could be a key piece to success. Chances of making team: 100%.
- Brendan Perlini, 25. He has size, speed and can score goals. On the other hand outscoring has been an issue over the years at five on five. It’s been some time since he was an NHL regular, he’ll have much to prove in preseason. Chances of making team: 60%.
- Tyler Benson, 23. He’s fighting for a roster spot with the waiver wire looming this season. I’ve heard he’s ripped and has great hockey hair. What could go wrong? He’s going to have to earn it, is he Rob Schremp or Kyle Brodziak? Chances of making team: 60%.
- Dylan Holloway, 19. He is more dynamic than several players who will make the team over him, but Holloway’s time doesn’t have to be now. In fact, a recall mid-season might have more value if he’s firing on all pistons. He’s big, fast and skilled, and could make the team out of camp just like Broberg and Konovalov, and might have more immediate impact. Chances of making team: 45%.
- Jesse Puljujarvi, 23. He scored 15 goals and left a few out there in 55 games, I think he should push for 25 in the year to come. A strange career path, if he blossoms this season Edmonton will have drafted three all-world forwards 2014-16 in what would probably be the best first-round cluster in Edmonton since 1979-81. Chances of making team: 100%.
- Kailer Yamamoto, 22. He was one of the truly inspired selections in Oilers draft history and has scored well (if inconsistently) over the last two seasons. I’m confident he’ll flourish but there’s a small chance he gets pushed off the skill lines. Chances of making team: 100%.
- Josh Archibald, 28. Utility forward can do everything, and that includes goals on depth lines. His GA/60 at five on five last season (2.65) was among the better bottom-six F totals and his goal differential in this discipline (43 percent) trailed only Jujhar Khaira among depth forwards. Chances of making team: 100%
- Zack Kassian, 30. He has scored just three goals in his last 35 games, with suspensions, harmful penalties and blown coverages part of the recent resume. The contract seems to be an albatross, and he’s 30 now so it’s more and more likely his career peak will be 2018-20. Chances of making team: 100%.
- Kyle Turris, 32. Based on media reports he’s a new man, and fans will be shocked this fall. Turris has impressive skill but he’s also at a point when offense begins to fade. He has a chance but no guarantees. Chances of making team: 55%.
- Cooper Marody, 24. He has skill and can play center, but his opportunity came when the Oilers were changing coaches and about to fire their general manager. He’s a long shot. Chances of making team: 20%.
We could see some training camp invites and some PTO’s, but based on my ‘riesen to believe’ numbers, here is the opening night roster for 2021-22:
- Goal (2): Mike Smith, Mikko Koskinen
- Left Defense (4): Darnell Nurse, Duncan Keith, Kris Russell, Slater Koekkoek
- Right Defense (3): Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci, Evan Bouchard
- Center (5): Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Derek Ryan, Ryan McLeod, Devin Shore
- Left Wing (5): Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Warren Foegele, Brendan Perlini, Tyler Benson
- Right Wing (4): Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Josh Archibald, Zack Kassian
You’ll see this post several times over the next few weeks, and if there’s a player who emerges from the ‘distant bell’ group I’ll add him in during the preseason.
I do this most years but rarely explain the reason. Michel Riesen was a first-round pick by Edmonton in 1997, out of Switzerland. He came over to North America at 19, and in his three AHL seasons had NHL equivalencies of 14.1, 30.3 and 28.9. Two of those seasons should have earned him a look and he did get 12 games (one assist) in 2000-01. He was dealt with Doug Weight on July 1, 2001 to the St. Louis Blues for Jochen Hecht, Marty Reasoner and Jan Horacek.
Riesen had a shot, posted good offense in two of three seasons. In this area (offense), he wasn’t miles from where Tyler Benson is today, although they aren’t similar players overall.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, we have a full boat of great guests. Ari Shapiro from Ari Shapiro.ca will join us to talk Jays at 10:20, and he’ll be followed by Michael Hurley (WBZ Boston) who will update us on the Patriots. At 11, Derek Taylor from the Sports Page to talk Saskatchewan Roughriders and the CFL. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!