If I had to identify the first NHL draft pick I tracked all the way to the NHL, it was probably Bernie Federko. I listened to the radio (CFQC, Saskatoon) during his junior career and Federko was a major talent for the Saskatoon Blades. I listened to the broadcasts on my Anik radio and followed the draft closely by then, so he was the first player I was connected to before his draft day.
Not a bad connection.
We all have favourites, maybe it’s a style or a specific skill. Since I was a kid the two-way centers have special appeal and I do like the shutdown types on defense.
It’s easy to cheer for Bobby Orr and the players who were touched by God in each generation. What about those kids who are pushing but may not get there? For me, that’s such a big part of being a fan. Who do I like on this year’s Oilers team?
- New Lowetide: Projecting the 2021-22 Edmonton Oilers opening night lineup
- Lowetide: Why Oilers fans should be excited about the progress of Maxim Berezkin
- Lowetide: What should Oilers expect from Duncan Keith in his first season?
- Lowetide: Did the Oilers find the new Fernando Pisani when signing Derek Ryan?
- Jonathan Willis: Tyler Benson, Devin Shore and the 4-year difference between a prospect and a has-been
- 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?
- Lowetide: What are Oilers’ ideal defence pairings for 2021-22?
- 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
There are lots of reasons to like a specific player. I remain impressed that the Oilers had the vision to draft Kailer Yamamoto, and fans should hope he works out well.
Why? When organizations expand the talent pool to include undersized players with a great deal of skill, opportunities arise. Edmonton’s choices at No. 22 overall in 2017 included forwards Yamamoto, Kristian Vesailainen, Eeli Tolvanen and Klim Kostin, goalie Jake Oettinger and defender Henri Jokiharju. So far, Yamamoto is covering the bet.
If he has a strong year in 2021-22, perhaps the Oilers will consider taking another undersized skill player in the first round.
Jesse Puljujarvi is a favourite for multiple reasons. His handling by Oilers management was poor, but he overcame it. The Oilers found a way to retain this talented young winger even as the relationship seemed fractured. JP is one of the few people on the roster not named Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl who could carry a line in the future. As good as he was, I think he has another gear. Finally, his personality. Puljujarvi enjoys life and hockey in a way we could learn from. It’s no sin to enjoy the moment, be larger than life, slam a pizza. I admire this young man and will cheer for him no matter what teams he plays for in the future.
Evan Bouchard is a favourite because he makes amazing look stupid. It’s rare to see a player who can make brilliant passes while also seeing plays develop as soon as Bouchard does routinely. I don’t remember the last time Edmonton had this kind of pure offensive talent on the blue line. His passes are exceptional. Can’t wait to see what kind of numbers he’ll post in a full season.
Among the prospects, I’m looking forward to seeing Dylan Holloway, Philip Broberg and Ilya Konovalov in Bakersfield or Edmonton this year. And from the 2021 draft, Xavier Bourgault (who has played in one pre-season game for Shawinigan) has a nice range of skills that puts him somewhere in the Bernie Federko family. Hockey has a way of renewing itself each fall. Pick a favourite, and enjoy the journey. Sometimes everything rhymes and that’s the best thing of all.
LINES FROM 2020-21
One of the things I like to look at this time of year is last year’s lines and what the coach might be thinking for the year to come. Who played well together? Here are the top-10 lines last season by five on five time on ice and their results.
- Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto: 293 minutes, 47.9% Shot diff, 60% goal diff, 2.45 goals-60
- Nuge-McDavid-Puljujarvi: 259 minutes, 54.2% Shot diff, 48% goal diff, 3.02 goals-60
- Draisaitl-McDavid-Puljujarvi: 177 minutes, 53% Shot diff, 57% goal diff, 5.76 goals-60
- Draisaitl-McDavid-Yamamoto: 135 minutes, 61% Shot diff, 86% goal diff, 5.35 goals-60
- Nuge-Draisaitl-Yamamoto: 103 minutes, 46% shots, 44% goal diff, 2.32 goals-60
- Ennis-Khaira-Archibald: 89 minutes, 46% shots, 71% goal diff, 3.36 goals-60
- Neal-Haas-Chiasson: 83 minutes, 48% shots, 67% goal diff (2-1), 1.44 goals-60
- Shore-Khaira-Archibald: 80 minutes, 39% shots, 40% goal diff, 1.5 goals-60
- Nuge-McDavid-Kassian: 67 minutes, 52% shots, 50% goal diff, 2.65 goals-60
- Kahun-McDavid-Puljujarvi: 67 minutes, 56% shots, 56% goal diff, 2.9 goals-60
The McDavid-Draisaitl combination works with everyone, best with JP or KY a year ago. Nuge-McDavid-JP didn’t work but it should have. Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto won the goal share handsomely but didn’t deliver the kind of offense that would earn them more time.
Thoughts? The additions (Hyman, Foegele, Ryan) make this a team that should have three significant lines. How would you populate the McDavid, Draisaitl and Ryan lines?
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, TSN1260, we have some big stories we’re following. Corey Pronman from The Athletic will join me to talk about the Oilers prospect depth chart at 10:20, and we’ll have a Blue Jays guest, plus Women’s WC hockey preview. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter.