Jay Woodcroft is something of a prospect whisperer, and I will tell you it’s my opinion the young coach is in his final minor league season. Given a couple of days, ice and electricity, he helped a ragtag bunch who were taking on injuries by the shift to a 4-3 win over a Calgary Flames team that had a hard time staying within the rules.
The Oilers have iced more talented teams in the past and lost, but Woodcroft’s Condors (that’s what we were watching last night) have skill, ruggedness and enough of a 200-foot game to make things go. Let’s have a look at the stories from last night.
- New Lowetide: Filip Berglund, sleeper option for Edmonton’s defense
- DNB: Cooper Marody Q&A
- Lowetide: Oilers preseason stories of the past, from Tony Hand to Leon Draisaitl
- Lowetide: The Oilers and the Cooper Marody experiment are at a crossroads
- DNB: Oilers voice their frustration over top prospect Dylan Holloway’s injury setback
- Lowetide: A set roster? Oilers training camp gone wild? Expect the unexpected
- Lowetide: Xavier Bourgault and his ETA with the Edmonton Oilers
- DNB: Warren Foegele Q&A
- Lowetide: Dylan Holloway’s season and why patience is vital for Oilers’ prospect
- Lowetide: Oilers reasonable expectations for 2021-22: Goal differential
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2021-22: Goal scoring
- New DNB: Mailbag.
- Lowetide: What should the Oilers expect from Cody Ceci in his first season?
- Lowetide: Projecting the 2021-22 Edmonton Oilers opening night lineup
- Lowetide: What should Oilers expect from Duncan Keith in his first season?
- 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: How much playing time will Evan Bouchard get with the Oilers this coming season?
- Jonathan Willis: A resurgent Zack Kassian could be an important part of the Oilers’ scoring
- Lowetide: How many goals will Jesse Puljujarvi score for the Oilers next season?
NOTES FROM LAST NIGHT
LW Raphael Lavoie rang iron in the first period, did it again late and he has a release that will convert in pro hockey. He looks quicker to me. Drew a penalty with some nice work in the second period. He hit the post on a two-on-one no goalie stops, it either goes in, high or (as it did) hits the crossbar. I’d estimate three shots, plus the two iron maidens.
LC James Hamblin was valuable in this game, moving the puck to good places and making sure there was cover on fast breaks. Had a breakaway in the second period but couldn’t cash and a couple more in the third period that could have put this game away.
RW Xavier Bourgault got a chance to show his passing skills but is a younger player and I thought the bigger Calgary squad neutralized him in the first. In the second, he found his legs and showed impressive skill, won battles and looked dangerous. He’s very skilled. Took a brutal hit from behind in the third, I didn’t hear anything about his condition, we’ll likely find out today or tomorrow. Very aware player with the puck on his stick.
LW Matvei Petrov was “also in photo” on the first Calgary goal, he kept the play moving at times but also looked like one of the younger players out there. Had a great look offensively but the puck would not cooperate.
RC Henrik Rybinski scored twice on the power play, I think he might see California this winter. A nice skill set and some size. Added an assist later on. I think he’s going to get an offer, but it’s possible another NHL team will scoop him up with an NHL deal.
RW Tyler Tullio to my eye was one of the best Oilers on the night, rugged, passed well, aggressive and had a nice chance late in the first period. He didn’t connect on some of the skill plays, important to remember this is one night.
LW Ostap Safin always impresses me with his presence and his skill, he had some good looks and two assists. He is a fine passer and has a good release (had a couple of point-blank chances) plus he packs some attitude. One of his shots seems to hurt goalie Dustin Wolf for a moment. He’s 6.05, 204, kind of a skilled Coke machine. Health is always the issue.
LC Devin Brosseau was quiet in the first period, he made a nice pass in the second and got a reasonable chance on net. He was more noticeable in the third period. That isn’t a criticism, this is so early in the preseason for these players and sweeping statement one makes based on last night would be wildly unfair.
RW Dino Kambeitz was quite noticeable, he battled and moved the puck along the wall. He caught a penalty in the second for hard work, but I like him. The Flames played an edgy game and the Oilers weren’t able to match that style, but Kambeitz was part of what pushback the Oilers made in the game.
Line 4: Brady Burns-Drew Englot-Tim Soderlund: Burns didn’t play much to my eye, did pick up an assist on the Kemp goal. I noticed Englot, who won some physical battles and made life miserable for the Calgary defense. Soderlund is a nice passer but nothing stood out by my eye.
Pairing One: Markus Niemelainen-Mike Kesselring: Niemelainen was physical and good in coverage, I like his game. He’s quick enough to mirror the rusher and still get over to stop the drive to the net. Kesselring is rangy and then some. He played well, calm and effective with the puck in the offensive end.
Pairing Two: Philip Broberg-Filip Berglund: Broberg was big, fast and effective, he defended well and got some shots through. Berglund was as expected, moved the puck well, played a simple game and wasn’t out of position often. His best moment was strong defending in a danger area against Connor Zary in the second period. This pairing was effective on an early second-period penalty kill.
Pairing Three: Dmitri Samorukov-Phil Kemp: Samorukov was hurt early and did not return. I thought shoulder immediately but Oilers fans across the universe were the same. Kemp was solid, I like his subtle movements of the puck and man he stays in his lane well. That discipline helped him on the PK. He scored in the second to tie the game 3-3 and later ripped the winner. He is not a goal scorer, it was like Terry Harper going end to end for a goal, which did happen in front of a Montreal Forum crowd and was chronicled hilariously in the book Lions in Winter. Yanni Kaldis filled in for Samorukov and was money on the first-period power-play goal, a gorgeous pass to Rybinski. That’s his game. Undersized skill defender. Picked up another assist on Rybinski’s second goal.
Goalie: Olivier Rodrigue: He didn’t have a chance on two of the first period goals, but you’d like better rebound control. It’s early for all of these goaltenders. Made a fantastic save late in the third against Mathias Emilio Pettersen.
Concern after the game focused on the injured prospects (Samorukov, Kemp and Bourgault) the Oilers will likely have information out today or at the latest tomorrow. The Condors are going to be strong defensively, Broberg was all over the ice and Berglund (whose SHL numbers suggest a PK stalwart, wrote about in the piece above) will push for the feature pairing against Samorukov (if healthy) and his partner. Fun start!
Yamamoto’s contract is signed and that’s great news for Oilers fans. He’ll slide in on one of the top three lines, with the Draisaitl line the most likely spot. Many are down on the young man after the goal-scoring drought in the second half, but I think the lead story there is that all of the other metrics, from assists to five on five goal differential while on ice, to possession, stayed the same. His game didn’t fold because pucks we’re going in. Will he need to be more consistent? Of course. Valuable young player at an insane price. What’s not to like?
Just five spots left, and maybe an extra goalie if the NHL chooses to run a taxi squad again this season. I have to tell you, the top three lines are going to change entire segments of Oilers games this season. There will still be plenty of puck chasing, but less in Edmonton’s zone I expect.
Who are the five? Koekkoek, Shore, Benson, McLeod and Turris so far, but we’ve only just begun. Daniel’s piece on Marody is compelling and there are elements of the “Marty Reasoner adjustment” in there. We’ll see.
Any distant bells with a chance? Samorukov’s injury last night and Konovalov not playing in rookie camp leaves one sour on the possibility, but we’ll see. Broberg, Lavoie and Niemelainen are worth discussing as recall options, but we’ll know more when preseason rolls out.