No matter how old I get, and at this point there’s so many candles on the cake the only place you can celebrate my birthday is the fire station, the excitement of preseason and leadup to opening night of a season is a highlight of the hockey calendar.
It starts tonight, in Calgary, and Oilers fans will get a chance to see a young group of Oilers impress enough to hang around for another game. The big guns remain in their holsters, waiting for a later game in the process of becoming NHL-ready for another long season.
We have the hockey!
- New Lowetide: Why Tyler Tullio’s skill set is a good match for the Oilers
- DNB: Oilers training camp observations
- Lowetide: Why Colton Sceviour could be an important addition for the Oilers
- DNB: Derek Ryan Q&A
- Jonathan Willis: How can the Oilers find a long-term solution in net?
- Lowetide: What will three outscoring lines do for the Oilers and Connor McDavid?
- DNB: Oilers training camp questions
- Jonathan Willis: Darnell Nurse, in context
- DNB: The Oilers’ plan for prospect Philip Broberg
- Lowetide: Examining Ken Holland’s Oilers plan and how it could impact the future
- 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: Oilers reasonable expectations for 2021-22: Goal differential
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2021-22: Goal scoring
- 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
I keep reading about Ken Holland’s barriers getting in the way of the department of youth from Bakersfield, but I see the competition added by the general manager as being something less than formidable. Let’s have a look at the certain, uncertain and distant bells, complete with yesterday’s demotions, and see how many former Condors have been blocked.
There are 17 certain Oilers, I believe all are locks and am never wrong on this (more in a moment) while also always being wrong on this. Injury to Kris Russell is the closest thing we have to an alteration of this list and he should be ready with plenty of time to spare. This forward group is fantastic! Don’t expect too many names from this list to play tonight in Calgary, I’m hoping to see Bouchard, Foegele, Yamamoto and Puljujarvi.
We know Stuart Skinner plays tonight, and it’s a good guess men like Benson and Perlini, along with McLeod and Marody, could play. I’m hoping to see Berglund, Tippett says he’ll get several games through preseason. This is the biggest part of the season for these men, absolute must for some of these players to make the NHL grade. Waivers and another year in the minors is not the goal.
Several cuts yesterday, the Oilers are now down to five goaltenders, with Konovalov slated to share the net with Skinner tonight. Tippett also suggested (riffing off a Matty question) that young Xavier Bourgault had a good chance to play tonight.
I was a little surprised that Rybinski exited camp so soon, that’s an indication the club may have other plans for Bakersfield Condors at center. Malone and Esposito are locks, Holloway will be when healthy, Rybinski would be a reasonable option for a spot in the AHL. It could be another organization came calling, or that Holland has a line on a significant pivot. McLeod heading to the Condors might also be an option, but I’ll tell you I don’t see it.
I’d like to see Broberg, Lavoie and Maksimov, but the Russian hasn’t been around so far and I’m not sure when his Covid-19 protocols will allow him to be part of the main group.
The Oilers didn’t have any preseason games one year ago, so the last time we saw a Game 1 preseason was 2019-20, against the Winnipeg Jets (September 16, 2019). My guesses for “Certain Oilers” that night were:
- Goalies Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen
- Left defensemen Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and Kris Russell
- Right defensemen Adam Larsson and Matt Benning
- Centers Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Riley Sheahan
- Left Wing Leon Draisaitl, James Neal, Markus Granlund, Jujhar Khaira
- Right Wing Zack Kassian, Alex Chiasson, Sam Gagner, Josh Archibald
So opening night, the following names weren’t in the lineup or listed among the healthy scratches: Riley Sheahan (injured) and Sam Gagner (minors).
The uncertain Oilers who played opening night: Joakim Nygard, Colby Cave, Ethan Bear, Gaetan Haas, Brandon Manning, Patrick Russell and Tomas Jurco.
It’s a mighty long way from tonight, Game 1 of the preseason, to opening night 2021-22. I know everyone has their favourites but it doesn’t work that way. Things happen, usually injury, and veterans often rule the day. Now, back to the subject mentioned earler: Older players blocking Oilers youngsters.
THE PIPELINE 2021-22
- Evan Bouchard will turn 22 in October and he’s been NHL-ready for some time. There’s no one blocking him from a roster spot, and he’ll get some chances to show what he can do on the power play. The Oilers need him to move up the depth chart and he may well accomplish it. A wonderful story to follow this season.
- Tyler Benson is in a fight with Brendan Perlini, and both men are looking good early. I think we’re seeing the Holland style of development here, as the 2016 second-round pick would have made the NHL grade by now under previous management going back a long way in this organization. I don’t look at this as a block, however, because Benson should be able to weather this kind of competition. He will get lots of opportunity, and so far the young winger has done everything possible. Being challenged isn’t the same thing as being buried.
- Ryan McLeod has a clear shot at an NHL job and with the team’s focus on speed, I can’t see him getting sent out. If he shows reasonably well, the No. 4 C job is his and if McLeod moves the needle offensively and physically, it’s possible he we see him play on the third line at some points in the year.
- Cooper Marody is going to get a look, but he brings pure skill and I do think he’s blocked by the depth chart. Of course, the men who are blocking him are Jesse Puljujarvi (23) and Kailer Yamamoto (22). Both are younger than Marody, so I think we can overlook the prospect block angle on the skill lines. One can always hope that coach Dave Tippett will construct his fourth line in a way that Marody could replace Alex Chiasson’s minutes, but they aren’t similar players and one expects we’ll see either Josh Archibald or Colton Sceviour grab that fourth RW spot behind JP, KY and Zack Kassian.
- William Lagesson is getting a full look, and his status as a bubble waiver player is based on his play a year ago. If he steps up, the organization would be thrilled.
- Stuart Skinner gets a push due to the Alex Stalock news, and the club consistently talks about Skinner as an option. He’s No. 3 goalie now, that can change to backup goalie in a heartbeat. I re-watched his NHL debut this morning, he had some rookie jitters but you can see why they like him. Skinner stopped eight of nine to start the game and his feet were moving way too much. He’ll settle in given another shot. I think his trajectory is similar to Laurent Brossoit.
- Filip Berglund is earning time based on early play, there’s no pressure and no job but an injury could put him in the conversation if he can play well as the competition increases in preseason.
- Philip Broberg is going to get a look in preseason, but the Holland plan would involve time in Bakersfield and I don’t think that’s blocking him.
- Dylan Holloway and Dmitri Samorukov are hurt, so no blocking of a prospect with either man.