In a game where all eyes (correctly) were focused on bubble players like Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody, it was recent first-round pick Xavier Bourgault who stood out from the crowd. The lesson? Skill finds a way, even at 18.
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- 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
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- Jonathan Willis: Tyler Benson, Devin Shore and the 4-year difference between a prospect and a has-been
- Jonathan Willis: A resurgent Zack Kassian could be an important part of the Oilers’ scoring
- Ilya Konovalov started the game and took the loss. He stopped 16 of 19, made some great saves and gave up three, all HDSC. SP: .842. I walk away from his efforts so far with the Russian slightly ahead of Skinner based on preseason so far, but this shapes up as the best goalie contest the AHL Oilers have seen since Dubnyk-Deslauriers.
- Stuart Skinner had much the same problems, the team in front of him wasn’t as strong as the Oilers group. Stopped seven of nine. SP: .778, with both of his GA coming on high danger scoring chances.
- You’d have to pack a lunch and plan on working into the afternoon to convince me the goaltending was responsible for the result or the goals scored. Dave Tippett said as much in the post-game avail.
- Koekkoek-Bouchard played 14:37, going 3-6 shots, 0-2 goals. This pairing has been solid, but with Bouchard playing significant minutes two nights in a row (22:03 last night, 24:28 on Tuesday evening) the sharpness was lacking. Bouchard (who read the Eyssimont rush poorly and it led to the third goal against) endured bad luck on a deflection off his skate that landed on the stick of Kyle Connor. This is the third pairing. Don’t be alarmed, there’s ability here.
- Lagesson-Ceci played 9:39 together, going 2-5 shots and 0-1 goals. Lagesson played his best game so far, Ceci was gone fishing on Harkins second goal. Both will need to tighten it up as the team approaches opening night, but judging either on last night would be foolish. The Oilers were outmanned across the roster.
- Niemelainen-Kesselring played 8:37 together, 1-7 shots and 0-2 goals. The two young blue not effective on the first goal against: Kesselring fell, checked down from his mark to help support Cooper Marody net-front, only to see his original target pop the goal. Second goal was a tip by Svechnikov, some bad luck for all involved. This pairing could see action together in Bakersfield this year.
- Niemelainen-Ceci played 8:22 together, going 6-5 shots and 1-0 goals. This pairing played well and had good results, score effects a partial explanation.
- Lagesson-Kesselring played 5:25 together, going 3-1 shots and no goals. This pairing looked better, but as was the case with Niemelainen-Ceci, score effects skewed the numbers.
- Foegele-McLeod-Kassian played 14:31, going 8-8 shots and 0-1 goals. Foegele picked up an assist on Edmonton’s only goal, he had two HDSC to lead the team at five on five. McLeod’s speed was prominent but he was miscast on the top skill line against a solid Jets group. Kassian got the primary assist on the Malone goal, he and Foegele appear to be on a collision course on the third line with Derek Ryan in the middle.
- Benson-Marody-Griffith played 4:52, going 1-4 shots and 0-2 goals. It was not good. Marody’s coverage on the first Jets goal wasn’t strong, and Benson didn’t impact the game enough to stand out.
- Benson-Sceviour-Bourgault played 4:31, going 1-1 shots and no goals. Benson had some jump, but couldn’t anything to rhyme offensively. Marody had one high-danger look, Griffith had two and a couple more pucks rolled off his stick at a bad time. Sceviour also had a look or two, and for me Bourgault was noticeable when in possession of the puck. I can’t wait to see him at camp one year from now.
- Safin-Cracknell-Bourgault played 4:09, going 1-3 shots and 0-1 goals. Cracknell had a couple of good looks, Safin had none, that’s exactly the opposite of what you want to see.
- Esposito-Malone-Griffith played 4:07, 2-2 shots, 0-1 goals. Esposito was physical and drove to the net whenever possible, Malone scored the goal on a nice release and had a takeaway. Alas, he is past 30 and not a realistic NHL option, although on the night he appeared the most comfortable forward against Winnipeg.
REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS, NO. 4
The season begins in two weeks, there has been no indication that Smith or Koskinen are suffering from any malady, so we can project this competition as closed. If something pops up in the next 10 days, we can revisit, and I do see change at this position by the deadline. I think Konovalov and Skinner both have a chance to play in the NHL in the seasons to come, will be watching them closely in Bakersfield this winter.
I have Koekkoek edging closer to an NHL job, while Lagesson remains at 40 percent. Part of that comes with the idea of losing another defenseman under control (Bear, Jones), Edmonton has a deep leftorium but none who are ready for recall. I don’t have him listed, but Markus Niemelainen is emerging as a player who we could see later in the year. Don’t discount the idea of running eight defenders, and it’s also possible Russell or other begins the year on IR to protect Lagesson from waivers.
The die is cast at this position and there will be Hollywood nights in the Hollywood hills at both ends of the ice this coming season. Bouchard’s misjudging the Eyssimont sortie aside, I think the young man has shown well during the preseason and am willing to bet his overall TOI exceeds Ceci in the second half of the year. There will be growing pains.
Subtle changed here from our last look. McLeod is going to make this team, but his performance so far has been uneven. It opens the door for a conversation. What does that sound like? If the Oilers believe there is a forward worth keeping who is eligible for waivers, McLeod could get optioned out until the wingers suss themselves out. Unlikely, I still have McLeod as extremely likely to make the team, but he’ll need to show more.
I think Tyler Benson is in some danger here, and this isn’t the coaching staff overlooking him ala Brandon Davidson fall of 2015 (Davidson was almost waived that year before the start of the season). Perlini ate his lunch. Benson is in fact working hard and you can see him as a fourth-line LW, especially if Shore lands the 4C job and Perlini plays RW. That’s a lot of pretzel, more likely the Oilers run with McLeod.
There are still one or two spots up in the air here, and it’s Sceviour v. Archibald and Turris v. Marody. We’re seeing separation, Marody didn’t lose ground last night but Turris gained ground the night before.
Your opening night lineup right now:
- Mike Smith (Mikko Koskinen)
- Darnell Nurse-Tyson Barrie; Duncan Keith-Cody Ceci; Slater Koekkoek-Evan Bouchard; Kris Russell.
- Zach Hyman-Connor McDavid-Jesse Puljujarvi
- RNH-Leon Draisaitl-Kailer Yamamoto
- Warren Foegele-Derek Ryan-Zack Kassian
- Brendan Perlini-Devin Shore-Kyle Turris
- Ryan McLeod, Colton Sceviour