The preseason games are fraught with danger, and it can happen against anyone. Oscar Klefbom got hurt in the Golden Bears game due to a rampaging defender, Ben Eager got flattened at the Joey Moss game by a Russian tree named Kirill Tulupov (I always thought his last name would be best used as name for a flower, plant or tree species).
Once past the games against local predators, we come upon the NHL teams aiming to maim before the real games begin. If the Flames were a horror movie, I’d go with “A Clockwork Orange” a movie that has caused me many sleepless nights. Calgary’s Sutter Flames are a sinister group, but you know what you’re going to get and arrive ready for war.
The Vancouver Canucks sometimes will, or skill, or work in their games that suggests admirable qualities. However, just below the surface, Travis Green goes to the whip when realizing his side is outgunned and overwhelmed.
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I think we’re at a point where we can make the call on 21 Oilers, with the final two spots uncertain. There are five candidates for those two final spots.
I think we’re safe with this list, although injury might allow another bum in the boat. Kailer Yamamoto is healthy enough to play tonight, but Zack Kassian is going to be out for a few days and Wednesday opening night is not far away. Here are the candidates to make the team, five names for two (three with Kassian on IR) jobs:
- LD William Lagesson. He was not good last season and Lagesson has been only fair during preseason this year. I don’t think the Oilers should keep eight defensemen, but they’re going to use 10+ and the depth chart is unproven once past this player. Markus Niemelainen? Philip Broberg? I think the injury to Dmitri Samorukov has to at least make general manager Ken Holland ponder.
- LW Tyler Benson. He has skill and yet the offense doesn’t come during these NHL auditions. I don’t know if he’ll make the team, clear waivers or land in a better spot. I will say that it doesn’t feel his talent is so much the team will stop short of waiving him for fear of a possible future.
- RW Colton Sceviour. I suspect the combination of Archibald’s illness, Kassian’s injury and the leaky penalty kill conspires in favour of a contract for Sceviour. I’m fairly certain of it. It feels more like a Holland-Tippett move than the other possibilities.
- LC Ryan McLeod. He is shy offensively so far in his short NHL career (like Benson) but he’s also younger and faster, plus he is a center who can penalty kill.
- G Stuart Skinner. I expect it comes down to the health of the two veterans. Mike Smith missed some practice, played a physical game, and then missed Friday’s practice. It isn’t a massive chance to make the team, but there’s a chance.
- LW Sonny Milano, Anaheim. Speedy winger who was well regard on draft day, injuries have had an impact. When healthy he has been able to post middle six offensive numbers and his possession stats are average. I’ve always liked him, wonder if a general manager out there will grab him in hopes he can stay in the lineup. He’s in a weird spot, pretty famous in the industry but having played over 50 NHL games in a season just two times.
- LD Juuso Riikola, Pittsburgh. I don’t know much about him, but he did deliver solid work for the Penguins after coming over from the Liiga. He is a two-way defender, slightly undersized (6.0, 190) and might be an upgrade for some teams at the back of the roster.
- RD Nicolas Meloche, San Jose. I liked him in his draft year, and he’s a 6.03, 205 defender with puck moving ability. Coverage has been an issue and the Sharks can’t afford to let someone who can help loose via waivers. Still, he’s an intriguing name.