Trying to Figure Out the Long Term Plan

Photo by Ian Kucerak/Postmedia

Before I start today, we have a pretty big event coming to my hometown of Lloydminster on September 28th.  Eight alumni each from the Oilers and Flames will square off in the Boundary Battle of Alberta with all proceeds going toward Project Sunrise which is a terrific mental health initiative.  The event is already sold out (I believe tickets went in something like six hours, ridiculous), but why go sit in the stands when you can play in the game?  Not sure where it currently stands, but when the event was announced they had four spots available on each team for $1,000.00.  The first two names are being announced today (perhaps already have been by the time this gets posted) will be Sportsnet colour analyst and former Oiler Louie Debrusk, and former Flames defenceman, two time Stanley Cup champion, over 1,100 games in the NHL Jamie Macoun.  Both guys have reputations as being among the most genuinely great people ever to suit up in the league.  We’re not talking about guys who if you pay a grand to play next to them they’re going to treat a guy like shit and then get the hell out of there when the game is done.  Great guys with a couple thousand or so stories from their years playing hockey to tell (a lot of which I’m sure can’t be shared in public settings…).  It’s a great start to the list and I know that more great names are still to come, so if you got the dough it’d not only be worth your money but it goes towards a terrific cause.  If you’re interested, send me a DM on Twitter (@TJ_Soups) and I should be able to get you in touch with the right people to make it happen.

 

Now, how to transition from something damn good to something terrible…I’m kidding, it’s not terrible.  But if you’re impatient, as all Oilers fans should be, it’s a very hard truth to hear or read, but it’s a fact.  And the fact is that this is at least a one year rebuild for the Oilers.

 

I’m guessing very few Oilers fans, even those who view themselves as the “elite” fans, were aware of this.  Or perhaps they were trying to convince themselves otherwise.  To me, it was obvious from the moment they fired Peter Chiarelli that it would take a minimum of 18 months to undo the knot that Chiarelli tied.  I’m not a big Ken Holland fan, but it was going to take damn near a miracle for anyone to step in and turn this team into a playoff contender.  Even in trying to construct a roster myself, assuming UFA’s would sign, assuming GM’s would take my trade proposal’s, what I pieced together still wasn’t going to be anything of a sure bet and really isn’t far off what Holland has done.

 

What I find funny though is seeing people mock signings like Joakim Nygård, Gaëtan Haas, and Josh Archibald and I can’t help but think just how moronic people can be.  What is wrong with these signings?!?  Sure, they aren’t the BIG moves people want, but they’re low risk, rationale moves that this club has been begging for since…2008?  2006?  And yet the moment they’re announced, people can’t wait to shit on them.  At least you can see a plan here with Holland and it’s to put out a much faster lineup, which is one thing I was clamoring for entering the off-season.

 

But those type of moves again suggest that this is going to take a year.  Not to suggest that they’re looking to tank this season or anything along those lines.  They’re not.  They’re trying to put together as good of a lineup they can, but without killing the gains they’re making on the cap over the next few seasons.  You can’t quick fix this.  Did anyone notice it cost the Leafs a first round pick to unload a year of Patrick Marleau?  I’d guess Kris Russell would have cost a second, and can you imagine what it’d then cost to shed the rest of the Lucic deal?!?  No thank you.

 

So it is going to take some time.  And how much more damn patience are us Oilers fans going to have to display?!  Well, if you want them to put together a perennial playoff team, give them a year.  Obviously, we all want them to make the playoffs this season.  But we as fans need to have the mindset that they won’t and what we’ll see is more of what we saw last season.  For our mental health, this is a much better approach then demanding they make the playoffs ASAP.  And we must remind ourselves, we want to win Cups, not be what the Minnesota Wild or Columbus Blue Jackets have been.

 

As it currently sits, they’re going to have close to 25 million in cap space next summer.  So that’s a nice start, but it’s not just that.  A year from now, Kris Russell is much more movable with only a year left on his deal and a no-trade list that shrinks from 21 teams to 16.  I also believe that after he gets his signing bonus (whenever that is as it’s been disputed a lot in the media) Milan Lucic will be much more movable.  After his bonus is paid, Lucic will only cost 1 million dollars for the 20-21 season.  Now, before you say “yeah, but then he still has another two years left after that at a combined 9 million and a 6 mil a year cap hit”, remember that after the 20-21 season the CBA is up.  Teams are getting compliance buyouts.  At least two, maybe more.  Is he movable without penalty?  No.  But he’s much more movable, and in a year from now, Holland will have more assets stockpiled and a chance to be more aggressive.

 

You also have to go back to the draft with what I still find to be a completely bizarre use of the 8th overall pick in the draft selecting Philip Broberg.  It’s not just that it was a reach, it’s the lack of justification which came with it.  The Oilers strength in their system is the blueline, and specifically on the left side.  Add to that, Klefbom is young and locked down for four more seasons at an extremely team-friendly number, and Nurse is already a top-four D-man at 24 years old.  They already had 10 D-men 26 and under who are either on the roster or on the cusp.  Another seven defencemen in Europe, NCAA, or in the AHL.  A kid like Broberg just couldn’t have been less of a need.  BUT…

 

You have a lot of power to make trades when you’re deep on the blueline, and you will save on the cap.  Defencemen probably get overpaid more than any other position in the league.  If you’re developing them and locking them down at the right times, it can cut way down on cap mistakes.  Look at the Preds.  The only bad deal they made with their D-men was matching the Shea Weber offer sheet, which they made up for by moving him for P.K. Subban.  In turn, they’ve been able to pretty much do whatever they’ve wanted to the last few seasons.

 

The Broberg pick combined with the cap space coming up had me wondering if there wasn’t something to all the smoke around Taylor Hall possibly making a return.  Those rumours won’t go away.  And it would be one thing for them to be coming from people with zero credibility, but Elliotte Friedman has hinted at it before.  It was around the trade deadline where he said it on a podcast (can’t remember which it was, but not his own), and also talked about it on Oilers Now when asked days after.  Bob Stauffer has hinted at it a lot for several months now, and from all accounts has remained in close contact with Hall since being dealt.  Back to Friedman, who has also talked recently about Hall’s desire to play in a market where it really matters.

 

But the problem is that while fans would hear 25 million and believe they can easily go out and sign Hall for 12 million a season, they can’t.  Well, they COULD, but we’re talking shedding all of the 10 million of dead weight on the cap that Russell and Lucic eat up, AND you’d have to move out Darnell Nurse who is looking to be in line for a contract extension worth 6-7 million per season if his numbers can stay in the 30-40 point range.  Then you still likely have to go get a goaltender to be a 1B with Koskinen (if not a 1A), and even with Nurse in the lineup, you have to upgrade the blueline.  Sure, they have a lot of kids who will likely see some quality NHL minutes this upcoming season, but will kids like Jones, Persson, Bear or Lagesson be ready for top-four minutes after next season?  HIGHLY unlikely.

 

But the thing about the Oilers is that they don’t need another star like Hall.  Filling the holes they have better would take this team from the outhouse to the penthouse.  Mikael Granlund, Alex Galchenyuk, Chris Kreider, Robin Lehner, Jared Spurgeon, Sami Vatanen, Justin Faulk, there are a lot of guys who might get to the open market who would be great fits for what the Oilers really need.

 

Giving them a year to focus on a build rather than to be dusted in five by the Sharks would also give them a chance to really implement a lot of kids to save even more cap space.  Benson, Jones, Persson, Lagesson, Yamamoto, and Bouchard are all kids who are either going to push for spots on the roster or should be ready to go for the start of the 20-21 season.

 

So this very possibly could be what their plan i.  If so, I believe it’s fair to say “ok, one year build, next year playoffs, the year after that is when they’ll be able to put out a true contender”.  For those of you fearing a McDavid trade request if this is the case, he’s not going to ask out if they have a very legitimate plan.  You can miss the playoffs trending up and miss the playoffs trending down.  Sure, shit could hit the fan once again this season and be a nightmare and if that’s the case then he just may finally snap.  But more than likely they’ll be more competitive this season and if they do miss the playoffs they’ll at least do so trending up.  The kids gain experience, the system gets stronger, the cap space increases, and the organization at least has a GM who isn’t going to piss away any asset or cap space he can get his hands on.  That’s a BIG improvement over how things have been here.

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Edmonton Oilers Top 20 Prospects – July, 2019

I say this every year this time of year…summer sucks!  I know most of you don’t agree, but deal with it.  Bugs, allergies, forced trips to the lake no matter how shitty the weather, and there are no sports on.  Zero.  Mid-season baseball and early season CFL action just simply don’t cut it, and please don’t give me the MLS.  Summer just flat out sucks.  Some of my buddies get geared up for pre-season NFL action, but even being a die-hard NFL fan, I can’t really get into it.  There is no other two month stretch in the year quite like this one, and while my significant other is in all her glory right now as a teacher who lives for these two months, I am the polar opposite.

 

Perhaps the best way to counteract this personal misery is to talk as much hockey in as many forms as I possibly can!  Yesterday I had my summer power rankings, and today I bring you my latest top 20 Edmonton Oilers prospect list!

 

While this is a fresh list, be warned that some of the write-up’s aren’t.  Simply put, there was just no reason to change what I had wrote on some of these players back in April.  Add to that, I have trouble keeping my blogs under 2500 words these days, so anytime I find a way to cut a bit of a corner, I’m going to take it as there are only so many hours in the day!

 

Hounourable Mention

 

Maxim Denezhkin

Team: Yaroslavl  League: MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 165  Shot: L

2019 StatsGP: 51  G: 22  A: 17  P: 39

DOB: 12/10/00

Acquired: 7th Round, 193rd Overall, 2019 Draft

Obviously, you can see he has some filling out to do.  Skating isn’t great, but I often wonder when slighter guys are having skating issues at these level’s of hockey if added strength isn’t what is needed to get their skating to the level it needs to get to?  Also a high character kid from what I’ve read and heard.  Interesting 7th round pick, I definitely wouldn’t say it sounds wasted.

ETA: Early 24-25

 

Tomas Mazura

Team: Kimball Union  League: USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 170  Shot: L

2019 StatsGP: 37  G: 14  A: 40  P: 54

DOB: 09/23/00

Acquired: 6th Round, 162nd Overall, 2019 Draft

The more I’m reading on Mazura, the more I’m at least interested.  Where he really caught my attention was the first media scrum he did at development camp.  WOW!  I tweeted after seeing it “I can see why they took him”.  Look, loving the kid doesn’t make him a good prospect.  He is insanely thin right now.  I got him as 6’2 but if I’m not mistaken, some have him at 6’3.  And 170lbs might be extremely generous.  The kid has a shit ton of filling out to do.  He is a total project, but they bet on a kid who is big, skates well, and seems to have a ton of energy along with a high IQ.  Can’t complain about that.  Major project though.

ETA: Early 25-26

 

Matej Blümel

Team: Waterloo  League: USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2019 StatsGP: 58  G: 30  A: 30  P: 60

DOB: 05/31/00

Acquired: 4th Round, 100th Overall, 2019 Draft

Reading about him in the Hockey Prospect Black Book, they say he’s a very inconsistent player.  He’s a shoot first kid as he led the USHL in shots on goal this season.  It does sound as though he has some decent upside, as a 19 year old in the USHL his numbers really weren’t too impressive.  Compared with Flames prospect Martin Pospisil (someone I was very high on as a mid-rounder in last years draft), Blümel was outproduced on a PPG basis, 1.43 to 1.03.  Obviously, there is a long way to go here for both players, but not overly encouraging when you consider that Pospisil is just a solid prospect who brings a lot more to the table (he’s a rat).  Blümel is off to UCONN this fall so the Oilers have at least three seasons to let him develop before making a decision on him.  Was interested to find out that Mazura and Blümel are very tight friends.  Scott Howson claims he had no idea of that when they picked them, but…I don’t know.  Pretty tough to believe that just being a coincidence.

ETA: Early 24-25

 

Ostap Safin 

Team: Halifax  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 205  Shot: L

2019 StatsGP: 15  G: 3  A: 8  P: 11

DOB: 02/11/99

Acquired: 4th Round, 115th Overall, 2017 Draft

I felt as though I had to drop him off the list, but I’m not personally giving up on him.  I’ve seen others disregard him after this season, almost like they have no clue that he missed the majority of the season with a hip pointer.  Hip issues are TOUGH to overcome.  I think of a guy like Brett Connolly who had hip issues in his draft year, and it took him until the 16-17 season to really establish himself in the league and I can’t help but wonder if that was why?  So we’ll see on Safin.  But as I’ve pointed out many times, this kid has a monster ceiling.  He’s not just big, he is a tremendous skater and plays with an edge.

ETA: Late 21-22

 

John Marino 

Team: Harvard  League: NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 181  Shot: R

2019 StatsGP: 33  G: 3  A: 8  P: 11

DOB: 05/21/97

Acquired: 6th round, 154th overall, 2015 draft

The big question with Marino is now whether or not they’ll get him signed as he is about to enter his Sr. season and therefore be a UFA after the season.  The regime who drafted him is gone and as it felt during the draft, Ken Holland wants to do EVERYTHING his way whether it’s for the best or not.  I’ve maintained for a while now I like Marino maybe more than most.  Nice size, great skater and moves the puck well.  A new age shutdown D-man.  Add to that he’s a RH shot, I’d love for them to get Marino signed, but perhaps there is something under the table already done and both sides have agreed that it’ll be better for his development to stay at Harvard for the season rather than see limited time in Bakersfield?  Something worrisome for getting Marino signed is that he now doesn’t have Adam Fox in his way, so he’ll be Harvard’s number one D-man this season and as a result his numbers might get a massive bump and therefore draw a ton of suitors to the impending UFA.

ETA: Early 22-23

 

20. Olivier Rodrigue 

Team: Drummondville  League: QMJHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 159  Glove: L

2019 StatsGP: 48  G.A.A.: 2.43  Sv%: .902

DOB: 07/06/00

Acquired: 2nd Round, 62nd Overall, 2018 Draft

The raw stats that I have up don’t look overly great for Rodrigue last season.  One that tells more of the story that looked a little better however was his adjusted goals saved above average, which was 9th in the Q last season (13.631).  Still wasn’t the type of season I believe most were hoping to see out of a kid they traded back into the 2018 2nd round to snag, but we have a LONG ways to go with Rodrigue.  Look at that weight, he might still have 30lbs to put on.  He’ll be in the mix for the 2020 WJC team, but he is nowhere near the lock he seemed as though he’d be for it this time last year.  But I can’t stress enough that there is a very long way to go with this kid.

ETA: Early 23-24

 

19. Dylan Wells  

Team: Wichita  League: ECHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Glove: L

2019 StatsGP: 34  G.A.A.: 2.94  Sv%: .910

DOB: 01/03/98

Acquired: 5th Round, 123rd Overall, 2016 Draft

Before I begin, those numbers are combined ECHL and AHL.  Got into one AHL playoff game which was game 2 vs San Diego and played great!  It was a losing cause, but he came up with a 35 of 38 stops.  In his first year of pro hockey, the kid had a very respectable .910 Sv% (.909 in 12 AHL games).  Extremely encouraging when you remember that he was coming off a very disappointing final year in the OHL.  It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster in his three years since being drafted, but for my money, he’s had two out of three good seasons.  Next year is a big one though.  I really don’t know how at this time they plan on working with Wells and Stuart Skinner.  Both need more AHL minutes this season, and they have Shane Starrett as the starter so there is only one spot available.  Are they going to carry three goaltenders in Bakersfield and possibly just rotate all three?  Do Wells and Skinner take turns starting in Witchita and splitting time with Starret in Bakersfield?  Or, is someone being shipped out?  It’s an interesting predicament.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

18. Stuart Skinner 

Team: Wichita  League: ECHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Glove: L

2019 StatsGP: 47  G.A.A.: 3.07  Sv%: .891

DOB: 11/01/98

Acquired: 3rd Round, 78th Overall, 2017 Draft

Like Wells, the numbers are combined ECHL and AHL.  Had some real good moments in relief of Shane Starrett in the 2nd round of the AHL playoffs vs San Diego.  Wells got the full 60 in game two of the series, but Skinner took over after Starrett struggled in game three, and again after Starrett struggled in game four, then was tremendous in the game five start stopping 45 of 46 helping the Condors stay alive.  A rough outing in game six led to being pulled after the first period, but overall in the series Skinner played very well against a good Gulls team.  It really is neck and neck at this point between Skinner and Wells and I don’t think anyone knows who is going to come out on top.  I think I can speak for all Oilers fans in saying we don’t care just as long as one of them comes out on top as a starting NHL goaltender.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

17. Ilya Konovalov

Team: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl  League: KHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 194  Glove: L

2019 StatsGP: 45  G.A.A.: 1.89  Sv%: .930

DOB: 07/13/98

Acquired: 3rd Round, 85th Overall, 2019 Draft

I now can say I’ve seen him play!  There is a clip on youtube with the camera solely on him!  It is damn near impossible to tell what exactly he is having to face, but there are some quality scoring chances in the 5 minutes or so where he makes some great stops.  Two breakaways and a glorious chance from a cross-crease pass where he stole one.  Something else I noticed is how well he appears to track the puck, and then I’ve read that it’s one of his biggest strengths.  Very positionally sound.  Bob Green said something along the lines of him being bigger than he looks, and again it’s just from the one highlight pack but I can see that.  If you think NHL teams worry about the size of their skaters, it is NOTHING compared to the size requirements for goaltenders these days.

ETA: Early 22-23

 

16. Philip Kemp 

Team: Yale  League: NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: R

2019 StatsGP: 30  G: 3  A: 5  P: 8

DOB: 02/12/99

Acquired: 7th Round, 208th Overall, 2017 Draft

He’s nothing to get over excited about, but there is some reason to get excited about hitting on a 7th round pick.  Don’t believe that’s happened since 2003 for this organization (Kyle Brodziak).  I see him as a Mark Fayne clone, only question is whether we’re talking Fayne in Jersey, or Fayne in Edmonton.

ETA: Late 22-23

 

15. Filip Berglund 

Team: Skellefteå  League: SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 205  Shot: R

2019 StatsGP: 52  G: 2  A: 9  P: 11

DOB: 5/10/97

Acquired: 3rd round, 91st overall, 2016 draft

A little like Kemp in that he doesn’t have much flash in his game.  Maybe a little more offensive ability, but definitely not the type who oozes skill.  On one hand, it’s good that he’s staying over in Sweden another season with the team currently looking at six D for two bottom pairing spots next season (I doubt they’ll want one of the kids on the roster as the number seven guy).  But on the other hand, we would like to get a closer look at him sooner or later.  20-21 I’m sure.

ETA: Late 20-21

 

14. Joe Gambardella

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 201  Shot: L

2019 StatsGP: 50  G: 29  A: 19  P: 48

DOB: 12/01/93

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed March 28th, 2017

It’s go time for Gambardella, and he’s right there.  He’s got the wheels that this organization needs a lot more of, so that’s a good thing.  And he started to gain the trust of Ken Hitchcock near the end of the season, so that’s another great sign.  He’s not a guy Hitchcock would normally like, but he seemed to really appreciate Gambardella.  27 goals, 45 points in 48 games in the AHL this season.  I think he can be a regular, but I do wonder if it’ll be with the Oilers.  Might be the wrong time for him to break through here, but he’ll get his shot in camp.

ETA: Early 19-20

 

13. William Lagesson  

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 207  Shot: L

2019 StatsGP: 67  G: 8  A: 19  P: 27

DOB: 02/22/96

Acquired: 4th Round, 91st Overall, 2014 Draft

I’ve always liked him.  There isn’t a high ceiling with Lagesson, but he sure looks like he’ll play in the league at this point.  Not a pretty skater, but he can move.  Not an offensively gifted player, but put up ok numbers this season.  Not a killer on the back end, but he loves to get his nose dirty.  He’s ready to see some minutes with the big club, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can accommodate that with so many other D-men in the system around the same level.

ETA: Mid 19-20

 

12. Joel Persson 

Team: Växjö League: SHL

Pos: RD Ht: 6’1 Wt: 187  Shot: R

2019 StatsGP: 50  G: 6  A: 25  P: 31

DOB: 03/04/94

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed May 18th, 2018

Have to admit, I’m pretty stunned thus far that they still have a log jam of bottom pair right shot D-men.  Persson, Benning and Bear are all ready for NHL minutes this fall.  Will Persson or Bear perhaps be tried on a 2nd pairing with Nurse?  Neither are ready for that, but both fit much better with Nurse than Matt Benning does.  I wouldn’t do it, but it looks as though they may.  Anyway, Persson doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, but is a well rounded D-man who can skate and move the puck well…AKA the type of defencemen the Oilers are desperate for.  He did a ton of the heavy lifting for Växjö this season, essentially being their number one defenceman.

ETA: Early 19-20

 

11. Cooper Marody  

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 183  Shot: R

2019 StatsGP: 58  G: 19  A: 45  P: 64

DOB: 12/20/96

Acquired: Trade with Philadelphia, March 21st, 2018

I love him, but I’m not sure I love him for the Oilers.  The wheels are concerning and with both the big club and the higher end prospects there are too many players like that in the system.  So for me personally, I’d be willing to part with him for the right piece.  But I love his game.  A pure playmaker who is unafraid to go anywhere on the ice.  If he does improve the wheels, he’ll be one hell of a player.

ETA: Late 19-20

 

10. Raphaël Lavoie

Team: Halifax  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 199  Shot: R

2019 Stats – GP: 62  G: 32  A: 41  P: 73

DOB: 09/25/00

Acquired: 2nd Round, 38th Overall, 2019 Draft

He was a great value pick and has tremendous ability.  However, his motor is scary, not in a good way.  Now, I list him as a winger.  I believe that’s where he ends up.  BUT, he does currently play the middle.  So for me, that would be the key thing to watch for next season.  Final year in Halifax on what should be a very good Mooseheads team again as they’ll return most of their key contributors, it would be a massive help to the organization if Lavoie took some big steps in his development as a centre this season, not just a top 10 prospect.  That’s the hope.  The expectation is that he can become an effective top nine winger down the road.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

9. Ryan McLeod 

Team: Saginaw  League: OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 207  Shot: L

2019 StatsGP: 63  G: 19  A: 43  P: 62

DOB: 09/21/99

Acquired: 2nd Round, 40th Overall, 2018 Draft

I wonder if Marody could give McLeod his compete, or if McLeod could give Marody his wheels?  For me, I’m going to favour the guy with the wheels and McLeod has ELITE wheels.  He’ll play in the league because his speed is that good.  But frankly, it’ll be a matter of him playing with more balls that dictates whether he’ll be a bottom six player or a top six player.  He has all the ability to be a 2nd line player, if not a 1st liner, but it is pretty damn rare for a player to all of a sudden gain on ice bravery (for lack of a better term) as a trait.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

8. Ethan Bear  

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 205  Shot: R

2019 StatsGP: 52  G: 6  A: 25  P: 31

DOB: 06/26/97

Acquired: 5th Round, 124th Overall, 2015 Draft

As has been stated by myself and others hundreds of times by now, the big question is his skating.  And like Marody, I wouldn’t be afraid to part with Bear this off-season.  But unlike Marody, Bear’s trade value is probably less than it should be at the moment.  With neither guy, you don’t move him unless you get the right deal, but I’m just saying I’d at least listen on both.  Fans have got mesmerized by Jones skating ability that they seemingly have forgotten Bear’s ability to move the puck.  It’s elite, not to mention a big shot to go with it, and Bear’s overall skating isn’t that bad at all.  I find his lateral movement actually to be pretty high end, it’s the top speed that is lacking…in my opinion anyway.

ETA: Mid 19-20

 

7. Dmitri Samorukov 

Team: Guelph  League: OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2019 StatsGP: 59  G: 10  A: 35  P: 45

DOB: 06/16/99

Acquired: 3rd Round, 84th Overall, 2017 Draft

Lower than most in Oiler land have him.  Why?  I’m perhaps more realistic than others?  Watch what’s going to happen here.  So I’ve seen some have him as high as third in their rankings.  Sammy is going to play most of next season (likely all of it) in Bakersfield, and it’ll be a big adjustment to pro hockey.  In the OHL, Sammy started to figure out that he was more physically gifted than most of the league.  He wasn’t dominating because of his IQ.  So what I expect to happen is he’ll struggle in his first year in the AHL much as Caleb Jones did.  And just like with Jones, people will then bail hard on him, and then around this time next year, I’ll have him higher than most.  Although I hope I’m wrong on that and he steps into the AHL and blows the doors off the league.  I wouldn’t complain about that in the least!  But from what I’ve seen, I believe pro hockey will be a big adjustment for him.

ETA: Mid 20-21

 

6. Kirill Maksimov  

Team: Niagara  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2019 StatsGP: 63  G: 40  A: 39  P: 79

DOB: 06/01/99

Acquired: 5th Round, 146th Overall, 2017 Draft

He keeps dropping in my rankings, but it is everything to do with the organization adding to their system and nothing to do with souring even the slightest bit on the kid.  I fully believe this kid is going to make it and he’s going to be a total sniper.  A bomb of a one-timer, yet his best shot is his wrist shot.  His wrister reminds me of Joe Sakic’s.  No backswing.  People also rave about his work ethic, the way his 200-foot game has developed, and the only knock is a lack of not great wheels.  Not that they aren’t good enough already, just that they aren’t great and I’ve made the point several times that I believe it’s coming.  You watch him skate and it just looks as though he lacks power.  Then you look at how he’s built and he still just has such thin legs.  So when he starts developing lower body strength, I won’t be surprised if we’re talking about his skating being one of his best traits.

ETA: Mid 20-21

 

5. Tyler Benson  

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2019 StatsGP: 68  G: 15  A: 51  P: 66

DOB: 03/15/98

Acquired: 2nd Round, 32nd Overall, 2016 Draft

I can honestly say I never lost faith in the ability.  I definitely was losing faith in the ability to remain healthy at this point two years ago, but not in the kid’s ability.  His IQ and playmaking ability are elite.  He’s willing to play a complete game too, something that maybe gets a little underrated with him.  I maintain that Benson is going to ride shotgun with 97 at some point in the next year or two because they think the game so similar and he’s just such a perfect compliment.  The mistake the organization has made in the past is they would keep a good roster spot open for a kid like this.  I believe this is one reason they signed Tomas Jurco.  Benson is LIKELY ready, but let’s start making sure that the kids are earning their spots on the roster.  As has been said before he doesn’t have elite wheels, but he’s one kid who won’t need elite speed with how he thinks the game, and it’s not as if he’s a bad skater either.  He can move well enough.

ETA: Early 19-20

 

4. Caleb Jones  

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 205  Shot: L

2019 StatsGP: 50  G: 6  A: 23  P: 29

DOB: 06/06/97

Acquired: 4th Round, 117th Overall, 2015 Draft

Benson can move, but Jones can fly.  I’ve maintained over the last two years that Jones was a player because of the skating, and you all got to see that over 17 games this season.  I won’t spend much time here because you’ve all seen him closer than most of these kids, but I will say that I believe he’ll be a top-four guy eventually, and I believe he’s proven that he’s ready for a spot on the bottom pair this season.  I would say that like Benson they should also have a veteran for Jones to compete with, I’d assume that’ll be whoever will likely be the number seven D-man, not to mention Lagesson.

ETA: Early 19-20

 

3. Kailer Yamamoto  

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 154  Shot: R

2019 StatsGP: 27  G: 10  A: 8  P: 18

DOB: 09/29/98

Acquired: 1st Round, 22nd Overall, 2017 Draft

A set back of a season.  But consider this: Johnny Gaudreau is maybe the poster boy for undersized players in the league right now.  Gaudreau played one game before the age of 22.  I compared Yamo to Cam Atkinson in his draft year, Atkinson’s first full season (kind of, it was the lockout year) was at age 23.  And read his weight, 5’8 was one thing but 154lbs is another.  I’ve had that number for a while, so I’m sure he’s packed on a few more pounds, but he’s still really small and still probably doesn’t have the strength he’ll need.  So I’d expect a full season in Bakersfield next season, but don’t bail on him yet.  He still has the qualities to thrive.  He has high-end skill, high-end IQ, and he’s insanely driven.  I thought it would have happened by now, but in hindsight, that’s likely what I missed on him.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

2. Philip Broberg

Team: AIK  League: SWE-Als

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 41  G: 2  A: 7  P: 9

DOB: 06/25/01

Acquired: 1st Round, 8th Overall, 2019 Draft

I make no bones about the fact that I REALLY didn’t like the pick.  But people also need to understand that there is a difference between believing the organization should have gone elsewhere, and hating the player.  Broberg was a very risky pick, but the saying is high risk/high reward and the fact is that Broberg has the potential to be a number one defenceman in the NHL.  That’s not nothing.  What I need to know (impossible for a guy like me to know this) is where is Broberg’s IQ at, and what is his work ethic like?  I’ve flat out LOVED what I’ve heard from him thus far.  Seems to be a very humble, honest, hard-working kid.  That’s a great sign.  I’m going to guess that what won the Oilers over is he blew them away when they interviewed him.  Personally, I never read or heard that he was one of the better interviews at the combine, but it doesn’t mean he wasn’t.  I wish he was headed to Hamilton for the upcoming season so he could get adjusted to playing in North America sooner and playing against weaker competition would give him a chance to work on the aspects of his game he struggles, namely his puck skills and his puck moving.  Glass half full: those skills have never needed to be developed because his size and wheels have allowed him to dominate at most levels without needing them, and therefore it remains to be seen if he will improve them to the level he needs to.  I hope this is the case.

ETA: Early 22-23

 

1. Evan Bouchard 

Team: London  League: OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2019 StatsGP: 45  G: 16  A: 37  P: 53

DOB: 10/20/99

Acquired: 1st Round, 10th Overall, 2018 Draft

Even with Broberg in the picture, I along with seemingly everyone else who is ranking these kids still has Bouchard tops on the list.  He’s the much safer bet of the two prospects.  Broberg has the higher ceiling, but with Bouchard I’d be completely shocked if he wasn’t at least a number five defenceman in the show for a decade.  And that’s worst case scenario.  Having said that, he still needs a year in Bakersfield.  His puck-moving ability, shot, and how well he reads the game offensively makes his defensive game passable at this point, but passable isn’t good enough when you’re talking about a kid who has the talent to be a top pairing D-man.

ETA: Late 19-20

 

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Soups Rankings: July, 2019

The NHL never ceases to amaze me.  Is it not the most odd thing perhaps in sports that their free agency has this flurry of signings right out the gate, and then all of a sudden by about 7PM EST on July 1st it goes dead?  Why?  You look at the remaining UFA’s, there is actually a lot of quality players out there, and yet in the three days since it has essentially been crickets.  And chances are, it’ll probably be this way until September 3rd, which is the day after Labour Day.  Why don’t we just say that the league completely shuts down all operations from July 3rd until September 3rd?  A full two months off, rather than pretending that’s not what happens?

 

Anyway, with things completely dead, it’s a good time to look at where these teams stand.  Obviously a Jake Gardiner here, a Ryan Dzingel there and maybe it makes a difference to a squad heading into the 19-20 season, but why wait?  It’s summer, what in the fuck else are we going to talk about?  The lake?  That place where we get maybe a max of five days during the summer that are good and we are forced to make the most elaborate meals that require an insane amount of work while we’re supposed to be RELAXING?!?  That place?  The lake and new year’s eve are the two most overrated things on the planet.  Like, why is it that I have the same amount of fun on any random Friday that I have at the lake or on NYE?!  If they’re so great, wouldn’t this NOT be possible?  Neither suck, they’re just badly overrated and this annoys me to no end.

 

With that being said, let’s see who I overrate…

 

31. Ottawa – It’ll be a hell of a long climb back for them.

 

30. Detroit – Stevie Y is likely going to do a great job, but he’s just getting started.

 

29. Los Angeles – It’s pretty bleak at the moment.

 

28. Buffalo – Watch out for Dahlin this season.  Talk about under the radar, he had 44 points as an 18 year old on a terrible team.  Kids a star.  But outside of him becoming a Norris contender AND Eichel being a Hart contender, I don’t see how this team can do anything.

 

27. Edmonton – I’m just resigned to this at this point.  Look, I had no visions of Holland turning them into a contender overnight and have always maintained they just needed to work with what they have at this point and wait out some of this mess.  But Holland doesn’t seem to have much of a plan, which was exposed with the Sekera buyout.  If he’s waiting a year, then why buyout Sekera now?  If he’s not, then why not also buyout Gagner and Manning to give them 6.9 mil in extra space?  Because he didn’t have a plan.  It was never going to look great, but a good GM does better than he has to this point.

 

26. Columbus – I worry this might be a little low for them.  I know what they’ve lost, but they also still have some terrific pieces.  But until Korpisalo proves himself as a starter, this is where they sit.

 

25. Minnesota – If you’re Mats Zuccarello, why them?!?!?  I’m sure there is some reason, but it’s definitely not because you believe you can win.  I don’t think they’re done, and again I’ll suggest to Ken Holland that they are ripe for the picking right now with Spurgeon.

 

24. Chicago – That Robin Lehner signing looks great, but he’s going from one of the best defensive teams in the league to one of the worst.  Toews, Kane, Keith, and Crawford are all a year older, and while they have some good young players, I’m not sure they can be much more than they were in 2019.

 

23. New Jersey – There off-season LOOKS really sexy!  Hughes, Subban, and Simmonds, that looks terrific!  One problem: Their big issue was goaltending and Ray Shero did absolutely nothing to fix it.  Oh, and Subban is coming off his worst season.  Oh, and Simmonds is too.  Oh, and Hughes is a rookie.  Oh, and Taylor Hall STILL doesn’t look like he wants to re-sign there.  It’s Elaine looking in the skinny mirror.  The dress might look great in the skinny mirror, but not in reality.

 

22. NY Rangers – Don’t confuse terrific off-season with terrific team.  Don’t confuse stockpiled young talent with ready to contend (Jeff Marek).  I’m as high on what the Rangers have done as anyone.  But the fact of the matter is they still have a very young roster and I’m not a fan of what they have down the middle.  If they make the playoffs this season I won’t be surprised at all, but I’m not going to have them as a lock for it as many others likely will.

 

21. Vancouver – Tricky team to rank for me.  On one hand, you look at what they added to last years team and they look ready to be a playoff team.  So why am I not putting them there?  Markstrom.  Did he turn a corner in his career last season, or was it a career year?  That J.T. Miller trade suggests it better well not be just a career year, otherwise, it’ll be a pretty damn nervous fan base in Vancouver heading into the 20-21 season.

 

20. Anaheim – Probably higher than most have them, and I’m not sure I’m the biggest fan of putting them this high.  But I find myself often drinking the Dallas Eakins kool-aid.  I believe he’ll have learned a ton from the Edmonton experience, he has a shit ton of young talent to work with in Anaheim, and by far the most important thing is he has a goaltender.  And not just a goaltender, maybe the best in the league in John Gibson.

 

19. Montreal – There is potential to move much higher here.  Kotkaniemi taking a massive step wouldn’t shock me, and Poehling being a major contributor wouldn’t shock me either.  But I believe both may need to happen for them to get back in the playoffs.

 

18. Arizona – I’m guessing most will have them at least in the top three in the Pacific if not winning the division because if they were that good unhealthy, just imagine when they’re healthy!!!…and with Kessel!!!  I don’t know if it’ll play out quite like that.

 

17. Colorado – I love this team and love even more where they’re headed.  But it’s the future that looks amazing there, not the present.  The present looks good enough to make the playoffs again, but I believe they’re a year or two away from really contending.

 

16. Carolina – I don’t know if I like them this high.  They made the Conference finals, just about everyone will be back, great.  But Mrazek is so inconsistent between the pipes and now they have Reimer coming in who looked simply awful last season for the Panthers, a step back could be coming.  Having said all that, they’re one of the most well-run organizations in the league despite a lot of noise that points to the contrary.

 

15. NY Islanders – Varlamov was an odd signing, but Barry Trotz gets everything out of any goaltender he has and Varlamov might be inconsistent but he is extremely talented.  Add to that, the decision to let Lehner walk and bring in Varlamov seems very sloppy…I’ve called Lamoriello overrated many times before, but he’s not at all sloppy.  The man knew exactly what he was doing here.

 

14. Philadelphia – If they have a full season of Carter Hart and JVR, they probably make the playoffs last season.  I hate the Hayes contract like everyone, but he should help improve them as should Vigneault.

 

13. Pittsburgh – I don’t like where this is headed.  I like the Kessel deal for them, but it really feels as though they’re big time on the decline.

 

12. Winnipeg – Probably more than any other team in the league right now, this is a “wait and see”.  Connor and Laine aren’t signed, and looking closely at their roster I simply don’t see a way they go into next season with this blueline.  Woof.  Josh Morrissey might be the most underrated defenceman in the league right now, but he can’t do this on his own.  I know Byfuglien is still around, but he’s 34.  And after those two they have NOTHING.  The Trouba trade badly hurt them, and in my opinion, now they will have to move out one of Ehlers, Connor or Laine to fix it.

 

11. Florida – If Bob plays how he can, this team is a lock for the playoffs and built for a deep run.  Joel Quenneville is fine, but it’s Bobrovsky who’ll make or break their season.

 

10. Calgary – I don’t know that last season is repeatable, as they got career years out of a ton of guys.  But let’s not confuse “might not be as good” with “won’t be good”.  I still would guess they’ll compete for the Pacific title and are a lock to be top three in the division.

 

9. St. Louis – The last time I did rankings they were nowhere near here.  Boy how times have changed…but as far as repeating, I have a tough time believing they’ll do that.

 

8. Dallas – The blueline is a year older, they should be able to score a bit more, I believe they can win the West this season but Jim Nill still will need to add.

 

7. Washington – Death, taxes, Ovy gets 50, and the Caps win the division.

 

6. Vegas – Stone made a big difference in their lineup once he arrived and if not for that horse shit call on Eakins they might return to the final last season.  I kept waiting for the bubble to burst on them, but last year proved they were no fluke.

 

5. Nashville – Subban out, Duchene in.  Interesting.  I don’t have the best feeling about them moving forward, almost as though they’ve lost their magic as stupid as that sounds.  But just on paper, they still should be elite.

 

4. San Jose – It looks like such a cap mess, but somehow Doug Wilson always manages to pull a rabbit out of his hat and do anything he wants to.

 

3. Boston – It’ll be interesting to see how they respond.  I believed this time last year that they had caught lightning in a bottle, yet they went to game seven of the final this past year.  They have so many kids who aren’t stars but are just really damn solid.

 

2. Toronto – What have I been telling all of you?  Dubas is an awesome GM, knows exactly what he’s doing, and they’re going to be fine.  As of writing this, Marner isn’t signed, but you think this guy isn’t prepared for anything that might be coming in terms of an offer sheet?!  Barrie is an upgrade on Gardiner, and Spezza should be able to handle the 3rd line duties.

 

1. Tampa Bay – Fuck the sweep, they’re going to be great again.

 

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