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Properly Deploying the Lineup

Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP

Do you know what I love?  A big ol’ badonkadonk on a beautiful woman.  But (pardon the pun) do you know WHAT ELSE I love?  Stepping outside and the sun is shining, but the air is a bit cool, and there is no humidity and a little condensation on the windows of my truck.  College football is now in full swing, my fantasy draft transpired last weekend, NFL gets going Thursday, junior hockey leagues are already getting into pre-season (doing colour for the Lloydminster Bobcats again this season who began their pre-season last Wednesday at home against Spurce Grove), and finally, NHL camps are about to open!  For some people, summer ending is the absolute worst.  Those people loathe me because I’m ecstatic that fall is here!


Speaking of which, we’re now only now a little over three weeks away from the Boundary Battle of Alberta!  Latest addition’s to the game are Oilers analyst on 630 CHED Rob Brown, and former Oilers captain Ethan Moreau.  Big names.  Brown is known as one of the greatest players in the history of the WHL.  212 points for Kamloops in the 86-87 season.  In 88-89, put up 49 goals and 115 points in just 68 games to help lead the Penguins to their first playoff appearance in six seasons.  After falling on hard times in the middle of his career, Brown’s resiliency was on full display after spending the large majority of five seasons (93-97) in the IHL, Brown found himself back with the Penguins for the 97-98 season, putting up 40 points in 82 games (let’s remember, 40 points in 98 was about the same as 70 points in 89).


Ethan Moreau faced his fair share of adversity in his career as well.  The 14th overall pick of the 1994 entry draft, Moreau was expected to be a scorer at the NHL level.  After a terrific rookie campaign in 96-97 for the Hawks, Moreau’s career stalled in Chicago and was eventually dealt to the Oilers right before the 1999 trade deadline in the Boris Mironov deal.  In Edmonton however, Moreau found a home and became part of the teams core.  He epitomized Oilers hockey in his years with the club.  His hard work both on and off the ice truly paid off in the 03-04 season with a career-high 20 goals.  Of course, that season likely paled in comparison to what the team accomplished in 05-06 as they went all the way to game seven of the Cup final, and Moreau’s efforts were rewarded with a four year extension prior to the 06-07 season.  He was named captain of the club prior to the 07-08 season, however once again his resiliency was put to the test as he’d missed most of 06-07 after needing reconstructive shoulder surgery, broke his tibia during the 07-08 pre-season, FINALLY returned to the lineup for the first time in over a year on December 29th, 2007…though only for two months as on February 25th his season was ended with a broken leg.  Most players might toss in the towel at that point.  Three major injuries in two seasons.  Moreau not only came back for the 08-09 season, but he played in 77 games and was rewarded with the NHL’s King Clancy award.  The guy was a total warrior.

The late game is sold out, but tickets are still available for the noon game! Proceeds go towards the mental health initiative Project Sunrise. Head to Boundary Ford in Lloydminster to purchase your tickets and check out some of the Oilers and Flames greats for just $25.00!

Onto other Oilers business…


Again I’m going to start off a piece with a grim reminder that the Oilers are very likely in a one year rebuild.  And again I’m going to say that while it’s a one year rebuild, it doesn’t at all mean that they’re tanking or not looking to win in any way.  So with the lineup looking so thin, what is the best way for head coach Dave Tippett to find balance throughout his lineup?  I have some suggestions…perhaps you’d like to read them…


As everyone should know by now, you want to find pairings up front, and then a 3rd man who more so simply fits on a line rather than a need to find a three man combination.  Obviously if you can afford to go with a trio (like the Bruins), you do so.  But the Oilers don’t have anywhere near that depth.


With this being said, here is what I’d look to do.


McDavid with Neal

This isn’t what will happen, but this is what I would like to see tried at least to start camp.  It’s maybe been stated 10-20 million times by now, but Draisaitl doesn’t need McDavid to produce.  I’m not as anti putting them together as I was at this time last year, but if Neal is in as good as shape as is being advertised, then these two have the potential to be a dynamic duo as well, and therefore Tippett should be able to spread the wealth so to speak by keeping McDavid and Draisaitl separated.

3rd Wheel?

I doubt many, if any, see it this way given how unproven the kid is, but I’ve liked the idea of trying Nygard with McDavid since they signed him.  This isn’t AT ALL suggesting that the kid is a first-line winger.  If he was, he’d have been in the league long ago.  But the thought of a burner like Nygard paired with McDavid is just so damn intriguing to me.  I realize that McDavid and Hall didn’t gel all that well when tried together, but that wasn’t because they were both great skaters, it was because neither were guys were used to deferring to someone else on their line.  Nygard with McDavid could potentially be a deadly combination in their own right.


Nugent-Hopkins with Draisaitl

A lot of us have discussed this a ton not just this off-season, it was heavily discussed leading into last season as I recall.  It’s simple: find a lesser name who McDavid can truly gel with (which could be Neal if last season was in fact an aberration), freeing up the 2nd and 3rd best offensive players to team up on their own line.  I will point out though that several people in the past have made the claim that Draisaitl is adamant he play with McDavid, so perhaps that is why it’s rarely been tried.

3rd Wheel?

Unlike with Nygard filling in on the top line, I’d feel comfortable with several options on the 2nd line.  As most likely would though, I’ll say Kassian.  Will he be able to produce as he did with McDavid and Draisaitl?  Highly unlikely.  But can he hold his own in the top six with Nuge and without McDavid?  I believe so.


Marody with Benson

So the last time around I was pretty steadfast that I didn’t like this idea.  But the more I’ve given it thought not just of where they’d line up, but how my lineup would look, perhaps it is best to try them together.  Add to that, it could be a big benefit for both to have that comfort level on the ice that they would.  I definitely believe there was merit to what I said last time around in keeping them separate not only for experience purposes but also for speed purposes.  But if you’re deploying the lineup properly, it should leave Marody and Benson (should both even make the opening night roster) with a lot of soft minutes on the 3rd line.

3rd Wheel?

For me, I love the idea of Josh Archibald here.  Talked about the lack of speed with the combination of Marody and Benson, well Archibald gives this line that.  He’s shown a pretty decent ability to finish as well.  I’m well aware that some would be screaming that I say Gagner or Chiasson in this spot, but with both players you have a lack of speed.  I’m not too eager to try what would make for a pretty slow line, no matter how soft of minutes they’re seeing.


Haas with Chiasson

By no means would I suggest that this is a combination that can do damage, even on the 4th line.  We’re not even sure if Gaetan Haas can play in the NHL (according to Bob Stauffer and the people he talks to, the jury is out).  But as I look at this lineup, I worry about guys who can kill penalties.  Kassian is ok at it, as is Archibald, but more is needed and the hope is that Haas can be that guy.  Chiasson was impressive at the start of last season playing on the 4th line, and was back down near that level once his hot stick finally cooled.


3rd Wheel?

Most would probably say Jujhar Khaira here.  I definitely am not against Khaira in this spot myself.  However, Markus Granlund is going to play, and I don’t have him anywhere in the lineup.  Granlund is a little better on the PK, a little more speed, and is a little better playing the middle if need be.


This leaves Sam Gagner and Khaira as the odd men out of the lineup.  It also sends Colby Cave to the minors.  With Gagner specifically, I really don’t like leaving him out as I still believe he has the ability to contribute 40-45 points (32 point pace last season for the Oilers with none of it coming on the PP).  If it’s me, he’s in direct competition with Marody for that 3rd line centre role.  But if Marody shows better than Gagner in the pre-season, I believe he should be the guy as he’s younger and is under team control for several more seasons.  In the case of Cave, I join most in being a fan, but this lineup is just so desperate for speed and Cave didn’t provide much of it last season.  It’s not that either guy is incapable of playing, but I’m having trouble finding a spot for either of them, or Khaira.


Again though, this is what I personally would do at this point without having seen these guys play pre-season.  Not that pre-season should be everything for a roster, but with this one they have about 15 forwards truly vying for spots.  It’ll play a big factor.


If I had to guess at what Tippett will do, I’d suggest that it’s something like this:

Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian

Benson – Nugent-Hopkins – Neal

Granlund – Gagner – Chiasson

Khaira – Haas – Archibald


The D is another story, mainly because we’ve got a little insight as to what they’re planning thanks to Jim Playfair’s interview with Bob Stauffer last week.  Nurse and Larsson seeing top matchups last season weren’t good.  Now, in saying that, I’ve always been and will continue to be a big believer in Nurse’s upside deep into his 20’s as he continues to grow.  Larsson is capable of being one of the best shutdown D-men in the sport, but it has now been two years since we’ve seen that player.  Can it work?  100%.  Will it work?  I have my fears.


The other thing that came of that interview was that Playfair talked about possibly moving Kris Russell to the left side.  I have no problem with that at all…except…if this was the plan all summer, why didn’t Ken Holland at least explore a trade of Russell?  They have as good of a D-man coming in Caleb Jones whom they will also want to play the left side.  They also have William Lagesson who isn’t flashy but brings a VERY solid defensive game to the table.  I’m all for Russell playing the left side, but it doesn’t make any sense when you look at what else they have to work with.  I assume that they’re going to try Klefbom with Benning, which analytically does make some sense, but for me personally, I’m not a fan of that pairing.


If it’s me, I keep Klefbom and Larsson together, use them as the shutdown pairing.  I’d then use Nurse with one of Persson or Bear (outside chance of Bouchard but obviously as I and many others have repeatedly said, much prefer Bouchard to spend the season in Bakersfield).


Interesting tidbit yesterday on Twitter as Bob Stauffer talked about William Lagesson.  I’ve talked at length about Lagesson in the past, especially this off-season as being very ready to play in the show.  But the interesting thing is that if Lagesson plays, where does that leave pretty much everyone else?  Russell is supposedly going to play the left side and that means he’s at best on the third pair.  If Benning is with Klefbom, then I guess that third pair right side spot is open.  However, the coaching staff has been pretty open about wanting D-men playing on their strong sides.  They also have others such as Joel Persson and Ethan Bear who are righties ready to fill that role.  I just cannot figure out why more of an effort wasn’t made to move out Kris Russell this off-season.  Not even a whisper.  And I realize that a lot of people love Russell’s game, but even if you’re one of those people, you’d have to agree that he no longer fits with the club from a cap POV given the kids they have who are ready for minutes.  You have as many as five defencemen ready to play, you need minutes in Bakersfield for the likes of Bouchard and Samorukov, and here you have a four million dollar a year defencemen who is your third best LH shooting D-man blocking the path for several kids who are ready to play.  It just couldn’t make less sense.


This team has some depth.  It remains to be seen if it is QUALITY depth, but they are deeper (especially on the back end) then they have been in a long time.  Word is that Tippett would like to give most of the kids one pre-season game and then immediately send them down to have a much smaller camp, and when you go through the roster you can definitely see why as there are a lot of tough decisions to make, and a lot of time needs to be dedicated towards seeing how the pieces fit.

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Playoffs? Unlikely, but Possible

Do you have tickets to the Boundary Battle of Alberta yet?  I know the first game sold old in just hours, but I told you a few weeks ago that they added a 2nd game and as of writing this, tickets are still available at just $25 bucks a ticket.  And thus far it’s a solid list of names on both sides, with more to come.  For me, this week’s additions were the most exciting thus far as I’m a MASSIVE fan of both Brian McGratton and big Georges Laraque!  Probably the two best heavyweights in the league from 06-09.  If we could get Georges and McGratt’s to throw down, that would be GREATLY appreciated!  I’m not asking them to do it, just if they feel like it I wouldn’t hate it…The game is going to be a great, but the big thing for me is the proceeds going towards project sunrise, a mental health initiative and anyone who knows me likely knows that’s something that really hits home for me having dealt with mental health issues as I’m sure most of you (if not all) have as well.  I have no problem talking about my problems, but many do.  We need to do what we can to end that.  So my suggestion is to get some tickets to the noon game.  It’s affordable, it’ll be a blast and it’s going towards a great cause so how can you go wrong?!  Tickets available at Boundary Ford in Lloydminster.

If you’ve been reading my stuff this summer then you know that I do not believe that the Oilers are making the playoffs.  I’ll say it again, this is a one year rebuild.  That doesn’t mean that they’re looking to tank the season at all, but it just means that the focus from management is on the following seasons much more than this one.


We know what they’ll get from a lot of players assuming they remain healthy.  We know McDavid will be amazing, we know Draisaitl even in a poor season is still capable of being terrific, Nugent-Hopkins, Klefbom, Nurse, etc. we pretty much know what those guys are going to bring to the table.  But if they’re actually going to make a run to the playoffs this season, it is pretty vital that they max out on what they have on these six players.


Mikko Koskinen

He’s not the tire fire most fans think of him as…not yet anyway.  The issues with the glove to me was MUCH more mental than it was physical.  That doesn’t appear to me to be something that can’t be overcome.  And if he does overcome it, where is the weakness?  Koskinen given proper rest this season, not to mention being prepared both mentally and physically for more of a grind, could produce some real nice numbers.  If the Oilers are to make the playoffs, a large part of it rides on him giving the team at least a .915 Sv%.  Don’t get me wrong, the easy thing to say on Koskinen is that the league started to figure him out.  I was guarding against that when he was rolling early.  But it’s at least possible to suggest that when he first started to struggle it was because of the injuries on the blueline (Klefbom and Russell, not to mention Sekera), and by the time that blueline got healthy he was getting more and more fatigued.  With a healthy blueline, and before getting run into the ground, Koskinen had a .927 Sv%.  I’m not going to suggest that’s who he is, but most people want to point to the disgusting decision made on him and say he’s awful.  Don’t confuse the decision/contract with the goaltender.  And while it’s unlikely he’s a .920 or better goaltender, there is some evidence that suggests he could be.


Mike Smith

Obviously, I could have just said the goaltending in general.  But I get paid by the word…(I don’t get paid…well, actually I in a way do on this one, but not by the word).  Bruce McCurdy from the Edmonton Journal brought this to my attention on Twitter the other day that while Smith had a rough season last year, post All-Star break he was actually pretty decent with a .912 Sv% and a 2.28 G.A.A. in 17 games.  Can he do that for 35-40 games this season?  If he can, it’d make his contract well worthwhile.

Don’t forget with both these tendy’s that they’re now playing in a Dave Tippett system.  Mike Smith was awesome for Tippett in Dallas, saw his game erode in Tampa, and became a star again for Tippett in Arizona.  Ilya Bryzgalov looked elite playing for Tippett in Arizona, and never looked like the same guy anywhere else.  Marty Turco was the same.  People forget that Devan Dubnyk got his career back on track playing for Tippett first, THEN ending up in Minnesota.  Two big, athletic, and technically strong goaltenders like Koskinen and Smith could really thrive playing for Tippett as we’ve seen in the past.


Cooper Marody

The more I’m giving this thought, the more I like Cooper Marody’s chances to make the team with a good camp.  That 3rd line centre spot is his for the taking.  If he’s ready, he’s the perfect fit for the role being a RH shot who can really dish the puck and is willing to play a complete game.  Some might say Gaetan Haas is penciled in for the role, but I personally see him as the 4th line centre, with Brodziak going to Bakersfield (or going on LTIR as I was told the other day that his back is essentially done).  Jujhar Kaira has an outside chance of filling the role, so does Sam Gagner.  But for me, the 3rd line centre role is Marody’s job to lose.  Not only could thrive given softer minutes as I’m sure he would see playing behind McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins, but he’s a real weapon on either PP unit with his vision.


James Neal

This one might have been at the top of the list for a lot of people.  Not that I’m really ranking them, but I actually believe in Neal’s ability to rebound to form, or close to it anyway.  To me, if we’re talking about the Oilers making the playoffs, 25 goals is a must from Neal.  But again, I don’t see it as that far fetched.  He’s more talented than Patty Maroon was in 2017 who netted 27 in what will likely be the same role for Neal.  And Neal has a much better shot than Maroon has or had.


Tyler Benson

I can’t stress enough that you remember the pedigree this kid had going into his draft year and the injury issues began.  This is not your normal 2nd round pick who has a year under his belt playing in the AHL.  Benson is the type of talent where had he been healthy, even just in 16-17, that he may not have even seen the AHL.  He has two completely healthy campaign’s under his belt, and he’s looked like the potential top-six winger he looked since Bantam.  The scary predicament for the team here however is having both Benson and Marody in the lineup.  Ideally, you break in one before bringing in the other.  But for the Oilers to make the playoffs, it might be a case where both players are going to be required to make the lineup.  This whole time I’ve been saying that Benson should be broke in on the 3rd line, but if Marody ends up as the 3C, I’d probably want Benson on another line.  Most would say horse shit to that and they’d love Benson and Marody together because of how they performed together last season.  It’s a fair point, but I personally don’t like playing rookies together, and neither are great skaters so I’d want some speed on both their lines.  With that all said, you aren’t going to start Benson on the 4th line with very limited minutes.  So then the ideal spot is on the 2nd line with Nugent-Hopkins.  I believe he’s very capable of filling that role, but it is a lot bigger ask than getting softer minutes on the 3rd line would be.


Top Four RD Emerges

I cheated a little here, because this is not one player, but one position where they’ll need one of three candidates to be able to handle.  Right now, the 2nd pairing RD is Kris Russell.  Russell falls into the category of “know what you’re getting”.  What we know we’re getting from Russell isn’t a top-four defenceman.  Matt Benning MIGHT have the ability to play in someone’s top four, but he and Nurse were pretty awful together when given that opportunity last season.  So that leaves the candidates for the role being Joel Persson, Ethan Bear, and Evan Bouchard.  The problem is that it is very likely too much to ask of one of these players to step in and be legitimate top-four defencemen, but all of them fit much better with Darnell Nurse on the second pair as they all move the puck much better than Russell.  Persson is likely the top candidate for the role as he is the most experienced in pro hockey of the three (of course this is his first in North America).  Bear has everything except he is the weakest skater of the three.  Bouchard is the most talented, but he’d have to absolutely kill it in camp to even get a look for me as I would pretty badly want him to spend most of the season in Bakersfield.  Very unlikely one of these three can emerge as a top-four guy this season, but if one of them could it would be a MASSIVE lift for the blueline.

I’ll add one crazy idea to this before I’m done, which is moving Nurse to the top pairing with Klefbom.  @WheatNOil on Twitter brought this up a few months back suggesting that Nurse’s game could possibly lend itself to switching sides as his game wouldn’t be near as hindered as an exceptional puck-mover would be playing their off-side.  And with how Klefbom can move the puck, I could see them really meshing well together.  That would allow Larsson to move to the 2nd pair possibly with Caleb Jones, whom it isn’t ideal for him either to start out in a top-four role, but being the most talented and most ready of the D-men ready to step in this season, and believing that Jones and Larsson might really mesh together, perhaps that’s the move.  I think it’s really unlikely the coaching staff would look at Nurse on the top pairing with Klefbom, but it’s something worth exploring given the current situation on the blueline.


If all six of these things happen for the Oilers, they won’t make the playoffs, they’ll comfortably make the playoffs.  That has about a 2% chance of happening.  They do need most of it to happen though, especially the goaltending.  Do not hold your breath on this team making the playoffs.  But, it is possible.

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Integrating the Kids

Did anyone check out the Ocho yesterday?!?  All day, TSN2, all Ocho!  I got to check out the Cornhole and the Dodgeball.  Was on the treadmill while the Cornhole was being played, didn’t realize I was pulling against Canada.  I loved the dude in the cowboy hat with the beer in his hand though, dude could Cornhole!  The Dodgeball was disappointing from a Canadian POV, as our boys quite frankly choked.  The one thing I know about Dodgeball is that if you got someone down 12-2, you have to finish it.  Felt awful for the great Matty O.B. on that final throw, just heartbreaking, but you just HAVE to win that game.  I haven’t seen a comeback like the States pulled off since Peter LaFleur (no relation to Guy, or new Packers head coach Matt) and his team from Average Joe’s gym came back to defeat that dastardly White Goodman (cousin of John) and the Globo Gym Cobras.

Spots still available to play in this game amongst former NHL players! $1000.00 to play. For more information, call the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation at 306-820-6161

So, my big theme this summer has become that we as fans need to see this Oilers season for what it is, which is a one year rebuild.  It doesn’t mean they won’t try to get in the playoffs, and it doesn’t mean they’re going to blow anything up.  But it is a massive mess that Peter Chiarelli left behind, and it is going to take some more time to untangle everything.  What would Connor McDavid like to see more: the Oilers doing everything they can to scrap into the playoffs every season, or the Oilers having a great plan to move things forward and become an elite team who are Cup contenders every season?  It’s without a doubt the latter.


But it’s not just about waiting out the cap mess.  This team has a lot of prospects who are close to playing right now.  They also have a lot of kids who are going to be eligible for the Seattle expansion draft too.  So this is really a perfect season to take a hard look at what they have in the system.  But you can’t just try to jam as many of them in the lineup as you can at once.  And it’s not as if they’re all finished products.  So it is going to be a balancing act for Holland and Tippett.


I know they’re reading this, and I know they’re dying to know “how Soups would handle such a difficult situation”.  No problem fella’s, I’m happy to help.


Tyler Benson

Where does he fit:

Entering this season, the best fit on the roster for Benson would be on the 3rd line seeing some softer minutes.  Put him in a position to succeed.  Long term, I see Benson as a top-six winger.  I’ve said in the past that I like him to ride shotgun with McDavid.  Do not confuse that with suggesting he’s a 1st line winger, I’m not saying THAT.  But what I am saying is that his game (should he pan out) will be a perfect fit.

What needs work:

The skating.  His top speed will never be high-end, but the explosiveness and edge work can always go up another level.

How many NHL games:

I expect Benson to win a spot right out of camp.  I’m not saying they’ll gift it to him, nor would I, but I do believe he’s going to earn it.  Should he go back down though, they still should be looking to get him 25-30 games this season.  It isn’t a make or break season for Benson’s career by any means, but having become such an intriguing piece for the Oilers future they need to test him.


Cooper Marody

Where does he fit:

3rd line centre.  Early last season I was suggesting that Marody could make Ryan Strome expendable simply because he brought many of the same traits as Strome did to the table (similar size, RH shot, similar skating ability, etc) but Marody was the far better playmaker and perhaps would produce at the same level as Strome or maybe even a bit better.  Obviously we know that Strome is long gone and that 3rd line centre spot is desperately needed to be filled.

What needs work:

Just like Benson, it’s the skating.  To me, he just looks as though he lacks lower body strength (much the way I feel about Maksimov’s skating).  His stride looks clean, but he just doesn’t generate the speed you’d expect.

How many NHL games:

I believe he’s going to get a good hard look in camp.  Most aren’t looking at him as a possibility for the big squad, but he might have a better shot to make the club than Benson based on what isn’t in his path.  And again, much like Benson, I believe 15-20 games should be the goal here.  Marody is now 22, 23 in December.  They need to see what they have in him.


Kailer Yamamoto

Where does he fit:

On the right side, pretty much anywhere in the top nine.  His skill suggests he can play in the top six, but obviously we’ve seen him struggle offensively when given the chance.  He’s been really good in his own zone however, and appears as though he can be an excellent penalty killer.  So in my mind you aren’t hurting him if he plays on any of the top three lines.

What needs work:

Strength.  People hate this being said right now about undersized players, but he’s too small.  When I say that, it’s not his height, it’s his weight.  With added weight will come added strength (assuming he’s putting on muscle, not just going to McDonald’s for 20 nuggs all the time, I’d love to do that, nuggs are deadly).

How many NHL games:

Kailer needs most of the season in the AHL.  He’s been jerked around badly by the Oilers the last two seasons.  Let him go to Bakersfield, play in the top six, and get his game going.  Having said that, you can likely do that while giving him 10 games.  But I wouldn’t let that happen until January at the earliest.


Caleb Jones

Where does he fit:

Bottom pair on the left side.  He can play either side, but you want to make it as easy of a transition as you possibly can for Jones who is the most ready to step in this coming season.

What needs work:

Defensive positioning.  Not sure there is a D prospect who doesn’t need to work on his D zone positioning, but the Oilers can’t afford to bleed any more chances then they already do this season.

How many NHL games:

I don’t believe Jones will see much of the AHL this season.  Maybe not at all.  But, given how many D-men they have to break in coupled with the fact they have five D-men returning from last season, I wonder if Jones won’t go down just to give others more of an audition?  Even if he should take a step back, I’d still be looking to get him into 20 games or more.


Joel Persson

Where does he fit:

For me, the only two spots for Persson at the moment would be as the number seven defenceman which definitely isn’t ideal for any of these kids, or the number four role which could be far too much responsibility.  But it is very possible he gets a look in that spot as he might be the best fit with Darnell Nurse.  We’ve seen Kris Russell in that spot, they can get exposed.  We’ve seen Matt Benning in that spot, and they’re a train wreck together.  Persson is 25, RH shot, skates well, and moves the puck well.

What needs work:

I’d be a major hypocrite if I tried to claim I know.  I’ve seen clips of the guy play, and read several scouting reports on him, but compared to the other kids I really don’t know his game that well.  Couple that with the fact that he’s been playing in Sweden his entire career.  So the best I can say at this point is experience in North America, which is coming.

How many NHL games:

Who knows what kind of true agreement the Oilers have with Persson and his agent for coming over this season?  It might be that he refuses to play in the AHL.  But if he’s smart, he’ll be ok with possibly playing the first 20-25 games of the season in Bakersfield to get adjusted to North America, and then seeing spot duty with the Oilers.  A 15-20 game stint should give them a decent look at what they have, and obviously you can go from there.


Ethan Bear

Where does he fit:

Same thing for Bear as with Persson.  The two spots that make the most sense are the number seven guy which isn’t ideal for a kid to sit in the press box, or on the second pair with Nurse which is a LOT to ask.

What needs work:

Skating.  I do believe it gets overrated how weak of a skater Bear is.  His edgework appears very solid to me.  His top speed is where he’s lacking, and that is difficult to improve.  However, I recall Bear’s quotes from the interview Mark Spector did with him back in May.  “I had my fun last summer, and the summers before. It’s time to grow,” Bear said. “To realize how much hard work it takes to make it in the NHL.”  It’s a good quote, and that’s one where it’s easier said then done.  But reading between the lines here I’d say that it’s possible Bear’s lack of commitment in past off-season’s has possibly hurt his skating.

How many NHL games:

As many as possible.  I believe he’s ready, but the fact of the matter is that Holland only moved out Sekera so there are a lot of D who need time with the Oilers and not very many spots available.  To me, you have to find a way to get him 20 games, but I say that as someone who is still a very big believer in the kid.


William Lagesson

Where does he fit:

3rd pair left side, or like a lot of guys, the number seven spot.  But with Jones in the way and it not being ideal to have any of the kids in the number seven spot, Lagesson might have to wait for an injury on the big club to get his opportunity.

What needs work:

Puck-moving.  You could easily say his skating, but his stride is rougher, which means he’s likely topped out in his skating ability.  It’s good enough, but just not a strength in his game.  So with that being the case, I believe to succeed in the NHL he’ll need to move the puck at a pretty high level.  He moves it decent already, but it can improve.

How many NHL games:

This is going to be difficult barring a rash of injuries.  Perhaps Tippett and Holland will see him differently than some schmuck like myself, but as much as I’ve liked Lagesson over the years, he’s still a lower ranked prospect than Jones, Bear and now Persson (although Persson mostly because of his one-way deal).  So how many should they be looking to give him this season?  I would want to give him at least 10, but again, it is going to be difficult to do barring some guys going on the shelf.


Evan Bouchard

Where does he fit:

Short term, he’s in the same mix as Persson and Bear, except that we know they won’t have him sit in the press box as the number seven guy.  Long term though, we know they’re banking on him being at least a top four guy.  For me, I believe he can be a top pairing guy.  Unlikely he could be a legitimate number one guy (though you never know with D, see Mark Giordano), but a top pairing guy.

What needs work:

Defensive play.  I know he said in an interview on TSN the other day that he has been working on his skating and puck retrieval this summer, and that’s good, but if he is going to play as soft as he tends to in his own zone, then his positioning and stick need to be high-end.

How many NHL games:

Nine games or less.  Unless I’m mistaken, despite being eligible for the AHL this season, Bouchard’s ELC still will not kick in until the following season as long as he stays below the 10 game mark.  I can’t find it for certain, but I don’t believe the seven he played last season count towards that total.  Basically, give him a few games for sure (without triggering his ELC), but mainly just give him the season in the AHL.  Don’t fuck around here.  Benning, Persson and Bear should mean you have zero reason to.


Honourable mention goes to Dmitri Samorukov.  He moves to pro hockey this season, but with SO many kids possibly needing time, I just can’t see him getting his shot.  Add to that, a full season in Bakersfield is not going to hurt him in the slightest.  You could say the same for Bouchard, but the only thing about Bouchard is they have such a massive need for a defencemen of his exact game that he may get at least a small look.  If it’s up to me, perhaps they both get a game or two, but for the most part I want them anchoring the top four in Bakersfield.


It is a BIG season for some of these kids as the system continues to get better and fewer spots are available not just on the big club, but throughout the organization.  Decisions are going to be made soon on some of these kids, so Holland, Tippett, and company better find out what they have.

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Is Holland Done? He Doesn’t Have to Be

Just like the last blog, before I get rolling I’m going to talk more on the Boundary battle of Alberta game because now we have a second game to talk about!  The first game not only sold out in incredible time, but the roster spots also were snatched up quickly.  Tickets go on sale tomorrow morning (Tuesday, July 30th) at 9 AM and can be bought either at or at Boundary Ford in Lloydminster ($25.00 per ticket).  Also, with a new game comes new roster spots so there are now eight spots (four per team) available for $1,000.00.  And the two latest names to get added to the list of players playing in this game were announced Friday.  Mark Fistric for the Oilers, and Mike Commodore for the Flames.  Fistric was dealt to the Oilers just after the lockout ended and the season began in 2013.  At that time the team was getting pushed around and needed someone who could push back and Fistric did just that.  Every game he’d play there would be someone from the opposition laid out, one of the last true crushers the Oilers have had.  A 1st round pick in 2004 by Dallas, Fistric spent six seasons in the Stars organization before joining the Oilers and then spent the final two years of his career in Anaheim with the Ducks.  His style was very similar to Commodore’s, who took a full four seasons to truly establish himself in the league.  But he finally did during the 2004 run to the Cup final for the Flames.  Commodore became a fan favourite during that time and continued that after he packed his shit and was dealt from the Flames to the Hurricanes prior to the 05-06 season (see what I did there?!), in a move that turned out terrific for Commodore as he was a key contributor in the Canes Cup winning team (still pains me to say that as an Oilers fan).  Like Debrusk and Macoun, it’s an amazing opportunity to play with genuinely good guys who played in the league and have about a billion stories to tell.  These aren’t guys who are going to “big time” anyone.  They’re going to be an absolute blast to play with, and again all this money is going towards Project Sunrise which is a terrific mental health initiative, so you’re not only paying for one hell of a good time, but you’re helping end the stigma which is something I’m personally all in on.  If you’d like more info on how to play in the game, call the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation at  306-820-6161.  The extra game added will also be on September 28th, this one starting at noon MST.

Well Ken Holland sure got back into Oilers fans good books since the last blog I wrote!  Getting James Neal for Milan Lucic, even in the absolute worst case scenario is still a huge win for the Oilers.  Even with the money retained, the Oilers would still open up 3.3 million per season on the cap.  Lucic on a buyout would have only opened up 500k in two of the next three seasons, only 2 million in the other.  And that’s the worst case scenario.  I actually believe that everything I’m hearing and reading on what happened with Neal last season and what he’s been doing this off-season, he sounds like a solid bet to rebound this season, not to mention he’s a terrific fit for the team.  Would I put the chances that Neal bounces back high?  No.  Maybe 45-50%.  But the chances Lucic could help the Oilers were down to about 5-10%.  It is a sure win, with the potential to be a home run.


So now that fans are satisfied, the Oilers are ready for camp to open in a little under seven weeks…right?  If this is what Holland entered camp with, I believe most rationale fans would be ok with it.  He’s improved the team speed, he hasn’t ruined the cap situation, I still don’t understand the Sekera buyout at all over possibly moving out a guy like Kris Russell, but it is debatable and he did at least open up a spot on the blueline for Caleb Jones to step in.  But the thing is that he still has some moves he can make to improve the roster further.


Starting with Matt Benning, and this conversation always drives me nuts.  I’ve wanted the Oilers to explore moving on from Benning for a year now, but when I lay this out for people they don’t ever seem to understand why.  I don’t dislike the player.  Matt Benning is very worthy of being an NHL player, might even be capable of playing in a top-four role if given the proper D partner.  But he’s not a fit for the Oilers at all.  This blueline is overrun with D-men who lack skill, speed, and/or a high-end ability to move the puck.  Couple that with the fact that they have three kids either needing NHL minutes or are close to ready for them who play the right side in Joel Persson, Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard (all of whom are better puck movers with at least as good of skating ability) and it just makes it so obvious to me that Holland should be looking to use Benning to secure another forward.


We all thought that player was going to be Connor Brown.  Could it still?  The Sens still aren’t too deep on the blueline and have a lot of young forwards ready to crack their lineup.  Marcus Sorensson from the Sharks might make sense, Calle Järnkrok from the Preds, there are a few options out there which might make sense.


You could also move Ethan Bear.  It is a similar situation to Benning in that it’s not the best of fits, especially if Benning is staying.  Bear has similar skating issues in that he can move well enough to play in the league, but maybe not well enough to help an already average skating team.  Another case for Bear is that while he’s the cheaper cap hit and moves the puck extremely well, that also might make him a bit more valuable on the market.


In both cases, they are pieces which could bring back what is really needed which would be complementary wingers for the top two lines or a third-line centre.  When I say complementary wingers, I’m not talking about top-six wingers, but rather wingers who can play with top-six guys.  If you assume that four of the top six are McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, and Neal, then you really just need to find a couple of players who can hang with those guys.


Of course, the one wildcard in all this remains Puljujarvi.  To me, it’s very unfortunate that him going to Europe to play was really just a bluff from his agent, Markus “I’m hell-bent on destroying my client’s career” Lehto.  I wouldn’t have wanted him over there for one year, I wanted two.  But neither seem likely all of a sudden and now we’re hearing more and more rumours that Puljujarvi is going to end up back with the Oilers come September.  It’ll be interesting to see if he does end up back with the team what he’s going to look like.  On one hand, the double hip surgery should help his skating long term.  Not that his skating was shitty, but he still looked as though he really lacked strength and his agility wasn’t where it could be.  But on the other hand, I’m going to be surprised if he’s ready to roll.  I’m sure that a two week conditioning stint in Bakersfield to start the season would be possible, but that won’t be the cure.


IF he’s back, he needs patience.  Patience from the organization, patience from the media, and patience from the fans.  He needs to play and stay on the third line.  I still strongly believe that once this kid starts getting some real traction that he is going to flourish.  To what level?  Remains to be seen.  I don’t think it’s far fetched that he still ends up reaching his full potential, but obviously at this point, nobody is going to set that as an expectation.


After the Lucic trade, fans are feeling much better about the Oilers entering the season.  But the reality of the situation is that things are still very bleak entering next season.  Thanks to the scenario in goal, it might be hopeless.  But there are still bullets to fire that can improve this squad without hurting the future of the team either in terms of future cap or future assets.


Nobody should be expecting them to make the playoffs this season, but we all want/hope Holland and company do everything they can (without sacrificing the future) to give them the best opportunity to do so.

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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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2019 NHL Draft: Edmonton Oilers

I’ve done my top 62 list.  I’ve done my mock draft (subject to change).  I felt like putting out more content this morning though and felt as though a piece on the Oilers draft was the best route to take.  If you follow my work, you’re likely an Oilers fan.  Not all are, but most.


I won’t spend much time setting this up as it’s pretty long, but since it’s the most accurate I slotted the later picks using McKenzie’s list.  So if I’m talking about a guy for the 85th pick and you’re questioning it, chances are he’s around that area on Bob’s list.  I’d never use my own list because simply put I have my own views that I believe strongly in, so we won’t see much alignment with my list and what NHL teams do.


We’ll start by looking at what the team needs.  Unlike certain TSN personalities who did a mock draft the other night where picks were made based on immediate team needs, the reality is that teams are looking at what the needs are organization-wide.  That can include what is needed on the big club, but more so looks at what is in the system.  After that I’ll go through each of the picks and just simply give some players I like in that range.


Let’s begin.


Organizational needs

Speed and skill up front – I’ll put this as a blanket first and foremost.  They’re very thin on the big club, and even though there are kids I like in the system, a lot of those kids have skating concerns.

Wing – More so on the left than the right side, but neither side is stacked.  I’d say they have two quality LW’s (Benson and McLeod) and two quality RW’s (Yamamoto and Maksimov).

Centre – Some of you are likely screaming right now “McLeod is a centre!!!!!”  Fair enough, but better safe than sorry in my books to consider him a winger.  That leaves just Marody.  Obviously the age and contracts of both McDavid and Draisaitl impact, but it is STILL (despite me screaming about it for three years now) bare in the system.

Gamesmanship/spark plugs – You’ll see me harp on this throughout this blog, but I’ve said it before and will say it again, if “miserable pricks” could be measured analytically, the Oilers would rank 31st.  And they have nobody coming who plays a hateable game.

Goaltender – This ends up 5th on the list mainly because the blueline is so loaded in the system.  But they probably should take yet another goaltender in this draft.  I like Skinner, I like Wells, and they took Rodrigue…not to mention Starrett, but none of those guys are close to certainties and until someone is an organization needs to stockpile at the most important position in hockey.  I wouldn’t take one before the 100th pick, and I’d look to Europe or the USHL to find a project who you’ll have time to assess his game before deciding if he is worthy of an ELC.

Defencemen – They’re pretty stacked on both sides at the moment, but you can never have enough D-men.


8th overall

I believe it’s safe to say that the top four is set in stone.  It’s Hughes, Kakko, and then I strongly believe it’ll be Turcotte/Byram to the Hawks and Avs, though I’m not 100% on which to whom.  I THINK the Kings take Dach, but if they want speed (as they’ve been pretty loud about) then Zegras might make more sense for them.  So I believe they’re looking at six possibilities with that pick.  I’ll speak on them, plus two guys whom I can’t believe they from all accounts aren’t giving consideration to.

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

Comparison: Jay Bouwmeester

Let’s just get right to this one.  I hate the idea, most hate the idea, and there is a shit ton of smoke here.  It does sound like more teams than just the Oilers love the idea of Broberg up around this point though.  Buffalo and Vancouver are definitely up there, and I also wonder if the Wings aren’t too.  All three teams BADLY need D, which is what makes Broberg most interesting is that the Oilers in their organization have very little need to take (let alone reach) on a D-man here.  I’m really wondering if it’s not a smokescreen because it’s very unlike Ken Holland to let things get out.  Maybe someone within the organization knew that the teams colour analyst wouldn’t shut up if he got what he believed was juicy information and so a seed was planted?  Very conspiracy theory type shit, but it just doesn’t make ANY sense to take Broberg and I can’t believe this would be lost on people in the organization, even given how awful they’ve been.  Should they do this though, as fans we shouldn’t be overly distraught about it.  Broberg does have the size and skating ability to become a number one D-man someday.  You listen to him interviewed, he seems very humble and to have a very high IQ which is intriguing.  If they give him two or three years to develop, we might all be singing a very different tune on him.  But it is a scary gamble in this particular draft with the 8th pick.  Those who want to tell you “just make a trade down the line” are not giving any thought to how insanely difficult it is these days to make a trade.


Kirby Dach

Team: Saskatoon  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 198  Shot: R

2019 Stats – GP: 62  G: 25  A: 48  P: 73

DOB: 01/21/01

Comparison: Ryan Getzlaf

I don’t have Dach getting past five.  But if he does, this becomes very realistic in my mind.  I believe if the Oilers had their way, he’s who they badly want at eight.  And Dach has the potential to be a home run.  You can’t find 6’4 playmaking centres like this.  I know he has a questionable motor, but don’t confuse that with doesn’t put in the work.  He’s captain serious away from the rink.  I’ve been told he doesn’t party, doesn’t drink, and his life is hockey.  So when you look at it that way, he’s very similar to Draisaitl.  I don’t think fans would be pissed about getting a right-handed Leon Draisaitl.


Trevor Zegras

Team: USA NTDP  League: USHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 173  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 27  G: 14  A: 26  P: 40

DOB: 03/20/01

Comparison: Mathew Barzal

He could go 5-7, easily.  But you can also make the case that Zegras falls to the 8th pick.  Kings take Dach, Wings take Podkolzin, Sabres take Broberg.  That order wouldn’t stun me in the slightest.  My buddy SPR doesn’t like him and he is the only one.  Reason being, he is a VERY flashy player who looks to make a lot of plays with the puck which are extremely high risk.  He’s big-time flash.  But the question I and others have is once he stops having success playing that way if he’ll adjust and start making much more intelligent plays with the puck?  I believe he will, but you can name a lot of kids over the years who never wanted to change their game.


Dylan Cozens

Team: Lethbridge  League: WHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 183  Shot: R

2019 Stats – GP: 68  G: 34  A: 50  P: 84

DOB: 02/09/01

Comparison: Chris Kreider

Again I’ll state: you draft him as a winger and he’s a home run of a pick.  If you’re hoping he can play the middle, you’re asking for trouble.  But I fully believe had he played the wing all season we’d be talking about Cozens in a much different light and most would have him in their top five.  Size, speed, shot, physical.  Going into the Hlinka/Gretzky last year I did my top 32 list and I had him compared to Iginla.  I’ve changed it to Kreider, but when I say that I don’t mean that Kreider is his ceiling.  He has 30-40 goal, 70-80 point potential, just that his game is like Kreider in that he’s big, fast and physical.  I love the idea of the Oilers building with speed AND size and Cozens definitely brings both.


Cole Caufield

Team: USA NTDP  League: USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’7  Wt: 163  Shot: R

2019 Stats – GP: 28  G: 29  A: 12  P: 41

DOB: 01/02/01

Comparison: Mike Cammalleri

He’s the choice of the Oilers Twitter world!  So as you can read, I’m not as high on him.  I LIKE the kid, and I’m pulling for him because he’s exciting to watch, but a lot of people who are screaming for the Oilers to take him are missing what the concerns are on him.  It’s not his size.  It’s his skating for being that size isn’t very good.  It’s probably better than DeBrincat’s was, but still not where you want or need it to be.  His play away from the puck is very suspect.  He had a very nice luxury of not needing to play away from the puck all season, but I know those who have tracked him a lot more than I have, say it’s not good.  Finally, the big one for me is that he displayed no playmaking ability.  Guys who only score at lower levels of hockey historically haven’t stuck in the show.  Think of who I got him compared within Cammalleri, his assist numbers were great at Michigan and lower levels.  Same with DeBrincat.  So he played with three of the best playmaking centres in the history of the USNTDP all season and racked up goals…ok.  AND?!  But having said all that, I’m really just trying to open some eyes to some who are overrating him and I don’t dislike him near as much as I make it sound there.  His shot is ELITE already.  And if he were drafted by the Oilers, someday he’d likely get put with McDavid who obviously has the ability to carry a one-dimensional shooter like this.  If they picked him, I wouldn’t be crying, but I would be cringing a bit because there are a lot of legitimate concerns.  It feels to me that people see his shot, see his goal totals, and for those reasons alone they just feel like you have to take that kid out of fear that if you miss on him the hate will rain down on your organization because it was “so obvious”.


Matthew Boldy

Team: USA NTDP  League: USHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 196  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 55  G: 30  A: 39  P: 69

DOB: 04/05/01

Comparison: James Van Riemsdyk

The complete opposite end of the spectrum from Caufield.  Some wonder if Caufield has a game that doesn’t translate, where most feel Boldy has more of a pro game and his numbers don’t tell enough of the story.  Big, skilled, good (though not great) skater, and apparently all the intangibles check out with Boldy.  He’s not getting talked about much with the Oilers, yet it’s been made pretty clear he’s on their radar.  I think there was one guy they could realistically pick here who everyone would be at least ok with, it’s Boldy.


Vasili Podkolzin

Team: St. Petersburg  League: MHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 196  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 26  G: 8  A: 5  P: 13

DOB: 06/24/01

Comparison: Gabriel Landeskog

These last two don’t sound like kids they’re considering and I don’t know why.  Well, with Podkolzin I do believe it’s likely because of the contract preventing him from coming over for two seasons.  It shouldn’t, but knowing the Oilers they would be an organization who would have an issue with it.  As I stated with the needs, this team lacks spark plugs.  Assholes.  Miserable fucks to play against.  You wouldn’t think of a Russian player being this guy, but Podkolzin is.  If his name is Vince Pederson he’s a slam dunk top-five pick.  And don’t get me wrong, I get the concerns.  The skating isn’t great (though much like Evan Bouchard last year that is getting greatly exaggerated).  I personally downgrade Russian forwards because they bust at an alarming rate (I even did with Svechnikov last year).  But at eight you should be at least looking at him.  Not to mention we talk about getting McDavid a shooter, Podkolzin has the ability to be a pure sniper in the show along with being a high-end power forward.


Peyton Krebs

Team: Kootenay  League: WHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’11.5  Wt: 183  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 64  G: 19  A: 49  P: 68

DOB: 01/26/01

Comparison: Bo Horvat

I don’t get it.  I simply don’t get it.  He brings everything to the table that the Oilers need.  Skill, intangibles, versatility, he’s even a fuckin Albertan!!  And yet from the sounds of it, he’s not even on their radar.  I think of guys like Zach Parise, Mike Richards, guys who in their primes were the perfect blend of talent and intangibles and that is Krebs.  The Achilles injury?  Meaningless.  He shouldn’t be playing on a team next season anyway and will be healthy by December at the absolute latest.  It pisses me off talking about Krebs at this point because unless the local media are badly missing the boat, the Oilers aren’t even giving him the time of day.  For the Oilers specifically, I’d take him over any of these kids, even Dach because I feel the Oilers need to be a little safer with this pick and Krebs is the safer bet of the two.


Trade up?

Full credit to Darcy McLeod who made this suggestion on Twitter Wednesday.  If the Hawks pass on Byram for Turcotte (as I and many others believe they will), Ken Holland should be offering the 8th pick and Puljujarvi to the Avs for the 4th pick.  And I think it’s something the Avs would heavily consider.  They don’t NEED Byram (not that anyone should pass on a player that good because of need) and could likely still land a stud up front at eight, while also adding Puljujarvi.  Darcy also suggested adding more if need be from the Oilers POV and again, I agree (I got Byram 1st in my rankings, so obviously I agree).  What that something else could be?  I’d do as much as 8th, Puljujarvi, and Samorukov.  Not sure if others would, but I would because I believe that much in Byram.


Trade back? 

I believe this is a very good move if they did it.  The way I see it is they should be craving a forward of some kind and there are kids like Newhook and Tomasino who look as though they’ll go in the 12-15 range who’d be terrific gets if you could add a 2nd.  I’m not sure I’d look to add the 2nd in this draft though.  It’s always tough to tell how a draft will shake down (this time last year a lot of people believed this draft was LOADED), but the 2020 draft at this point looks as though it’ll be a lot deeper than this.  If you can add a significant piece and move back while still adding the player you need to the system, you should.  Ken Holland did say yesterday that he would look at moving back a few picks (or something to that effect).


39th overall

They’re going to get someone good here.  I don’t know if they can do as well as they did last year with McLeod, but as far as I’m concerned it looks as though some kids I personally love could be around for 39.  Here are five kids potentially on the board at this point:

Vladislav Kolyachonok

Team: Flint  League: OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 189  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 53  G: 4  A: 25  P: 29

DOB: 05/25/01

Comparison: Braydon Coburn

I can’t see him being around with this pick, but he is 39th on Bob McKenzie’s list so he does qualify.  Wheels.  If they do in fact love Broberg so much (and they don’t make the mistake of picking him) then, in theory, they should be all over Kolyachonok at 39 if he remains on the board.  You give this kid three or four years development, they’d have a stud on their hands.


Jamieson Rees

Team: Sarnia  League: OHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 182  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 37  G: 10  A: 22  P: 32

DOB: 02/26/01

Comparison: Sam Bennett

Rees is a risky pick because he’s had some injuries to overcome and scouts are concerned that he plays too reckless.  The Oilers though don’t have enough reckless, so at 39 I love the idea of them taking a bit of a risk and addressing that.  I’d rather gamble on that then on a talented kid finding a compete level.


Simon Holmstrom

Team: HV71  League: SWE-J20

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 193  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 21  G: 7  A: 13  P: 20

DOB: 05/24/01

Comparison: Joonas Donskoi

I have Holmstrom four spots ahead of Rees in my rankings, but Rees is more in your face than Holmstrom.  Like Rees, he’s got one of the best motors in the draft, but like Rees he has injury concerns.


Albin Grewe 

Team: Djurgardens  League: SWE-J20

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 25  G: 13  A: 21  P: 34

DOB: 03/22/01

Comparison: Ryan Hartman

Another kid who brings it.  Don’t let the nationality fool you with Grewe, this kid has a lot of Raffi Torres in his game where he can be a bit of a head hunter.  But while that’s what he’s best known for, the numbers also check out with him.  Elite Prospects had him 28th in their rankings relying heavily on XLS% (Expected Likelihood of Success) and XPR/82 (Expected Point Rate per 82 Games) to do the rankings.


Daniil Misyul

Team: Loko Yaroslavl  League: MHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 46  G: 4  A: 6  P: 10

DOB: 10/20/00

Comparison: Darnell Nurse

If you’re reading this, you’re an Oilers fan.  If you’re an Oilers fan, then you know the scouting report on Nurse.  One of the best skaters in the league and can be a nasty SOB in his own zone.  Also like Nurse, not a lot of vision/ability to move the puck.  But like Kolyachonok, if you give Misyul time you might have a stud on your hands.


85th overall

From here out, the draft always goes wide ass open.  Players who you believe should go 3rd round fall to the 6th, 7th, or even completely out, while kids you’ve never heard of all of a sudden start being picked.  I’ll suggest kids in these spots (three for each of the following picks), but it is a complete crapshoot as to where they could end up going.

Pavel Dorofeyev

Team: Magnitogorsk  League: MHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 176  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 19  G: 17  A: 14  P: 31

DOB: 10/26/00

Comparison: Teuvo Teravainen

Bob has him 82nd!  That says to me that the independent guys (none that I could find having him lower than 41st) like him a shit ton more than NHL organizations do.  That stunned me.  Needless to say, if the Oilers took a swing on him here I’d be thrilled!  The kid has tremendous skill.


Aaron Huglen

Team: Fargo  League: USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 165  Shot: R

2019 Stats – GP: 28  G: 4  A: 10  P: 14

DOB: 03/06/01

Comparison: Connor Sheary

Speedy, competes hard, and he’s still rail thin as you can read.  He’s got 20-25lbs to go, so what kind of damage will he do once he does that?  Intriguing.


Ethan Phillips

Team: Sioux Falls  League: USHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 150  Shot: R

2019 Stats – GP: 50  G: 16  A: 27  P: 43

DOB: 05/07/01

Comparison: Arturri Lehkonen

Basically the exact same line of thinking with Phillips as with Huglen.


100th overall

Reece Newkirk

Team: Portland  League: WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 172  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 68  G: 23  A: 36  P: 59

DOB: 02/20/01

Comparison: Andrew Shaw

I just love this kids game.  A total “see you next Tuesday” if you know what I mean, with a terrific motor.  He physically looks like Brad Marchand out on the ice and as I’ve maintained throughout this, the Oilers badly need more of this.  They don’t need to sacrifice speed or skill to do it, but the kids I’m mentioning all have the speed and skill first and foremost.


Rhett Pitlick

Team: Chaska  League: USHS

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 161  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 25  G: 28  A: 33  P: 61

DOB: 02/07/01

Comparison: Drake Caggiula

Same line of thinking as Newkirk, Grewe, Rees, etc.  I don’t believe Pitlick is quite the instigator those players are, but he definitely has the wheels and willingness to get his nose dirty.  Tyler’s cousin (Rem’s brother, son of former Sens D-man Lance Pitlick).


Maxim Cajkovic

Team: Saint John  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 187  Shot: R

2019 Stats – GP: 60  G: 22  A: 24  P: 46

DOB: 01/03/01

Comparison: Jakub Vrana

This time last year this kid was viewed as a top 15 pick by pretty much everyone.  I’m not sold that coming over to the Q and playing with such a terrible team as the Sea Dogs were didn’t have much more to do with his production than a dog shit effort.  Also if you just simply look at his 2nd half numbers, they were good and showed a bit of his talent.  Well worth a swing by this pick.


162nd overall

One thing about the 6th and 7th rounders you need to keep in mind is that the USHL/NCAA and European kids become much more valuable as you get extra time to evaluate what you might have before having to make a decision on giving them an ELC.  Not many picked in this range that aren’t projects, so better to have that extra time to develop the project.

Alexander Daryin

Team: Loko Yaroslavl  League: MHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 159  Shot: R

2019 Stats – GP: 47  G: 20  A: 15  P: 35

DOB: 08/16/00

Comparison: Kevin Fiala

My first OA to make an appearance, Daryin got passed over in last years draft.  Much like Huglen and Phillips who I liked as possible 3rd rounders, Daryin has tremendous wheels, great skill, and is still lacking 20lbs or so that he’ll put on in time.  I actually have Daryin higher in my own rankings than Huglen or Phillips, but Daryin isn’t ranked on McKenzie’s list and is passed over on a few lists.  The draft is chess, not checkers.  Take a kid where you believe you can get him.  Not sure I can get Daryin here, but with the information I have it at least looks possible.


Leevi Aaltonen

Team: Kalpa  League: SM Liiga Jr

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’9  Wt: 168  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 29  G: 12  A: 24  P: 36

DOB: 01/24/01

Comparison: Bryan Rust

He’s not on Bob’s list, though he is around 40-90 for most.  At 162, who in the fuck knows.  I love Aaltonen’s wheels though.  Around this point, just give me guys with something elite (preferably skating).  I have always said, I want later draft picks who can do something elite that can’t be taught.


Nikola Pasic

Team: Linköping League: SWE-J20

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 33  G: 18  A: 18  P: 36

DOB: 10/16/00

Comparison: Pontus Aberg

Speedy and skilled, but lacks compete (I’ve told you my comparisons are the best…).  At 162, obviously I’m not going to be terrified to swing and miss on a skilled kid.


193rd overall

Martin Hugo Has

Team: Tappara  League: SM-Liiga

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 187  Shot: R

2019 Stats – GP: 37  G: 9  A: 7  P: 16

DOB: 02/02/01

Comparison: Brandon Carlo

TERRIFIC name!!  I wouldn’t say Has is as good of a skater as Carlo, but he does move very well for a big man.  And there is some offensive upside with him.  Mainly though if you’re drafting him, he’s a project.  He has the right tools to work with, so give him three seasons and then see if he’s worth bringing over to North America.


Dominic Basse

Team: South Kent  League: Midget

Pos: G  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 185  Glove: L

2019 Stats – GP: 42  G.A.A.: 1.91  Sv%: .924

DOB: 04/22/01

Comparison: Pekka Rinne

Please don’t kill me on the comparison, I’m just trying to think of a kid who was raw like this.  Rinne went late in the draft, was massive, and moved well.  That’s it.  You know Basse is pretty obscure when the league he played the majority of the season is just listed on Elite Prospects as “Midget”.  He is committed to attend Colorado in the fall.  From what I’ve read (I mean, no doubt I’ve seen him play and scouted him a ton…) he moves very well for his size, he’s not just a puck blocker.  That’s the key for me with goaltenders.  Size and athleticism.  Take them late and hope to coach them up.  There will be lots of options along these lines at this point.


Cade Webber

Team: The Rivers  League: USHS

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 194  Shot: L

2019 Stats – GP: 29  G: 12  A: 14  P: 26

DOB: 01/05/01

Comparison: Scott Mayfield

This is the type of kid they’ve LOVED to take late in the draft.  Think Matt Cairns. Think Vincent Desharnais.  Think Skyler Brind’Amour.  Think Philip Kemp.  Think Michael Kesselring.  They love their projects and Webber is DEFINITELY a project.  Obviously it’s a new regime, but with Keith Gretzky supposedly still running the draft, tough to believe their mentality would change.  Two things: size, and he skates very well for that size.  Only thing missing is that he’s not a right shot, but they’ve loaded up with RHD over the years that if they weren’t to take one this season it wouldn’t hurt them.


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Edmonton Oilers Top 20 Prospects – April, 2019

What in the hell….I wrote a new blog?!?!  Not only that, this is the 2nd one I’m putting out today!  Maybe some day I’ll be able to get some consistency in my game…no wonder I relate to the Oilers so well…


This is one that is particularly overdue.  The last time I got around to doing an Oilers top prospect list, I was on a bit of an island trying to tell people how the system had improved.  This time around, many people have joined the party.  I’m so happy that the Peter Chiarelli nightmare is over, but the one thing I’ll never take away from the man is how well the Oilers have drafted under him, and most of this list is his doing.


So with that being said, the draft lottery having just taken place last night, and Bakersfield about to wrap up their terrific regular season, now is as good of a time as any to take a look at the Oilers system.  I want to start it off though looking at four guys in particular for one reason or another.


Hayden Hawkey  Providence  NCAA

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Glove: L  DOB: 3/1/95 (24)

Acquired: Trade with Montreal, June 23rd, 2018

I try to keep all these short, but this one isn’t, nor is it much about the player.  This trade man…so many people love to crush the low hanging fruit when it comes to the Oilers or Chiarelli.  I get it, but it’s not my style.  Especially when it’s ridiculous to do.  This one though that has rattled me from the get go.  Why in the FUCK would you make a trade for a college kid going into his senior season with the ability to walk as a free agent???  This was just a classic example of how careless and moronic Chiarelli was as a GM, because you shouldn’t be making this deal.  The deal if you absolutely HAD to do it should have been conditional.  A 7th rounder to the Habs, with it becoming a 5th or even a 4th if Hawkey signed.  Nope.  Not Pete.  Peter didn’t know how to make trades that covered his ass in anyway.  Peter just rolled the dice, EVERY.  SINGLE.  TIME.  Moron.  Good GD riddance.  As for Hawkey…great numbers this season (.920 Sv% in 40 games), but he’s highly unlikely to sign at this point so what does it matter?


Ryan Mantha  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 225  Shot: R  DOB: 6/18/96 (22)

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed March 1st, 2017

Not much to say here but if you know of him then you likely know why I’m mentioning him.  Missed the entire season with a concussion and we’ll see if he’s able to resume his career.  I really doubt it to be honest.


Aapeli Rasanen  Boston College  NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 190  Shot: R  DOB: 6/1/98 (20)

Acquired: 6th Round, 153rd Overall, 2016 Draft

I’d love to know what happened to both Rasanen and Graham McPhee this season.  Just HORRENDOUS drop off’s.  This time last year I assumed he’d be signed by the Oilers by now.  He has his Sr. year to prove himself, and then if he does, I guess we’ll see if the Oilers want him, or if he’ll want the Oilers.  I still believe he could be a very valuable 4th line centre, maybe a Mark Letestu type.


Josh Currie  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190  Shot: R  DOB: 10/29/92 (26)

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed July 19th, 2018

In the past, I wouldn’t list a kid like Currie because of his age (not that I technically did on this list either).  But he’s worked himself into the discussion with the team.  However, I have to piss on the feel good story a bit here and say that he really didn’t look like a kid who can play in the show long term to me in his 21 game stint to end this season, in my opinion anyway.  It’s an amazing accomplishment that he has even got to this point, and I’m not saying he should now be cast aside at all.  But I only see him being about a 15th forward for the Oilers or another club moving forward.  I’d be so happy to be proven so wrong on this, and it’s not as if Currie hasn’t proven a shit ton of people wrong to this point in his career.


Now that I’ve said my piece on those four, let’s get to the main list!


20. Cameron Hebig  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 185  Shot: R  DOB: 1/21/97 (22)

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed December 28th, 2017

Hot start and then drastically cooled off.  Not a big surprise for me personally.  I see Hebig as a 4th line guy.  A John Madden type if he maxes out.


19-17. Olivier Rodrigue  Drummondville  QMJHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 156  Glove: L  DOB: 7/6/00 (18)

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

Stuart Skinner  Wichita  ECHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 205  Glove: L  DOB: 11/1/98 (20)

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

Dylan Wells  Wichita  ECHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 182  Glove: L  DOB: 1/3/98 (21)

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

You are reading this right.  So my man Matt Mosewich (well, we’ve never met in person, he might be a real asshole, I actually don’t know) had this essentially the same way.  Especially this season it rings true that there just isn’t really a way to separate these three right now, and you could easily make an argument for all three.  If I absolutely HAD to rank them I’d probably say Wells, Skinner and Rodrigue.  Reason being I believe Wells has shown the most high end ability in his game and is closest in terms of being in the system the longest.  Skinner is 2nd, probably the most consistent and has the best size of the three.  And then Rodrigue is 3rd for me mostly due to the lack of size and the unknown of having yet to play pro (nor will he for another season), though we may get to see Rodrigue start for Canada in next year’s WJC.  For all three guys though it is just far too early to project on them, but all three have shown flashes.


16. Philip Kemp  Yale  NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 202  Shot: R  DOB: 2/12/99 (20)

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.


15. Filip Berglund  Skellefteå  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: R  DOB: 5/10/97 (21)

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.


14. John Marino  Harvard  NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 181  Shot: R  DOB: 5/21/97 (21)

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

If you have Marino lower than Kemp on your list, I get it.  As I just laid out, I believe Kemp has a good chance of making the NHL, probably a better one than Marino.  But because of Marino’s skating ability he gets the nod for me.  With both Marino and Kemp, the fact that they are attending Ivy league schools as D-men is pretty intriguing because I maybe value IQ more than anyone in all players, but especially in defencemen.


13. Ostap Safin  Halifax  QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 191  Shot: L  DOB: 2/11/99 (20)

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

Probably the biggest disappointment the Oilers have had on the prospect front this season.  It wasn’t disappointing play, but rather damn near a full season lost due to injury.  Safin might be the biggest wildcard in the Oilers system.  A classic boom or bust type.  He has the size, he’s great skater, a mean streak, and he has a lot of skill too.  He didn’t dominate the Q as most would like to see before getting too excited about him, but it was never going to make a difference anyway.  The motor is the big question with Safin.  Sometimes with kids who don’t have much of a motor, it’ll adjust according to the level of competition they face and so we could see a kid who really starts taking it to another level once he hit pro hockey.  We also could see a kid who is an absolute dog and shows little-no passion to play.  Don’t be surprised if he goes back home next season much the way William Lagesson and Markus Niemelainen did.  He needs playing time after this season.  He likely wouldn’t get a ton in Bakersfield, probably won’t want any part of the ECHL, so on loan to the Czech league would likely make the most sense.


12. Joe Gambardella  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 201  Shot: L  DOB: 12/1/93 (25)

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.


11. William Lagesson  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 207  Shot: L  DOB: 2/22/96 (23)

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.


10. Joel Persson  Växjö  SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 187  Shot: R  DOB: 3/4/94 (25)

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed May 18th, 2018

He’s going to get one heck of a look to start next season.  Ignore that he’s on a one way contract, that really isn’t a big deal.  The contract is waiver exempt and that’s what matters, so they can play him in the AHL.  Maybe he starts there, but in my opinion they will start him on the bottom pair next season and Matt Benning will be moved for a winger.  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.  You’ll see him next season on the big club, only thing that remains to be seen is whether or not it’ll be out of camp or if he’ll need 20-30 games in Bakersfield first and maybe a kid like Ethan Bear gets that bottom pairing slot out of camp.


9. Cooper Marody  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 173  Shot: R  DOB: 12/20/96 (22)

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.  Pure playmaker who is unafraid to go anywhere on the ice.  If he does improve the wheels, he’ll be a one hell of a player.


8. Ryan McLeod  Saginaw  OHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 205  Shot: L  DOB: 9/21/99 (19)

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…


7. Dmitri Samorukov  Guelph  OHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 181  Shot: L  DOB: 6/16/99 (19)

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

Hockey sense is going to be the determining factor with Sammy’s future.  He literally has all the tools.  Size, mobility, plays with an edge, moves the puck extremely well, hard shot, there is nothing physically that he doesn’t have.  Could be a number one someday.  Mind you, that can be said about most young D because a large majority of the top guys come out of nowhere!  Obviously nobody is going to bank on him being a number one someday, but a top four is definitely realistic.  However, what he’s done to this point really shouldn’t surprise anyone.  He’s looked tremendous as a 19 year old, of course he should when someone has this type of talent.  I expect there to be an adjustment period next season in Bakersfield that’ll have the fans and media down on him.  So I don’t expect us to really know what the Oilers have for another year and a half or so.


6. Ethan Bear  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 205  Shot: R  DOB: 6/26/97 (21)

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 straight ahead speed that is lacking…in my opinion anyway.


5. Kirill Maksimov  Niagara  OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 192  Shot: R  DOB: 6/1/99 (19)

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

The ONLY reason I don’t have him 3rd is because the guys in the 4th and 3rd spots look to be such certain things at this point that I can’t bring myself to put Maksi higher than this.  But man, 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, and his best shot might be his wrister.  His wrister reminds me of Joe Sakic’s.  No back swing.  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.


4. Tyler Benson  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 190  Shot: L  DOB: 3/15/98 (21)

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 kids 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 very soon because they think the game so similar and he’s just such a perfect compliment.  People are worried about getting him more AHL time, I’m not sure they realize that the only reason he’s not in the show already is because injuries held him back.  He’s not your normal 32nd overall pick.  The mistake the organization has made in the past is they would keep a good roster spot open for a kid like this.  I wouldn’t keep a spot open (3rd line LW), but I’d have either a guy on a deal for 1.1 million or less, along with Joe Gambardella and Benson legitimately competing for that position.  He’s 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.


3. Caleb Jones  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 205  Shot: L  DOB: 6/6/97 (21)

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 next 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.


2. Kailer Yamamoto  Bakersfield  AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’8  Wt: 154  Shot: R  DOB: 9/29/98 (20)

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

I would say 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 154 lbs 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.


1. Evan Bouchard  London  OHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 196  Shot: R  DOB: 10/20/99 (19)

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

Craig Button doesn’t think he’s a top 50 prospect…annnnnnnnd THAT’S why fans don’t have much respect for what Craig has to say.  Bouchard is great.  Is he going to be a number one?  I don’t think so, but I never thought he would be!  Top pairing guy depending on who he’d be opposite of, but for sure a number three guy who is one of the best manning the point on the PP in the league, with a first pass that’ll be elite…if it’s not already.  Having said this, it’s setup for him to play all of next season in Bakersfield which is perfect.  He needs a season to work on his defensive play and work on his battle level in the corners and in front of the net.  He’s exactly what the Oilers need on the blueline, they just need to be a little patient.


The list should be done, but I’m sure the timing of this isn’t lost on anyone reading it, so why not add a bonus to this list?!  It is EXTREMELY early in the process so let’s not take this as gospel.  Obviously you get down to 8, there are a lot of different possibilities.  Kirby Dach was who Sam Cosentino projected.  To me, I believe Dach ends up going top six, not sure why he wouldn’t.  Alex Turcotte is who Craig Button projected, but again you’re talking about a highly skilled centre, why have people not noticed how highly valued centres are by NHL teams yet?  Kotkaniemi and Hayton weren’t supposed to go anywhere NEAR picks three and five this time last year!  I’d absolutely love either of those two to be picked by the Oilers, but I highly doubt either of those two will be around.  However I do feel safe in suggesting this kid will be around:


Peyton Krebs  Kootenay  WHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 181  Shot: L  DOB: 1/26/01 (18)

Comparison: Zach Parise

So to get to the Oilers picking Krebs, I had to do a mock in my head.  My mock draft went Kakko, Hughes (yes, Kakko then Hughes but in this case it doesn’t matter as either combination will go 1-2), Turcotte, Podkolzin, Byram, Dach, Cozens going 1-7.  That leaves the Oilers with Krebs at eight.  My buddy SPR loves the Oilers to go out and grab Philip Tomasino at eight and he’s been all over Tomasino for months now, and few know the OHL kids better than SPR.  But I’m looking at what I believe the Oilers will do, and I doubt anyone would cry about Krebs at eight.  Winger (ignore the talk of him playing the middle) who is a pure playmaker, terrific skater, and a high character kid too.  You look at the season he just had and then consider the shit show of an organization he played for (especially this season) and Krebs could be a HELL of a steal for the Oilers at eight.  They are desperate for talent on the wings, and Krebs is big time talent on the wing.  If Krebs is added to this list come the fall, he’ll be ranked 1st.


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What If…The Oilers Stuck with Craig MacTavish?

So here is a dirty little secret about me:…well, it’s not actually a dirty secret, and I’m not sure it’s anything scandalous in general.  But here it is: I’ve been wanting to do a “What If” blog for a long time now.  There have been lot’s that I started.  Gretzky not been dealt, Lemieux at the 98 Olympics, Chris Pronger never asked for a trade, the Penguins taken Jonathan Toews, there are a lot of them you could do.  One of my favourites in sports is if the Detroit Pistons in 2003 taken Carmelo Anthony with the 2nd pick in the NBA draft and how huge that would have been for the Pistons success AND Melo’s career.


My worlds collide on this one though.  I’ve been wanting to do these pieces coupled with a question that a few Oilers fans have asked of late.  So let’s go back.  It’s April 19th, 2015 and we have the ability to simply say to Bob Nicholson “get off the fucking golf course and do your job!!!”  But we ALSO have the ability to say “quit talking about your fucking Bobby Nicks burgers you sound like such a piece of shit, do your fucking job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  And finally, we ALSO have the ability to tell him “Bob, hiring Peter Chiarelli is a colossal mistake and it is a better play to simply stick with Mac T”.


1. Todd McLellan is still hired as head coach

No, we don’t get a do-over on this one and have the ability to also stick with Todd Nelson even though we all would like to.  This was heavily rumoured to be happening pretty much from the moment Dallas Eakins was fired if I recall correctly.  It was going to be Mac T’s move.  So McLellan is still the guy, even though he shouldn’t have been and that amazing thing that Todd Nelson appeared to have going on was likely legit.


2. He lands Dougie Hamilton

I don’t pin the Oilers inability to land Hamilton on Chiarelli.  It was widely reported at the time that the Bruins flat out refused to do business with the recently departed Chiarelli.  The ask from the Oilers was the same as the ask from the Flames…PLUS Darnell Nurse.  I’m actually stunned Chiarelli didn’t simply say “ok” given what he’s done since!  But that would have been an insane over payment.  If Mac T is the GM though, the Bruins are likely very fine dealing with him.  The package the Oilers could have gave up was VERY similar to the Flames, and I believe according to the draft chart was a little more value than the Flames.  Realistically though, the Bruins would take getting just a tiny bit less in a deal to risk that they could get more out of the Oilers, and they could have given how desperate they were.  So what is the extra piece?  Let’s not go with fantasy, let’s think about what the Oilers had at the time which could have been of interest to the B’s, which thanks to a razor thin prospect pool would have probably been their 2016 2nd rounder, so say bye to Tyler Benson.  Still a deal that many would have been on board with at the time.


3. 2015 Off-Season stays in tact

Talbot, Sekera, Letestu and Klefbom’s extension in my mind still all get done.  I’ve always felt like Chiarelli didn’t really start to run things until the 2016 trade deadline.  There was no big connection to any of the players he traded for/signed, and the Klefbom extension had to be the OBC because Chiarelli couldn’t have known the player THAT well.  None of those moves felt like they were because of Chiarelli.


4. Schultz stays

With Dougie Hamilton in the lineup, the blueline wouldn’t have been fixed, just improved.  But slotting Schultz more properly would have been huge as we’ve seen it’s been in Pittsburgh.  Now, maybe he still falls apart.  There is something to be said for the East/West differences in style of play and the style of defenceman Schultz is does seem to get eaten up in the West.  But with the pressure off him had Hamilton been there, I just believe it would have made a world of difference for the perception of him in the eyes of management, the media, and the fans.


5. No Maroon

I mean…who knows?  But I just don’t think Mac T would have pulled that one off.  I know Murray was looking to off load Maroon at the time, so MAYBE he still gets lucky.  But to me it was a move that Chiarelli got from being around the league and his relationship with Bob Murray, I just don’t know if Mac T would have had that one happen.


5. Hall stays/Demers signs

Mac T wouldn’t have had the balls….or maybe a better word is the stupidity….to pull the trigger on it.  He would have seen Jason Demers out there and said “that’s the better play is to stay the course and bring in Demers”.  Mac T not only had his chances to panic, but painted himself into a corner by saying “bold moves” once he was hired and he STILL didn’t get overly stupid as a GM!  Yes, he royally fucked up with Petry, but in hindsight he never put the team in a position of no return with his decisions like Chiarelli did.  In fact, the reason he didn’t extend Petry was because he was being too conservative.  No doubt that Demers would have been overpaid.  I’m guessing something as bad as 6×6.  But that still wouldn’t have been as bad as the Lucic contract has been, and would have along with Hamilton and better slotting of Schultz improved the blueline more than Chiarelli has been able to.


After that, it’s anyone’s guess.  Russell…I doubt it because the blueline would have then looked pretty set.  Benning?  Probably not as it was Chiarelli who drafted him in Boston.  Eberle might go after the 2017 season, but for Ryan Strome?  Here is the big one to keep in mind and be completely fair though:


6. The System isn’t near as good

The one thing I can’t take away from Chiarelli is that he has turned around the drafting and developing here.  One reason I wouldn’t fear dealing the 1st round pick this season is because they know what they’re doing in rounds 2-7.  I wouldn’t say the system is loaded right now by any means, but it looks really solid.  We’ve got to see Caleb Jones recently.  Ethan Bear is a damn good prospect.  Joel Persson, Maksimov, Benson, Marody, McLeod, Wells, Skinner, Kemp, go down the list.  He has done a terrific job turning the system around.


Having said that, I still am taking what Mac T likely would have done with the big club’s roster over a drastically improved system.  But thanks to this great system, now the next GM should be able to keep it in place and the organization can simply focus on finding someone who can find value in trades and free agency.


It’s amazing to say, but they would have been better off.  Man, what a nightmare this has turned into.  Pretty much everything since winning McDavid has found a way to blow up in their faces.  It’s what happens to people who are poor at their jobs.  Bad bounces find them, and good bounces find people who are good at it.  Look at the Leafs.  Nobody talks about it, but they’ve had some insanely great luck the last four years!  Babcock, Marner, Matthews, and Tavares could EAAAAAAAAAAAASILY be Bylsma, Strome or Hanifin, Puljujarvi and re-signing Bozak.  But they’d still be a damn good organization because they’re so well run.


If it’s me doing the hiring, I want the Oilers to find the best analytics guy they can get to be the next GM of the team.  This position is perfect right now for someone who can find value.  I don’t like analytics guys for rebuilding situations, but I’d love a job like that for this gig.  He wouldn’t get swayed by old school minds or what the media in town thought of the team.  He would just look to get the cap under control, and look to find the best bargains he could given the situation.


Something better happen soon though, because when it has become pretty clear that Craig MacTavish was a better GM then you were, the time has come to (as Mike Commordore would say) pack your shit.


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Hitchcock vs McLellan, a Blog Most Have Already Written…

Hmmm, I see I managed to get pictures which are both photo bombed by Drake Caggiula.  I prefer Caggiula with Hitch simply so I can call them “Drake and the fat man”.  Used that line talking to one of my buddies the other night and if he’s reading this now he’s thinking “get a new joke Campbell you fucking moron”.  Completely justified.


Can I be honest about something?  I wasn’t at all surprised by that win Tuesday night.  Even at 3-2 going to the 3rd, I felt good about the spot they were in.  They won, and now we go from the sky is falling to starring at a golden chance to take 5 of 6 or maybe even 6 straight. The division is so bad that they’re already back in a tie for 3rd spot (at least by points percentage).  The optimism isn’t all because of the coaching change.  But it’s the coaching change combined with a massive win against the top team in the division and a light schedule on the horizon.  And if you go by my personal power rankings (outdated now of course), the Oilers are now 5-4-1 against what were my top 8 teams at the end of October.  Being fair, three of the five were in OT.  But if you want to be fair to the Oilers, two of those three were comeback wins on the road, and three of the five have been on the road.  You’ll have a tough time convincing me that this team isn’t capable of making the playoffs in this division when they’re above .500 against top competition.


So the more I’ve given this thought, the more I’ve loved this move for the Oilers.  Hey, maybe it’s all just optimism that comes with a new coach?  Easily could be.  And combine that with me being a pretty big Hitchcock fan for a long time now, this will likely be viewed as me going overboard.  But it’s tough to look at his track record and not see how positive his impact could be.  Not for sure, who the hell knows what’ll happen, but I have a tough time seeing how it won’t be at least a decent upgrade.


Do you remember the 2014-15 Penguins?  Of course you don’t.  You remember the 2015-16 Penguins?  Of course you do because they won the Cup.  The 14-15 Penguins were a disaster.  And then in November of 2015 the Penguins looked like a completely fucked franchise.  But people forget this.  Mike Johnston was a disaster of a head coach for them, after they had done nothing but digress after winning the Cup with Dan Bylsma in 09.  Something else with that team that was being said at the time is that the GM (first Shero and then Rutherford) was they weren’t getting Sid the help he needed.  All he had was Malkin, the Kessel trade was horrendous, and Sid had nothing.  Sound familiar Oilers fans?…The effect that change had on the Pens was insane.  Mike Sullivan didn’t do a lot honestly.  Mike Johnston just was a bad fit for that hockey club.  I don’t feel like Todd McLellan, the way he was coaching the team from the psychology to the system to the results was a fit for this Oilers team.  Ken Hitchock just might be the perfect fit for them.


I might just sound like an amateur blogger who is really just a guy spewing garbage who’s opinion deserves nothing more than to be pissed on by people in the media, but I’m right and most of them are very wrong on the fact that Todd McLellan isn’t a great head coach.  Sounds like an AMAZING man, and I feel awful for the guy because I really do believe that he worked his balls off and had nothing but the best intentions imaginable for the Oilers.  He’s just an average coach by NHL standards.  Not by the media’s standards.  No, by their standards he treated them great so he’s an amazing head coach and it’s not his fault.  Because he treated them great.  I get it, but let’s maybe start doing our jobs and get just a LITTLE more objectivity fellas?


Is Peter Chiarelli deserving of his job right now?  I don’t think so.  I’m not a “one or the other” guy on this.  Both coach and GM should have lost their jobs after last season, let alone 20 games into this one.  But Chiarelli going won’t make or break THIS season, I’m not sure how this is lost on the “yeah but Chiarelli…” crowd.  What exactly is your defence for McLellan staying if you simply want to blame Chiarelli?  What is his track record of getting his teams to higher level’s of performance?  And why did most of you believe 12 months ago this roster was capable of contending for a Cup and now is nothing other than 97?  I’m VERY well aware of how much gold Chiarelli traded away and it makes me sick.  I get that.  But is this roster capable of making the playoffs?  Yes, it is.  And last year it not only didn’t make the playoffs, it didn’t COMPETE for the playoffs.  Most observers reasoning for McLellan staying was basically “well, if he had the stacked roster he should have then they would be a playoff team”.  So, he’s a great coach, but because his roster isn’t loaded it’s not his fault.  Right?  Who is the player which surprised and took a massive leap under McLellan?  The only one I can think of who you can maybe make a case for is Nurse, though if you’ve read my stuff you know I’ve been sky high on Nurse from day one.  There wasn’t one player who I personally looked at as a guy McLellan and his staff were elevating/developing.  And TRUST ME on this: I was full board on the McLellan bandwagon once they hired him.  I didn’t know what the big deal was about him previous to the hire, but once they hired him I bought into everything the media told us on how great of a coach he was and for two and a half years I never gave it a thought.  But the fact is that there just isn’t a case for the guy.


Look at the track record and it gets worse.  Ron Wilson is a pariah these days.  Wilson took just an ok team (the 98 Caps) to the Stanley Cup final.  He took the Sharks to the Western final in 04.  Going into the 06 playoffs they were most observers favourites to go to the final.  06-08 they couldn’t get past the 2nd round and Wilson was fired.  In steps McLellan to get this loaded Sharks team to the Cup!  Here we go, they’re about to rattle off some Cups!  09, bounced in the 1st round.  Well whatever, just one season of many.  2010 they made it to the Western final!  They took six games to knock off an awful Avalanche team (seriously, one of the worst playoff teams since the league went to 30 teams in 01).  Then they knocked off the Wings in five…who had gone seven games with the Coyotes and had played 63 playoff games over the three previous seasons so it’s safe to say they were just a tad gassed.  But whatever, they were in the West final…and got swept.  2011 though, that’s their year!  Right?!  They beat the Kings…before Darryl Sutter took over and became what they did.  They beat the Wings again…after blowing a 3-0 lead and barely hanging on in game seven at home.  Then against a weaker Canucks team than the Hawks had been, they managed to get a big one win in the West final.  2012, THIS is it for them though right?!  Stumbled down the stretch and got embarrassed in the first round by…Ken Hitchcock’s St. Louis Blues.  Hey, in fairness the Blues had hardly any talent at the time and the Sharks only had a few hall of famers.  2013 was ok, though bounced in the 2nd round to the Kings.  2014 they looked like they FINALLY were going to go somewhere, and blew a 3-0 lead in the first round to the Kings.  2015 he missed the playoffs and was fired.  But obviously the Sharks will digress big time once he’s gone…right?…If Ron Wilson had done all that we’d be talking about what a disaster he was for not getting anywhere near over the hump with that talent.  And then the next coach takes them to the final?!  That’s a bad look!  But McLellan skates because everyone loves the guy.  And again, I’m not in anyway looking to bash the person, but I’m trying to look at it objectively when most seem to be refusing to do so.


Now, some will say the Oilers took a big leap forward because of him, but did they?  Cam Talbot was Vezina candidate worthy in 2017, and it was McDavid’s first full season.  Add to that, Lucic was still producing, Eberle while digressing was still a 50 point player, and the team (even though it was a disgusting overpay to get there) was a lot more balanced up front and on the blueline.  I actually believe he might have done a better job in 2016.  2016 he had horrible injury luck and had the team stayed healthy with the West being down, they might have snuck in the playoffs.  But for people to be picking virtually the same roster as this one to go to the final 14 months ago (or at least be a legit contender to get there), and then say today that the roster has nothing other than McDavid…spare me.  FUCKING.  SPARE.  ME.  Todd McLellan…he’s just another coach.  I remember saying this about him when I had tapped on him last year.  He’s not a BAD coach, but he’s no different than 3/4 of the coaches in the league.  He’s no different from a Paul Maurice, a Gerard Gallant, a John Stevens, a Lindy Ruff, a Mike Yeo, a Glen Gulutzan, a Willie Desjardins.  They’re all just guys who don’t have much of an impact on teams.  They mainly live and die with their goaltending, and they’re a dime a dozen.  Can they have momentary impacts like Maurice first did with the Jets or Gallant last season in Vegas?  Yep.  But Gallant for example has had three gigs now.  In Columbus he didn’t have goaltending and his teams did nothing.  In Florida he had great goaltending and they made the playoffs in 2016.  And last year he had incredible goaltending (and frankly the easiest job in the league).  They’re all guys who people seem to really like, and get REALLY overrated.  McLellan was a hot coaching candidate initially because the job he did as Mike Babcock’s assistant in Detroit.  The last guy who was hired in similar fashion was Jeff Blashill.  Blashill spent time as a Babcock assistant and the head coach in Grand Rapids and all I heard about was how great Jeff Blashill was.  Granted, the Wings roster has gone to complete shit under him, but he seems to be just like all these other guys to me.


Hitchcock though, the media can shut up with all the cliches already on the guy looking to downplay his accomplishments.  “He’s fixer.”  “He has a shelf life”.  No, he’s an elite coach.  Is he going to be any teams coach forever?  No.  But does the media realize that probably 95% of coaches don’t last long EITHER?!  “He has a shelf life”.  Oh ok, I’ll take four or five awesome years of Hitch elevating 3/4 of my team without a shelf life then a decade of Paul Maurice doing nothing like he did in Hartford/Carolina.  I like my teams to WIN, I’m weird like that.

What Hitch does is drastically improve teams.  Dallas, 95-96, bottom five team.  Hitch’s first full season was 96-97 and they finished tied for 2nd in the league, three points out of 1st.  97-98 they won the President’s trophy.  98-99 they won it again and that big silver thing they hand out at the end of the playoffs.  2000 they nearly won that big silver thing again.  But we all know the Stars had a sky high payroll so he only deserves so much credit.  On to Philly in 02-03.  Finished one point behind Jersey for tops in the Atlantic, six behind Ottawa for the President’s trophy after looking awful during the 01-02 season for the talent they had.  The next season they went to game seven of the East final and lost to Tampa by a goal.  Game changed pretty dramatically in 05-06 and they fell apart.  A detractor could say A) Philly also had a monster payroll and B) game got more offensive and Hitch couldn’t adjust.  Ok, that’s fine.  Onto Columbus.  Blue Jackets had never made the playoffs, Hitch gets them to the playoffs.  Not only gets them to the playoffs but has Steve Mason as a Vezina candidate.  And again someone would say that he got lucky Mason was so hot.  Ok…St. Louis.  Blues were very similar to the Oilers.  After making it in 09, Blues fell back off in 2010 and 2011.  2012 started off weak too, and after being shit kicked by the Oilers 5-2, Hitch was brought in.  David Backes, T.J. Oshie, and David Perron were the “stars” up front.  Man, let’s hear about how McDavid, Draisaitl and Nuge are so much worse than that trio…Anyway, 43-15-11 the rest of the way.  Goaltending duo?  Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak.  Defence?  21 year old Alex Pietrangelo as his number one guy.  22 year old Kevin Shattenkirk as his number two guy.  I like how the media has completely forgotten where the Blues were at when Hitch took over, or how they’ve just slowly digressed since he left.  In Dallas last season, they also had/have a very similar roster to the Oilers.  Seguin is their McDavid, Benn is their Draisaitl, the blueline is more talented but a lot less experienced than the Oilers is (which is saying something), go look at the Stars roster at the start of last season and tell me you though Radek Faksa was anything.  Now he’s looked at as one of the best two way centres in the game.


The one thing a lot of people are leaving out of this though, it’s not just that it looks like an upgrade, it’s that it feels like a much better fit for Chiarelli’s vision.  We’ll call it Chiarelli’s vision, though in the last few days I’ve really wondered how much of it is JUST his doing.  Regardless, think back to Chiarelli’s Boston teams.  Those were teams who resembled Ken Hitchcock teams.  Did they resemble Todd McLellan teams?  They really didn’t.  The Oilers are built like those Bruins teams, and like Hitchcock’s Blues teams.


Ken Hitchcock is an elite head coach, even at 66 years old.  He’s a BIG upgrade for the Oilers and in my opinion, combined with a very weak Pacific division, is going to get them in the playoffs and by April I believe they’ll be looked at much differently.  Initially, I felt uneasy about bringing in Hitch.  But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.  Maybe the biggest thing is that he’s a teacher.  He lives to coach and teach and evolve.  This is a guy, despite being 66 who has embraced analytics, he isn’t just simply an old crusty head coach who’ll do things the same as he did in 1999.  Hitch is known for having veteran teams, but you can point to so many guys who played their best hockey under Hitch.  Modano, Lehtinen, Primeau, Nash, Tarasenko, Backes, Seguin, Faksa, and that’s just the forwards.  As a whole the blueline and goaltending gets a LOT better under Hitch’s watch.  Of course the reason for all the improvements is his system and philosophies on the game.  He demands his players defend as a five man unit.  If you’re a forward, you’re not going to be a passenger in your own zone.  And if you are, then you’ll either be scratched, sent down, or be traded.  Simple.


Jimmy Johnson was the same style of coach as Hitchcock when he coached in the NFL.  Now, I know this was 25 years ago, but I’m still going to roll on this.  Anyone will tell you that Johnson is a great guy, yet he pushed his players to their limits.  And he was a psychology major, so he knew how to do it.  Johnson would speak about the self fulfilling prophecy to treat a person as they are and they will remain who they are.  Treat a person as they could be or should be and they will become that person.  I think of that when I think of the comparisons with these two, and though I’ve never heard Hitch say that, I have very little doubt he has the same philosophy.  And to me, it works.  Always has, always will.


So many people miss this, not just with Hitch, but the top end coaches in general is their grasp on psychology.  The media just plays it off as “pushing buttons”.  You can’t “push buttons” if you don’t know how to do it.  Dallas Eakins took this approach and it blew up in his face, he didn’t know how to do it.  Look at how much people around hockey absolutely love Hitch.  People didn’t think of Mike Keenan like that, who was also considered a “task master” or a guy who would “push buttons”.  Nobody talks about Michel Therrien like that, and he’s considered that guy too.  I’ve talked about this with my psychologist.  We were talking last year about how it is simply disastrous when coaches try to play mind games with players just because they think that’s what they need to do as a coach.  You can’t do that shit when you don’t know why you’re doing it, or how to do it.  Hitch does.  Away from the rink the guy is an extremely engaging guy.  He’s a teacher.  You really think he would be adored in hockey circles if he was actually anything like what he is behind the bench or at practice?  He’s not, which to me is a sign that the guy knows exactly how to do it.


And he’s 100%, not just confident in what he’s telling his players and in how he’s pushing his players, but also 100% secure in what he’s doing and how he’s doing it.  That’s the key.  There are A LOT of people in life who have a massive ego but you can see it’s an act and that they’re actually very insecure people.  Hitch doesn’t come across as that guy at all.  He studies the game non stop, he’s open minded to all idea’s on how to improve (another sign of being secure), and sure he’s 66 but I’m going to tell you the game isn’t passing this guy by.  He’ll change as the game and people playing it do.  It’s a lot like Bill Belichick, Gregg Popovich, Scotty Bowman, etc.


Ok, so that’s what Hitch is bringing to the table.  But what you want to know is how this could help/hurt the team.  So…let’s do just that.  I got both area’s and players who I believe he’ll either improve, could improve, or will fall off.


First and foremost, the goaltending now should be fine.  Koskinen has already been giving the Oilers the goaltending they’ll need.  Even on nights he doesn’t look great, he’s not getting rattled.  Cam Talbot badly needs some easy nights to get his confidence back up, which is exactly what will happen with Hitch.  Brian Elliott was an afterthought before Hitch got to St. Louis.  By the end of the 2016 season most believed that the Flames got a bargain when they dealt the 35th pick in the 16 draft for Elliott.  Talbot has more talent then Brian Elliott so I’m interested to see how he plays.


Next is the PK, and again this would greatly help Talbot in particular who seems to be really struggling mentally on the PK.  But the PK looked a little better already in San Jose.  The Oilers are currently only at 75.4% which is actually slightly worse than last season.  In St. Louis the PK was elite.  7th, 7th, 2nd, 9th, and 3rd overall.  The season before Hitch arrived they were 18th, 81.7%.  Blues first full season without Hitch was of course last season, and where was their PK?  18th, 79.9%.  Where was the Stars in 2017?  30th, 73.9%.  Last season?  14th, 80.8% (top five apparently before Ben Bishop went down Elliotte Friedman pointed out on the latest 31 Thoughts podcast).  He improves it.


The blueline in general will improve a lot.  Klefbom and Larsson I feel as though will take another step.  Might be a small one, but it’ll still be noticeable.  The big one though I’m watching for is Nurse.  I really believe this is the perfect coach for Nurse.  Not sure if Hitch will tap into his offensive ability, but defensively I see the kid becoming a beast in his own zone.  Under Hitch, Colton Parayko for example sure was looked at as the next stud D-man in the league wasn’t he?  Since?  No progression.  Won’t surprise me actually if the Oilers end up trading for him just as a side note.  They loved him before and if Hitch does too, I could see them pushing hard with the Blues struggling and Parayko not progressing as they’d hoped.  Also I should toss in here, really like the trade for Chris Wideman if he’s going to be their number six/PP1 D-man.  Klefbom isn’t good enough on that top unit.  Lefty, doesn’t move the puck quick, and too stationary back there for my liking.  I could see Wideman really making an impact if given the chance.  Question will be whether or not he can play well enough five on five to stay in the lineup.


Ok I have to speed this up!


Leon Draisaitl I believe will thrive.  I’m surprised Hitch wants to keep him on McDavid’s wing, but it’s what he had in Dallas with Seguin and Benn.  Draisaitl’s big problem is he lacks consistency.  I believe they’ll butt heads much like Hull and Tarasenko did to name a few, but we’re going to see Draisaitl’s best.


Jujhar Khaira might play the best hockey of his career. First, a lot of observers including myself believe Khaira is better in the middle because it forces him to move his feet.  Hitch has thrived with players of his skill set (Faksa, Shore, Backes to name a few), and I strongly believe we’re going to see him become a pretty valuable player.


Then you have the wildcard types where I’m not sure which way it could go.  In terms of players, those would be Lucic and Caggiula.


With Looch, he doesn’t strike me as a mentally tough guy.  I could be very wrong about that, but it’s just how he comes off.  So I believe Hitch will either get the most out of him, or get absolutely nothing (which isn’t far off what Looch is giving the team now, though I do believe the effort has been there most nights).  Time will tell.  I know this: the system is better suited for Looch.  Don’t mistake “slower pace” with “slower team”.  And a slower pace with more puck support all over the ice should help Lucic.


Caggiula is interesting.  On one hand, he’s a bit of a pest, plays hard, has talent.  But he’s a disaster in his own zone.  He strikes me as a kid who is willing to learn, so I believe he could thrive, and again above pushing buttons and heavy hockey, Hitch is known for being a teacher.  If Caggiula wants to learn and wants to buy in, we could see a big improvement.  But he’s BAD in his own zone at the moment, so it might take some time.


But I have another wildcard for you that Hitch could improve with this squad, and it’s the offence.  WHAT?!?!?!?!  Yep.  I’m not calling my shot on it, but the thing I saw with McLellan was attempting to play a style that was just horrendous for creating offence.  I’m not really sure what it was attempting to do, as the main goal was for the forwards to always look to the blueline option.  Problem with that is the Oilers blueline had no threats offensively and so you’d often get a bad shot on goal.  To top it off, often there would be no traffic.  It was pretty obvious to me that while McLellan didn’t have a deep team up front, he wasn’t allowing the players to play with ANY offensive creativity.  When I think of Hitch’s teams, while offensive creativity doesn’t come to mind, manufacturing goals is something his teams will do.  They cycle it to death, and often get the puck to the slot whether it be a D-man pinching in or someone rotating off the cycle once the opportunity is there.  That means the Oilers will likely be getting the pucks to their best offensive players more often and in better shooting positions.  The PP may also get better, though in Hitch’s last two stops (St. Louis and Dallas) it was in the bottom 12 both years.  It’s at 20.3% right now, but what might be a big improvement for it is the Chris Wideman acquisition made yesterday.  Remains to be seen if they’ll use him as more than a number seven guy, to me he should be a lock for their number six every night and send Gravel back down (since he no longer has to clear waivers).  If Wideman does get in regularly, he better be on top PP unit in place of Klefbom.  He moves the puck quicker than Klefbom, more mobility, and he’s a righty shot.  He’s just a much better fit for it.


Another big one I have yet to hit on is Nuge, but I don’t see Nuge improving much just because he plays the way Hitch loves already.  Maybe the system suits his game better too?  But I wouldn’t look for much improvement.  If anything, I could see his offensive stats droping a little, but he grows even more defensively and maybe he’s the new David Backes or Radek Faksa AKA Selke candidate?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not betting on it.  Just throwing it out there as something to watch for.


Of course when it comes to 97, we know what he’s going to do.  No, his offensive game isn’t going to take this big hit.  No doubt that his defensive game could improve some, but his offensive game won’t suffer.  The latest guy to play under Hitch who was similar to McDavid was Seguin.  His numbers went UP last season.  Jamie Benn’s numbers also went UP last season.  97 will be just fine.


Two guys I have no issue saying they’re done are Ryan Spooner and Ty Rattie.  Both kids play nothing the way the new coach wishes.  The latter of course already had many chances to play for him in St. Louis and never could break through.  The former I was really high on the Oilers getting, but I can’t see him fitting in knowing how soft he plays.  You have to either have a well rounded game, or have the ability to have a well rounded game.  Both of those guys are undersized, not overly fast, a little soft, and not good away from the puck.


Ok.  FINALLY I’ve come to the big key to all of this.  The player who I see improving the most.  The player who McLellan badly failed with.  The player who I believe is going to thrive playing for Hitch.  It’s Jesse Puljujarvi.


Hearing Chiarelli’s comments in the aftermath of all this, it became clear to me that Puljujarvi’s handling played a large part in the decision to make the change.  Chiarelli sounded as though he made sure that Hitch is going to work with the 20 year old Fin and give him a real chance to play.  Is he his Tarasenko?  You would scoff at that, and I’m by no means expecting THAT.  But let me ask you this: Who was the better player at 20 years old?  Puljujarvi is.  What has Tarasenko done since Hitchcock left, which was supposed to be a change that would see his game take right off?  Word is that Doug Armstrong might be ready to deal him.


Puljujarvi dominated in his quick AHL stint.  Dominated.  Whether he pops on this call-up (which as of writing this he has yet to be recalled but according to Stauffer it’ll be coming soon), I don’t know.  But Hitch is an analytics guy, and I have little doubt he’s going to see Puljujarvi’s goal share with McDavid and give him a legit chance in that spot.

So, McLellan was refusing to give the guy at the top of that list a chance?  He gave the guy 2nd on that list two months of a dog shit performance on the top PP unit in 16-17 before he finally caved and took him off it, but the guy who produces best with McDavid gets jerked around all season and eventually they have to demote him due to the coach not playing him?  This one has serious potential to be a massive black eye on McLellan moving forward.  He hated Puljujarvi, at least this season he sure did.  Apologists want to talk about how McLellan had nothing to work with, yet maybe his fourth and fifth most skilled players entering the season looked like nothing playing for him.  Hitch is going to work with Puljujarvi, because Hitch will see the potential to be the type of player he adores.  And it wasn’t just Puljujarvi and Yamamoto who have struggled offensively under McLellan.  Taylor Hall had a brutal 2nd half of the 15-16 season, Eberle digressed in his 2nd season under him, Lucic has fallen off a cliff, and I’m not saying these are on McLellan but it’s very noteworthy.  Probably on the players, but that is a pretty big list of talented guys.  Hell, even think of a kid like Caggiula.  You can see the offensive ability in his game, and yet offensively he’s never taken a step.


So Puljujarvi is the key.  Because if Hitch starts to tap into that potential then it completely changes the dynamic of the team.  All of a sudden you have the winger for 97, and you can deploy 29 and 93 accordingly.  Or maybe he loads up the top line even more?  Currently constructed, this Oilers team in my mind is as good as the Stars were last year.  Three stars up front, an ok but not great blueline, and real good TALENT between the pipes.  And while they didn’t make the playoffs in the end, tougher division and the Ben Bishop injury really killed them late in the season.  This Oilers team compared to the 2011-12 St. Louis Blues is head and shoulders above them in talent.  The Blues maybe had a bit more depth at the time, but nowhere near the skilled guys or the talent between the pipes.  If Puljujarvi gets rolling, it’s going to make one hell of a difference.


Do not get ANY of this twisted.  It doesn’t absolve anyone of anything.  Chiarelli has still been a bad GM, the OBC still BADLY need to go, I’m not singing their praises just because one possible season saving change was made.  But credit where credit is due, this has potential to be a hell of a good move!  The fit for the players, the fit with the assistants, the fit for the organization, the fit for the city, it’s an all around terrific fit.  And while I slag on how McLellan gets pretty badly overrated by people, it’s not as though he’s the only coach who is just ok.  The league is littered with them.  So there was no point in firing him to hand it over to Gulutzan on an interim basis.  Maybe you get a jolt for 10-15 games, but it’ll probably back to status quo after.  Hitch is an elite coach.


I’m probably making this sound better than it is or will be.  Best case scenario with all of these things.  I get it.  I really don’t feel that everything is going to work out amazingly as I likely just made it sound.  All I’m saying is I see SOME improvement coming for most, and basically we’ll see the team we saw over the first 11 games more consistently.  It’s his type of team (which was another thing I heard multiple media members say it wasn’t…sure…).  Hitch needs to coach up some guys without a doubt, but he’s the guy to do it.  I see them getting back to bullying teams with heavy hockey much like they did in 16-17, much improved defensive play, and rarely getting out coached.  Combine that with a very weak Pacific division, and I feel pretty damn comfortable predicting…barring injuries…the Oilers will get in the top three in the division.  Not an accomplishment to be all that proud of in McDavid’s 4th season, and doesn’t absolve anyone for any of the shit that’s gone on.  But it’s a great move that will likely save their season, so at least it’s a start.

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