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Edmonton Oilers Top 20 Prospects – October, 2020

Before I get going, Joey Moss.  I haven’t done a podcast or another blog since the news came down on Monday, and obviously it is a CRUSHING blow to the organization and Oilers fans everywhere.  I admit, I didn’t know just how well Joey was known to hockey fans and media outside of Alberta.  I knew he was KNOWN, but not to the extent he was.  I told this story on Twitter, but I got to meet Joey once.  December 14th, 1998.  I did a job shadow with Rod Phillips for the day.  After going to the Oilers practice, Rod took me down into the room.  Rod was saying hi and talking to everyone as you could imagine, and I was just kind of standing there in awe of the fact that people who were in my life but had never met were all in front of me at once.  All of a sudden I felt a pretty hard shove on my shoulder, and it was Joey Moss.  And I legitimately thought Joey was pissed, and that he thought I had snuck into the room or something!  And so I panicked and was immediately explaining that I was with Rod, and Joey says “No!  What’s your name?”  “Oh, I’m Tyler” and he just smiled and said “I’m Joey.”  And went on with his work.  And as I said on Twitter, I think he was pissed…but he was pissed that Rod didn’t introduce us sooner!  It was just one experience, but you could tell he was such a welcoming guy.  And don’t think he just hung out in the room or that he was some charity case!  The man worked his ass off and did everything he could for the organization.  He really was a legend in Oilers history, and in hockey history.

Rest in peace Joey, you may be gone but your legend will live on forever.

photo courtesy of Global News

 

No easy way to transition from that, so you’ll have to forgive me on that.

This is my most in-depth piece yet on the Oilers system!  10 honourable mentions.  I also do grades for what is in the system.  And simply put, I feel good about the Oilers system.  Look, are they drafting exactly the way that I would?  No.  But when looking at the system do I feel good about this teams ability to pump out plenty of NHL talent in the years to come?  Absolutely.

So let’s get right to it.

 

System Grades

Goaltending: B

I badly wanted Askarov to somehow fall to them in the draft, it would have bumped this grade to an A+.  Having said that, it’s not bad.  I still don’t feel as though we know what Stuart Skinner can or will be, but he’s likely only a big season away.  As much as I didn’t like the Olivier Rodrigue pick, I feel SO much better about him today than I did post World Juniors.  He was terrific in his final two months in the Q, and on top of that we’re seeing more proof that smaller goalies can still perform at a high level in the league.  So that is encouraging, and that actually applies even more to Ilya Konovalov who had a horrible 2020 season, but is off to a good start in the KHL this season.

Left Defencemen: A

The strength of the system is on the left side.  As long as they take their time allowing Broberg to work on his game they possibly have a star on their hands (for sure a top-four guy).  Samorukov also has excellent upside and is trending very well.  Lagesson looks primed to be their number 7 D-man this season, and Niemelainen is now signed and given his tools there is no reason he can’t be a bottom-pairing guy, or better yet an excellent complementary/”safety net” partner for someone who plays a higher risk game in the top-four (think Marc Methot type).

Right Defencemen: B+

I often have to remind myself that Bouchard is still a part of this even though I’m positive he’s going to step in soon and going to be a top four guy.  But he is, and then behind him isn’t much.  Kemp and Berglund, and neither guy looks like they’ll be too exciting for fans, but if they can simply be bottom pair guys that should be perfect for the Oilers long term needs.

Wingers: B

This is tricky with the wingers and centres.  I believe that safely, they have a lot of wingers.  With two of those players (Holloway and McLeod), it remains to be seen whether the organization sees them as centres or wingers.  I believe it’s safe to say that one of them will and the other won’t.

Centres: C+

If they NEED Holloway to be a 3C, I think he’ll be one hell of a 3C, and actually projects perfectly to be a tough minutes 2C on most teams.  The problem is that after that…there isn’t much at all in the system.  Obviously I mentioned McLeod who definitely has 2C ability in his own right.  But he’s much more of a question mark to play the middle long term.  After that, don’t give me Lavoie, he’s a winger in pro hockey.  The wildcard is Marody.  If he can bounce back, I don’t think he has GREAT upside, but can play.  There are a lot of projects in the system down the middle.  Even just one of them popping would be pretty big for the organization.

Speed: B+

This was a tough one to grade.  On one hand, the three best skaters in the system are total burners and are likely to play in the show.  But after that, it’s not too pretty.  Still, I think the fact that the three who are tremendous skaters are going to play goes a long way.  This club is set up to potentially be a BEAST if they can develop the right guys, and I’m going to go more into that in an upcoming blog.

Skill: C+

It’s not as prevalent as I’d like it to be.  This is why I initially had such an issue with the Holloway pick is my mindset for the Oilers entering the draft was that they simply needed to load up on pure skill, and loved the idea of Lucas Reichel in particular by the time they were on the clock.  I’m being generic here by just saying skill, but basically I’m looking at vision and hands.  To my eye, they have four potential snipers up front in the top 20, three pure playmakers, and then just one highly skilled defenceman.

Gamesmanship: D

Only two guys to my eye who will bring actual gamesmanship.  Doesn’t mean there can’t be more, as I do see some guys who might provide it.  Depends how bad some guys want it.  Corey Perry for example wasn’t known for his greasy game when he was drafted, it developed over time as many questioned his toughness…if you can believe that.

Size: A+

It’s not a trait many like to talk about these days, but it’s still something.  A team as a whole being big is more exciting than a player…if that makes sense.  And just because it got badly overrated in the past doesn’t mean it should now be completely ignored.  There are only two guys in my top 20 who anyone would even deem to be “undersized”, and I wouldn’t deem either of those two undersized by today’s standards.  Other than those two “undersized” guys…this is a BIG team.  And again, I will be doing a piece on the size and speed with this organization in the near future so keep an eye out for that.

 

2021 Draft

Initially, I was going to just do a little section here looking at who the Oilers might be interested in for the 2021 draft.  Obviously being THIS far out, a ton of assumptions are made.  But I always feel as though it is better for fans to have a face attached to that pick, rather than just blindly screaming “trade the pick!!!” since they don’t know who that pick is.  Anyway, it ended up becoming a full blog that will be out very soon, so keep an eye out for that.

 

Honourable Mentions

***Note***

All of the stats are from their 2020 seasons.  I realize that a lot of these prospects are playing again, but at this point, I don’t feel like there is enough of a body of work to get too far into it at this point.  I might mention it here or there, but for the most part, I don’t talk much about their early returns for the 20-21 season.

 

Maxim Beryozkin

Team: Loko Yaroslavl  League: MHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 216  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 51  G: 25  A: 29  P: 54

DOB: 10/12/01, Chita, RUS

Acquired: 5th Round, 138th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

As I did post-draft in 2019, I’m going to run down the list of selections the Oilers made that didn’t make my top 20 in my honourable mentions.  I would guess that they noticed Beryozkin initially while watching their 7th rounder from 2019 Maxim Denezhkin, as they were teammates last season.  This season, Beryozkin is playing in the K for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl with fellow Oilers prospect Ilya Konovalov.  You take a look at the size Beryozkin and it’s easy to see why a team would like him.  Great size and from what I’ve read has pretty good skill too.  The question will be whether or not he can improve his skating.  The little I’ve seen of him, he has really heavy feet to my eye.

 

Filip Engarås

Team: New Hampshire  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 25  G: 8  A: 7  P: 15

DOB: 05/16/99, Stockholm, SWE

Acquired: 6th Round, 169th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

I won’t sugarcoat this: I hope they know what the fuck they’re doing when it comes to Engarås, because this pick has most people scratching their heads.  Most of you likely don’t care about them pissing away a 6th round pick, but to me it would be telling of how well the organization is run in general.  I actually wonder if this is a favour for someone.  Think that’s crazy?  I have it on pretty good authority that’s how the Anaheim Ducks got Josh Manson.  Manson was in his last year of eligibility, didn’t appear to be much of a prospect, and Dave Mason’s old D partner Bob Murray selected Dave’s boy.  It happens often, and this is one of the very rare examples of it working.  Anyway, I have no clue if that’s what happened here, but I just wonder because it is a bizarre pick.  Conflicting reports on how well Engarås can skate, average size, average skill, it just doesn’t make much sense from the outside looking in.  We’ll see though.  Who knows what they might know.

 

Jeremias Lindewall

Team: MODO  League: J20 SuperElit

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 183  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 39  G: 11  A: 17  P: 28

DOB: 01/02/02, Sollefteå, SWE

Acquired: 7th Round, 200th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Again, I’d be lying if I said I knew a lot on there last three 2020 selections at this point.  I’d like to think I do a shit ton of work on the draft, but the fact is that when you get past about the 3rd round/top 100, draft boards look wildly different from each other.  Having said this, I actually really like everything I have found thus far on Lindewall, and perhaps like him best of the last three selections they made.  Good size, good wheels, very good on the boards, very willing to receive and dish out punishment, he’s a very intriguing prospect.

 

Matej Blümel

Team: HC Dynamo Pardubice   League: Czech

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 31  G: 4  A: 1  P: 5

DOB: 05/31/00, Tabor, CZE

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

Previous Rank: 20

As I said last time around though with Blümel, he likely will need to do something to stand out.  I can’t see him becoming a top-six player, so I believe his best bet is going to be that he develop a tremendous 200-foot game.  You can say that with most players, but most prospects have a trait that stands out or that can be seen as their jumping-off point to develop into something.  I don’t see anything like that with Blümel, so a strong defensive game could be that something to set him apart.  Frankly, I don’t see what they saw with Blümel, but he has a lot of time to work with, and the organization has a lot of time before a decision is needed of whether or not to sign him.

 

Skyler Brind’Amour

Team: Quinnipiac  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 185  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 34  G: 4  A: 9  P: 13

DOB: 07/27/99, Raleigh, NC

Acquired: 6th Round, 177th Overall, 2017 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

This is the first time I’ve written about Brind’Amour, and full disclosure…it’s to get me to 10 prospects for the HM’s.  I do not understand why they liked him with the 177th pick in that draft OTHER than the fact that they were pretty desperate for centres in the system at the time and hadn’t taken one to that point in the draft.  He’s never shown much in my opinion, but he’s only entering his sophomore season at Quinnipac so there is time before they even have to make a decision.  And by then, who knows?

 

Maxim Denezhkin

Team: Loko Yaroslavl  League: MHL

Pos: C  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 168  Shot: L

2019 StatsGP: 52  G: 19  A: 25  P: 44

DOB: 12/10/00, Yaroslavl, RUS

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

Previous Rank: NR

Not your typical Russian prospect.  The things that come to mind with Denezhkin are character, hard-working, 200-foot player, he’s a more interesting prospect than perhaps most realize.  It’s not to suggest that he doesn’t have some skill because he does.  The concern I have is foot speed.  I’m not going to pretend I’ve watched a ton of Denezhkin, but enough to have the opinion that the skating needs quite a bit of work.  It has actually been a bit of a trend with Oilers picks in rounds 2-7 with the current regime.  It legitimately makes me wonder if they see skating issues as an easier flaw to overcome now than it was a decade or more ago?  They wouldn’t be wrong to have that opinion as we’re seeing more and more players overcome skating issues after being selected.  Anyway, an interesting project who has a lot of time to develop.

 

Michael Kesselring

Team: Northeastern  League: NCAA

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 205  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 34  G: 2  A: 3  P: 5

DOB: 01/13/00, New Hampton, NH

Acquired: 6th Round, 164th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

The Edmonton Journal/Cult of Hockey had him much higher than I do, but it isn’t as if I don’t see what they do.  My claim to fame with Kesselring is that I predicted the Oilers having interest in him pre 2018 draft.  He was the exact prototype that the Chiarelli/Gretzky regime always targeted late in the draft (RHD with size and mobility going the college route).  What I’m unsure on is Kesselring’s skating.  I’ve heard some suggest that they love his skating, but the few times I’ve seen him play, I haven’t felt the same.  Still, he’s a project who has a long runway with this only being his sophomore season at Northeastern.  That means he’ll for sure have this season and next to develop before the Oilers may have to make a decision on him (though they will technically have until the 2023 off-season).

 

Patrik Siikanen

Team: JYP  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 28  G: 0  A: 2  P: 2

DOB: 04/16/00, Espoo, FIN

Acquired: 7th Round, 195th Overall, 2018 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

I’d love to twist this in a way that makes it sound better than it is, but I can’t.  And trust me, I very badly want to see him become something.  Anytime you can nickname a guy “Siikanen destroy”, you’re pulling for him!  But here is the reality of this pick: he has time.  That’s the big reason for the selection.  Siikanen had good size, skates well, plays with intelligence, and has a lot of time before a decision needs to be made on him.  I could be mistaken, but I believe they still have two seasons to wait and see.  Don’t ever expect that he’s going to explode offensively and be the 2nd coming of Pavel Datsyuk, but he has the tools to potentially be a bottom-six player someday.

 

Aapeli Räsänen

Team: KalPa  League: Liiga

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 34  G: 11  A: 13  P: 24

DOB: 06/01/98, Tampere, FIN

Acquired: 6th Round, 158th Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 17

I’m starting to REALLY hate this kid.  Why?  Because it’s getting frustrating trying to figure out what they might do with him!  I have a HUNCH…just in trying to read the tea leaves on him…that they want him, but they want to max out his time before they put him in the AHL.  But that’s me speculating.  I’ve always liked him as a potential 4C. Think Mark Letestu.  A 4C who can do a little bit of everything.  I will say, I was blown away with how much enthusiasm Scott Howson had last spring when speaking of Räsänen.  Howson was excited that Räsänen started producing more while playing the wing on the top line at BC.  It was…bizarre.  It would be crazy at this point to expect Räsänen to become anything more than a very solid 4C who can handle tough minutes, be sound in his own zone, and a good penalty killer.

 

Dylan Wells

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 7  GAA: 3.77  Sv%: .878

DOB: 01/03/98, St. Catharines, ON

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

Previous Rank: 15

Probably the last time he will be on this list as his days are numbered with this organization.  Anton Forsberg is now in the fold to split time with Stuart Skinner (the right call), and that means Wells is gone.  Maybe dealt, maybe bought out (you might ask why they would buyout someone on his ELC and the reason is to open up a spot as you can only have 50 players under contract), or maybe he spends one more season splitting time with Olivier Rodrigue if there is an ECHL season.  But barring Wells getting that chance in the ECHL and tearing up the league, he’s done with the Oilers.  He’s an HM because as you likely know by now, it’s never sat well with me how this organization treated Wells.  It has never seemed to matter what he’s done, it’s always been about other guys.  If I’m Wells, I use that as MASSIVE motivation once I’ve moved on.  I will add though that it’s fair to have the opinion that if he wilted once things got tough then he was never going to make it.  I just think that when developing prospects (goaltenders in particular) I believe you need to build their confidence as much as anything else.

 

That concludes my longest honourable mention section I’ve ever done.  Don’t tell me I’m not thorough or giving this enough thought!  And the truth is, many of those HM’s could make the back end of the top 20.  But if we’re splitting hairs, they didn’t, and here is who did:

 

20. Ostap Safin

Team: Wichita  League: ECHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 205  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 16  A: 19  P: 35

DOB: 02/11/99, Praha, CZE

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

Previous Rank: 18

Yeah, I get it.  You’ve given up on Safin.  I don’t blame you.  He doesn’t have the best motor, he was set back with hip issues the entire 18-19 season, and then he didn’t exactly set the ECHL on it’s ear last season.  But I need to see how this season goes before I give up on him.  And obviously, “this season” remains a pretty big question mark.  The tools are all here though.  The skating ability, the size, the physicality, good skill, he’s potentially a player who can move up and down your lineup.  Not that he plays anything like Zach Hyman, but think of that kind of guy.  No doubt, looking increasingly as though Safin will not reach that level, but he’s still only 21.  Still too early to give up on someone with this much ability.

ETA: Mid 22-23

 

19. Tomas Mazura

Team: Kimball Union  League: USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 35  G: 13  A: 60  P: 73

DOB: 09/23/00, Pardubice, CZE

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

Previous Rank: 16

Let’s be honest here…Mazura is in my top 20 (again) mainly for two reasons.  1) the size/skating combination is overly intriguing for me.  2) as I’ve talked about plenty of times now with him, he is an extremely likeable kid.  But that’s really it.  Sure, you can point to his awesome numbers last season, but he was playing at Kimball Union.  Dominating at a prep school at 19 years of age isn’t exactly a reason to get giddy.  But we’re going to see once he starts at Providence.  THEN we’ll have a much better idea of what the Oilers got.  As of writing this he is on loan to the HIFK U20 team where he is a PPG through three games.  But again, the strength of competition isn’t exactly brutal.

ETA: Mid 24-25

 

18. Cooper Marody

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 30  G: 5  A: 12  P: 17

DOB: 12/20/96, Brighton, MI

Acquired: Trade with Philadelphia, March 21st, 2018

Previous Rank: 12

It’s been a nightmare for Marody since Kale Kessy laid a filthy/cheap hit on him in the first round of the 2019 AHL playoffs.  Marody was tracking towards a legitimate opportunity with the Oilers in the fall of 2019 with a good training camp, and that hit derailed not only that opportunity, but his entire 19-20 season.  Is it fair to put it all on that hit/one concussion?  Maybe not.  But it seems very unlikely that it isn’t related.  But here is the good news for Marody: the door is still open.  Thanks to Covid, he has had a lot of time to not only get his head straight, but train in general.  The pandemic could have been a blessing in disguise for a kid like Marody.  He perhaps needed time off more than anyone.  So we’ll see how he bounces back.  The skill is there, the motor is there, the skating is questionable, but I believe it’s passable.

ETA: Late 20-21

 

17. Markus Niemeläinen

Team: Ässät  League: Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 55  G: 1  A: 6  P: 7

DOB: 06/08/98, Kuopio, FIN

Acquired: 3rd Round, 63rd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: 19

Niemeläinen is one of those guys who just MIGHT still surprise us, simply because the ability is so ridiculous.  Not just the size, but he has always had people intrigued because he can also skate extremely well for that size, and he also moves the puck well.  He has never shown any interest in becoming a two-way defenceman as many desired him to be, but he has always been solid in his own zone.  And the thing with this club is that they are now getting to a point where they will have plenty of offensive production coming from the blueline.  They might need a shutdown guy as Niemeläinen has more than enough potential still to become.  When/if the AHL season starts up, that’ll be when we get to see how far (if at all) Niemeläinen has come since playing in the OHL.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

16. Filip Berglund

Team: Skellefteå  League: SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 52  G: 5  A: 15  P: 20

DOB: 5/10/97, Skellefteå, SWE

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

Previous Rank: 13

Let’s be honest about Berglund: there isn’t much reason to get too hyped about him these days.  His skating is his weakness, and it’s never really progressed over the years to my eye (not that I’ve watched him super closely, but have a fair bit and then a lot last season being Broberg’s partner).  He’s got a safe, stay at home game that can be useful, and the Oilers are thin on the right side moving forward, especially now that they’ve let Matt Benning walk out the door.  But it’s interesting to think of Benning, because Berglund has a lot of the same game Benning brings.  Not as physical of a defender, but a kid who takes pride in his defensive game.  Moving forward, the Oilers look set on the right side in the top four with Bear and Bouchard.  So all they’d really need after that is a guy who can thrive on the bottom pair and perhaps be an effective penalty killer.  That’s something Berglund definitely has the potential to become.

ETA: Late 21-22

 

15. Ty Tullio

Team: Oshawa  League: OHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 180  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 62  G: 27  A: 39  P: 66

DOB: 04/05/02, Lakeshore, ON

Acquired: 5th Round, 126th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

These next two prospects were a breath of fresh air for myself and several Oilers fans in this year’s draft.  This new regime seemingly love their projects, and every pick they had made until the 100th and 126th in the 2020 draft (meaning, going back to their first pick of Broberg in 2019) had at least a bit of a “swing for the fences” feel to it.  These two though felt like they were just looking to put the ball in play if we’re keeping with the baseball analogy.  Tullio was the second of those excellent value picks who is very exciting to have in the fold.  Tullio wasn’t in my top 64, but he was very likely 65th.  When it got down around 60, if you look at the list, I felt stronger about having some project types ahead of him as there are elements of his game I’m not a fan of, mainly his skating.  I won’t sugarcoat it: in my opinion, his skating is flat out bad.  But he is such an endearing player.  Non-stop motor, loves getting his nose dirty, has a great shot but possesses very good vision as well.  I love the pick at that spot.  On top of that, I believe he could have some trade value in the next few years because I expect him to obliterate the OHL in that time.  But that skating is going to make it very difficult for him to reach the show.  Obviously though, if he were to get it cleaned up, what a pick this could end up being.

ETA: Mid 24-25

 

14. Carter Savoie

Team: Sherwood Park  League: AJHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 181  Shot: L

2020 Stats – GP: 54  G: 53  A: 46  P: 99

DOB: 01/23/02, St. Albert, AB

Acquired: 4th Round, 100th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Here is the other of those picks.  Savoie is interesting.  First of all, I probably didn’t track another prospect closer than Savoie last season.  I was doing colour for the Lloydminster Bobcats, and I was covering WHL/Western Canadian prospects as well.  Add to those factors that I was blown away that he wasn’t receiving the pre-season hype I believed he should be getting.  For a 16 year old kid to be the leading scorer on an elite AJHL team…that’s pretty damn rare!!  So, I began to look into the issues.  First one was his skating.  People really need to figure out the difference between pace of play and skating ability.  Savoie can skate.  He’s not a burner, but he’s fine.  He just essentially plays a lazy game.  Ok, so that’s not good.  But keep in mind, this kid was playing on a team that was ranked number one in the country, and on a line where he was strictly asked to be the trigger man.  I’ve seen this kid work his balls off when he’s had to, step up when challenged, go to the dirty areas, and then on top of that he has the hands, vision, and shot needed to make it.  Maybe I’m just being a bit of a homer for the league I broadcast games in, but I believe Savoie is going to rise to the challenge as he plays in higher levels of hockey rather than wilt.  If he was backing down when physically challenged last season, then I’d suggest he’ll fail.  But when I saw anyone touch him last season, he had vicious bite back.  You did not want to touch him, because he would be looking to spear you, or elbow you, he’s got a mean streak.  So the effort level is what really needs to be watched with Savoie as he progresses, but I’d assume/hope the Oilers organization know his character and did an insane amount of homework on him.  If that checks out, this is one hell of a pick in my opinion.

ETA: Late 24-25

 

13. Ilya Konovalov

Team: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl  League: KHL

Pos: G  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 196  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 40  GAA: 2.45  Sv%: .912

DOB: 07/13/98, Yaroslavl, RUS

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

Previous Rank:14

So far this season, Konovalov has rebounded nicely from a disappointing 19-20 season.  As of writing this, a .930 Sv% in 7 games played.  It has been very weird with the Edmonton media and Konovalov since he was drafted though.  No doubt, his stats jumped out when they picked him.  But through last season, despite knowing his numbers weren’t there as they had been the previous season, and very likely without having watched him, the Edmonton media were still giddy about him.  There was no way of justifying it, he had a bad season.  One person in the local media tried to claim that it was just a bad start, but failed to mention that Konovalov was lit up in the playoffs.  And you have to remember that the K is a very defensive-minded league so every goaltender has eye-popping numbers.  This season he’s gotten off to a good start, but so has Lokomotiv’s other netminder…former Bakersfield Condor Eddie Pasquale.  Strange, I never heard them crying for Pasquale to get the call-up in 2018, nor do I believe they’ll be clamouring for him to be signed next off-season…Anyway…I do love how technically sound Konovalov is with what I’ve seen of him.  He’s not overly athletic (again, from what I’ve seen) for someone sub 6’0, but he is very quick and probably goes without saying but extremely flexible as well.  Tough not to be reminded of Antti Raanta when you watch him play.  The style, the size, even the number!  But last season’s performance really holds him down in my rankings at this point.  This is the last year he’s under contract in the KHL, but barring him having an out of this world season, I’d guess another two year deal is in the best interest of both Konovalov and the Oilers.

ETA: Mid 24-25

 

12. William Lagesson

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 207  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 25  G: 3  A: 7  P: 10

DOB: 02/22/96, Göteborg, SWE

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

Previous Rank: 11

It’s tough to imagine that Lagesson can become anything more than he has at this point.  He really has maxed out his ability just getting to the cusp of the NHL as he has.  But having said this, he is still the likely candidate to be the team’s number seven defenceman next season and he is very capable of filling that role.  The skating ability is just average, which is the biggest issue he’s facing, and the way he skates it’ll be very difficult to improve it.  We have yet to see “his game” at the NHL level though.  When he’s right, he can play a nasty/in your face physical game.  And he moves it very well for a stay at home type.  But again, tough to imagine him being more than a 6/7 at this point.  Fun fact here with Lagesson: He is the only prospect who I project to be “early” in a season in terms of his ETA.  Reason?  Because I believe that’s just going to be the way it works with this regime.  If you look at last season, Ethan Bear was a necessity.  Sure, he earned his spot, but they also didn’t have options!  All the other kids were slowly integrated throughout the season.  I believe that will be more so the norm.  But Lagesson at this point looks like the clear cut favourite to be the 7th defenceman.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

11. Olivier Rodrigue

Team: Moncton  League: QMJHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 159  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 39  GAA: 2.32  Sv%: .918

DOB: 07/06/00, Chicoutimi, QC

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

Previous Rank: 10

Very eager to see if Rodrigue can build off his awesome 2nd half in the Q last season.  The one reason I was actually excited about Rodrigue (I was very pissed they traded up for him in 2018) was that I felt he would perhaps have tremendous value because he could dominate the Q.  And then he didn’t even do that!  He barely made team Canada for the WJC as a 19 year old, and then even with that team being a mess between the pipes he didn’t even get a start!!  But he FINALLY started to show signs of progression once he returned from the WJC with an incredible two-month stretch to end his QMJHL career.  He would start next season in the ECHL if there is a season, pretty typical path for a CHL goaltender.  The raw ability is there.  Very quick, very athletic, needs to clean up his technical game, and we’ll see if he can develop a little more discipline mentally which is always a massive key for any young goaltenders growth.

ETA: Mid 23-24

 

10. Stuart Skinner

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 41  GAA: 3.31  Sv%: .892

DOB: 11/01/98, Edmonton, AB

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

Previous Rank: 9

I talked earlier about Dylan Wells and how the organization basically showed him no faith right from the start.  Well Skinner is the opposite.  Skinner appears set to get multiple opportunities to prove himself.  I do understand the draw.  There is a lot of Devan Dubnyk that I see in Stuart Skinner.  Big (not Dubnyk big, but big), moves well, technically sound, Skinner definitely has a chance to play.  And the thing right now with Skinner is it’s very difficult to say what his upside is.  The AHL isn’t kind to goaltenders at the best of times.  When you’re playing behind such a dysfunctional team as Skinner was last season, it’s even more difficult.  So we really won’t know on Skinner until he gets a chance.  One of the positives with the Oilers goaltending right now is that the door is open for kids.  No Oilers fan is pumped with that positive, but the opportunity is there for Skinner to establish himself this season.  And if he does, I would guess he would be the goaltender the Oilers protect for the expansion draft barring an amazing season from Mikko Koskinen.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

9. Philip Kemp

Team: Yale  League: NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 32  G: 3  A: 8  P: 11

DOB: 02/12/99, Greenwich, CT

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

Previous Rank: 9

He’s a forgotten prospect at this point.  But he will be an important one IF he signs with the team.  Straight up, I doubt he will.  American kid, so close to free agency, I bet he is dealt, which sucks.  However, should he stay and sign he would be one of the top prospects on the right side.  Kemp is nothing flashy, but he skates well and is a terrific defender.  Anchoring a pairing, I can’t see him as more than a bottom pairing D-man in the show, similar to what Matt Benning is.  But I could also see him as a very nice complimentary/”safety net” type of defenceman in a team’s top four.

ETA: Late 22-23

 

8. Kirill Maksimov

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 53  G: 5  A: 8  P: 13

DOB: 06/01/99, Moskva, RUS

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

Previous Rank: 4

I still like this kid’s game a lot.  But let’s take off our Oilers googles for a minute and be honest: They don’t like him.  And it appears to me that they’ve already made up their mind with him.  It’s always been very odd with Maksimov.  Despite myself and others seeing this terrific 5th round pick tear up the OHL in both his 18 and 19 year old seasons, while developing his skating, board game, and 200-foot game very well, the Edmonton media has NEVER said a word about Maksimov.  And for most of them, they get their info from people within the organization.  It was the same thing with Dylan Wells.  It looked like a heist of a pick in 2016 (ironically, also in the 5th round, also out of the OHL), yet in the 2017 draft they’re trading up to get Stuart Skinner and all of a sudden “there, they finally got a good young netminder”.  Wells was legitimately one of the best goaltenders, if not THE BEST goaltender in the CHL in 2017.  And I’ve often wondered since if the Skinner pick fucked with Wells confidence.  Fair to say that if he couldn’t handle something like that then he’d never have been able to handle the NHL, but it has still been VERY ODD.  Anyway, I see the same shit with Maksimov.  It doesn’t erase the fact that this kid has all the tools to be a damn good player.  The size and motor really stand out to me.  The skating doesn’t stand out, but it’s ok (I really disagree with those who suggest its a major flaw with him).  But again as I have maintained forever with this kid…the shot is incredible.  No backswing and a total laser just like Joe Sakic had.  And the one-timer is just as good.  A bullet that is incredibly accurate.  I badly want to see him get a legitimate opportunity in Bakersfield.  Last year was…whatever.  I knew he wouldn’t see much ice with what they had and being a rookie.  But those excuses to hold him back evaporated as the year went on, and yet Jay Woodcroft still refused to give him opportunities.  Jay was the right-hand man for Todd McLellan for a very long time, and one thing McLellan became known for was having little-no patience for European players.  I fear it could be the same with Woodcroft.  It would be very foolish for this organization to not give Maksimov the proper opportunities to succeed in my opinion.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

7. Tyler Benson

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 47  G: 9  A: 27  P: 36

DOB: 03/15/98, Edmonton, AB

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

Previous Rank: 3

This is one mighty big season for Benson.  He got some looks last year, showed some flashes, but he couldn’t secure a spot and now he’s at a crossroads.  The opportunity is sitting there for him much like it was for Ethan Bear last season.  The top-six is not set.  Tyler Ennis is PROBABLY occupying one of the two LW spots in that top-six, and he can be caught by Benson.  This is Benson’s chance.  It’s not that he’s done with the organization if he can’t win that spot, but he might not ever have a better opportunity.  After this upcoming season, the organization has some cap space, and they have some kids coming who will make it even more difficult for Benson to surpass.  He has all the ability to make it.  But the pace of play wasn’t quick enough at last check, the feet are still a little heavy, and the edges need some work.  If he can clean those things up, man…he could be a heck of a player.  And the pace of play should come with time at the top level, I don’t view that as a major flaw.  But the explosiveness and edge work…those are much more difficult.  Far from impossible, and they don’t have too far to go, but he needs to really dedicate himself to get over the hump.

ETA: Mid 20-21

 

6. Ryan McLeod

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 201  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 56  G: 5  A: 18  P: 23

DOB: 09/21/99, Mississauga, ON

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

Previous Rank: 7

I’ve always said this, but McLeod will play.  He has too much speed, size and intelligence not to play in the league.  What they’re trying to do with him is play with more of an edge and assertiveness.  Nobody is expecting McLeod to start putting people on their asses, but he needs to show that he won’t shy away from the tougher areas on the ice.  That’s THE key with this kid.  It isn’t urgent for him like it is for Benson, but don’t think McLeod doesn’t have a shot at that top six gig also.  He has everything needed to step into a spot alongside McDavid or Draisaitl and contribute.  I don’t think they’ll give him that chance this season though.  Reason being is that while I believe they want guys to earn it, they REALLY want to make McLeod earn it given his shortcomings.  It could pay off huge down the line.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

5. Raphaël Lavoie

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 199  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 55  G: 38  A: 44  P: 82

DOB: 09/25/00, Chambly, QC

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

Previous Rank: 5

I had a tough time deciding who I liked better between Lavoie and McLeod.  I view McLeod as more of a certainty, but Lavoie has shown so damn much since they drafted him that I had to put him higher.  I keep thinking back to how much weight he dropped from draft day 2019 to WJC camp only a month later.  And then playing for Canada at the WJC last year, I was so impressed with his game.  He embraced that checking role Dale Hunter put him in, he didn’t pout about it.  And in doing so, he was a big asset for that club.  The opportunity MIGHT present itself before next season for Lavoie to step in pretty seamlessly for Alex Chiasson.  Nothing to do with the two being french Canadian, everything to do with them both being big, skilled, and willing to play that role.

ETA: Late 21-22

 

4. Dmitri Samorukov

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 196  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 47  G: 2  A: 8  P: 10

DOB: 06/16/99, Volgograd, RUS

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

Previous Rank: 6

I rarely say this in my prospect write-up’s, but you can’t deny that Samorukov is more likely trade bait for this organization than he is to play for them someday.  Darnell Nurse doesn’t look as though he’s going to go anywhere (despite the fact that he is only on a two-year contract), Phillip Broberg looks like a lock to play, if the media and organization would stop giving Caleb Jones the Jeff Petry treatment they would perhaps realize that he has similar upside to Jeff Petry…So Sammy really doesn’t appear to have a spot at this time.  Still, don’t confuse that as him being chopped liver.  This is a damn good prospect who has rapidly developed at every level he’s been at.  When the Oilers drafted him in 2017, I wasn’t overly high on him.  And to his credit, his game did nothing but grow in the OHL to the point wherein his 19 year old season he might have been the best defenceman in the league.  Then last season in Bakersfield, he did nothing but get better as he adapted to the AHL.  He has all the tools.  Good size, good skating ability, moves the puck well, physical, good positionally in his own zone, good stick, he really has top-four D-man written all over him.  Not saying it’s a slam dunk, but I personally have a tough time imagining him not getting to that level.  What sucks is that he’s an excellent prospect who will likely never have that kind of value, so the organization could be between a rock and a hard place with him.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

3. Dylan Holloway

Team: Wisconsin  League: NCAA

Pos: C/LW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 203  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 35  G: 8  A: 9  P: 17

DOB: 09/23/01, Calgary, AB

Acquired: 1st Round, 14th Overall, 2020 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

First of all, man…I hate saying someone is a centre/winger, because all centres can play the wing!  It still blows my mind that prominent hockey media will say things like “and he can play the wing too” about a centre.  Seriously guys?!?!  It’s literally an easier position to play, so of course a centre can play it!  There are VERY few centres who actually struggle playing the wing.  Anyway, I say it here because I’m not sure where Holloway will end up for this club.  I can argue it either way, but that is part of the charm that comes with this pick.  I have repeatedly admitted it already but will do it one more time for this piece.  I was pissed about the pick initially.  And don’t confuse this, I still would have taken three other players on the board ahead of Holloway.  BUT…the more thought I gave it, the more I loved it for the club and it actually fits tremendously well.  While Holloway wasn’t my top guy or even in my top three, he still should have been in my group of players I wanted for the club.  You might think if you go back and look at my final list of top 64 prospects “what was your issue, you had him 16th?”  Which is fair, but if you look at it, you’ll also see that I had Kaiden Guhle 13th.  Different teams should have different boards.  For the Oilers, I felt that they should have been wanting pure skill as they really lack it up front.  But they even more so lack Holloway’s complete game up front.  You talk about someone who plays a man’s game, Holloway plays a mans game.  This kid has the ability to be one of the best power forwards in the game, and one of the best 200-foot games in the game.  Does he have an overly skilled game?  No, he doesn’t.  But he’s going to produce by doing everything right and doing all the dirty work.  Without a doubt a top-nine winger down the road, but when you start to think of the upside and think about some of the comparables (Shawn Horcoff, Derek Stepan, Brandon Saad, Jakob Silfverberg to name a few), all of a sudden you start to get VERY excited about Holloway.  Add to this, good size, tremendous wheels, and a very high character kid which are pretty clearly the three traits this organization is looking for with their top picks…not a bad gameplan.  A lot of my initial dislike of the pick comes from not trusting this regime after watching the job they did in Detroit the past few seasons, and it remains to be seen with Holloway.  But there is no doubt it was more about me and less about them with this selection.  Holloway has “core piece” written all over him.

ETA: Late 22-23

 

2. Philip Broberg

Team: Skellefteå  League: SHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 45  G: 1  A: 7  P: 8

DOB: 06/25/01, Örebro, SWE

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

Previous Rank: 2

So far, it looks like I was very wrong and the organization was very right about this selection, and I’m more than happy to say that.  The fear I have now is that they don’t take the time on him that they should be.  I get it.  This is going to be extremely tempting for them to bring in someone this fast and this big, but patience is huge in my opinion because Broberg has ridiculous upside, but he’s still raw in a lot of key areas of the game.  He is the type of player that organization’s constantly rush.  Jay Bouwmeester, Noah Hanifin, Jakub Chychrun, Rasmus Ristolainen, they all have such tremendous size and skating ability that teams just can’t help themselves.  But if you take the proper time, this kid could be a star.  A legitimate number one defenceman.  Someone who wins Norris trophies.  You have a player in Broberg.  At least a number five, probably a number four, and a good chance he can be a three.  But if you give him time and you bring him along slowly, perhaps he is able to really develop the rest of his game.  The D-zone play needs time (positionally he’s still a bit of a mess).  The puck-moving needs time (he won’t be able to skate it out of trouble all the time in the NHL).  He needs to see a lot of time on the PK.  He could really benefit getting some time as the top PP option in Bakersfield when the time comes.  As I wrote about in the summer, there is no need at all to rush this.  Bring him along slowly and the pay off could be enormous.  I know someone, somewhere, is screaming that they will because they do with everyone.  But they don’t.  Michael Rasmussen was a similar prospect for this regime that they didn’t give the proper time to, and now the Red Wings are paying for it.  They weren’t that patient with Dennis Cholowski either.  There is a reason we heard the media get geeked about Broberg this summer.  It isn’t because they’re all just enormous Broberg fans.  The organization wants it out there, and from reading the tea leaves, the organization doesn’t want to wait long.  Trust me…let’s hope they can resist the urge.  The downside to waiting: none.  The upside to waiting: massive.

ETA: Mid 22-23

 

1. Evan Bouchard

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 7  A: 29  P: 36

DOB: 10/20/99, Oakville, ON

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

Previous Rank: 1

This wasn’t as certain as the last few times around.  The upside with Broberg and the hope that they will take their time with him (even if they don’t want to), makes him pretty enticing to put in this spot.  But, I haven’t forgotten what Bouchard is, unlike some.  And the fact remains that Bouchard is ready to step in, and he is the safer bet of the two blueliners at this point.  But let’s also not blindly assume the number one upside isn’t there with Bouchard, it absolutely is.  Someone who has this high of IQ and plays this methodical of a game, he’ll likely get the D-zone figured out.  To what extent, remains to be seen.  But he has the size and IQ to become as good of a defender as he wants to be.  I have been vocal about this already, but I will say it again here: I really dislike the organization buying a roadblock for Bouchard.  Bring in someone to legitimately compete with Bouchard for the 3rd pairing spot?  Awesome.  Bring in someone who prevents him from getting an opportunity?  That doesn’t sit well with me.  I know, injuries happen, he’ll get a chance at some point this season.  But he’s ready to play, especially on the 3rd pair.  Not signing Barrie would have saved over two million in cap space that they perhaps could have used on a free agent still available who fit in their top-six like Mikael Granlund.  Now, you’re looking at pissing away a year of Bouchard’s ELC, and the top-six is still lacking.  I’m all for developing guys properly, but I’m also all for knowing when the time has come for them to step in and the upcoming season was it for Bouchard.  Don’t need to GIVE him the spot, but the opportunity should be there for him to grab it.  Not only is that gone, but rumours are rampant that they’ll sign Madison Bowey to further prevent Bouchard from getting an opportunity.  Don’t get it, don’t like it.

ETA: Late 20-21

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The Oilers Shouldn’t “Settle” With Philip Broberg, And They Have No Reason To

In 10 days, we resume.  In 10 days, we as Canadians get to hear the great Chris Cuthbert call games for Hockey Night in Canada once again.  In 10 days, while things aren’t going to be back to normal, it’s another sign that we’re getting closer.  In 10 days, I will be on my sectional with the AC cranked, watching non-stop hockey, probably with a big mess of food by my side (I’ve been dieting pretty hard since about the end of April, down 25lbs, but you better believe the gloves are off that weekend.  Nuggs, pizza, wings, Old Dutch chips with some herb and spice dip…or maybe jalapeno…or dill pickle (I like my chips with the dip just like Drake), any kind of food that is bad for you will be in consideration.  It will all be on the table (well, coffee table, next to my sectional), and it won’t be pretty.  No better way to celebrate weight loss like putting it all back on.  And it’s just 10 days away…

But let’s get serious for a minute, and isn’t it nice just to have some form of sports back?!  Even if it’s not all the way back just yet.  Watched the Jays game last night, just did the rookie draft for our fantasy football league the last few days, the NBA is starting up the same weekend as the NHL, while I’m worried about the worst-case scenario’s, it’s nothing but optimism right now!  SPEAKING OF OPTIMISM…that brings me to today’s blog!  But before we get going on that, please help a slightly less fat guy out:

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The Broberg hype

So the big topic in Oiler-land during camp has become Philip Broberg.  It started with Bob Stauffer (as it normally does with anything Oilers) raving about how good the kid looked.  Stauff said he appears to have filled out and doesn’t look out of place in the camp.  And then Mark Spector followed it up with a piece the other day stating how Broberg has moved ahead of Evan Bouchard on the Oilers depth chart.  That’s exciting!  On Tuesday’s edition of Oilers Now, Spec was on with Bob and they broke down exactly why they’re so excited with what they’ve seen so far.

Now, they’re watching camp, I’m not.  They’re talking to people in the organization, I’m not.  So I’m on the outside looking in here.  I want to make that clear.  And I’m not looking to rip on two guys I once interned for, both of whom treated me very well.  But what has me nervous about what I’m hearing is that it is what we already knew were strengths of Broberg and nothing about him having improved on his weaknesses.  He can fly, but we already knew this.  He’s got great size, but we already knew this.  What became really troublesome for me in the talk, was that Stauff compared him to Noah Hanifin, while Spec at one point said (speaking of the future of the blueline in general) “I don’t see a defence with one BIG horse, like Pietrangelo is in St. Louis, or Doughty is in LA, or Duncan Keith is in Chicago.”  So, why wouldn’t you want to take the kid with the highest ceiling and take your time developing him?  If you look to rush him in, that’s “settling” so to speak (hence, the title of my blog, so weird how that works…).

How I Felt Last Year vs Now

Let’s go back to June 21st, 2019 for a minute here.  I should apologize to any Oilers fans who have been following me on Twitter since that night.  I went insane with my dislike of the pick.  I was not very high on Broberg at any point during the 2019 draft process.  Initially, he shot up most rankings after his performance in Edmonton at the 2018 Hlinka/Gretzky tournament.  I felt in watching him that his performance was simply due to the fact that he was bigger than most, and faster than maybe everyone in that tournament.  At least everyone not wearing a Canadian jersey.  So I felt he was overhyped at that time, and I never really shook that feeling.

When doing my final rankings for that draft, while I make it very clear that I’m not a scout, you better damn well understand that I don’t put those rankings out throwing shit at the wall.  I do as much homework as you can on those kids.  I don’t ever want to put work out that is sloppy.  I don’t know if my work is that great, but I work hard on it, I’m a perfectionist and full disclosure…I have an inferiority complex when it comes to content I put out, so I’m pretty terrified of putting out things people can poke holes in.  The puck-moving ability scared me (he’s never had to learn to move the puck well), and the puck skills, in particular, scared me.  So I had my concerns, and I put him 18th in my final rankings.  Combine that with the fact the Oilers had a desperate need for forwards in general in this organization, and I was beside myself.

But in doing that, I slept on the fact that Broberg had an insanely high floor (I still thought he was essentially a lock to be a top-four defenceman), and an insanely high ceiling (because of that size, that skating, and given he’s an intelligent and hard-working kid, he has a shot to become a legitimate number one defenceman in the league).  So the fact I had him behind some guys like Cam York and Victor Soderstrom isn’t something I’m pumped that I did.

Now, HAVING SAID ALL THAT…

I still think the Oilers should have taken Trevor Zegras.  I personally would have taken Peyton Krebs, but they apparently had no interest in Krebs.

But they took Broberg, and as time has gone on I’ve understood more not only what they saw in the player, but why they felt they perhaps needed another defenceman in the system despite it being pretty loaded already.

Again though, what I’m hearing isn’t anything I didn’t know the kid could be.  Maybe I’m missing something, but what I want to hear is how he’s moving the puck incredibly well, and his puck skills are vastly improved.  We also have to keep some things in mind here.  1) he was skating during the break.  Most weren’t.  2) the clips I’ve seen from the scrimmages at camp, the play is pretty unorganized (as it is in every training camp scrimmage I’ve ever seen) and most of the guys there aren’t exactly battling for a spot, while Broberg is one of the few who is.

I completely understand the excitement of the fan base.  Anytime a prospect emerges in any form, the thoughts immediately go towards the upside of the prospect not just in terms of what the player could be, but how the organization could take advantage of the added depth.

We as fans also have to remember that it’s not just Oilers fans who have been guilty of wanting kids rushed, the Edmonton media has been just as guilty of it.  Again, not meaning to shit on what guys like Stauff and Spec have to say on this at all.  But it’s just a fact of the matter.  2017-18 training camp, the cry was for Yamamoto to make the club out of camp.  In 18-19 guys were pushing pretty hard for Bouchard to make it (and in fairness, I was too given the situation at the time).  Back in the day, they were pushing for Sam Gagner.  Magnus Paajarvi.  Leon Draisaitl (it didn’t hurt him, but they did rush him that first season).  It has happened so much over the years and needs to stop.

A Succession Plan

Thankfully, Ken Holland isn’t the type of guy who’ll look to rush a prospect.  They have a very good succession plan in place here on defence.  I’m not sure if it is going to be followed the way that I believe they’ll do it, but it probably won’t be far off.

On the left side of the D is where that succession plan should be rock solid.  Klefbom, Nurse, Jones, Russell, Samorukov, and Broberg all in place.  So you might be asking “how are they going to make room for a kid like Broberg?”  Wait, you didn’t ask?  Oh, well, too bad, I’m going to tell you anyway.

Kris Russell should be the first to go.  When that will be, I’m not sure.  I THINK there is an excellent opportunity for Russell to move this off-season.  His cap hit isn’t pretty, but what is are the real dollars left owing on his deal for next season of 1.5 million.  He also now has to green light 15 teams he can be dealt to, up from 10 last season.  There are going to be a lot of teams around the league looking to save some money.  So while I don’t expect Holland to be able to outright dump the contract, I do believe there will be an opportunity out there to get a pretty good forward at a similar cap hit in return for Russell.  An example I came across, and I have no idea if this is a possibility, but perhaps a deal with Flordia for Brett Connolly makes sense.  It saves the Panthers two million dollars for next season, and Russell only has one more year on his deal, where Connolly has three.

Should Russell be shed, that frees up the spot on the bottom pair for Jones to play full-time next season.  And the blueline looks set heading into 20-21.  But what about the expansion draft?  Do you go 4-4-1?  At this point, I think that’s a no brainer for the Oilers.  We know that McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins (assuming he’s re-signed) and Yamamoto would be the forwards protected.  But what if they land someone worth keeping for Russell?  What if there is someone else they have plans on keeping up front?  What if someone pops?  Maybe Benson?  Maybe Athanisiou starts clicking with someone?  Then what?  Not to mention, the way the Oilers are set up, if you assume the kids on the blueline keep progressing the way they have been, you’re going to have a hell of a trade chip to play that off-season, if you haven’t played it already.  I believe they’ll end up going 7-3-1 with who they protect, and while everyone thinks it’ll be Nurse who is eventually dealt, I believe it’s going to be Oscar Klefbom who is.

Klefbom v Nurse (moving forward)

Now, I’m not as set on this as I once was, and I’ll get to all the possibilities.  But I still believe this is what the organization will end up doing, and there are several reasons why (apparently nine, at least that I thought of).

  1. Klefbom is two years older.
  2. Nurse has a far better track record of staying healthy.
  3. Nurse is bigger and a better skater.
  4. With Bear, Bouchard, and Jones, not to mention prospects like the aforementioned Broberg and Samorukov coming, the Oilers won’t lack what Klefbom brings to the table, where Nurse brings a different dimension.
  5. Nurse is TIGHT from all accounts with the two big dogs on this team.  That matters in this scenario.
  6. Things have never seemed quite right with Klefbom and the organization.  Trade rumours in the 2018 off-season, he’s never been given a letter, I’m not suggesting there is some big issue, but I just get the sense that he’s not viewed as one of their core players.  Maybe that was the old regime and not the new one, but we’ll see.
  7. This is more my belief than having any knowledge that the organization is thinking this way, but I believe Nurse is the exception to the rule when it comes to his growth.  Most players by age 25 are what they are.  But most players aren’t 6’5 guys who are tremendous skaters with a work ethic matched by few.  The two players I look at when thinking of Nurse are Rob Blake and Brent Burns.  Both players when they were young had similar talent to Nurse, and neither guy reached their potential until around age 28.  I also should point out that I don’t believe Nurse will become the offensive force that Blake was and Burns is.  Where I believe the growth will come with Nurse is in the defensive zone.  As frustrating as he can be at times in his own zone now, I really believe he can become an elite defensive defenceman.
  8. There seems to be a bit of a misconception on their contracts.  Most see Nurse as the guy to go given he is a UFA in two more years.  Well, that sweetheart Klefbom deal now only has three more years on it.  If Ken Holland is to give one of these two a 7 or 8-year contract, one would start at 27, the other would start at 30.
  9. Klefbom MIGHT have the higher trade value given that 4.1 million dollar cap hit, with still two seasons remaining on it after next season.  With a tight cap, two years of a top pairing D-man at 4.1 million is pretty damn attractive.

That’s a lot of reasons.  But it’s not to suggest that I don’t see the other side of it, I absolutely do.  The big one for me though is the long term ramifications with each guy.  If you’re going to commit to one of them long term, I’m choosing Nurse even though I believe Klefbom is currently the better defenceman.  Nurse definitely closed the gap this season, and while it is completely fair to say Ethan Bear played a large role in that, the fact of the matter is that Nurse (by most analytic measures that I saw this season, but I fully admit that as much as I try with analytics, I’m not wise) was their top defenceman.

Lot’s to Consider

Could they simply let Jones be plucked by Seattle?  I guess, but that feels like extremely poor asset management.

It is possible with how well they’re currently set up that they trade Nurse in the next 12 months, and simply allow Klefbom’s deal to run out in three years.  I wouldn’t bet on this happening, but we’ll see.  They’re moving into contender mode, and this is something contenders do.  If you told me that in three years they’ll have Jones, Broberg, and Samorukov on the left side of their blueline, I could see it.

And we also don’t know what contract negotiations will look like with Nurse.  When he signed the two-year extension, my theory attempting to read the tea leaves from what was said by both sides and the media was that it was essentially an 8-10 year deal.  It’s pretty rare for a guy looking for big term and years to simply cave after little negotiating.  It’s also pretty rare for a team to be fine walking a 25 year old, top-four defenceman to free agency.  Something must have been done under the table.  But now…so much has changed.  So we’ll see.  Maybe Nurse will now want to go to free agency simply to recover as much money as he may have lost by not doing a long term deal?  Entirely possible.

Finally, of course it is entirely possible that they protect four D.  Given the depth on the blueline, and the amount of high-end D that they have coming, I can’t see it, but you never know.  If someone wants to make the case for it, perhaps they’d say the need to protect one of Klefbom or Nurse for another organization severely hurts their trade value, where if you protect all four guys you can make a move following the expansion draft.  That’s fair.

What I really don’t foresee is a way that both Klefbom and Nurse stay long term.  With how tight this cap is going to be, and given how well they’re set up moving forward on the blueline, I just can’t see them committing big dollars to both guys.

Post Expansion Draft

No matter which one of Klefbom or Nurse might be dealt, it is probably safe to assume that the organization will keep one of them long term.  You’ll have one of them, and very likely Caleb Jones occupying the left side.

So what about the bottom pair?  It’s true, that could be a good spot for Broberg to step in.  But they also have Lagesson.  I have my doubts on Lagesson having seen him make the jump for 8 games this season, but it is very possible he’s not done growing yet.

Don’t sleep on Markus Niemelainen.  He’s huge, he skates very well, can move the puck well, and is a good sheer defender.  He’s always left people wanting more out of his game, but a number five defenceman who leaves you wanting more is still a number five defenceman.

Finally, you might forget or might not know that they have a damn good kid coming in Dmitri Samorukov.  I really believe that Sammy is going to be a player, it’s just a matter of how good can he be?  He showed steady progression in Bakersfield this season, now he’s playing a year in the KHL (and before anyone perhaps gets nervous about that, it sounds like it was encouraged by the organization given the uncertainty of the AHL season).  Samorukov could be ready for bottom pair minutes in the 21-22 season.

What About the Right Side?

It’s safe to say that the top four on the right side will be set with Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard.  Obviously we don’t KNOW with Bouchard, and we’ve only seen one year of Bear to this point.  But at this point it sure looks set.

What will be interesting to see in the off-season is which one of Larsson or Benning goes?  Since Bear emerged, I have believed it would be Larsson.  It would be riskier given that they would then be gifting Bouchard a top-four role, which you never want to do.  Having said that, if any kid has looked ready for that kind of promotion, it’s Bouchard.  But with how tight teams are going to be to the cap, I’m not sure Larsson is movable.  It’s possible you could do a similar deal to what I propose with Russell (money out/money in), but it actually might be tougher to move Larsson because of the real dollars.

If Larsson isn’t or can’t be moved, I can’t see them qualifying Matt Benning.  It’s possible that Benning agrees to do a cheaper deal than what his QO would be given he is unlikely to get that on the open market, but history tells us he would walk in that scenario.

On the flip side, if Larsson can be moved, I don’t see why Benning wouldn’t be a mainstay on their bottom pair.  He’s only a number five guy, but he’s one hell of a number five guy!

Back to Broberg

I also could have said “in conclusion”, but this was supposed to be about Broberg…

There is ZERO need to rush this kid.  Absolutely ZERO.  And while I get the excitement, and I get that he is possibly capable of stepping in next season, I really hope they don’t settle when it comes to Broberg.  You used the 8th pick on him over forwards who not only filled the Oilers needs better, but most saw as better prospects.  He has number one potential.  They don’t need a Noah Hanifin.  They don’t need another top four/2nd pairing defenceman.  They need a number one guy, and Broberg can become that in time.  He might not ever get there, but he has a much better chance of becoming that guy if they take their time with him.

I’ve said from the start, I would keep him two more years in Sweden (he’s had one, supposed to be back for another this upcoming season), then I’d give him one full season in the AHL after that, and then we’ll see.  Give him time to develop his skill, develop his puck-moving, develop his angling, develop his positioning, work on his shot, work on walking the line, work on anything he needs to work on.  He is going to get big minutes at the WJC (should it happen), bigger minutes with Skelleftea, and then of course he’d get big minutes in Bakersfield the following season (not to mention get comfortable living in North America).  I would also be adamant he works with a skills coach each summer.  Most do, so it likely doesn’t need to be said, but with Broberg especially I believe it could be massive for his game.

For anyone disagreeing with this approach, I’ll leave you with this: the two players Broberg plays most similarly to are Jay Bouwmeester and the aforementioned Noah Hanifin.  Both were rushed into the league thanks to their elite skating and size.  Both looked great early on.  J-Bo’s offensive game never progressed, and Hanifin’s has yet to.  I hope Holland and company see this the same way I do.  If they do, they may have another star on their hands…down the line.

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SOH Top 10: Worst Peter Chiarelli Decisions

If there is one thing that Covid-19 is giving me a chance to do, it is reminisce.  They aren’t all going to be fond memories, but sometimes it’s fun to even look back at the bad times and laugh…no matter how fresh that wound still is for some.  And for Oilers fans, who I consider myself one of, the Peter Chiarelli era will be viewed as the absolute worst for several reasons.  Many in Edmonton believed that this was the turning point for the franchise, when in fact they hit an all-new low for incompetence under his watch.  This man was gifted McDavid, Draisaitl, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Klefbom, Nurse, the 16th pick in what will likely be a top-five draft of all-time, and a mountain of cap space.  Given that, it is likely the worst job a GM has ever done in the history of the league.  Yes, worse than Mike Milbury.

 

I changed the title of this from “trades” to “decisions”, even though you can come up with 10 awful trades the man made.  For a top 10 list to truly be interesting, you need a little controversy and to have some solid candidates not make the list.  So without further adieu, here is the list (I know Oilers fans, you want to read it while peaking out of your covered eyes, but remember that we aren’t supposed to be touching our faces these days).

 

Hounourable Mention

June 22, 2017: Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome

This one gets honourable mention because the Edmonton media (specifically Mark Spector) remember it as this horrendous decision,  but it was actually one of his better moves.  Initially, Eberle had a great bounce-back season with the Islanders, and Strome wasn’t great for the Oilers.  But since the trade, Strome has nearly matched Eberle in goals (60-56) and points (137-129) for half the money.  Yes, one problem is that Strome didn’t get it going until he went to the Rangers, but even with the Oilers he had 19 goals his first season (35 points) and had terrific analytic numbers early in the 18-19 season, it was just simply a case of not getting bounces to that point.

 

June 29th, 2017: Benoit Pouliot Buyout (4 years, 1.3 million cap hit per season)

This was the straw that broke Soups back…or something like that.  I texted one of my buddies after this and flat out said: “I’m done with this fuck” or something to that effect.  He did nothing with the savings (Jussi Jokinen could have been signed without the buyout).  But that aside, Pouliot was still capable of being a top-nine forward and even if he had gone to shit during that season you could have simply put him on waivers and buy him out after that season, which would have saved you a year on the buyout.  AKA, the Pouliot buyout wouldn’t still be on the books this upcoming off-season.  Sure would be nice to have an extra 1.3 million…

 

August 16, 2017: Leon Draisaitl signing, 8 years, 68 million (8.5 million cap hit per season)

YEP!  This at least gets an honourable mention.  One of the best bargain contracts in the NHL at this moment still gets a shoutout.  How in the hell does that happen?!  I’m certain you’re asking that question.  It is pretty damn easy for me why.  As good as that contract currently is, it was still easily…EASILY…a million per season of an overpay by Chiarelli, and it can be argued that it’s as much as 1.5 million per season.  Look at that date too.  Chiarelli wasn’t close to a pressure point yet of needing to get Draisaitl signed and get him into camp.

 

January 4, 2018: 4th round (conditional) pick in 2018 NHL Draft for Al Montoya

He traded a conditional 5th round pick, which with ease turned into a 4th, for a backup goaltender.  Ok, that’s not so bad.  Cam Talbot desperately needed someone who could take starts from him at the time.  So why was this such a bad decision?  Oh, because when the trigger was finally pulled on this deal, the Edmonton Oilers were out of the race for the 2018 post-season.  They so obviously, and desperately needed a backup that Todd McLellan would trust and play from the start of the season.  McLellan showed zero faith in Laurent Brossoit and in turn, Laurent Brossoit was awful playing for Todd McLellan.  A good GM would recognize this very early in the season and address the issue, but as we know Peter Chiarelli was far from a good GM…

 

10. February 18, 2011: Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik

While there are four players in this deal, the main parts were Wheeler and Peverley.  This was the first of his questionable decisions, back when we all believed he was pretty competent.  But even at the time, I remember thinking “Wheeler was awesome as a rookie for them, why would they give up on him for a guy like Peverly?!”  Not that Rich Peverley was NOTHING, but he sure wasn’t a big addition to that Bruins team.  Some would say “well it worked because the Bruins won the Cup”.  Yeah…something tells me that they could have won the Cup with Wheeler instead of Peverley…

 

9. June 21, 2018: Eric Gryba Buyout (2 years, 300K cap hit per season)

WHAT……….IN THE BLOODY FUCK……….WAS……….THE FUCKING………. POINT……….?  Chiarelli here decides that while he is already up against the cap to push his team even further against the cap by buying out Eric Gryba who would have been $0.00 against the cap by simply spending the season in the AHL.  It was 300K against the cap and I very vividly recall Bob Stauffer laughing on air one day that some people were upset about this.  Sure, it’s not much of a dent in the cap.  But there are two things: A) it further showed the incompetence of Chiarelli, and B) they were so tight to the cap that they shouldn’t have been doing something they didn’t have to like putting 300K towards it when they don’t have to.  This decision doesn’t rank high (if at all) in terms of impact, but the sheer stupidity of it is off the charts!

 

8. June 23, 2018: 5th Round pick for Hayden Hawkey

This one flew under the radar for most people, but it sure drew my ire!  He moved a 5th round pick for a goaltender entering his senior season in college and then didn’t sign him.  WHAT?!?!  So you blindly gave up a 5th round pick, with no conditions on it at all, for a goaltender he didn’t know if he could sign, or if he’d have room on the roster for him if he did want to sign him.  Holy FUCK.  If he was so eager to get Hawkey’s rights, why wouldn’t the deal have at least been a 7th that turns into a 5th if they sign him?!  I don’t know how much I can type the words “mind-blowing”, but we’re going to find out!

 

7. February 28, 2017: Brandon Davidson for David Desharnais

Do you remember the logic behind this?  “We have to move Davidson, otherwise we’ll lose him in the expansion draft”.  So, instead of losing one asset for nothing, he lost two.  It’s as though he believed that if he gave up Davidson for an asset that he was set to lose (David Desharnais) then Vegas couldn’t take another player from his organization.  Instead, he cleared the path for Vegas to take a player they had invested the equivalent of two 1st round picks in (given the quality of that draft), while also hurting the depth of the Oilers blueline, for a very minor upgrade that they likely could have acquired (or got someone similar) for a mid-round pick.  That is QUITE the logic by Pete.  I am well aware of the goal that David Desharnais scored for the Oilers in game 5 of the 2017 series vs San Jose.  I also am well aware of the fact that the ice time would have gone to another player in that spot who likely also could have scored that goal.  Desharnais outside of that solid game in game 5 (also set up the tying goal) wasn’t much of an addition for the Oilers, and when the blueline got beatdown in the next series against Anaheim they sure could have used a guy like Davidson to step in.

 

6. November 16, 2018: Ryan Strome for Ryan Spooner

Strome for Eberle is surprisingly sneaky good, but this is where he should be crucified.  In fairness, I thought it was actually a good move at the time.  The career numbers suggested it was a solid move, which is why perhaps I have this lower in my rankings than most would.  But this was such a disaster.  The icing on the cake was that Strome was tight with McDavid, and Spooner from everything I’ve heard (this could be wrong so don’t hold me to it) was pretty immature and not well-liked in the room.  While Strome has been a home run in Manhattan, Spooner was bought out by the Canucks after the 18-19 season and played this past season in Europe (and didn’t even stick with one team or even one league over there).

 

5. December 30, 2018: Drake Caggiula and Jason Garrison for Brandon Manning and Robin Norell

This one was more obviously worse from the get-go.  The final trade as the Oilers GM, and likely as an NHL GM.  Little Petey thought that it would be a good move to shed one of the fastest forwards on the roster, a roster which severely lacked speed, and one of his franchise players best friends on the team, for a defenceman who in no way whatsoever was a need, and was notorious for not only being the player to break Connor McDavid’s clavicle but then getting into it with McDavid the next time the two played.  To top all this off, his roster that was already rubbing up against the cap added 750K to it, and another year at 2.25 million.  That man was SOMETHING ELSE.

 

4. January 21, 2019: Mikko Koskinen extension

This one is very similar to the Draisaitl contract.  It’s not so bad NOW, but he drastically overpays for a player for no reason whatsoever.  Koskinen was already digressing after a hot start, and Chiarelli gave him 1.5-2 million more per season than he was worth at the time, and as we found out that value would continue to fall as the season wore on, to the point where people were openly asking whether or not the Oilers should buy him out of the deal before it begins (which they couldn’t have unless they had a player going to arbitration which opens up a 2nd buyout window after July 1st).  He didn’t just give Koskinen 4.5 per, he also added a modified no-trade clause.  Because simply just overpaying players wasn’t enough for Peter.

 

3. June 29, 2016: Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson

Some, maybe most, would have this higher on their list than I do.  I have always at least been able to see some logic in this one.  Don’t get me wrong, nobody in their right mind should ever have believed that this trade was worth doing one for one (as Bob McKenzie for some reason loves to constantly remind us of…I’d hate him if he weren’t the best).  They saved nearly two million in cap space, got an extra year on the deal coming back than the one going out, got a specific need, and in 2016 it looked as though Larsson was just beginning to grow as a player rather than having already maxed out.  I also did somewhat understand the logic behind “making it McDavid’s team”.  Having said all this, again I want to make it extremely clear that I wouldn’t have even given this deal a thought.  I would have done it perhaps if Jersey had kicked in a 1st round pick and another prospect (remember too, Jersey’s 1st in 2017 ended up being 1st overall).  There was a big need for the organization at the time to rebuild their system as the entire time to that point which they had been rebuilding, they still had next to nothing in the system.  But not a FREAKING CHANCE would I have even considered this one for one.  My man Pete sure did though.

 

2. July 4, 2013: Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button for Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser

This is what they were willing to put on camera, who the hell knows what the real conversation was.  Just like Hall, it’s not that they dealt him.  I’m not a huge Tyler Seguin fan and wasn’t at that time so I understand their frustrations.  But it’s that they simply made up their minds on trading him rather than making sure they could get the right deal rather than simply taking the best deal.  That seems to be the pattern with Chiarelli.  He makes up his mind on a player, and if he’s made up his mind that he no longer wants the player, then he’ll just take whatever the best deal is for him.  Even if you go back to that time, I can pull out all the positives and make it sound as good as possible.  Loui Eriksson was one hell of a two way forward.  Joe Morrow was still a decent prospect.  Reilly Smith looked like he had top nine, perhaps top-six potential.  Matt Fraser was…not much.  But he got three respectable pieces.  And Seguin was not only pure trash in the 2013 playoffs, but there were also rumours EVERYWHERE that he was a complete shit show off the ice.  Having said this, you’re still giving up a 21 year old kid who not only has franchise centre potential but at times Seguin had lived up to that potential just three years into his career.  Add to that, you also move out the guy that you just traded Blake freaking Wheeler for in Rich Peverly in the deal.  So he essentially gave up Seguin and Wheeler for three average pieces.  Three pieces/players who can be signed every summer in free agency.  Even with what Eriksson was, he still wasn’t worthy of being the key piece to fetch a potential franchise centre.  It was a very bad trade at the time that got so very much worse as time went on, much like the Hall/Larsson swap.

 

1. June 26, 2015: 16th and 33rd overall picks in the 2015 NHL Draft for Griffin Reinhart

This is the one I tweaked about more than any other because I knew what they were giving up, and I knew the value on what they got back had greatly diminished.  It wasn’t that I had a hate on for Griffin Reinhart, but to give up the 16th and 33rd picks in a draft that was being compared to the 2003 draft (and five years after the fact it has lived up to that billing) for a prospect who was scuffling and his organization had clearly soured on him was as foolish as it gets.  Mat Barzal is the one that always gets pointed to as who they passed on, but Ilya Samsonov WOULD have made sense and SHOULD have been a target for the Oilers, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot, Brock Boeser, Travis Konecny was one of my favourites in that draft, even the guy who it is rumoured they would have taken…Joel Eriksson Ek would have been a much wiser play.  And when you look at Eriksson Ek, one thing you have to keep in mind is that the Minnesota Wild rushed him and messed up his development.  And even then, he seems to now be progressing.  None of the players I mentioned were guys who look good in hindsight.  They were all very serious contenders to go in that range and perfect fits for the Oilers needs at the time.  The other side of this coin that drives me nuts isn’t even that Reinhart didn’t pan out, nor is it that they lost him in the expansion draft.  The thing that drives me insane still to this day is that he was NOTHING of a need!!!  The left side of the blueline moving forward was fine!  They had two kids in Klefbom and Nurse who were progressing very nicely at that point.  Brandon Davidson was a solid prospect at that point, at least as good as Reinhart at that time.  It was mind-blowing.  Now, you might have it further down on your list because it is highly unlikely that Chiarelli had done any of the leg work to make this deal happen, and I understand that logic.  I even subscribed to it for a long time.  But he was still in charge and still greenlit the deal.  He had the power to tell the guys who were still around who believed everyone on the 12-14 Oil Kings were going to the hall of fame that they weren’t, and he didn’t.

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Edmonton Oilers Top 20 Prospects – March, 2020

Well…what else is there to do right now?  Not a heck of a lot.  But I have some blogs in the vault that I had been working on, and after a few days of depression and sitting around thinking “what the fuck?!”, I’ve now gotten back on track.  Did a podcast last week, looking to put out some of the blogs I had started (such as this one), maybe try some different blogs, maybe knock out some different podcasts, and we’ll see how this goes!  HOPEFULLY, no matter what I put out for content, it’s entertaining and helps people pass the time.

 

Oh how things have changed since the last time around!  Three players have graduated from the list, unfortunately another damn good one from the last list has been lost, and therefore the list definitely isn’t near as strong as it was.  Having said that, the top end is still strong, and their is still ridiculous potential with the group I speak of in this list.

 

As for how I rank them, it’s no doubt a bit of a juggling act.  I place a much higher value on potential then how close someone is or isn’t to playing with the big club.  For example, William Lagesson is nearly a lock to being their number seven defenceman for the 20-21 season, but the upside is severely lacking.  So for me, that isn’t going to fetch him a high ranking on my list as that type of player is a dime a dozen.  Having said that, a certainty can have more value than someone who is still multiple years away from playing.  So it can be confusing how I rank them, but

 

With my last list in my honourable mentions, I mostly discussed the kids who had just been drafted by the club and didn’t make the top 20.  This time around I picked five guys (best burger joint on the planet) who have questionable futures with the organization.

 

The first time I did my own Oilers prospect rankings was just days after they were eliminated by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2017 playoffs.  That was the only list I did that didn’t have Kailer Yamamoto on it.  The other thing was it had a couple of defencemen ranked 2nd and 3rd who after watching their WHL careers unfold I seemed to be much higher on than most were.  Now I get to rave about how all three have graduated to the big club.

 

Graduated

Ethan Bear

Phenomenal rookie season.  Absolutely phenomenal.  I’ve said this before this season, but it still baffles me how people were so shocked at his emergence this season.  He fell as far as 8th in the last rankings I did, but he never fell because I soured on him.  I always maintained that if he cleaned up his skating that he’d be a top-four defenceman, and if he didn’t then he could still be a bottom pairing guy.  I won’t go as far as to say that I saw this coming THIS season, but it definitely didn’t shock me.  His emergence might have been the biggest reason for the turnaround.  Far from the only reason, but had Bear not stepped up, the blueline would have been THIN.

 

Caleb Jones

As great as Bear was this season, I still wonder though if Jones will end up being the better defenceman.  Not that I see it being a big gap between the two either way, but Jones skating is so terrific, and I don’t believe we’ve truly seen what Jones can do offensively yet.  He became more and more comfortable as the season went on, and by the time Klefbom went down he was more than ready for a top-four role.  That is so key for this organization, as now if they need to protect 7/3 in next year’s expansion draft rather than 4/4, they can move a big-time guy like Klefbom or Nurse out and still be in great shape.

 

Kailer Yamamoto

I’m not sure fans understand exactly what the Oilers just might have with Yamamoto.  We might be talking about this kid before too long in the same breathe as McDavid and Draisaitl.  Not that he is going to be a 100 point guy, that would be absurd!  But that he has the ability to carry his own line and dominate a hockey game if need be.  He has the speed, skill, and the compete level to become a high-end player in the league.  It took him longer to establish himself than I believed it would (though only by a season), and now that he has, he’s proving he’s the goods.  The focus of a lot of Oilers fans moving forward is what a contract extension for Ethan Bear will look like.  Well for Yamamoto (would have been July 1st, but who knows when the new league year will begin at this point), he is eligible for an extension and if I’m Ken Holland I’m looking to do as many years as I possibly can to ensure Oilers fans see all of this kids prime.

 

Hounourable Mention

Jesse Puljujärvi

Team: Kärpät  League: Liiga

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 201  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 56  G: 24  A: 29  P: 53

DOB: 05/07/98, Älvkarleby, SWE

Acquired: 1st Round, 4th Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

The first of two where I ask: are they prospects?!  We all know the story, he says he’s never coming back to the Oilers, and Ken Holland isn’t going to move him unless he gets a great offer.  I laugh at the “threat” that he’ll stay for another year in Finland.  AWESOME!!!  I was saying last year at this time (before he even asked for a trade), that the best-case scenario for Puljujärvi would be that he goes overseas for two years to develop.  This is not hurting him in the slightest.  It’s not hurting his game or his value.  For me, if I’m Ken Holland, I wait until he’s willing to return because I have always seen him as a kid with massive talent who will eventually put it all together.  I’m not saying I expect him to become the star I once believed he’d be, but a top-six player definitely isn’t out the question given he’s still doesn’t hit 22 until May 7th.  He needs to fire his agent in my opinion, and he needs to mature.  After next season I would suggest that the pressure could begin to mount to move him, but I don’t believe it’s this off-season and I don’t believe Holland will move him just to be done with it.  That’s not his style.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

Anton Slepyshev

Team: CSKA Moskva  League: KHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 18  A: 27  P: 45

DOB: 05/13/94, Penza, RUS

Acquired: 3rd Round, 88th Overall, 2013 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

The second of two who I’m not sure whether or not they could be referred to as prospects.  Unlike Puljujärvi however, it really sounds for sure that Slepyshev will be back with the Oilers next season.  The problem I could see though is where exactly he fits in the lineup.  At this point, it looks as though everyone they currently have up front will return.  Still, Slepyshev is capable of being a very solid top-nine forward for this club.  This time around, he’ll have a head coach who isn’t looking for any reason possible to pull him from a line or completely out of the lineup…

ETA: Early 20-21

 

Joe Gambardella

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 5’10  Wt: 201  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 50  G: 14  A: 14  P: 28

DOB: 12/01/93, Staten Island, NY

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed March 28th, 2017

Previous Rank: 14

Ken Holland increased the depth of the Oilers dramatically last off-season simply by bringing in a lot of fringe NHL players.  What that did was essentially make a guy like Gambardella strictly an AHL player.  His struggles this season MIGHT be the result of a guy who lost some of his passion to play given that he is now 26 years old and the NHL is looking more and more like a pipe dream after getting into 15 games last season.  I’ve always felt like he’s had the tools to be a role player in the league.  Great wheels, plays with a ton of passion, doesn’t shy away from the dirty area’s, it still wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up spending some time in the show at some point.  But even with a year left on his contract, it sure doesn’t look like that’ll be with the Oilers.

ETA: Mid 20-21

 

Josh Currie

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 190  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 56  G: 24  A: 17  P: 41

DOB: 10/29/92, Charlottetown, PE

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed July 19th, 2018

Previous Rank: NR

I can’t see Currie re-signing (his deal is up this off-season).  After getting into 21 games down the stretch in the 18-19 season, he became an afterthought for the new brass.  Perhaps he resigns himself to the thought that he simply sign an AHL deal and stay in Bakersfield.  But if he still has NHL aspirations, then he’ll be looking for a new home as time is running out for him.  If this is it for Currie, it’ll be a big loss for the Condors as he has carried them offensively for the last few seasons.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

Shane Starrett

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 194  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 14  GAA: 3.63  Sv%: .874

DOB: 07/12/94, Bellingham, MA

Acquired: Free Agent, Signed April 10th, 2017

Previous Rank: NR

It’s very possible that Starrett has played his final game for the Oilers organization.  He is a group VI (6 for those who don’t do Roman numerals, I don’t know why they always are but I don’t want to look any dumber than I already am) free agent this summer, Olivier Rodrigue will be entering pro hockey and need starts, Dylan Wells still has a year left on his ELC, and of course, Stuart Skinner does as well.  Not much room for Starrett, who after a terrific 18-19 regular season, started to fall off in those playoffs, and then injuries really have taken their toll on his performance this season.  Personally, I’m not too high on Starrett.  In my viewings, he is a guy who blocks pucks but can’t make saves.  This is something I’ve talked a lot about in the past with goaltenders.  Having size and being positionally sound is great, but I still need to see that a guy has the athleticism to make a big save and I’ve never seen that with Starrett.  Beyond that, it is much more vital to be giving starts to the younger guys which of course is difficult to do with Starrett in the fold.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

I hope you enjoyed the appetizers, and now for the main course…

 

20. Matej Blümel

Team: HC Dynamo Pardubice   League: Czech

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 198  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 31  G: 4  A: 1  P: 5

DOB: 05/31/00, Tabor, CZE

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

Previous Rank: HM

There is nothing that stands out with Blümel, but everything checks out as ok at this point.  He is a solid skater, good size, and he is pretty skilled.  Obviously playing in Pardubice this season it is much tougher to gauge his skill, but at the WJC we all had a good look at him.  It was a BIT of a disappointing performance for him, but it became a bit of a mess with the Czech team with all their injuries.  What I did like is that he saw a lot of tough minutes, and I believe that is how he is going to get the attention of the organization moving forward.  As I said, nothing stands out but he does everything well so if he can develop his 200-foot game then he will have that special trait he will need.  The beauty of his situation is that the Oilers have a while before a decision is needed on whether or not to sign him.

ETA: Mid 23-24

 

19. Markus Niemeläinen

Team: Ässät  League: Liiga

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’6  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 55  G: 1  A: 6  P: 7

DOB: 06/08/98, Kuopio, FIN

Acquired: 3rd Round, 63rd Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Niemeläinen is one of those guys who just MIGHT still surprise us, simply because the ability is so ridiculous.  Not just the size, but he has always had people intrigued because he can also skate extremely well for that size, and he also moves the puck well.  He has never shown any interest in becoming a two-way defenceman as many desired him to be, but he has always been solid in his own zone.  And the thing with this club is that they are now getting to a point where they will have plenty of offensive production coming from the blueline.  They might need a shutdown guy as Niemeläinen has more than enough potential still to become.  This is the final chance they have to sign him (becomes a UFA June 1st), so it’ll be interesting to see whether or not they do so.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

18. Ostap Safin

Team: Wichita  League: ECHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’5  Wt: 205  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 16  A: 19  P: 35

DOB: 02/11/99, Praha, CZE

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

Previous Rank: HM

Some…maybe most, will have given up on Safin.  And I get it.  A) the Oilers prospect depth isn’t what it was thanks to the kids who have graduated this season.  B) he’s still just a season removed from his hip issues.  C) the size, skating, and edge combination with this kid is worth investing time in.  Even if Safin only becomes a 4th line player, he would still be a 4th line guy with size who can really skate and punish the opposition.  Last year wasn’t pretty, and this season putting up average numbers in the ECHL doesn’t inspire much.  But I have to see a healthy season out of him in the AHL before I’m ready to write him off because there is just too much to work with here.

ETA: Mid 22-23

 

17. Aapeli Räsänen

Team: Boston College  League: NCAA

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 34  G: 11  A: 13  P: 24

DOB: 06/01/98, Tampere, FIN

Acquired: 6th Round, 158th Overall, 2016 Draft

Previous Rank: NR

Back, and better than ever!  Räsänen was a kid who I was pretty high on prior to last season.  And then last season was…horrific.  He went from being a kid who was a no-brainer to sign to a kid who there was no way you’d waste a contract on.  Now he’s back on the radar, but with a regime in place that didn’t draft him.  It’ll be interesting to see if A) they attempt to sign him and B) if he’s willing to sign with the Oilers as he will become a free agent next summer.  The Oilers could really use another centre in the system as some may argue they don’t have one coming (McLeod might be better suited for the wing, Lavoie is likely a winger in the pros, and Marody had an awful season).  I don’t see Räsänen as anything more than a 4C (always compared him to Mark Letestu), but a 4C who can be thrown on the ice in any situation is a pretty damn valuable piece to have.

ETA: Mid 21-22

 

16. Tomas Mazura

Team: Kimball Union  League: USHS

Pos: C  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 190  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 35  G: 13  A: 60  P: 73

DOB: 09/23/00, Pardubice, CZE

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

Previous Rank: HM

It’s funny, in doing this write-up about Mazura the thought started to run through my mind “this situation reminds me a lot of Mark Jankowski” before I even realized that Jankowski went to Providence college…where Mazura is going this fall.  A total project, but one that has me overly intrigued.  Mazura is an EXTREMELY likable kid.  If you recall at last year’s development camp he held court with the media, and basically just had a conversation with all of them as if he’d been around them for years.  If you don’t recall that, click here to see it.  Most kids at that age will give the media the standard answers they’re coached to give by the teams PR people and get the hell out of there.  Mazura loved every minute of it and could have talked all day!  Then you have the size.  Last summer he was listed at 6’2, 170lbs.  Now (as you can see) it’s 6’4, 190.  And the kid is still RAIL thin.  It’s that size combined with his very solid skating ability and vision that has me giddy about what he could be.  But again, he’s a total project and a total project means that he’s still a long way away.  He has yet to truly be tested, but that will change this fall.  High IQ, great size, great skater, tough to bet against this kid becoming a player someday.

ETA: Early 24-25

 

15. Dylan Wells

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 190  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 7  GAA: 3.77  Sv%: .878

DOB: 01/03/98, St. Catharines, ON

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

Previous Rank: 19

A very disappointing season for Wells, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s a result of an organization showing absolutely zero faith in the kid?  I’ll tell you, one of the most bizarre situations this season has been the organization giving Stuart Skinner ample opportunity when Shane Starrett went down and giving next to none for Dylan Wells, despite the fact that Wells had nearly identical numbers to Skinner’s.  This happened last year in the playoffs too when Wells played tremendous in game two of Bakersfield’s 2nd round series vs San Diego, and then never dressed again in the series.  The only thing I can point to as to why this might be is that Keith Gretzky was responsible for drafting Skinner, and Wells wasn’t his pick.  Other than that, I don’t understand why they prefer Skinner so much to Wells.  Nevertheless, Wells is still a kid who has a lot of talent and has flashed that talent on numerous occasions, it’s just a matter of finding consistency.  It’ll be make or break for Wells next season, the final year of his ELC.

ETA: Early 22-23

 

14. Ilya Konovalov

Team: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl  League: KHL

Pos: G  Ht: 5’11  Wt: 196  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 40  GAA: 2.45  Sv%: .912

DOB: 07/13/98, Yaroslavl, RUS

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

Previous Rank:17

What looked like a draft day heist by the Oilers quickly started to look like a draft day bust playing for Craig MacTavish to start the season as Konovalov’s numbers took a massive dip, and even after MacTavish was shown the door Konovalov’s numbers never recovered and quite frankly it was a disaster of a season.  The numbers were really the only big reason to get excited about Konovalov, as the size is very questionable for an NHL goaltender.  And those numbers that were so disappointing this season, were even worse in the playoffs wherein five games Konovalov had just a G.A.A. of 3.64 and a Sv% of .888.  No doubt that he has the quickness needed for a sub 6’0 goaltender, and I love how technically sound he is and how he tracks the puck in my viewings.  But it was definitely a season to forget, and now we’ll see how he rebounds.

ETA: Early 22-23

 

13. Filip Berglund

Team: Skellefteå  League: SHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 209  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 52  G: 5  A: 15  P: 20

DOB: 5/10/97, Skellefteå, SWE

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

Previous Rank: 15

Joel Persson out, Filip Berglund in?  That could be the case this fall in Bakersfield as a decision needs to be made on Berglund.  Like Niemeläinen, Berglund needs to be signed by June 1st or else the Oilers will lose his rights.  From what I’ve seen, Berglund is the much more important and the much more polished of the two defencemen.  Like the aforementioned Persson, Berglund isn’t the best skater.  Unlike Persson, he plays more of a stay at home style similar to Adam Larsson (I’m far from the first to make that comparison).  He does show a bit of offensive ability in his game and does move the puck well, but it’ll be his defensive game that will potentially be his ticket to play in the show.

ETA: Late 20-21

 

12. Cooper Marody

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 30  G: 5  A: 12  P: 17

DOB: 12/20/96, Brighton, MI

Acquired: Trade with Philadelphia, March 21st, 2018

Previous Rank: 11

It is pretty depressing for me how this season went for Marody.  This time last year, this kid was trending towards making the team before too long.  A dirty hit and a concussion later, and Marody all of a sudden is a shell of what he once was and there are rumours that he has lost the passion he once had for the game.  When he’s right, this guy has terrific skill and vision, and much like Tyler Benson or formerly Ethan Bear, his skating was the only question mark he had.  Perhaps this time away will serve him better than anyone.  A chance to get healthy, perhaps get in a better frame of mind, and with that possibly gets his career back on track.

ETA: Mid 20-21

 

11. William Lagesson

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’2  Wt: 207  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 25  G: 3  A: 7  P: 10

DOB: 02/22/96, Göteborg, SWE

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

Previous Rank: 13

It’s tough to imagine that Lagesson can become anything more than he has at this point.  He really has maxed out his ability just getting to the cusp of the NHL as he has.  But having said this, he is still the likely candidate to be the team’s number seven defenceman next season and he is very capable of filling that role.  The skating ability is just average, which is the biggest issue he’s facing, and the way he skates it’ll be very difficult to improve it.  We have yet to see “his game” at the NHL level though.  When he’s right, he can play a nasty/in your face physical game.  And he moves it very well for a stay at home type.  But again, tough to imagine him being more than a 6/7 at this point.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

10. Olivier Rodrigue

Team: Moncton  League: QMJHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’1  Wt: 159  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 39  GAA: 2.32  Sv%: .918

DOB: 07/06/00, Chicoutimi, QC

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

Previous Rank: 20

It’s ironic.  When Rodrigue was selected as the 3rd goaltender for Team Canada for the 2020 WJC, he wasn’t playing that well.  I can’t recall the exact numbers, but his Sv% was around .905.  Bob Stauffer blindly ranked him 5th in the organization just because he made Team Canada.  And then of course when Nigel Dawes falter in Canada’s goal, Rodrigue still didn’t even get a look.  He wasn’t already a bust, but he was a pretty big disappointment to that point.  Once he returned though, his game took off and Rodrigue ended the season with the 2nd best Sv% in the QMJHL (minimum 20 games played).  He has the ability to make it, all the raw ability in the world.  But at his size, it is imperative that he is nearly perfect technically.  Rodrigue will likely spend next season with Wichita in the ECHL where he will get the starts he needs, and we’ll see what happens.  The door could be open to get some starts in Bakersfield with Starrett likely out the door and the organization showing next to no faith in Wells.

ETA: Early 23-24

 

9. Stuart Skinner

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: G  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Glove: L

2020 StatsGP: 41  GAA: 3.31  Sv%: .892

DOB: 11/01/98, Edmonton, AB

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

Previous Rank: 18

I don’t know if he’s a stud prospect, but he sure is getting every opportunity possible to be one!  Clearly the favourite of the Oilers brass, he did show flashes of becoming that stud goaltending prospect the Oilers have lacked since Devan Dubnyk was in the system (and Dubnyk never looked like he’d be much while in the AHL).  If I remember correctly, he went on a 10-15 game run where his Sv% was around .915.  I apologize that I can’t recall the exact numbers, but it was a good stretch nonetheless.  You could argue that Skinner is the organization’s most important prospect, with none of the other goaltenders showing much promise this season, and no long term answer anywhere in the organization at the moment.  Skinner is the closest thing to it.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

8. Philip Kemp

Team: Yale  League: NCAA

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 32  G: 3  A: 8  P: 11

DOB: 02/12/99, Greenwich, CT

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

Previous Rank: 16

He’s a forgotten prospect at this point.  But he will be an important one IF he signs with the team.  Straight up, I doubt he will.  American kid, so close to free agency, I bet he is dealt this off-season, which sucks.  However, should he stay and sign he would be the top prospect on the right side beginning next season (obviously in saying that, I’m assuming Bouchard will be on the big club).  Kemp is nothing flashy, but he skates well and is a terrific defender.  He’s very similar to Matt Benning, although I wouldn’t say he’s as physical as Benning is.

ETA: Late 22-23

 

7. Ryan McLeod

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: C  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 201  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 56  G: 5  A: 18  P: 23

DOB: 09/21/99, Mississauga, ON

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

Previous Rank: 9

When we are looking at the most important prospects in the Oilers organization, McLeod is right near the top of the list.  The big question for me is whether or not he can play the middle.  If he CAN, he’s a vital piece for an organization with a severe lack of depth down the middle.  Potentially the 3C this organization has been looking for.  The talent is there for McLeod to be that guy.  Outstanding skating ability with great vision and a very solid 200-foot game.  He has the raw tools to be not just a 3C but a damn good 2C.  But he plays on the perimeter and shies away from playing in traffic.  If he’s only going to be a winger, I believe he can be a top-nine winger starting next fall.  But the organization needs more from him, and if he delivers it would be massive.

ETA: Late 20-21

 

6. Dmitri Samorukov

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 196  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 47  G: 2  A: 8  P: 10

DOB: 06/16/99, Volgograd, RUS

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

Previous Rank: 7

He is a pretty important prospect.  Perhaps more than most realize at this point.  The reason for this is the plan they clearly have in place with the expansion draft in 15 months.  At this point, it looks like a lock that they’ll keep seven forwards and three defencemen, meaning that they’ll either be trading or simply losing an LHD (Klefbom, Nurse, or Jones).  When that happens (and obviously I’m guessing here), the organization is hopeful that one of their young defencemen is ready to make the jump to the bottom pair.  Most will suggest that prospect is Broberg.  But in my opinion, Broberg needs more time than just next season.  Samorukov, on the other hand, could be ready with another year in Bakersfield.  Barring Broberg coming over, Samorukov will be the star prospect on the Bakersfield blueline as Bouchard will likely make the jump to the Oilers.  That means he should be in line for a ton of opportunity and a chance for his game to take a major leap forward.  The skating, puck-moving, size, and physicality is all there with Samorukov.  Definitely top-four potential.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

5. Raphaël Lavoie

Team: Chicoutimi  League: QMJHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’4  Wt: 199  Shot: R

2020 Stats – GP: 55  G: 38  A: 44  P: 82

DOB: 09/25/00, Chambly, QC

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

Previous Rank: 10

Freshly signed to his ELC, it’ll kick in at the start of next season and he will likely burn at minimum one year of it in Bakersfield.  What really made me sit up and take notice of Lavoie this season was his performance at the World Juniors.  Yes, he played very well, but it was what he excelled at which made me excited.  Dale Hunter had him in a 4th line checking role, and he was tremendous.  That showed me that this is a kid who isn’t going to let his ego get in the way, and is willing to play any role asked of him which is exactly the type of guy who will thrive playing for Dave Tippett.  We already knew he had good size, was a decent skater, and had a hell of a shot.  Thinking down the road with him, you give him next season to develop in Bakersfield, and then a spot opens up in the bottom six with Chiasson’s deal being up.  That’s a long way to go and a ton can and will change, but as of writing this that is the scenario I could see playing out.

ETA: Early 21-22

 

4. Kirill Maksimov

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RW  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 207  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 53  G: 5  A: 8  P: 13

DOB: 06/01/99, Moskva, RUS

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

Previous Rank: 6

The stats look extremely underwhelming.  So why is he still this high on my list?  If you know anything about Bakersfield this season, you know A) their season was a MASSIVE disappointment, and B) there was hardly any opportunity for Maksimov with so many AHL vets and NHL players on the squad this season.  Then on top of that, Benson, Marody, and until the new year Yamamoto were all ahead of him as well so it was next to impossible for Maksimov to get top nine minutes, let alone produce.  The fact of the matter is this kid is continually showing good improvement in his skating ability and play away from the puck, and obviously he still possesses very good size and an amazing shot.  Todd McLellan had a very obvious bias against European kids, and Jay Woodcroft was McLellan’s right-hand man for so many years.  That’s a big concern for me with Maksimov as he received such little opportunity this season.  That needs to change next fall because this is in my mind is one of the most important prospects in the pipeline, one of the most talented prospects in the pipeline, and by all accounts a very hard-working kid as well.

ETA: Late 20-21

 

3. Tyler Benson

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: LW  Ht: 6’0  Wt: 192  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 47  G: 9  A: 27  P: 36

DOB: 03/15/98, Edmonton, AB

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

Previous Rank: 5

He’s right there.  He looked better in his second stint (although he really never left) than in his first, and he will have the summer to work more on his foot and edge work.  His speed is fine, it’s funny how many good observers confuse speed with pace of play.  Pace of play is something that will come for a kid with elite hockey sense and Benson has that.  But he’ll have to work hard to gain traction with the big club, not because he can’t play in the league, but all of a sudden they’re pretty deep up front.  By now, you all know Benson’s game.  Extremely high IQ and terrific playmaker who is often on the right side of the puck and good along the wall and down low.  Just like Ethan Bear at this time last year, it’s all about the skating.  If it doesn’t develop further, he will play in the league, but probably only as a fringe top-six winger.  If he can clean it up though, he’s a stud.

ETA: Early 20-21

 

2. Philip Broberg

Team: Skellefteå  League: SHL

Pos: LD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 203  Shot: L

2020 StatsGP: 45  G: 1  A: 7  P: 8

DOB: 06/25/01, Örebro, SWE

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

Previous Rank: 2

The potential is enormous.  But I can’t stress enough that the Oilers need to take their time with him.  Right now, if I’m projecting, he’s Jay Bouwmeester 2.0 (and yes I know I’m not the only guy to suggest that).  But he has the tools to become a complete defenceman.  I can’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t have been better off playing in the OHL this season (I believe Hamilton owned his rights) and playing against kids his own age where he’d perhaps be able to work more on his game rather than just look to keep his head above water playing for Skellefteå.  I’m greedy, I want Broberg to become the legitimate number one D-man he has the potential to be.  But I would be taking my sweet ass time with him.  Another year in the SHL, followed by at least one full season in the AHL, if not two.  If he never reaches that potential, you’re still looking at a new age, shutdown D-man like Bouwmeester which is nothing to be upset with.

ETA: Early 22-23

 

1. Evan Bouchard

Team: Bakersfield  League: AHL

Pos: RD  Ht: 6’3  Wt: 194  Shot: R

2020 StatsGP: 54  G: 7  A: 29  P: 36

DOB: 10/20/99, Oakville, ON

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

Previous Rank: 1

They have a stud on their hands.  Credit where it’s due because I don’t see eye to eye with a lot of what he has to say, but Craig Button was the first one I heard who compared him to Larry Murphy and I believe that is an extremely accurate projection.  Now, consider that when Murphy played, even though he eventually got in the Hall of Fame, he bounced around the league because he drove teams nuts with his lack of physicality.  Bouchard has the same issue, but in today’s game that is not anywhere near the sin that it was in the 80’s and 90’s.  This is pretty exciting for the organization and their fans that barring a rash of injuries and a need to use Bouchard this post-season that they’ll have three full seasons of a ready prospect like this on his ELC capable of playing top-four minutes right from the start.  I would guess he is occupying the point spot on the top PP unit by December at the latest.

ETA: Early 20-21

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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 LHRF.com 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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