Auditioning For The Second Line

Jonathan Willis
June 11 2009 05:37PM

Oilers Blackhawks Hockey

The Oilers may have a gap on their top line, but they have no shortage of second-line forwards, some of whom will undoubtedly be moved in the off-season. Let’s take a look at the options.

The List

Please note: ages are for next season.

  • Andrew Cogliano: 22 years old, 5’10”, 184lbs
  • Sam Gagner: 20 years old, 5’11”, 191lbs
  • Ales Kotalik: 31 years old, 6’1”, 227lbs
  • Robert Nilsson: 23 years old, 5’11”, 185lbs
  • Patrick O’Sullivan: 23 years old, 5’11”, 190lbs
  • Dustin Penner: 27 years old, 6’4”, 245lbs
  • Marc Pouliot: 23 years old, 6’1”, 195lbs

Outside of that group of seven, arguments could be made for prospects Ryan Potulny, Rob Schremp, or Jordan Eberle. However, they will be ignored for this exercise, since they haven’t been in the NHL much over the last two seasons. Since most of the young forwards (Cogliano, Gagner, Nilsson, Pouliot) have only been in the NHL for two seasons, we will only be comparing the past two years.

This will also be a weighted comparison; with 2008-09 performance reflecting two thirds of the final mark, and 2007-08 performance reflecting one third.

The Surface Numbers

Please note: only the weighted average will be listed here.

  • Patrick O’Sullivan: 81GP – 18G – 28A – 46PTS, -7
  • Sam Gagner: 77GP – 15G – 29A – 44 PTS, -8
  • Ales Kotalik: 76GP – 21G – 22A – 43 PTS, -5
  • Dustin Penner: 79GP – 19G – 21A – 40PTS, +1
  • Andrew Cogliano: 82GP – 18G – 22A – 40 PTS, -4
  • Robert Nilsson: 66GP – 9G – 24A – 33 PTS, +3
  • Marc Pouliot: 50GP – 6G – 10A – 16PTS, EV

Five players are tightly grouped here. Robert Nilsson, who had a disastrous season is a little ways off the pace while the seldom-used Marc Pouliot is well back. Ice-time and games played need to be considered here in the defense of both of the latter two; more on that in a moment. As for the other five, there seems to be virtually no separation.

5-on-5 Scoring

I’m going to use the same weighted average as before, but this time we will also take into account total ice-time, making use of Gabriel Desjardins’ Behind the Net website. Because of this, scoring units are expressed in goals/60, assists/60, and points/60.

  • Andrew Cogliano: 0.80 G/60 – 1.08 A/60 = 1.88 PTS/60
  • Patrick O’Sullivan: 0.70 G/60 – 1.11 A/60 = 1.81 PTS/60
  • Sam Gagner: 0.54 G/60 – 1.24 A/60 = 1.78 PTS/60
  • Robert Nilsson: 0.48 G/60 – 1.17 A/60 = 1.65 PTS/60
  • Marc Pouliot: 0.58 G/60 – 1.04 A/60 = 1.62 PTS/60
  • Dustin Penner: 0.71 G/60 - .87 A/60 = 1.58 PTS/60
  • Ales Kotalik: 0.72 G/60 – 0.62 A/60 = 1.34 PTS/60

This method gives us very interesting results. Cogliano, O’Sullivan and Gagner all fair well by this method; well ahead of the next three – Nilsson, Pouliot and Penner. The only player who obviously doesn’t belong in the same discussion is Ales Kotalik.

5-on-4 Scoring

Please note: Neither Andrew Cogliano or Marc Pouliot averaged 2 minutes a night over the past two seasons on the powerplay; therefore they aren’t included. Cogliano was just below the cutoff line while Pouliot was well back.

  • Ales Kotalik: 1.72 G/60 – 2.44 A/60 = 4.16 PTS/60
  • Robert Nilsson: 1.40 G/60 – 2.55 A/60 = 3.95 PTS/60
  • Dustin Penner: 1.77 G/60 – 1.69 A/60 = 3.46 PTS/60
  • Sam Gagner: 1.58 G/60 – 1.79 A/60 = 3.37 PTS/60
  • Patrick O’Sullivan: 0.65 G/60 – 1.74 A/60 = 2.39 PTS/60

This is another interesting breakdown, and shows where Kotalik picks up his points. However, if anything it understates Kotalik’s dominance – because he plays the point on the powerplay, Kotalik’s numbers should be compared not to forwards, but to defensemen, who generally score at a lesser rate with the man advantage.

As for the rest, Nilsson’s numbers are good after an excellent powerplay season, and Dustin Penner is probably better than his numbers because so many goals are scored while he is screening; goals he doesn’t get credit for. Gagner hasn’t been much more than a second-unit option at this point, and O’Sullivan’s numbers are so low as to be baffling; seriously, that’s a replacement level pace.

The Rest of It

O’Sullivan plays the PK and is a little more versatile than most of these guys, while Ales Kotalik deserves additional credit for his ability in the shootout. Beyond that, only Dustin Penner has really had to face difficult minutes over the past two seasons, although there effect is lessened because he generally gets sent out in the offensive zone.

Contract-wise, Penner’s easily the most expensive, with Patrick O’Sullivan coming in next. Ales Kotalik qualifies for free agency this summer, but probably won’t be too expensive for the next few seasons; I’d guess he gets a contract for somewhere between 2MM and 3MM a season. Robert Nilsson’s 2MM per season a deal, which initially looked to be something of a bargain now represents an overpay. Gagner and Cogliano are still on their entry level deals, so they’re relatively cheap, while Marc Pouliot earns less than 1MM a season. Pouliot really comes into the picture if the Oilers add a big-ticket player up front, since he’s versatile and dirt cheap.

How I See It

Penner, O’Sullivan and Kotalik are all very close at this point. Penner has size and positioning, O’Sullivan has youth and versatility, and Ales Kotalik is a welcome addition to any team’s powerplay or shootout lineup, so it all depends on what a team needs. Given the Oilers’ current roster, they have four defensemen who are legitimate powerplay options, with Souray and Visnovsky being particularly good, so I don’t see Kotalik as being as valuable here as he would be elsewhere (something that changes if one of the defensemen is moved).

Cogliano and Gagner don’t bring the same value to the roster today as those three players listed above, but they’re both very young and quite accomplished for their ages; I imagine that in five years time they’ll be better than any of O’Sullivan, Kotalik or Penner.

Nilsson and Pouliot are clearly on the outside looking in at this point. Nilsson needs to bounce back from a poor season and show the ability to put up points, while Pouliot needs to get a firm grip on a defined NHL role. Either could have an NHL career, but either could just as easily be playing in Europe in the next five years.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
Avatar
#1 Mike
June 11 2009, 06:13PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Curious what would Moreau and Pisani's numbers look like...of even Brodziak...I bet five on five he is more productive than most of them...all of his goals are EV or SH...

Avatar
#2 Antony Ta
June 11 2009, 06:16PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

This may be jumping the gun, but I've already written off Nilsson in my mind as merely trade bait. In fact, I think even back in December I was calling on the Oilers to trade Nilsson. Some people even suggest he could be part of a package to land Harding. I wouldn't mind.

Avatar
#3 Sandra Blood
June 11 2009, 06:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Mike wrote:

Curious what would Moreau and Pisani’s numbers look like…of even Brodziak…I bet five on five he is more productive than most of them…all of his goals are EV or SH…

Hopefully they won't be here next year

Avatar
#4 Prop Jay
June 11 2009, 06:19PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Nilsson = dead to me.

Avatar
#5 EMAC
June 11 2009, 06:41PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Prop Jay wrote:

Nilsson = dead to me.

Moreau = dead to me

Avatar
#6 PaperDesigner
June 11 2009, 06:50PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

What has Pouliot done in his career as an NHL forward to suggest that he is anything but a bottom six forward?

To be honest, I'd bet on Brodziak taking a step offensively and becoming a top six forward before Pouliot.

Avatar
#7 JF
June 11 2009, 07:08PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ PaperDesigner: merely that IMO, Pouliot would be even less effective in a checking/energy role

Avatar
#8 Prop Jay
June 11 2009, 07:13PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

moreau and nilsson = dead to me.

Avatar
#9 Librarian Mike
June 11 2009, 07:24PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I'm just going to go ahead and do a preemptive 'Heatley = dead to me' for 2 years down the road when he forces a trade out of Edmonton.

No, I'm not cynical at all...

Avatar
#10 Antony Ta
June 11 2009, 07:32PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Pouliot could be an energy forward.

Avatar
#11 roger
June 11 2009, 07:33PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Prop Jay: nicely put.

Avatar
#12 Mike
June 11 2009, 07:45PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Sandra Blood wrote:

Hopefully they won’t be here next year

They need some veterans. I'd expect one to be here.

And if O'Sullivan played most of the season in LA with Kopitar, Frolov and Brown that might explain why his numbers are higher. I don't recall him doing anything in Edmonton, so how do his Edmonton numbers match up Jonathon?

I think Nilsson will rebound big time next year. My comeback player of the year vote right now.

Avatar
#13 Jason Gregor
June 11 2009, 07:47PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Antony Ta wrote:

Pouliot could be an energy forward.

Have you ever seen him hit or engage anyone? He will never be an energy forward. I'll get a date with Megan Fox before he becomes an energy forward....which means NEVER.

Avatar
#14 J.L.
June 11 2009, 07:54PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Jonathan, do you think the Oilers have a chance at finding a trading partner to take on either Nilsson or Penner's contracts? If you were Tambellini, and you had to trade one of Cogliano, or O'Sullivan, who would you trade? I've often wondered what value the organization puts on either player going into this offseason, considering the talk about purging the team of smaller players. I know they see Gagner as a big part of the future of the team.

Avatar
#15 TIM S
June 11 2009, 08:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ Jason Gregor:

Pouliot is a tiger compared to the other players on the list. For the amount of money he makes and his ability to play all 3 positions make him worth keeping around. Not sure if he belongs in a second line discussion.

Avatar
#16 Jonathan Willis
June 11 2009, 08:33PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ J.L.:

I trade O'Sullivan before I trade Cogliano.

And I'd move either in a package for Heatley.

Avatar
#17 Jonathan Willis
June 11 2009, 08:35PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

J.L. wrote:

Jonathan, do you think the Oilers have a chance at finding a trading partner to take on either Nilsson or Penner’s contracts?

If the Oilers want to I'm sure they could dump them. I don't like the idea of trading Penner right now, just because that's the definition of buying high and selling low, but then it depends on the deal too.

Avatar
#18 EMAC
June 11 2009, 09:23PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

PQ will whip Penner into shape. I bet he puts up 30 goals this year.

Avatar
#19 OilW30
June 11 2009, 09:25PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

"Ales Kotalik deserves additional credit for his ability in the shootout."

Can you really give a guy extra credit for something that he can't do in the playoffs, no matter how good he is at it?

Avatar
#20 Archaeologuy
June 11 2009, 09:31PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Jason Gregor wrote:

I’ll get a date with Megan Fox before he becomes an energy forward….which means NEVER.

Come on Jason, dont sell yourself short. Bald is Beautiful.

Here's how I see the 2nd line.

Penner-Gags-Cogs

Its not that right now O'Sullivan is worse than any of them but I dont think he's going to be here past Draft day and Kotalik is a UFA the last time I checked.

All Penner has ever done is score goals and Cogs seems to be the best 5 on 5 performer of the bunch. It also combines speed and touch with playmaking ability. Cogs has had his numbers kept lower than some of those other guys because he hasnt been getting any PP time.

Avatar
#21 Jonathan Willis
June 11 2009, 09:35PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@ OilW30:

If it helps your team get into the playoffs, or get home ice, or win the division, than absolutely.

Avatar
#22 zig
June 11 2009, 09:39PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

OilW30 wrote:

“Ales Kotalik deserves additional credit for his ability in the shootout.” Can you really give a guy extra credit for something that he can’t do in the playoffs, no matter how good he is at it?

uh yes... overtime points get you in the playoffs

Avatar
#23 ned flanders
June 11 2009, 10:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

A lot depends on who the 1LW is. I'm not a big Heatley fan (He floats, he scores!), but he'd probably fit Horc and Hemmer's styles well since he doesn't carry the puck a lot for a guy with his numbers. POS goes as part of a Heatley trade though I'd like to try him at 1LW for a while if the big deal doesn't happen. He scored a ton in the A and pretty well on a couple poor Kings teams.

Penner could be a whale playing the softs with Gagner and Cogliano.

Pouliot has tools, but does not appear to have the temperament to play here. He isn't aggressive.

Nilsson had the makings of a fine player two years ago, creative offensively and decent positioning on defense with a remarkably good stick. This year he played like he was trying not to get yelled at or ripped in the press by MacT. Tentative and having no fun looks like lazy, but either way I don't like it in a pro at 24. He's got so much talent (and can play either wing) that he's probably worth one more shot with Quinn. Someone in the top six is going to get injured. Hard to say where to park him otherwise though.

Cogliano is 21, is close to the fastest man in hockey, has a quick shot, decent instincts and what looks like a good attitude. Do not trade him even in a Heatley package, let him learn the defensive side a bit more, fatten up and don't let him line up at the dot. Three years from now he could be quite amazing.

Kotalik stays if Souray goes, but that would be foolish. Souray wanted to come here and a lot of the time he was the only guy to play with a chip on his shoulder and a bulge in his pants.

Avatar
#24 PaperDesigner
June 12 2009, 12:02AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Antony, don't you need energy to be an energy forward?

Pouliot is possibly the blandest forward I've ever seen play. He's been surpassed by Kyle Brodziak, Liam Reddox, Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner and Robert Nilsson. It annoys me that he's on this roster, while a kid with jam, like Brule, isn't.

Avatar
#25 Milli
June 12 2009, 09:35AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

JW, I like pouly even if I didn't agree with where he was being played. But, do you think he will mature in a few years (kinda like Cleary did) into a solid second liner, or has he only cracked the second line because he's in Etown (hate to say it). Is there a trade freeze on right now?

Thanks

Avatar
#26 Colin
June 12 2009, 09:42AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Milli wrote:

JW, I like pouly even if I didn’t agree with where he was being played. But, do you think he will mature in a few years (kinda like Cleary did) into a solid second liner, or has he only cracked the second line because he’s in Etown (hate to say it). Is there a trade freeze on right now? Thanks

Cleary's transformation on a good team, with good players and good coaching is interesting. Could Pouliot do it? I don't know, of those 3 qualities the Oilers meet 1.5 at best at the moment(and wait and see if it improves)

Avatar
#27 Oilersordeath
June 12 2009, 11:26AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Sandra Blood wrote:

Mike wrote: Curious what would Moreau and Pisani’s numbers look like…of even Brodziak…I bet five on five he is more productive than most of them…all of his goals are EV or SH… Hopefully they won’t be here next year

AMEN SISTA!!

Avatar
#28 Oilersordeath
June 12 2009, 11:34AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I'm going out on a limb here, but I'd say Poultny and Brule come in to training camp and steel jobs from MAP, Nilsson and maybe even Brodz. Okay I'll take another BH.

Avatar
#29 Antony Ta
June 12 2009, 01:25PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Jason Gregor wrote:

Have you ever seen him hit or engage anyone? He will never be an energy forward. I’ll get a date with Megan Fox before he becomes an energy forward….which means NEVER.

PaperDesigner wrote:

Antony, don’t you need energy to be an energy forward? Pouliot is possibly the blandest forward I’ve ever seen play. He’s been surpassed by Kyle Brodziak, Liam Reddox, Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner and Robert Nilsson. It annoys me that he’s on this roster, while a kid with jam, like Brule, isn’t.

If Brule can learn to play that role on this Oilers team coming from an offensive junior background, why can't Pouliot? He has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Plus, he can always be traded for an energy forward. In any case, telling Pouliot to play on the 3rd or 4th line in an energy role seems more believable and effective than playing Reddox on the 1st line. Wait, that happened already.

Avatar
#30 OilW30
June 12 2009, 04:10PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ OilW30: If it helps your team get into the playoffs, or get home ice, or win the division, than absolutely.

Those are all good things, so I guess you're right, but I wonder if the Red Wings organization ever worries about who is going to win the shootouts for them? It seems like it's a consideration that would have to taken into account only by non-elite teams. If I was a GM, I'd be more concerned about building a powerhouse.

Avatar
#31 Archaeologuy
June 12 2009, 04:25PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

OilW30 wrote:

I wonder if the Red Wings organization ever worries about who is going to win the shootouts for them?

Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Hossa.

Nope. No worries.

Avatar
#32 Harlie
June 12 2009, 08:36PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

EMAC wrote:

Prop Jay wrote: Nilsson = dead to me. Moreau = dead to me

CLAP CLAP?

Avatar
#33 Mother Pucker Hockey
June 15 2009, 12:34PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Sorry for being late to the comments... but:

# Andrew Cogliano: 22 years old, 5’10”, 184lbs # Sam Gagner: 20 years old, 5’11”, 191lbs # Robert Nilsson: 23 years old, 5’11”, 185lbs

Those heights HAVE to be with skates, AND skate guards on for those three shrimps. Saw them at some dirty bar a few months back and they were TWERPS.

Comments are closed for this article.