January 08 2011 07:58AM
There has been much worry of late over NHL teams taking liberties with the Oilers best forwards. Ales Hemsky, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner have all suffered from cheap shots, late hits, borderline head shots and general poor conduct on the part of the opposition.
Oilers management rolls out Steve MacIntyre in these cases, and of course the other side throws their pawn in this game over the boards too. The fact is that the Edmonton Oilers don't have much physical presence when the skilled men are on the ice. The Oilers need a Lucic or Kassian, but finding him is the problem.
The Edmonton Oilers need a grumbly forward in the worst way. I don't mean another Steve MacIntyre and I don't mean another Ethan Moreau (who spent his final 82 games in Edmonton taking atrocious penalties and playing "opposite George" with the media). I mean a guy who can go out and play 15 minutes on a line with Hall, Hemsky, Gagner, Eberle and the other skilled men of the Oilers. Milan Lucic. Zack Kassian.
Currently, the Oilers have two forwards strong enough and mean enough to intimidate. Men who can grab a PIM sneezing but they can't put the puck in the ocean. Here they are:
- Zack Stortini 52PIMS, 0 goals
- Steve MacIntyre 38PIMS, 0 goals
That's pretty much it. Dustin Penner is big and skilled but rarely impacts the game in a "John Ferguson" fashion. Gilbert Brule is a spunky player, but lacks the size to be able to intimidate or settle scores. No sir. The Edmonton Oilers don't have an enforcer type who can play with the offensive forwards (as John Ferguson played alongside Jean Beliveau or as Lucic does for the Boston skill line).
If we take the PIM/goals template and lay it over the Oilers prospect list, does anyone emerge as impressive in both categories? Depends on your definition of the word "impressive."
- Taylor Hall 56PIMS/40 goals (final year of junior)
- Teemu Hartikainen 23PIMS/11 goals (in half an AHL season)
- Tyler Pitlick 25PIMS/16 goals (in half WHL season)
- Curtis Hamilton 6PIMS/15 goals (in half WHL season)
Hall looks like the most likely guy to emerge as his own enforcer. I think we can see that now, the kid is getting frustrated by the chops and hacks, and sooner or later he's going to do something about it. As predictable as the weather. Hartikainen is an interesting sort in that he does have size, but the physical game (the type we're talking about here) is likely beyond what he'll be able to deliver.
Same goes for Pitlick and Hamilton; I should mention Hamilton's PIM totals are down this season, possibly because of previous injuries derailing his career. It's a consideration moving forward, although he's been very capable physically in all of the games I've seen him play.
So despite the wonderful drafting of Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor the Oilers don't have a talent with both skill and size married to a mean streak. Unless Cameron Abney takes one giant step forward, the need for a physical forward who is a mean, mean man will be near the top of the draft shopping list this summer (along with a long tall C and a complete D).
There are none I can see at the top of the draft. What about another physical player ala Taylor Hall? Someone who may eventually be able to create his own room (like the Sedins).
Enter the Angel Gabriel.
As quickly as Sean Couturier, Adam Larsson and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have failed to separate from the crowd, the crowd has started to arrive on their doorstep. Among these young men is a Swedish winger who plays in the OHL. Gabriel Landeskog. Here is his scoring line in the OHL along with his Desjardins' NHL equivalency.
- Actual: 32gp, 25-20-45
- Desjardins NHLE: 82gp, 19-16-35
The NHLE explanation is here. It works like mad. Example: Taylor Hall was projected to score 17-29-46 by the NHLE, and currently he's onl track to score 24-22-46 this season with the Oilers. Gabriel (Desjardins) does this all the time. I have proof here and here. Landeskog's NHLE is about what Jeff Skinner's looked like at the end of last season.
Here's a scouting report on this player from Kyle Woodlief of Redline Report. It was first published here at one of the best sites on the internet. Kirk Luedeke has been writing about hockey and prospects for a long time, and those with excellent memories may recall his name as one of John Short's contacts when his show ruled the Edmonton airwaves.
Anyway, if you follow the draft bookmark that page. It's outstanding.
Woodlief: I just love everything that I'm seeing out of Landeskog in Kitchener this year. He's a big kid who really likes to bang and get physical. I mean, he's one of the more physical Swedes you'll ever see. He plays a North American style. And, he's got the mix of size and skill that goes along with that physical toughness and aggression. He's a guy who, from the circles in buries his chances.
He's got a really good scoring touch and he's very unselfish with the puck. He's a good playmaker; I think he's an underrated playmaker, and there's not very many weak areas of his game. He's a solid two-way player, he's big, he's strong, he's physical, he drives the net hard. He scores key goals. I don't think he's got quite as high a skill level as-- I've already said I don't see a Steve Stamkos or Matt Duchene in this crop-- I don't see him having quite the puck skills they have and the vision and creativity they have, but everything else is there. He's a guy who can probably play in the NHL next year.
Landeskog isn't going to be the modern John Ferguson, but he might be another Taylor Hall in that he can handle himself in the rough areas. More and more, it looks like the Oilers skilled players are going it alone. There just aren't that many Milan Lucic's and Zack Kassian's in the draft pool these days, and we've seen what happens when the organization forces a J-F Jacques to the top line.