End of Roster Forwards

Jonathan Willis
April 09 2014 07:00AM

51-Lander-1

This late season run was supposed to be an opportunity for some of the Oilers top AHL prospects – players like Anton Lander and Tyler Pitlick – to show they belonged in the NHL.

Instead, Lander’s floundering in a feature role and Pitlick can’t string half a dozen healthy games together. But that doesn’t mean nobody’s taking advantage of the opportunity.

13-Pinizzotto-1

Steve Pinizzotto’s in a rough spot. He turns 30 this summer, and while he’s a scrappy, do-it-all kind of forward he’s at an age where a lot of teams are going to look right past him. When the Oilers first traded for him and assigned him to Oklahoma, I asked him something along the lines of how vital it was to make an immediate impression on the organization.

“I’m getting to an age now where there are guys that I am probably 10 years older than,” he replied. “The door can’t stay open forever. I can’t look at next year; like you said I have to worry about this year and hopefully catch some eyes.”

Through four games, he’s been pretty decent for the Oilers. He’s not a pure enforcer, but like Matt Hendricks he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty (HockeyFights.com has him at eight tilts this year, after he fought six times last season) and at the AHL level he’s been a secondary scorer and a penalty killer. He’s tougher than Tyler Pitlick and a better hockey player than Luke Gazdic.

36-Larsen-4

Surprising, at least for me, has been the play of Philip Larsen. Over his last five games, all at right wing, the Oilers’ fourth line has had a slight edge in scoring chances (8-7) with Larsen on the ice. He has three points in that span, too, and has looked better as a forward than he did at any point this year as a defenceman.

There’s a part of me that really likes the idea of the last skater on the roster being a swingman who can play on either the back end or on a forward line. I find myself wishing the Oilers had tried him at right wing earlier in the year – though of course there was no way Dallas Eakins and company could have known he was going to make the transition so seamlessly.

41-Acton-2

Finally, Will Acton’s had a pretty reasonable five games, too. He’s not producing any offence, but the fourth line has done a far better job of late in terms of out-chancing the opposition, and he’s been around for that. Like Lander, Acton got stuck at the start of the year with lousy linemates; unlike Lander he doesn’t have the pedigree that would get him a cameo on the higher lines. I’m not saying that’s wrong – Lander had earned his shot with strong AHL play – but any fair evaluation of Acton notes who he’s played with.

My Guesses

Craig MacTavish2

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the five fringe players – Pitlcik, Lander, Pinizzotto, Larsen and Acton – currently getting NHL minutes up front.

I do think that Pinizzotto – a pending unrestricted free agent – would be a really nice fit on a two-way contract next year, and it wouldn’t bother me at all to see him in the fight for one of the bottom spots in training camp next fall. Worst case scenario, he’s a useful AHL’er and a reliable call-up; best case scenario he can fill a depth role in the NHL.

Larsen, Lander and Pitlick are RFAs. My expectation is that the Oilers decline to qualify Larsen, but retain both Pitlick and Lander (unless one or both find their way into a summer trade). The wrinkle here is that both players should probably be in the same boat as Pinizzotto: signed to two-way deals and asked to come in and win a job in training camp.

Acton’s the lone guy under contract for next season, and he looks like a nice fit for the Chris Vande Velde role: the checking line in Oklahoma City and occasional call-ups if/when injuries warrant.

But those are just my guesses, and with only one of the five guys under contract the Oilers have the ability to go in an entirely different direction.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, 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
#51 Manfly
April 09 2014, 01:59PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Cheers
4
cheers
godot10 wrote:

Paajarvi is still 2 years younger than Gustav Nyquist.

Paajarvi was the key asset in obtaining David Perron. Is David Perron a bust?

Half of the Red Wings roster is guys who many Oiler fans would have called busts at 21 or 22.

yes, i realize Paajarvi is still young, and it doesn't matter what Nyqvist or any other player is doing, Magnus hasn't developed yet, it he does at all and you can't say because player X took this long to develop, player Y will too.

and where in my article did i say Perron was a bust? re-read it. Paajarvi got us Perron because apparently the Blues needed to dump a salary and the Oilers wanted to *upgrade*, and Magnus was the player they wanted. i firmly believe that if the Oilers ever saw a 30 goal man in Magnus they would have kept him. they didn't so i stand by what i said.

Avatar
#52 Mclick
April 09 2014, 02:33PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
4
cheers

I am making a prediction that we finish next year somewhere between 20 and 25 place. After reading the article and comments and just really don't see MacT being able to satisfy all the team needs in the off season. Too many changes needed, too little time and bodies available. If we have to rely solely on what we have, I am not confident that these players will get the job done.

We will improve but not by much. I do think we need to draft the center posisition, depending on the players available when we pick, and aquire a defenseman via trade.

Avatar
#53 Mo Playoffs Mo Problems
April 09 2014, 02:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
4
cheers

@Ed in Edmonton

Absolutely. Perron is a great competitor and contributes most nights. I shudder to think of how much worse this season would be without Perron's 30 goals...

Avatar
#54 michael
April 09 2014, 10:28AM
Trash it!
44
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers
Hall Awaits wrote:

Steve Pinizzotto has been fairly impressive in a small role to me. I think a fourth line of him, Hendricks and Gordon would be just fine. Commissioner Gordon with two guys who can bring it. They also can play a little bit more then the Gazdics and Macs of the world.

To me the entire 3rd line needs an overall. And that D corps to....

I like my 10-13 fwds to be MH,BG,SP and LG. With Gazdic and SP platooning.

My 3rd line would consist of Leon Draisatl or Rheinhart centering one FA veteran and Lander.

I believe we need more scoring out of the third line and we need to develop a 2cd line option to replace Gagner when/if he is traded.

I do not see Gagner being traded this summer. I'll say it till I 'm blue in the face.Arcobello cannot be your 2cd line center option in September. Retaining Gagner and giving him a mulligan on this years performance is more in line with what I think management will do this off season.

MacT believed that Gagner was a core player when he signed him.I do not think that mindset has changed. I believe MacT and Eakins have a heart to heart with Gagner at seasons end clear the air. Gagner may be a defensive liability but MacT always believed he could teach defence more readily than he could teach someone skill.

My thought is that MacT will go after Dion Phaneuf this summer.Phaneuf has worn out his welcome with Leaf fans and management. The deal he signed was done to appease the TML fan base who would have cried bloody murder had he been dealt.At the time the Leafs playoff hopes were still alive. With the emergence of Morgan Reilly I think the Leafs will look to add up front to bolster their second line scoring.

The TML management will be under pressure to sign Bolland and it will be looking to add a scoring winger.

There is a hometown appeal for Phaneuf. The Oil need a player of his caliber to center the defense.

would not surprise me to see either Yakupov or Perron head to Toronto this off season.

Avatar
#55 Ed in Edmonton
April 09 2014, 02:35PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers
Mo Playoffs Mo Problems wrote:

I think it's interesting how people are ready to stamp the Perron deal as a clear win for the Oilers.

It's true that right now, Edmonton has the best player and is ahead on winning the trade, but it remains to be seen how Paajarvi will develop and how the 2nd round pick they gave up (i.e. the 33rd overall pick) will pan out.

It's entirely possible that in a couple years St. Louis winds up with 2 serviceable roster players which isn't a bad return when they were essentially forced into dealing Perron for cap relief.

Obviously nothing is guaranteed, but that 30-34th overall pick might make the trade look a lot more even in the long run...

The deal is win for the Oil because it has made their team better. It may also be a win for the Blues if MP gives them something they need and/or the 2nd rounder turns into something. There is no reason why a trade can't turn out to be a win win.

Avatar
#56 oilredemption
April 09 2014, 10:25AM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

Anyone know where I can find the macT presser?

Avatar
#57 Will
April 09 2014, 02:52PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

The fact he might not clear waivers next year is a bit worrying. I think Lander, more than many of our prospects, has been given a good opportunity to develop and 'show good'. As much as it pains me to say, I would trade one of the two of them preferably in a package, if not then to recoup some of the picks we lost in rounds 2 and 3.

The issue going forward will be that when these guys do arrive at the NHL level, and need to develop their game here, who is helping them do that? A rookie coach? Edmonton has a top 6 all 25 or under, then some vets. Same on defence. All our stud horses are all young guys. I really hope they offer a 2 year term to a guy like Markov for some big money to mentor the kids on the blue, and then even add in another Ferrence type guy. Maybe Orpik. That would go a long way to helping the kids find their game knowing their D partners won't be defensive liabilities.

As for the forwards, well sadly I think you need to get rid of 2 and replace them with some proven NHL talent. The Oilers might actually lose the battles on those trades, but would win the war as the overall team would be better, and that is the most important thing.

Avatar
#58 Dog Train
April 09 2014, 06:49PM
Trash it!
6
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

I say qualify Pitlick and Lander and let Larsen walk. Pinizotto has played well so I wouldn't be too upset if they gave him a two-way deal but it's not a priority at this point in time. Bottom line, best way to improve the fringe positions is to upgrade the top 9 and push other guys down the lineup.

Avatar
#59 2004Z06
April 10 2014, 12:05PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Lochenzo

Ummm when has he done this so far? Please don't pull the on pace for argument out either.

I'd be on pace to make a million dollars this year if someone handed me a cheque for 900k.

For every point Gagner gets, he gives up 2!

Comments are closed for this article.