July 27 2014 11:21AM
It's been four years since the Edmonton Oilers invested a high second-round selection on Tyler Pitlick. He made his NHL debut last season, and showed some flashes of NHL ability. What are his chances of making the team this season? Have they improved over summer?
There are 10 jobs (I believe) that are locks for opening night among Oiler forwards:
- Taylor Hall
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- Jordan Eberle
- David Perron
- Benoit Pouliot
- Teddy Purcell
- Nail Yakupov
- Boyd Gordon
- Mark Arcobello
- Matt Hendricks
There's a chance Edmonton would tweak this group before training camp—if they needed extra money to sign a free agent or take on a big contract—but it would seem this group of 10 are the heart of the order for 2014-15.
THE FORWARD CANDIDATES
- Luke Gazdic, L. Luke Gazdic has a 100% chance of making the Oilers. Once healthy, he'll be inserted into the lineup as a regular. The idea of a 4line featuring Gordon and Gazdic is a non-starter in my mind, the two played together at 5x5 a total of 14 minutes in 2013-14.
Leon Draisaitl, C. Draisaitl has a 90% chance of making the Oilers. I'd put it at 100%—especially after the Gagner trade—but there's a chance he appears slow and ineffective in the final pre-season games. I would not bet against him making the team.
- Anton Lander, C. Lander has a 75% chance of making the Oilers. He is signed to a one-way deal for 2014-15, signaling his arrival as an NHL player. The contract is for $600,000 and I don't think he sees Oklahoma City again. If Lander doesn't make the Oilers, I suspect he'll be traded.
- Tyler Pitlick, RW. Pitlick has a 50% chance of making the Oilers. He signed a two-way deal with the Oilers recently for next season, but is waiver eligible. Based on Dallas Eakins comments on the player, the fact they brought him up (twice) last season and (most importantly) the club did not add a Daniel Winnik in summer, I think he makes the team.
Jesse Joensuu, LW. Joensuu has a 50% chance of making the Oilers. He did not play well last season, but is signed to an NHL contract for 2014-15 at $950,000—it's unlikely Edmonton will bury that contract unless Joensuu's performance is ghastly. The chances of trading him are very good, however.
Will Acton, C. Acton has a 10% chance of making the Oilers. He played 30 games a year ago, and Eakins knows him—that's a big deal for a fringe player. He was wildly unpopular among Oiler fans I talked to and his possession stats were a disaster. He spent half of his 5x5 NHL time with Luke Gazdic, so I'm not certain he is as bad as the Corsi suggests. Still, not a strong option.
Iiro Pakarinen, RW. Parkarinen has a 10% chance of making the team. A veteran of 230 SM-Liiga games, he scored 20 goals last season. Elite Prospects describes an interesting player: An energetic player with good
skating and a nice frame. Possesses a good sharp, wrist shot and is a
solid finisher. A hard worker and versatile player who can also play as a
- Steve Pinizzotto, RW. Pinizzotto has a 10% chance of making the team. He showed well as a late callup from the farm, and the Oilers gave up a prospect of note in Ryan Martindale to get him (although Martindale wasn't doing much at the time). He's 30, and that's late to get an NHL start, but I bet he does something early to get noticed (like running over someone in the first pre-season game) and takes it from there.
- Bogdan Yakimov, C. Yakimov has a 5% chance of making the team. The fact that he's on the list at all may come as a surprise, but the big Russian was impressive at the WJ's and held his own in the KHL in 2013-14. A long shot for sure, but not impossible.
My guess is the final spots go to Luke Gazdic, Leon Draisaitl, Anton Lander and Tyler Pitlick, with Jesse Joensuu hitting waivers.
(Tyler Pitlick photo by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved).