I’d been planning to do a quick update on a few of the Oilers’ minor league players, but Fernando Pisani’s injury against Detroit last night has brought more pressing matters to the fore. Pisani’s been a quality player for some time now, and most importantly he’s one of a handful of reliable veterans that Craig MacTavish can run against the best players that the opposition can ice.
However, now that Pisani’s out with a broken ankle for an indefinite period of time, the composition of this team changes. MacTavish was running Moreau – Horcoff – Cole as a line to finish the game, and while I originally thought that would be a good solution to handle the tough opponents, it seems to me that it puts too many eggs in one basket; particularly given that Dustin Penner isn’t enjoying his coach’s confidence at the moment. If I were in charge, I’d probably run the lines like this:
Moreau – Horcoff – Hemsky
Nilsson – Cogliano – Gagner
Reddox– Pouliot – Cole
Penner – Brodziak – Stortini
The simple fact of the matter is that opposing coaches are always going to run tough opposition at Ales Hemsky, and Sam Gagner hasn’t shown the ability to handle it. Re-uniting the Kid Line and running them against soft opposition could help this team to score goals, while the Horcoff line runs power vs. power and and Erik Cole’s line takes on second-tier opponents. Dustin Penner could be elevated to any line once the coach’s confidence in him is restored.
End of the Line for McDonald?
Oilers prospect Colin McDonald, a second round pick of the Oilers in the incredibly deep 2003 NHL Entry Draft, is in some serious trouble. McDonald, who has just four points in 14 AHL games in his second professional season, was assigned yesterday to the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. The Oilers have long held out hope for McDonald, who struggled offensively in four seasons with Providence College, but this latest move indicates that McDonald is moving in the wrong direction. Now 24, McDonald is in the final year of his NHL Entry Level contract, and if he doesn’t turn things around in a hurry, I can’t see the Oilers re-signing him. In the same press release, the Oilers announced that undrafted rookie Bryan Lerg has been moved from Stockton to Springfield.
Les Reaney Back on the Radar (Barely)
It didn’t cause much of a stir among followers of the Oilers when undrafted forward Les Reaney left Niagara University in February to play in Edmonton’s farm system. Reaney appeared in only five ECHL games, recording a single assist. This year, he was assigned to the Rapid City Rush of the Central Hockey League, presumably to disappear forever. After scoring 15 points in just eight games in Rapid City, Edmonton recalled Reaney to play for the ECHL’s Dayton Bombers, where he’s put up four points and 17 PIM in just three games.
Devan Dubnyk has had an outstanding start to the season, going 7-6-1 with a 2.44 GAA and a 0.924 SV %. This past week, he was named the AHL’s Player of the Week, and if he can keep this up, he’ll have taken a massive leap from his play last season. Dubnyk has been so good that AHL backup Glenn Fisher has only seen two periods of play in 14 games.
The results from the ECHL have been mixed. Bryan Pitton has cooled off after a hot start, and now has a 2-5-1 record, with a 3.34 GAA and a 0.888 SV %. The May signing of Pitton to a three-year entry-level deal is starting to look like a mistake, especially since it makes it more difficult for the Oilers to ink Andrew Perugini to a similar deal. Perugini had issues with his visa to start the year, and only received clearance to play on October 31st, but so far he’s been outstanding. In four games, Perugini has a 3-0-1 record, a 2.14 GAA, and a 0.935 SV %. This really is not that surprising, because Perugini has been an elite-level OHL goaltender for the last two seasons, and his junior numbers are well clear of Pitton.
Meanwhile, in Södertälje, veteran European goaltender (and 2004 Oilers draft pick) Björn Bjurling is enjoying yet another strong season. He posted an eye-opening 0.928 SV % in the Elitserien (Sweden’s top league) last season, and through 17 games has a .923 SV % this season. There was some talk of signing Bjurling in the summer, but with so many goaltenders in the system already, the Oilers left him in Sweden. One only has to look at the incredible numbers that Antti Niemi, has put up in the AHL or the success of Jonas Hiller to see that these veteran European goalies often have a smooth transition to North American hockey. With Dubnyk and Deslauriers both playing well, however, it is hard to see where the Oilers would put Bjurling.