Reasonable Expectations: The Rookies

This post begins my annual "reasonable expectations" series. Since there are several wrtiers on Oilers Nation, I’m going to condense all of the players into 5 articles. We begin with the sensational rookies.

I’ll post my projected boxcars, but it is more important to discuss possible roles for each player. If a prospect has only one role (Schremp skillset) then there’s every chance said player will have a season filled with stops and starts. It’s like a freeway at rush hour: 120 clicks one minute, dead stop the next. It is also important to factor in draft position, age, and the previous level for each player. The heralded rookies (Hall, Pääjärvi, Eberle) give us a nice range of age and experience (or lack thereof), and we’ll have to see which of them responds to specific roles.

A note about "reasonable" expectations. Below, you will read my estimates on what is reasoonable for each player to deliver. Every year I’ve done this, there are a few comments that go like this: "you’re a dummy, (X player) is way better than that and I talked to Kevin Lowe at Costco and he said that he’s a strong candidate for the top line." Okay, deep breath. This is not an attempt to find the outer marker, this is not an attempt to ruin your day or your summer; it is an attempt to draw a line in the sand that we can agree is reasonable in terms of role, approx. minutes and boxcars. Why do it? Well, sometimes a player exceeds expectations and it is nice to have a starting point to refer to after the fact. And sometimes, a player delivers exactly what you think he will and still gets bought out, leaving you wondering about life.

  1. L Taylor Hall: All of his arrows are pointing in the right direction. 1st overall pick means he’s going to get a major boost from the hockey club (Hall isn’t going to Team Canada’s world junior camp this summer, making him ineligible for the Christmas team. How would it look for Hall to be playing in Windsor and not attending the World Juniors? He’s an NHL player now on paper, and only because the games haven’t started yet). I think we can reasonably expect him to see more minutes than Steven Stamkos did as a rookie (15 minues a night) because the Oilers are so weak on LW. Hall’s Desjardins’ NHLE projections are in lock step with Stamkos, but I’ve nicked him a little. Why? He’ll probably end up with lesser numbers (9 PP markers for the Lightning star as a rookie). I believe the last Oiler rookie to score 9 powerplay goals in a season was David Oliver (10 in half a season, 95-96), and although Hall is obviously the best Oiler prospect in ages it isn’t likely he’s going to spend the season on the 1PP. If he does, then bump this projection. As it is, I suspect he’ll play on the 1line, 2line, 3line, 4line and even spend a night or two in the pressbox. It takes time. Reasonable boxcars: 74gp, 20-20-40, 16 minutes a night and he plays on every line. He will get more PP minutes than the other two rookies and because of it will lead the group on scoring. Confidence is a huge deal for any #1 pick, and this kid seems to have a lot of it. He’ll need it.
  2. W Magnus Pääjärvi. He has some advantages over the other two high end prospects. He played in the SEL at age 18 (17:25 a night), took 160 shots and enjoyed a +14 (38-24) plus minus. Before last season, defenseman Victor Hedmann said of him: "He can play physical, he’s big and strong. I don’t see anything that can stop him from playing on the smaller rinks." His splits are interesting (first 25gp: 7-9-16 -1; last 24gp, 5-8-13 +15) and he is often mentioned as being a "man" already in terms of physical development. Redline Report suggested he might have been ready a year ago, I think he not only makes the team but spends extended time on the top 2 lines and even gets some PP minutes. Reasonable boxcars: 66gp, 13-18-31 on 14 minutes per game. Although he is more physically mature than Hall, there’s going to be a gap in terms of where he should be on the ice and where he’ll be drawn to; I think he might earn the trust of the coaching staff down the line, but this season will be a learning curve much like the one described above (in regard to Hall). I don’t think he’ll approach Hall’s boxcars, but should say most of the shortfall will come due to different opportunities. Hall is extremely likely to get the push.
  3. C-R Jordan Eberle. I confess: when Craig MacTavish speaks, I listen. MacT: "he’s just a playmaking machine, and he’s going to be very good." For his part Eberle flourished when given yet another chance on the world stage (WHC’s). He’s 20 years old and arriving in the NHL with a lot of hype (a tremendous amount considering draft pedigree). He has an advantage over the other fine prospects in terms of age and leadership role. He’s also a cerebral offensive talent, you can see it pretty much every time he’s on the ice. Reasonable boxcars: 72gp, 12-17-29 on 15 minutes a night (with several on the PK). Jordan Eberle sees the game extremely well, and I think it might end up landing him a job as an NHL center down the line. For now, he’ll be on the same NHL rollercoaster as Hall and Pääjärvi, although it is possible he sees extended time on the PK (depending on whether or not ST signs someone in August or September).
  4. D Theo Peckham. Wreckum is waiver eligible, and on a rebuilding team that needs grit and a mean spirited sort, he should find an NHL home if he performs well in camp. Injuries are a concern, and all rookie defensemen look overwhelmed at times. Peckham has those issues, but I think there’s a player here. This should be his season to make the grade. Reasonable boxcars: 51gp, 0-8-8 with 5-6D minutes. With most defensemen the boxcars don’t tell half of the story, and in Peckham’s case it wll be less than that. If he’s reading plays and reacting at speed by Valentine’s Day, we’ll have a player.
  5. L Linus Omark. He’ll play in the NHL this season (is my guess), but it is hard to get him onto the opening night roster. Omark’s age and skills suggest he’s probably close to being able to help at the NHL level, but his skill range means a top 6 role on the big club is the goal (and the only real role). Tough to do. If he makes it, Omark could trump the kids offensively. He looks unreal. Reasonable boxcars: 46gp, 10-8-18. He could win the Calder. Seriously.
  6. C Ryan O’Marra. I wouldn’t have him on the list, but the Oilers remain high on him. He has size and has expressed a willingness to play a checking role, but I don’t see him bringing enough offense to the NHL. I doubt he’ll survive, but do believe O’Marra will be given a chance this season. Reasonable boxcars: 30gp, 2-2-4. Lots of time on the penalty-kill and plenty of minutes in his own zone. Anton Lander can’t get here fast enough.  
  7. G Devan Dubnyk. In his final 10 NHL games last season, Devan Dubnyk’s save percentage was .912. The Oilers goaltending situation is up in the air currently and Dubnyk is well positioned to take advantage of it. Lacking JDD’s acrobatic (and inconsistent) style, Dubnyk showed very well in those final 10 games and a strong training camp may move him up the depth chart. Reasonable boxcars: 20gp, 3.12 .901, and if Khabibulin’s case blows up then double the starts.
  8. D Alex Plante. Plante begins a group of 5 names on this list who should be "cup of coffee/injury callup" options. Plante looked good in his brief appearance last season and that probably earned him another look sometime in 2010-11. Reasonable boxcars: 10gp, 0-1-1. I like his progress and his calm feet, and he is the one defender who could arrive quickly on the rookie list.
  9. C Chris Vande Velde. A nice range of skills married to size make Vande Velde a candidate for NHL playing time. He is also a little older than most on the list and will be an everyday player in Oklahoma City. His position (Center) is among the weakest on the big league roster, so the tumblers could break right for him Reasonable boxcars: 6gp, 0-1-1 and it’ll be interesting to see how much PK time he gets in pre-season.
  10. D Jeff Petry. I may have him too low on the list, but the train wreck that has been Taylor Chorney’s adjustment to pro hockey serves as fair warning to the organization. Petry does have a wider range of skills and the Oilers have always been very high on him. Reasonable boxcars: 4gp, 0-1-1, and if he has a strong training camp you never know.
  11. L Teemu Hartikainen. Big Finn has progressed very well, and should he continue to do so I can see him getting some time in the NHL. Is unique on this list due to size and grit, and his ability to drive to high traffic areas will show well with the coaches. Reasonable boxcars: 1gp, 0-0-0 and a strong season in Oklahoma City.
  12. R Colin McDonald. Not strictly speaking an Oiler player at this time (he signed a minor league deal), I can see the Oilers calling him up because they don’t have a lot of players with his skills (checking). Should they sign a Pisani type then McDonald’s door to the NHL closes (barring injury). Reasonable boxcars: 1gp, 0-0-0 and he’ll need to improve offensively to avoid a European vacation in 2011-12.

So, to reiterate, I’m not saying Jordan Eberle won’t score 20 goals in 2010-11. I’m saying it is reasonable to expect–considering all things including the competition both old and new–that he will play most of the season in the NHL and score one dozen goals. If he passes that total, we can agree that Jordan Eberle exceeded expectations. Again.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Hey LT,

    I’ve been reading you for a while now, and while I’m not usually a big commenter, that douche calling you out prompted me to pipe up and tell you that I appreciate what you do. As an Oil fan in decidedly non-Oil country (Ottawa), I’m left with just the interwebs for my (almost) daily fix, and you’re usually my first stop.

    Thanks, man.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Aaaand…I posted that in the wrong thread. Read that as “…that douche calling you out in THAT OTHER thread”, and the gratitude still applies.

  • LT,

    If we’re talking reasonable expectations, I think you’re setting O’Marra’s GP number a bit high.

    I think most people(fans and in the org) would consider his season a success if he can get in 10 NHL games and some PB time. For him to get 31 games would be a coup considering how far back he is right now.

    Unless that GP number is more of an indication on the Oilers 10/11 reasonable expectations (indicating a very low bar….)

  • Milli

    Love the post LT!!! And wow isn’t it nice to have a bunch of top flight prospects!!! My money’s on Eberle, but that Hall kid is gonna be good to. The only thing I hate about summer, can we get on with hockey yet?

  • Milli

    Oilers once again, with more firepower, are set up for three offensive lines and a makeshift(one) checking line . It’s not going to be two offensive and two shutdown lines . Each offensive line will have to be responsible defensively on their own accords .

    With that top nine in mind might we see twosomes develop like : OMark and Svensson . Eberle and Hall . Penner and Hemsky . Now who will be the fillins to those three twosomes ? Now where does that leave Gagner , Brule and Cogliano – certainy not a fourth line shutdown role . Where does Horcoff, etc . fit in ?

    How much longer can we continuously ignor the backend problems ? We have remarkable talent on the front end and very limited ,just the opposit on back end . Plenty of work to be done yet on backend if we hope to avoid the basement again ! In fact , i’d say we are far worse on backend than even last year if Souray is to go and no new upgrated acquisitions acquired .

    • PerryK

      “How much longer can we continuously ignor the backend problems ? We have remarkable talent on the front end and very limited ,just the opposit on back end . Plenty of work to be done yet on backend if we hope to avoid the basement again ! In fact , i’d say we are far worse on backend than even last year if Souray is to go and no new upgrated acquisitions acquired .”

      I think our rear guards would look just fine if the TambLoweKatz can get past their issues with Souray! Why does every one on the Oiligoshere think that is a non-starter?

      I, for one, think that we have a very good defensive corps if we aren’t forced to do some thing stupid like pay Souray to leave (in one form or another).

      • Milli

        Maybe biggest stumbling block to Oilers moving forward is Horcoff and his cap hit compared to his real value now and in the future ? Maybe a valuable buyout might be more advantageous in the long and short run ? Souray at trade deadline might also be advantageous come deadline time as well . Hopefully, we are not going to wait for those contracts to expire before moving forward with our young guns and prospects . They need help now , not two or more years from now . Although, i feel, if any might be worth his contract figure it would be a happy , healthy Souray .

        Lesson learned ? Don’t overpay or suffer the consequences and inflexability of them far into the future . There is a lot of young talent we might once again destroy if they do not clear out some of those contracts that prevent us from moving adequately forward ! Bulin another albatross that might be subject to, buyout .

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Very interesting article, Lowetide! To me, one of the great things of summer is being able to look at the future of your roster and think about where everyone is going to fit, and who will be the stars of the team in the future…and who might not work out. It’s all speculation but I do thank you for your look into this. I want to offer up my look at this, as well.

    I think Chris VandeVelde is going to win the battle for a spot at center right now. I know that we may bring in a veteran, or one of the other kids could beat him out for it, but I like his chances best. I do look forward to the day when Hartikainen plays here but to me he is going to need some more time developing in the AHL first, especially for his style of play. VV has 3 more years of development on him, at 23 years old, and just looks ready to me when I saw him at Development Camp. The reason I am comparing him to Hartikainen so much here is because I believe that he is the next best option for the position if Tyler Pitlick is given another year to develop in juniors.

    Ryan O’Marra I just don’t believe will do anything on the big club this year. I hope he proves me wrong and finally turns it all around but it has been a long, long fall for the former first round pick. I fully understand your reasoning for him getting time with the Oilers, but I don’t believe that he will give enough even considering the Oilers’ willingness for him to take a roster spot.

    I’m actually looking forward to what VV can do on the big club this year and I hope that the Oilers do not bring in veteran help this year at his position for that reason. Now that said his development is NOT going to be hurt by spending this year on the farm, but if I was to guess right now then I will say that he makes it this year. My prediction: 56gp 5-7-12…in a checking line role with a respectable face-off percentage, too (but don’t ask me to predict that!;)

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I think that all this speculation is rather pointless at this point. These players will all develop in due course. It will be a function of how much preparation, maturity, talent and organizational development is in play. The bottom line is we’ll see soon enough where everybody is at. At this point you can say anything about anybody but it proves nothing until the training camp and pre-season get under way. There is only one consensus 1st rounder overall in this organization and he will likely be the real deal. Everybody else has to make the team and we’ll see who is who soon enough.

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      Fair enough, but who wants to wait another two months for the season to start, or rather, AFTER the season to see how they did? For that matter, we could just wait until after they have all retired and then we’ll know FOR SURE how good the players were. That way nobody will be wasting their time talking about something that might not happen. We could be checking out what’s really happening right now around the world…and one can always be getting prepared for the upcoming tax season ahead of time, too.

      However, some of us sports fans want to talk about it and think about what might be, yes, even without knowing how it will play out for sure. We want to talk about how the season might go – otherwise we wouldn’t be here reading these articles, then commenting on them. And for the record, our first overall pick sure didn’t look like he was ready when he was here for development camp. So one never knows for sure – that’s what makes it so fun to predict what might be…you just never know!

      So we’ll see you after the Oilers have played their first game then?

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Here are the lines the way I’d like them to start the season with:

    Line#1 Pens, Hemmer, Gags

    Line#2 Hall, Bru, Ebs

    Line#3 MPS, Horc, Omark/O’mara

    LIne#4 Storts, VV, Mac/JSJ

    Any thoughts?

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      Just a question, really…do you have Hemmer as our center on that 1st line? Also, obviously you have Cogliano traded, I take it? (I too see him being gone by the start of this season – just a guess)

      I would love to see Brule see some quality ice-time with talented linemates, too. I’m surprised by the inclusion of O’Mara on the 3rd line, but I like Horc playing in the 3rd line spot.