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.

  • This is great…. Wait I can throw out random numbers and predictions. Paajarvi is probably more ready for the NHL since he has played against men but he played on Euro ice. If Hall doesn’t play first line power play, what are the numbers going to look like playing second power play with less talented team mates ? Whom ever gets the chances to play with Penner and Hemsky will get the points ( WOW).

    @Robin Thanks for the tip Eskimos. I wish they were all fired, god they suck. I was hoping they were going to announce a forfeit of the season! First the Oil not the Esks!!!!!!!!!!

  • knee deep in it

    I expect Hall, Omark, Svensson and Eberle to way exceed your expectations . Don’t lowball them when only Hall is the only rookie thats come out of junior this season . The other three have already shown proficiency at higher levels than junior elite to begin with lets remember !! My expectations for the four of them is much higher , and i believe for good reasons .

  • ESKIMOS UPDATE . . . . .

    I know this is Oilersnation, but the Eskimos have called a news conference for 1 p.m. where it’s expected they will announce a significant firing.
    TEAM 1260 will be covering the event live with Jason Gregor and Corey Graham, so tune in then to get all the details.

    • LeLacheur next Oiler President and GM ? Rick has always been a better hockey man than football man to be honest . He has his pulse on Edmonton fans and will not be satisfied without making those at highest position in organization take full responsibility for failed results . Katz does not have to look far for a replacement if he chooses to do so . Needless to say Lelacheur would be beneficial on Katz side , when it comes to his arena project as well .

      How long would it take for Lelacheur to wield the axe if Tams and company fail to fill the voids left for this years team if they are left unfilled again going into this year ? I doubt Rick would have waited this long to be honest . We have voids yet to be filled adequately ,like last season , with a cast who have not done an admiral job taking advantage of the marketplace . Under Rick’s direction i believe that scenario would change rapidly !

      Just my sentiments , but i believe Rick would be perfect as the next GM and President for the Oilers .

  • Devon

    I like your picks there LT I don’t really think your putting much emphasis’s on the numbers. Your putting more emphasis on there ability to contribute, but one thing. For Eberle and Paajarvi they either earn a top 6 role over players like Horcoff, and Brule or get sent to the minors. They could both benefit a bit more getting top line minutes down in the AHL with Giroux. Let them dominate with him in Okalahoma and bring them up when injuries arise, or some bodies are moved at the deadline. I don’t see any point to putting Eberle or Paajarvi on the 3rd or 4th line. But that’s just me I could be totally wrong I’m sure someone will clue me in if I am.

  • knee deep in it

    I really think Hall’s numbers will top the Stamkos/Tavares comparisons. First of all I think they will because he’ll be put in a position to play top 6 minutes with better players than Tavares played with, and I think he’s more physically mature than Stamkos was as a rookie. Of course Stamkos made a giant leap in his second season and it’s too far ahead to predict if Hall will be at that level by then.

    I just expect something more like 55 points. 65 wouldn’t even shock me.

  • Lowetide

    Acumen: Yeah, it is a moving target in terms of which players get the push and the increased TOI. I think there will be 10 game stretches where one guy looks all world and the other is hanging by a thread and then 10 game periods where it flip flops.

    Rogue: I’d say Hall and MPS will stand out among the new hires in terms of speed.

    whodathunkit: I think they’ll start with Hall on the wing, possibly moving Penner to center instead of asking one of the kids to do it. Eventually he might get a look, but the role of center on an NHL team is a big one.

    Sumoil: They would have to purchase the contract, but it isn’t a big deal. Teams do it all the time.

    Pilgor: I’d love to see the kids together on a 4line, but don’t believe Renney will do it. It looks like the roster will be made up of three hooligans every night, so Jacques, Strudwick and MacIntyre might be the 4line. Rennery is probably going to run a different forward rotation (1-2-3-1-2-3-4-1-2-3) so the kids will play (when they play) on a minutes line.

    Ducey: If Renney would devote 30 games to DD we’d have a very good idea of what he is by season’s end. That’s a great idea, I hope they do it.

    knee: Omark has all kinds of skill and if he makes an impression you never know. He’s certainly a player to watch in TC and pre-season.

  • Ducey

    Picking some nits:

    I would say O’Marra gets 15 gamnes. They like him, and he has embraced the checking role, but he nees to learn it more.

    DD gets 30 games. He is either the backup to Bulin or shares with JDD. Any three headed monster will be slayed by Christmas.

  • Pilgor09

    Lt, i really think your lowballing Eberle, and highballing O’mark. I believe O’mark doesn’t play a single game in the NHL this year, and Eberle gets the Calder and ends up with 58 points. I could also see O’marra playing about 50 games this year because Horcoff’s shoulder is made of pussy. And i do hope Renney play all the rookies on one line so they can gel. I know people are thinking that they need some vets on their lines because they are so young and inexpereiced but these guys are special. They seem so mature for their age and suceed at every level.

  • Reijo Ruotsalainen's wicked slapper

    LT:

    What do you think of the chance they move Hall to C to allow MPS and Eberle to get more premium time on the wings? Seeing as it is a rebuild/low expectation year might it be wise to see if he can? Also, am I incorrect or did Hall play C on the WJ team?

    Where do you see the lines ending up?

    I know it’s unreasonable, but I’d really like to see Hall/Horcoff split time in the #1 C line (depending on strength of opposition, starting zone…)

    Also, how do you see the PP and PK units ending up?

    Great read as always!

  • Rogue

    LT…I am actually excited about this season! This reminds me of the first 2 years in the NHL, when we had a bunch of unknown kids coming to play here. Lots of mistakes, but enthusiasm and speed all around. Now if it can turn out to be half as good as that crew…..( Mild wood at the memory)

    Who are the 2 fastest of the kids? Hall and MP?

  • Acumen

    Great post LT, I’d place Hall SLIGHTLY higher (I think under 45 points if he gets significant top line time would be a little disappointing for me), but it all looks great.

    It’s important for us to make note of the growing pains to be expected. Assuming Hall is part of the top 6 (I see it as Hall, Penner, Horcoff, Gagner, Hemsky and either Brule or Cogliano at first blush), Eberle or Paajarvi getting more than 30 points at the NHL level is very impressive, if not likely.

    I’m hoping for a couple vet signings (Halpern and Fedotenko please!) to compose a 3rd line with Eberle as he learns the ropes MacT style (learning his own end of the NHL ice first), while Paajarvi can get used to North American ice in Oklahoma. He IS still only 19, it won’t hurt in the least.

  • Lowetide

    Rogue: Yeah, it’s a great group. They actually hurt each other’s Calder chances, if the Oilers had only Hall at the top end we could project him to play even more minutes and post more impressive numbers.

    The important thing to remember is that Hall COULD score 25 or more goals, but if he does then we’re talking about someone who is kicking out the jams (in terms of opportunity and results).

  • Rogue

    Great job, LT. I am hoping that some players exceed their limits. Surprises and disappointments abound with young players. My dark horse is VV, if we do not pick-up another center.

    By the way……..FIST!!!