Spring Arrives in the Hinterland

We’re at the point in the draft cycle where hockey men use hyperbole to describe the future. Ken Hitchcock has Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as a cross between a young Joe Sakic and a young Pavel Datsyk; Sean Couturier`s last name should be ‘Staal’ according to the comparables; and Adam Larsson is better than Lidstrom at this age. Apparently.
 

What does it all mean? Hell if I know. As a fan, I like to look at the numbers and try to apply common sense to them. For instance, Adam Larsson is still a kid but is playing in a man’s league. So, despite the impressive numbers of RNH and others, we need to pay special heed to what the big Swedish defender is doing now that the playoffs have arrived.

How is he doing? Well. His boxcars are 6gp, 0-2-2 -2 but as with all boxcars it’s a black and white photo in dire need of color. Here’s the back story on his playoff:

  • Game 1: 24:24 TOI even, 1 shot on goal and 2 hits in a win
  • Game 2: 23:19 TOI -1, 2 shots on goal and 1 hit in a loss
  • Game 3: 22:45 TOI even, 1 shot and 3 hits in another loss
  • Game 4: 24:37 TOI even, 2 shots in a win
  • Game 5: 21:47 TO! 1 assist, 3 shots on goal 2 pims and 3 hits in a win
  • Game 6: 22:14 TOI -1, 1 assist, 3 shots and 2 pims and 1 hit in a loss
  • Game 7: today

He’s averaging 23:11TOI during the post-season after averaging 18:44 during the regular season. Here are the Skelleftea blue with their playoff time-on-ice per game:

  1. Adam Larsson 23:11
  2. Tim Erixon 22:11
  3. David Rundblad 20:20
  4. Fredrik Lindgren 20:04
  5. Niclas Burstrom 18:18
  6. Ivan Majesky 15:18

Based on their experience and skill sets, I’d suggest that Rundblad and either Erixon or Lindgren are getting the powerplay minutes, leaving Larsson to evens and PK. We talked about Larsson and his scouting reports here and we know that the Oilers have a laundry list of needs rolling out over the next several years.

As we get closer to the draft–and with the understanding that some of these CHL forwards are kicking out the jams and making big impressions–it is becoming increasingly difficult to argue against Jim Matheson’s logic (stated most recently here). Last night, the Edmonton Oilers "hockey winter" reached a climax as the Avalanche drove the Oildrop further down the elevator shaft.

Spring arrives today, and with it the promise of renewal and growth. Staring at the numbers and sifting through the things our good friend math can tell us, Adam Larsson is extremely likely to be the best player available on draft day. Full stop.

      • Meers22

        Until mid January when injures started to pile up the two greatest needs on the Oilers were the need for a top 2 defenseman, and a first line centre. Although, I do not believe, like some, that Tyler Piklick is the answer, I still think that Edmonton needs to go with a defenseman. Top defensemen are rare and hard to come by.

    • Lowetide

      Larsson’s previous SEL season showed he had more offense but as Woodlief says in the linked item “I see him more as a number two who’s going to eat a lot of minutes and be maybe a 40-45-point scorer.”

      He’s strong, tough and can impact the defense. His NHLE from last season was about 82gp, 5-17-22 and he might have posted similar numbers this season if not for Rundblad’s emergence.

      • Tha Legion

        So basically he wouldn’t put up Alex Pietrangelo’s offense in his prime? hmmm, I was a Couturier man, but now I’m leaning towards RNH, which suprises even me.

        • Lowetide

          No, I think he’ll post offensive numbers. However, we don’t have access to things like powerplay minutes and the majority (by percentage) of offense produced by defensemen comes with the man advantage.

          I believe Larsson played on the PP a year ago (at least some) with Skelleftea, and his numbers were slightly better than Rundblad’s.

          Rundblad in 09-10 was 47gp, 1-12-13 and Larsson was 49gp, 4-13-17. This season, Larsson was injured and (I think) didn’t get as much PP time. His numbers (37gp, 1-8-9) were dwarfed by a blossoming (and older) Rundblad who had an enormous season (55gp, 11-39-50, one of the best offensive seasons from a D in SEL history).

          I’m not saying Larsson has that offensive ability, but that his boxcars would have been way better with good health and increased PP time.

  • John Chambers

    We always talk best logic on this site. We try to pick the best pick, to fill the big needs. What make the best sense for the Oilers? You can not count on Lowe and Dithers to make good moves the majority of the time. For every good move we have three bad moves that move us backward.

    Unfortunately, the Oilers can not come out of their “hockey winter” with the Mr. Dither’s and the President. As fans we drink the koolaid and believe we can not sign or trade for a center that is better than Horcoff or Gagne. Money talks and bulls*@*”t walks. We have money, sign someone that can play first line, until we grow something out of the stable. We get beat night after night because Horcoff gets beat night after night. He is now a third line center. Use him there.

    We drink the koolaid and believe a quality defenceman will not sign or be acquired in a trade. That is crap too.

    So if we want to draft Larsson, do it. Don’t rush him and let him grow. In the mean time, go get a better center than Horcoff. Sign him for three years, until we are fighting for the playoff spots. If we don’t, hello 30th place again next year.

  • The RNH campaigners will be out in full force the next few weeks..

    It’s too bad Edmonton can’t afford to draft and develop this kid, he’s gonna be a beauty..

    If Tambi wasn’t able to land Taylor&Tyler, or Brayden Schenn…

    Don’t expect the Oilers to magically land another top 10 pick..

    This is a 6 year plan not a race for 8th.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Build your team from the net out. Dubnyk looks like a solid option going forward. Add Larsson (who at 18 is playing the most minutes on his team in the playoffs. If that isn’t a tell on how solid he is and the confidence his coach has in him. Not to mention that he eats up Even and PK minutes something we desperately need), a healthy Whitney and another solid vet and suddenly you have a decent defense. As you pointed out LT, Hall at centre makes a lot of sense, and it allows us to draft BPA with our 2nd 1st rd pick. Add Lander to that centre core, and you can move one of Cogs or Gagner to address other needs. The cupboard is pretty much full with prospects, so hopefully this summer we see some young potential pieces moved to solidify our NHL depth, and not our AHL depth.

    I know they wouldn’t be world beaters tight now, but if this is our defense going forward, I feel pretty good about our chances to compete.

    Whitney-Larsson

    Gilbert-Smid

    Petry-Peckham

    PP – Whitney-Larsson 1st pair. Gilbert-Petry 2nd pair
    PK – Whitney-Larsson 1st pair. Smid-Peckham 2nd pair.

    Draft Larsson, add a vet or two up front, and let Dubnyk play 55 games and we will compete for a playoff spot.

  • John Chambers

    It might be interesting to see what other teams picking in the top 5 feel their needs are. For example, given that The Avs have Stastny and Duchesne as their top 2 C’s, what interest do they have in the ‘Nuge if we’re poised to take Larsson.

    I was hypothesizing scenarios where we would trade for The Av’s pick, but we don’t have anything they want outside guys we’re not willing to trade.

    But, if Stu is intent on drafting a C, perhaps we swap picks with the Avs and get them to include O’Reilly or their 1st in 2012.

  • Lowetide

    JACKASS FIVE – The Oilers fifth sequel in the 1/2 decade old ring around the toilet bowl . Oiler cult fans lining up in droves for the next season of NHL hockey Oiler style ! The Spoof produced by Lowe and Directed extra ordinarily by Tambellini heads into it’s fifth season of sellouts with a cult of fans whom can’t wait for the next rendition of this classic series . Will Renney still be in charge of set direction ? Next years show may be an Oscar perfomance if they can pull off another year of sold out performances . Owner of studio of Katz Productions must be thrilled with the results his managerial and script people have made this series so popular . What new actors will be cast into next years show that will tantillate the fancy of previous spoofs ?

  • JaroslavPouzar

    RNH. Full Stop. Stop the madness of suggesting we need to draft Adam Larsson.Stop the “I think we a number 1 defence” arguement. We need RNH. The arguement for drafting RNH. Nash. Has he ever had a number 1 center? No. Look at the numbers he puts up. What would they be if he had RNH or a Brad Richards giving him the puck? Hall and Eberle need a complimentary player. They need, not want, need a center who for the next 10 years will get them the puck and lead this team to playoff glory.Do we want to waste this opportunity this draft on a dman? We have been complaining for years about the lack of a number 1 center. Suddenly we fall in love with the idea that we need to get the “franchise dman”. PIttsburgh, Detroit,and Chicago won thier CUPs because they were deep at center. Yes you need the dman who can play 23-25 minutes. But last I looked Whitney was capable of producing those kind of numbers. It would be a blunder to let this opportunity pass us by. The only way I see the Oilers drafting Larsson is if they plan on another 30th place finish next season. The almost 14 thousand who watched Friday nights Red Deer vs Oil Kings game got a taste of that future. I don’t think any of them would say that RNH is not the player we should take this June. Hall and Eberle need a center. Tell me they don’t.

  • book¡e

    RNH gets a disproportionate share of his points on the PP. At even strength he is thoroughly mediocre. His goal scoring rate at even strength is poor for a so-called elite prospect. His assist production at even strength is ordinary for a so-called elite prospect.

    Courturier, in particular, and Larsson( to a lesser degree) are suffering from the recency effect. New bright shiny things attract greater attention, and one begins to see the imperfections in things that have been around awhile.

    I’m on Team Larsson. 20-25 minute per game defensemen that can play in ALL situations are rare and beautiful things.

    Opportunities to snag a defenseman are much rarer than the opportunity to snag a centre. Centres are also much more available in the trade market.

    • The Farmer

      I dont disagree with your point of the recency effect, but how can you say centers are much more available on the trade market, outside of “Big Joe” when do the elite centers ever get moved, (Pronger has been moved twice since then)

  • Shapeman

    Hmmm now that I think about it I could almost see us not picking a defenseman becaus next year the top 5 is supposed to have 2 really good defenseman from the WHL in Griffin Reinhart and that other kid whose name escapes me…

  • DSG

    Larsson is the guy you pick if you go #1, #2 you pick Landeskog. They are the best players out there and you can’t argue with the fact the Oilers need a stud defenceman. Is it a more pressing need than a centerman? I would say they are even but you are getting a shot at a stud defenceman not a superstar centerman so you take it. RNH is a couple of years away from being NHL ready and Couturier has a skill set that isn’t matching with #1 center. Strome is going to be the best forward out of this draft in 5 years time.

  • Lowetide

    godot10: RNH’s PP production is about the same as Gagner’s in his draft season. I’m not sure we have enough evidence (over a long period) to suggest it’s disproportionate. It is compared to Taylor Hall or Sean Couturier, but is that the case over several seasons worth of lottery picks?

    I don’t know.

    Stats for above players (in terms of EV and PP percentage) is here.

    http://oilersnation.com/2011/3/15/rnh

  • DSG

    On a totally different tangent… With the Barons in the lineup we actually looked more like a hockey team. Guys with size, that have varying puck skills (higher level of puck skil than JFJ, which isn’t saying much) and can skate. What stuck out was the smaller guys flying around this ice without the puck… Reddox looked effective and Cogliano looked like his usual ineffective self. Fans are begging for this team to make some decisions and it is becoming more obvious each passing game… We need to cut bait on our smaller forwards to get to a manageable level… I think that leaves Eberle and Gagner on the team… That is about it…

    Personally, I think Cogs is a terrible hockey player… Every time I watch him attempt to play hockey by skating real fast my opinion gets stronger… Seriously, I think there is a chance this guy will be out of the NHL in 3 years…. Will be an interesting summer for him.. His 1 year/1 million deal is up and I can’t see a reason why the team would resign him to a contract that is any richer… I just hope he is playing somewhere else.

  • Dominoiler

    i Dont understand the love for RNH.. Thank you Godot for reiterating the argument against RNH, without out even mentioning how slight he is.. that can change, but it will take years.. (that prob shouldnt be an issue, but in my opinion that does bring him down when compared to Larsson already being able to compete with men..)

    BPA.. the Oil still have a few more years of drafting high to fill ‘need’..

  • Dominoiler

    I don’t really get it LT. Maybe Larsson is the BPA, maybe he isn’t, but I don’t see how you get there from your article? His playoff ice time numbers are very impressive for a draft eligible player, but how does that on its own, full stop, make him the BPA when compared to others in the draft?

    • Lowetide

      speeds: I put a lot of importance on Larsson playing big minutes in the SEL. I don’t see anything the other kids can do before the draft that will place them above a kid who can play big playoff minutes for what appears to be a good club with other options.

      Now, I’m not saying one of those other kids won’t develop into a better player. In fact, I would choose Couturier (and have felt that way for awhile).

      Having said that, the BPA on draft day imo will be Larsson.

  • Lowetide

    This team needs help right now.History shows defencemen take much longer than forwards to develop and some of the best defencemen come from the 2nd round.
    Of the top 10 projected 2011 draft players 5 are forwards and four of the forwards are centers.Three of the centers have over a 100pts and Couturier has 96 with one game remaining.If you look back at the last three drafts all the players with over 100pts are impact players.
    At the world junior the canadians ran at Larsson and he seemed to wilt.Unfortunatly RNH didnt get a chance to showcase his talent at the worlds but at the prospect game he outshone all the forwards.RNH is the answer for the Oil

  • Shapeman

    It’s hard not to like Nugent Hopkins. Another dominating game last night with 2 goals. He had some trouble holding the blue line on the powerplay and caused a couple turnovers, but overall the most complete player I’ve ever watched at his age. Both of his goals were displayed his raw skill, an absolute Joe Sakic like sniper in the top corner and his patient Datsyuk like deke for his 2nd. There aren’t too many players, especially at his age, who plays such a dominating offensive game but is always defensively conscious. It’s a rare combination and that is why he is being compared to the players he is.

    I wish I could catch some games of Larsson, but geographically it hasn’t been possible.

  • Matheson didn’t really lay out his reasoning behind why he thinks the Oil need a defenseman over a Centre. I, personally, can’t think of any way the depth at C isn’t worse than the depth at D.

    The teams best prospects down the middle are Lander and Pitlick. Lander isn’t projected to top out very high and Pitlick isn’t even playing Centre, he’s a RW.

    Add to that sad depth chart the argument that you can’t build a winner without depth at Centre and I’m sold that the Oil NEED a centre well before another defenseman. Of course if Stu says Larsson is the guy then he must have good reason, but the Oil desperately need one of those Centres to prove himself as the BPA.

    The Oil could become the new Nashville and produce defenseman like they’re on a Ford assembly line, but it won’t win them games in the playoffs. No All-Star Centre, No Stanley Cup.

    • Peterborough

      Looking at the depth chart its clear we need a #1C. Looking at the players avalible we also need a #1 D. larsson could be that guy. There is not #1C in this draft. End of story. Larsson then you have 9 picks to find the depth you want in the system. We have to wait till next years draft to get the centre. (don’t worry we’ll have a lottery pick then too!)

      • Who says there’s no 1C? It’s not like Larsson is a lock as a 1D. Some have him toppin out as a 2nd pairing guy.

        This “End Story” business is BS. There’s no Crosby, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a 1C.

        Drafting defensemen with lotto picks is a gamble. “End Story.”

        • Peterborough

          Drafting a centre who likely tops out as 2C with they #1 overall pick would be foolish. This is a weak draft for top end tallent to be sure. But this kid has been drooled over for a long time he has the intangibles that tell the true tale of a real 1D’s worth. Plus we are in a position to bring him along not rush him in like Tampa did to Hedman. Someone’s gonna love this kid and maybe there is a reason why Colorado lusts after him when they just picked up a young stud on D?

          maybe he’s the real deal or are they stupid in the mountains too?

          • Hey, I’m not gonna trade in my Oiler’s Underwear for Flames gear if they pick Larsson. I just dont think it’s the safest move. Larsson could just as easily become the next Chris Philips as he could become the next Lidstrom.

            Taking defensemen with lottery picks is a crap-shoot as history tells us.

            Who is projecting these kids as 2C’s? Did the goaltending across the leagues suddenly drop in quality so much that kids who score at incredible paces are less impressive?

            There are just as many people questioning Larsson’s top end as there are questioning RNH’s ability to compete with a slight frame.

            As for Colorado, did they publish their wish list in order or are you taking an off hand comment made in a newspaper as gospel truth?

  • Shapeman

    LT – Any idea what sort of faceoff man RNH is? I can’t find WHL faceoff stats anywhere.
    Also, RNH shows as +29 for this season. Again, I can’t find team +/- for the Rebels, but doesn’t this show that even if the majority of his points come on the PP, he’s still a solid two-way contributor?

    • Lowetide

      Red Deer has scored 181 EV goals and allowed 105 at even strength. So, if we assume RNH plays 20 minutes a game (that’s probably fair based on what we read) then he’s one third of the overall center position at even strength. Fair?

      The Rebels are +76 at evens, and if RNH is playing one third of the EV minutes (all else being equal) we should expect him to be around +25.

      So he’s about where he should be, maybe a hair better. And that’s very good for a 17-year old in a tough league like the WHL.

      But there’s so much we don’t know. Toughness of opponent, quality of linemates, time on ice. Still, it’s a plus arrow imo.

  • Lowetide

    If you see Larsson as the BPA, why would you rather have Couturier?

    Or do you mean that you think Larsson is the best player RIGHT NOW, while Couturier is a better bet to be better in the future?

    Or, is it just a case of preferring the C to the D if they are pretty close in your mind?

    • Lowetide

      Right. Larsson is a better player RIGHT NOW. I can’t ask math to project the future, but knowing that Larsson is a guy who (by math) is playing big minutes in the playoffs has enormous value even if he doesn’t take one step forward from here.

      I think Larsson is the safest pick, and since MBS values safety (or at least that’s my conclusion) then Larsson and his 20 minutes a night in the SEL playoffs is a pretty nice bet.

      But we don’t know what any of these kids will be moving forward, and that’s the job of the scouts. Godspeed to all of them. 🙂

  • Lowetide

    That said, I’ll certainly grant that I would love for the Oilers to have Erixon as a prospect, so if Larsson is playing more minutes while being 2 years younger than CAL’s highest ranked prospect*, that’s certainly a great sign for Larsson.

    * Apparently, Erixon is ranked 15th in THN’s Future Watch. For a comparison, that is ahead of all EDM D prospects – Petry is ranked 36th.

  • Lowetide

    LT:

    I was just looking at Couturier’s stats, and I knew he had a big lead in +/- on his team, but it’s crazy how far ahead of his teammates he is.

    F Couturier +54

    F Palat +36

    D Randazzo +20

    D Mathieu +20

    F Brunelle +17

    D Blanchard +14

    Those are the only players on his team with a +/- greater than +10.

  • Lowetide

    speeds: I just don’t understand the negatives on Couturier. Seriously. He’s EXACTLY what we’ve been sitting here talking about since about 2001 or so, and frankly I think it’s a case of “seen him too many times.”

    I like Couturier. A ton.

  • The Farmer

    Just looking at the last few drafts, if they had a do over, do you think Erik Johnson goes as high, or Victor Hedman, the list goes on, I am not saying these players wont develop into superstars, but there is less of a chance. Erik Johnson has already been traded this early in his career. Why not let other organizations grow these elite D and then we can trade for them from our wealth of elite offensive talent when we know just how good the D is going to be.

  • Mentioned this in yesterday’s item, but I’ll post it again in case anyone missed it.

    Kyle Woodlief’s Red Line Report has their current top-10 list for this years NHL draft. Interesting to note: they seem to have the top end as the big 3 (Landeskog, Nugent-Hopkins & Larsson), while Couturier’s stock has fallen down to #8 (and the 2nd best prospect out of the Q).

    1 Gabriel Landeskog RW 6-1, 201 Left 11/23/1992 Kitchener

    2 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins C 6-0, 163 Left 4/12/1993 Red Deer

    3 Adam Larsson D 6-3, 220 Right 11/12/1992 Skelleftea

    4 Dougie Hamilton D 6-4, 193 Right 6/17/1993 Niagara

    5 Jonathan Huberdeau LW 6-1, 165 Left 6/4/1993 Saint John

    6 Ryan Murphy D 5-11, 176 Right 3/31/1993 Kitchener

    7 Ryan Strome C 6-0, 183 Right 7/11/1993 Niagara

    8 Sean Couturier C 6-4, 193 Left 12/7/1992 Drummondville

    9 Alex Khokhlachev C 5-10, 172 Left 5/9/1993 Windsor

    10 Brandon Saad LW 6-2, 200 Left 10/27/1992 Saginaw

    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/hockey/columnist/woodlief/2011-03-19-red-line-report_N.htm

  • Ducey

    Listrom

    19GP 0 2 2 SEL (draft yr)

    39GP 8 8 16 SEL

    38 4 19 23 SEL

    80 11 49 60 NHL

    Hedman

    39 2 2 4 SEL

    43 7 14 21 SEL(draft yr)

    74 4 16 20 NHL

    Rundblad

    45 0 10 10 SEL

    47 1 12 13 SEL (draft yr)

    55 11 39 50 SEL

    Larssen

    49 4 13 17 SEL

    37 1 8 9 SEL (draft yr)

    Anyone expecting big numbers from an 18 yr old defenseman in the SEL isn’t being realistic.

    Larssen’s season last yr (1 yr from the draft) put him on par with some of the best Swedish Dmen in history (when they were a yr older).

    The call on Larssen is going to come down to scouting, size, mobility, toughness, etc. not looking at stats. This is especially the case since he has been injured and got limited PP minutes (where most DMen get their points).

    If the scouts are saying he is as good as Lidstrom and Hedman, you have to take him.

  • K-UGER Industrial Smoothing

    Has anybody considered that RNH may just be a more glorified Gagner? His team is pretty damn good and he has a hell of a goalie… and I mean a HELL of a Goalie.

    Obviously the kid has some talent, but assuming the Oilers want to play their first pick next season- should they draft based on who has the LEAST amount of downside instead of on need/future potential? (in other words- who is most pro ready)Would that even change who they picked?

    Would that make the pick Landeskog, Couterier, Larsson or RNH?

  • My 2 cents:

    Drafting a d-man seems pointless unless we are getting someone who can make an immediate impact, such as Doughty. There is no guarantee that Larrson can come in and make an immediate impact. If he can’t make an immediate impact, history of top 5 defense picks shows he will be 5 years from being an impact player.

    We have a plethora of young forward talent that will be ready in the next 3 years but if defenseman won’t be 5 years then what is the point? Chicago had Keith and Seabrook before Kane and Toews and had that been reversed Chicago would not won the cup last year.

    Because the Oilers started with forwards it is now pointless to draft Larsson unless you are going to flip him for a NHL-ready d-man. Otherwise, load up on forwards and package a couple out for a NHL-ready d-man.

    If we plan to develop Larsson, Hall Eberle and Paajarvi will be UFAs by the time Adam is a Keith or Seabrook.

    • Lowetide

      //We have a plethora of young forward talent that will be ready in the next 3 years but if defenseman won’t be 5 years then what is the point?//

      Au contraire. Larsson will be ready to be an impact player just in time as one of Whitney (2 years) and Gilbert (3 years) will likely have to be let go for cap reasons.

      A proper rebuild means rebuilding for permanent competitiveness, NOT rebuilding for a window or for a single shot at the Cup.