Oilers Cut 12; Of The Leftovers, Who Has The Best Chance of Sticking?

The Edmonton Oilers continued to separate the wheat from the chaff this morning, shipping 12 players off, most of them to Oklahoma City. None of the players sent out are particularly surprising – Chris VandeVelde might have been expected to stick a little longer, and Kirill Tulupov appears destined for an AHL contract, but on the whole the more interesting exercise is looking at the guys who remain rather than the guys who just got sent away.

The first thing to do is look at the players that are a lock to make the team out of training camp, to get an idea of the number of roster spots left over for the hopefuls. My list of locks goes something like this:

  • Forwards (11): Belanger, Eager, Eberle, Gagner, Hall, Hemsky, Horcoff, Hordichuk, Jones, Paajarvi, Smyth
  • Defense (6): Barker, Gilbert, Peckham, Smid, Sutton, Whitney
  • Goal (2): Dubnyk, Khabibulin

If we accept that the Oilers will want a strong starter for Oklahoma City, that means we can assume that the demotion of Yann Danis, the only goaltender still in camp not mentioned above, is a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.’ That leaves four spots for the forwards and defensemen, with a maximum of two spots going each way and the more likely outcome being three slots for the forwards and one spot for the blueliners. Naturally, injuries are going to matter here – if Eager or Gagner or Whitney isn’t ready to go for the season’s opening night, there will be a bit more wiggle room for the bubble players.

Assuming good health – in other words, just four available spots – which players will get them? Let’s consider the strengths and weaknesses of the players still on the bubble.

Forwards

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Pros:

  • First overall selections pretty much always end up playing in the NHL in their first eligible seasons.
  • The team has the option of sending him down after nine games if they think he needs it, but no option to recall him if he looks like he deserves it.
  • As with Hall and Paajarvi last year, the Oilers undoubtedly want to get a good look at a major piece of the future in the NHL as soon as possible

Cons:

  • Can be sent down without clearing waivers.
  • Risk of injury is higher in the NHL.
  • Development may be best served in the minors

Projection: At least nine games of NHL duty (high probability).

Linus Omark

Pros:

  • Played well last season after being recalled late in the season
  • Offensive skill means that talent-wise, there’s no doubt this guy should be on the team
  • There is at least some possibility that the Oilers lose Omark if he’s demoted after feeling that he’s earned a spot.

Cons:

  • Can be sent down without clearing waivers.
  • Isn’t seen as a player who fits naturally into a bottom-six role

Projection: NHL regular (high probability).

Lennart Petrell

Pros:

  • Superb penalty-killer – something the team lacks and desperately needs
  • Plays a well-rounded game, and put up decent offensive numbers in Europe
  • Age and experience means his development won’t be harmed by press-box duty.

Cons:

  • Can be sent down without clearing waivers.
  • Not a ‘name’ player – lacks pedigree and history with the organization

Projection: 40/60 shot at the last NHL job.

Gilbert Brule

Pros:

  • On a one-way, high-money contract
  • Can play either center or wing
  • Has significant NHL experience
  • Style of play means he’s perceived as a natural fit in the bottom-six

Cons:

  • Has played poorly in training camp
  • Coming off a bad season

Projection: 30/70 shot at the last NHL job.

Teemu Hartikainen

Pros:

  • Filled in well at the end of 2010-11
  • Impressive preseason showing
  • Has played on both wings in training camp
  • Style of play means he’s perceived as a natural fit in the bottom-six

Cons:

  • Can be sent down without clearing waivers
  • Age means that extended press-box duty is a real negative

Projection: 20/80 shot at the last NHL job.

Anton Lander

Pros:

  • Impressive preseason showing
  • Generally regarded as a future elite checker, which fits with a bottom-six role

Cons:

  • Can be sent down without clearing waivers
  • Age means that extended press-box duty is a real negative
  • Has yet to play regular-season hockeyin North America

Projection: 5/95 shot at the last NHL job.

Antti Tyrvainen

Pros:

  • Adds an irritation factor otherwise lacking on the team
  • Impressive preseason showing
  • Style of play means he’s perceived as a natural fit in the bottom-six

Cons:

  • Can be sent down without clearing waivers
  • Lacks the same level of talent as other options

Projection: 5/95 shot at the last NHL job.

Josh Green

Pros:

  • Age and experience means his development won’t be harmed by press-box duty.
  • Has significant NHL experience

Cons:

  • Lacks the same level of talent as other options
  • Carries the ‘minor league journeyman’ label and has failed in previous NHL attempts

Projection: Minor leaguer (high probability).

Ryan Keller

Pros:

  • Age and experience means his development won’t be harmed by press-box duty.

Cons:

  • Carries the ‘minor league journeyman’ label
  • Lacks the same level of talent as other options

Projection: Minor leaguer (high probability).

Defense

Jeff Petry

Pros:

  • Played well last season after being recalled late in the season
  • Has the potential to play a top-four role on the Oilers this season

Cons:

  • Can be sent down without clearing waivers
  • Has played unevenly in training camp

Projection: 40/60 shot at the last NHL job.

Corey Potter

Pros:

  • Plays a well-rounded game
  • Age and experience means his development won’t be harmed by press-box duty
  • Versatility makes him a natural fit for the role of seventh defenseman

Cons:

  • Lacks the upside of a player like Petry or Chorney
  • Not a ‘name’ player – lacks pedigree and history with the organization

Projection: 40/60 shot at the last NHL job.

Taylor Chorney

Pros:

  • Must clear waivers to be demoted
  • Filled in well at the end of 2010-11
  • Made major developmental strides last season

Cons:

  • Not a physical player
  • Lacks the versatility of Potter or high-end upside of Petry

Projection: 20/80 shot at the last NHL job.

Taylor Fedun

Pros:

  • Impressive preseason showing
  • Older than most rookie professionals

Cons:

  • Can be sent down without clearing waivers
  • Lacks professional experience
  • Not a ‘name’ player – lacks pedigree and history with the organization
  • Age and experience mean that extended press-box duty is a real negative

Projection: Minor leaguer (high probability).

Colten Teubert

Pros:

  • Adds a physical element other candidates don’t bring
  • ‘Name’ player due to draft pedigree/trade value

Cons:

  • Can be sent down without clearing waivers
  • Injured for much of the preseason
  • Age and experience mean that extended press-box duty is a real negative

Projection: Minor leaguer (high probability).

Are these rankings sensible? Chime in below with your choices for the Oilers’ final spots.  For another look at today’s cuts, check out David Staples’ take at Cult of Hockey.

  • paul wodehouse

    Brule destroying Letang?

    All I saw last night, was Brule destroying my confidence in his decision making. I mean, it’s great that he backchecks but next time make sure the guy still has the damn puck!

    Puts headphones on and blasts U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday

  • If the Oil is sincere in having the best players on the team, demote Brule (who is a legitimate nice guy but has been lacklustre in preseason), and Khabi (who is hugely inconsistent from night to night) and keep two out of Petrell/Hartekainen/Omark and Danis.

  • Beavis

    The Hemsky thing is rather tricky. When he’s healthy, he is still the best player on the team, but what are the odds that he even gets 60 games in? He’s one of those guys like Gaborik and Havlat that dazzles when he’s there, but is usually one good check away from another injury. I’d really hate to see him traded (and if he was a goal scorer like Gaborik he’d bring a lot more in a trade) but is 45-60 games a season enough?

  • Little Buttcheeks

    If last season’s training camp taught us anything, it is that contract situations and protecting assets will be considered before pre-seasons performances are. Injuries are complicating things a bit but with everybody healthy, I think we will look something like:
    Hall – Gagner – Hemsky
    Smyth – RNH – Eberle
    Paajarvi – Horcoff – Omark
    Eager – Belanger – Jones
    Brule, Hordichuk

    Whitney – Barker
    Smid – Gilbert
    Peckham – Sutton
    Chorney

    However, I get the feeling that Gagner will miss some regular season time with his ankle injury. My guess is that Whitney will miss a few games and Eager will be ready for the season opener but you never know with concussions.

    I would have put Petry in the lineup if he was having a better pre-season. He looks like he could use a bit more seasoning in the AHL.