Bullets and Bad Guys

There has been much worry of late over NHL teams taking liberties with the Oilers best forwards. Ales Hemsky, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner have all suffered from cheap shots, late hits, borderline head shots and general poor conduct on the part of the opposition.

Oilers management rolls out Steve MacIntyre in these cases, and of course the other side throws their pawn in this game over the boards too. The fact is that the Edmonton Oilers don’t have much physical presence when the skilled men are on the ice. The Oilers need a Lucic or Kassian, but finding him is the problem. 

The Edmonton Oilers need a grumbly forward in the worst way. I don’t mean another Steve MacIntyre and I don’t mean another Ethan Moreau (who spent his final 82 games in Edmonton taking atrocious penalties and playing "opposite George" with the media). I mean a guy who can go out and play 15 minutes on a line with Hall, Hemsky, Gagner, Eberle and the other skilled men of the Oilers. Milan Lucic. Zack Kassian.

Currently, the Oilers have two forwards strong enough and mean enough to intimidate. Men who can grab a PIM sneezing but they can’t put the puck in the ocean. Here they are:

  • Zack Stortini 52PIMS, 0 goals
  • Steve MacIntyre 38PIMS, 0 goals

That’s pretty much it. Dustin Penner is big and skilled but rarely impacts the game in a "John Ferguson" fashion. Gilbert Brule is a spunky player, but lacks the size to be able to intimidate or settle scores. No sir. The Edmonton Oilers don’t have an enforcer type who can play with the offensive forwards (as John Ferguson played alongside Jean Beliveau or as Lucic does for the Boston skill line).

If we take the PIM/goals template and lay it over the Oilers prospect list, does anyone emerge as impressive in both categories? Depends on your definition of the word "impressive."

  1. Taylor Hall 56PIMS/40 goals (final year of junior)
  2. Teemu Hartikainen 23PIMS/11 goals (in half an AHL season)
  3. Tyler Pitlick 25PIMS/16 goals (in half WHL season)
  4. Curtis Hamilton 6PIMS/15 goals (in half WHL season)

Hall looks like the most likely guy to emerge as his own enforcer. I think we can see that now, the kid is getting frustrated by the chops and hacks, and sooner or later he’s going to do something about it. As predictable as the weather. Hartikainen is an interesting sort in that he does have size, but the physical game (the type we’re talking about here) is likely beyond what he’ll be able to deliver.

Same goes for Pitlick and Hamilton; I should mention Hamilton’s PIM totals are down this season, possibly because of previous injuries derailing his career. It’s a consideration moving forward, although he’s been very capable physically in all of the games I’ve seen him play.

So despite the wonderful drafting of Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor the Oilers don’t have a talent with both skill and size married to a mean streak. Unless Cameron Abney takes one giant step forward, the need for a physical forward who is a mean, mean man will be near the top of the draft shopping list this summer (along with a long tall C and a complete D).

There are none I can see at the top of the draft. What about another physical player ala Taylor Hall? Someone who may eventually be able to create his own room (like the Sedins).

Enter the Angel Gabriel.

As quickly as Sean Couturier, Adam Larsson and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have failed to separate from the crowd, the crowd has started to arrive on their doorstep. Among these young men is a Swedish winger who plays in the OHL. Gabriel Landeskog. Here is his scoring line in the OHL along with his Desjardins’ NHL equivalency.

  • Actual: 32gp, 25-20-45
  • Desjardins NHLE: 82gp, 19-16-35

The NHLE explanation is here. It works like mad. Example: Taylor Hall was projected to score 17-29-46 by the NHLE, and currently he’s onl track to score 24-22-46 this season with the Oilers. Gabriel (Desjardins) does this all the time. I have proof here and here. Landeskog’s NHLE is about what Jeff Skinner’s looked like at the end of last season.

Here’s a scouting report on this player from Kyle Woodlief of Redline Report. It was first published here at one of the best sites on the internet. Kirk Luedeke has been writing about hockey and prospects for a long time, and those with excellent memories may recall his name as one of John Short’s contacts when his show ruled the Edmonton airwaves.

Anyway, if you follow the draft bookmark that page. It’s outstanding.

Woodlief: I just love everything that I’m seeing out of Landeskog in Kitchener this year. He’s a big kid who really likes to bang and get physical. I mean, he’s one of the more physical Swedes you’ll ever see. He plays a North American style. And, he’s got the mix of size and skill that goes along with that physical toughness and aggression. He’s a guy who, from the circles in buries his chances.

He’s got a really good scoring touch and he’s very unselfish with the puck. He’s a good playmaker; I think he’s an underrated playmaker, and there’s not very many weak areas of his game. He’s a solid two-way player, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s physical, he drives the net hard. He scores key goals. I don’t think he’s got quite as high a skill level as– I’ve already said I don’t see a Steve Stamkos or Matt Duchene in this crop– I don’t see him having quite the puck skills they have and the vision and creativity they have, but everything else is there. He’s a guy who can probably play in the NHL next year.

Landeskog isn’t going to be the modern John Ferguson, but he might be another Taylor Hall in that he can handle himself in the rough areas. More and more, it looks like the Oilers skilled players are going it alone. There just aren’t that many Milan Lucic’s and Zack Kassian’s in the draft pool these days, and we’ve seen what happens when the organization forces a J-F Jacques to the top line.

  • forestscooter

    SumOil…

    The premise of the entire article was finding skilled players with a physical element in this year’s draft. Saad is the other top 10 prospect that fits the bill.

    As for your ranking… how long have you been watching hockey again? And since your ranking is based on reading… Do I trust a guy who misses an article’s point?

    • SumOil

      I understand the article is about drafting players with size and a physical component to their game, but such a guy has to be drafted with our draft pick which is more tha likely to be a lottery pick. I may not have watched as much hockey as you, but I know enough that Saad is not a lottery pick. So unless we either acquire another draft pick or there are talks about trading down, then drafting Saad is a moot point. Or your thinking is that we should draft Saad anyways if Landeskog is gone?
      As far as my rankings go, that is my opinion. Whether you wish to take it or not is your prerogative. As far as other established institutions go, none of them have Saad in their top 5 rankings either and there is a lot of chatter about Strome having a much more impressive season than Saad and probably has surpassed Saad in the eyes of the scouts.
      I never said Bruce is infallible, all i said was there is no need to make fun of him.
      As far as depth on the RW goes- Hemsky, Eberle, Brule, Penner plays both wings, MPS plays either wing. Ok we dont have many others down the line, But Pitlick has essentially payed RW 2 seasons in a row now. Many centers who are drafted are converted into wingers too. That said, we still dont have a Winger of the ilk of Landeskog and if both of the top 2 are gone, Landeskog is the best bet

  • Shaun Doe

    An eye opener the Islander game was . We are likely to be in same position as them 3 years from now . Still a bottom place club with an a weak core to surround all our draft picks ! We look destined to suffer same fate of Islanders , rather than Pitts. or Chicago , etc.. Watching us struggle to outplay a weak Isles base was like watching what we will see from Oilers in 3 years with their inability to form a respectable core base in that time . Even with Musil or Larson from draft this season don’t forsee much of a defence for a long time .

    We are following the Islander template until Oilers figure a way to address their size, poor defence and core levels to meet the rigors of the big clubs . I just don’t see that happening with present management . Realistically , we will still be the Western Islanders 3 years from now despite the draft ! Oilers look to be doomed to replicate same fate as Islanders , as the rebuild will fail because of inadequacies of a suitable core base . Sorry, but that looks like what we are going to look like 3 years from now – the present Islander club .

  • SumOil

    Burgundy…

    Trading this year’s pick, and also trading down to increase the picks or add a player have both been seriously discussed in the sphere.

    LT doesn’t like it when we do though.

    If MBS wants the early 1st round bullet then I think we give him his shot. But I don’t doubt for a moment that all options will be considered.

    Myself, I would do just about anything to get Weber here and under contract. See what it would take to acquire Schenn or Johansen.

    But I also would be open to the idea of acquiring extra picks too. While the top end of this draft isn’t amazing there is reportedly solid depth down to 50.

  • Jerk Store

    RB
    If you are going Dirty Dozen go all the way and take Jim Brown – best athlete ever. Or Telly Savalas’ character. Now that is a guy I would NOT mess with.

  • trryabel

    This interesting topic on the Oilers’ requirement for toughness centres on Ducey’s point that: “…this is not just a draft question. Its a roster construction issue.”

    One of the Oilers’ problems during their present span of losing seasons has been an extreme lack of balance on the player roster. Too many one dimensional players and undersized players, deficient at centre position and in the face-off-circle, deficient at stay-at-home defencemen. Not enough genuine NHL role players. The goaltender position is probably the exception to this deadly out-of-balance situation.

    On reconstructing the Oilers to become a legitimate contender, obviously the draft is key; however, competent GMs don’t rely only on the draft. The Oilers have acquired many good assets both with the big club and in OKC that have trade value. The other piece of the puzzle is FAs. Yes, I know that Edmonton has the reputation of not being able to attract free agents, but it is not impossible.

    Is there a plan to bring about balance that results in eventually creating a legitimate contender? A club that resembles the quality of the Canucks and Red Wings? We haven’t seen it yet. Instead we witness Dithering Tambellini.

  • Yeah we need a lot of tougher meaner players both at forward and defense. Another winger, a Swedish winger, is wrong thinking. Especially picking in the top 5 when you need, I say NEED, 2 centers to play in your top 6. Mark McNeill is the right way to think, size, skating, skills, tooughness, plays center, and is a righty. We need another pick to get him though, he won’t rise to 1-5.

    The biggest thing is getting players who push back, we have a lot that don’t push back. We traded a lot of these players like Stoll, Smyth, and Greene. Players who play hard. A player that can fight is a commodity, but not always revealed through PIM stats.

    Skillful scouting in both the amateur and professional ranks will be required to right the ship. And likely the balls to make a hard move to get them.

  • At the risk of sounding painfully obvious I think we should take the best player available, trade/sign for our needy areas and dare I say……. make a push for a playoff spot next year??

  • ItsTheBGB

    LT, you’re forgetting Brandon Saad.

    And it should be mentioned RLR has Landeskog @ #2 overall in his December report, and mentioned two NHL GMs have him as #1.

    And Bruce must’ve been staring thru his scope too long that day as we are not overly stocked on RW, which is as thin as C and D for top end talent, maybe worse.

    And I agree that we have too many smurfs still, although Ducey’s Stalinist purge is a little too overboard. And yes Dmen should be helping out here. I’m looking at you Strudwick.

  • O.C.

    @ Ducey

    Ducey, we can’t simply be punting people because of size – unless you are following the Calgary model…and Gagner? Seriously? He is 21! Remember, the Sedin Sisters were drafted 11 years ago. They came into their own after 5 years, and really developed after 7.

  • trryabel

    Interesting read about a need for the team and a proposed player to draft. Landeskog
    looks and sounds like a great player but again he is a winger. At least he plays on the right side. I am a strong believer in drafting centermen this year. Landeskog
    is going to go in the top five so he would be our number one pick not a chance would I pick another winger in the top five again.

    Draft a centerman and sign or trade for Carcillo

  • SumOil

    The best thing about Landeskog is that he has been scoring a lot on EV. He is the only top prospect with more than P/G at Ev. That some really good performance. Coupled with his physical play I think he is someone to be scouted hard.If we end up picking 3rd overall, I am rooting for Landeskog.
    I know in your other thread over at your blogsite, Bruce mentioned that the Winger cupbord is full. However I disagree. We need players like Landeskog more than ever now. He is bullish, strong and has enough offense in his game to be a lottery pick. Whoever ends up drafting GL is going to get a helluva player

  • Jerk Store

    Lowetide, in some ways the true first line forward who also is a policeman is almost a generational player. Howe may have been the best. Clark Gilles was effective, Cam Neely fits the bill. One of the best but least known would have been an Al Secord who was fantastic stats wise. Probert (RIP) was effective, very effective, when he was right. Messier did not fight a ton but was mean enough. In more recent memory a Lindros (sans glass jaw) was even more anomalous as he was a center. He did not fight a lot but was very capable. Iginla is, or was, worth mentioning though size wise he is not imposing. That is what is so tantalizing about Penner. Has all the skill and size to be the guy, and has shown brief flashes of the requsite “uglies” – but just does not seem to have the will or personality to consistently scare the crap out the other team. That is why Lucic is so valuable. He occasionally snaps.
    What I am saying is these guys are RARE. I also love Landeskog (swedish skill / Canadian heart) but he is a winger. We need a lot of things but 1st line center and stud D man are both ahead of a potentially great winger. With all due respect, I still take Couturier if I can.

  • Travis Dakin

    Perhaps, if this draft is not projected to be as strong as years past, it might be a good idea to think about trading that ultra valuable 1st rounder for an established need. I know that’s crazy talk but it may be something to look at.

    • The 'Real' Ron Burgundy

      I dont’t think you’re crazy. What’s crazy is that more poeple arent discussing this as a real potential option this year. One can only stock up on picks and prospects for so long, before players with NHL proven stats are needed to fulfil goals and dreams of playoffs.

      There is no real “game changer” in this years draft, I’d even argue that there are few that will even be able to crack NHL lineups. So, we’re destined to have roughly the same lineup next year, maybe sub in a few more rookies, leaving us with another year of ELPH.

      If ST doesnt make wholesale changes in the coming months, and nothing he’s done so far has shown me he can or will, this “rebuild” will be one continuous circle.

  • GSC

    We disagree more often than not, Lowetide, but this is something we agree on 110%.

    I’m still holding out hope that Drew Czerwonka can be that type of player, but I also agree that the Oiler scouts need to find a mean, nasty forward in this year’s draft.

    A Matt Cooke/Jarkko Ruutu/Alex Burrows type, as much as they’re hated by the 29 teams that they don’t play for, would be ideal.

    I’d also like to see the Oil make a play for Mark McNeill from Prince Albert. Has some size, can win draws, puts up points, and plays a good physical game. Jarret Stoll, anyone?

  • Ducey

    LT, I think that this is not just a draft question. Its a roster construction issue.

    Even with a Kassian in the lineup, guys still need to be able to take the man, drive through checks, go to the net, and handle the rough going. They need to be able to initiate the rough stuff, not just survive it.

    In the top 9, Hall, Penner, MPS and Horcoff can (or potentially will be able to) handle the rough going.

    Gagner, Eberle, Cogs, Omark, Brule, Hemsky are never going to be able to initiate anything. Too many of these guys means the Oilers are too easy to play against.

    The problem is exacerbated on D where they have three NCAA Dmen (Whitney, Gilbert and Petry) who tend to be softer, and a willing but hardly intimidating Smid, leaving only Peckham with much jam going forward. Only Plante looks to be able to help next year.

    There is no doubt management is aware of this given the size of the 2010 draft class. I expect the same in 2011. However, there is going to have to be some trades involving some of the Smurphs heading out of town and some grit and size coming back.

    I’d keep Eberle and get rid of Gagner, Omark, Hemsky, Brule and Cogs.

    • Lowetide

      Brule initates plenty, actually. I’d also contend that Hemsky isn’t shy about physical contact and that Eberle will be fine. And Omark looks like he’ll be able to win battles, Gagner can win them too.

      I’m all for adding a physical skill player, but man the idea of flushing all those on your trash list is a little to strong for me. 🙂

      • Lowetide

        LT, good article your right we do need a physical presence but I think Ducey has a point except for Hemsky. We need more than just one physical presence. Unless we have another off season of significant changes we will be talking about another top five pick in the 2012 draft as well.weAr are to soft on D and not big enough upfront. 4 forwards and 2 Dman need to be replaced with bigger, gritty, harder to play against players.

        As long as Gagner, Cogs, and Frasor are #2/3/4 centerman and Gilbert/Whitney are #1/2 Dmen they will never make the playoffs. For every Briere you need a Coburn, Carter, and a Hartnell. For every St. Louis you need a Malone, Ohlund, and a Lacavalier. You can’t have a Gagner, Cogs, Omark, Eberle with a Storts, a Whitney, and a Penner or you get what we’ve been seeing all season (especially last night) which is talks of a top five pick a month and half before the trade deadline.

        I keep hearing comments about how we need to give Gagner time he’s only 21. One person on this thread even made a comparison to the Sedins saying it took them 5-7yrs to develop which is true but the Sedins didn’t suddenly grow 4 inches and gain 30lbs in thier 5th year. Gagner will always be a small skilled forward no matter how long we wait for him to develop. If we keep Gagner and Cogs then Omark, Eberle, Brule, and Frasor need to be replaced with bigger players. If we keep Eberle and Omark then Gagner, Brule, Frasor, and Cogs need to go. We only have room for 2 small skilled forwards on our team not 6 with 3 of them playing center. Same on defence we need to have 4 rough tough in your face hard to play against players and 2 skilled guys not the other way around which is the case right now.

        Point is if we don’t make significant changes in the next season or two we are in jepordy of ending up like the Islanders, 13 of the last 20yrs with a top five pick and still in the basement.

  • Travis Dakin

    What was JF Jacques NHLE? Wasn’t he projected to be a Lucic type? He was scoring like mad when he was in the AHL for a while. It’s too bad injuries derailed him. I swear he used to be able to play.

    • Lowetide

      JFJ’s NHLE’s were 17 points at age 18 and about 24 at age 20 in the AHL. So he was never projected to be a big offensive player, but certainly delivered less than expected.

  • Rob...

    I wonder if Fedor Emelianenko can play hockey?

    So in the upcoming draft, would you suggest the Oilers target those gritty forwards, or instead draft the highest quality player and look to use those assets to acquire the gritty forwards plus more draft picks through trade?