Superficially, the Oilers top six appears to be all but written in stone. Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov are all cornerstone pieces. David Perron and Sam Gagner are both established top-six forwards at the NHL level at an extremely young age that still have 10-15 years of high-level hockey ahead of them.
But as I think about it, I can’t help wondering if there isn’t a chance for Jesse Joensuu somewhere, either in that top-six group or in the top-nine.
Doug Weight was on Oilers Now on Friday. Everybody remembers Weight’s time with Edmonton; these days he’s in management with the New York Islanders and so has some inside knowledge on Joensuu. When asked about the player by Bob Stauffer, here’s what he had to say:
Three years ago he was here, and he wasn’t in shape and he was still young. This year he came back and he is fit now, he’s living the right way, he’s very focused. It was unfortunate for him the minute he got here in camp, he had a nagging problem throughout the summer, you know those hernias that everybody gets, and he had to take care of it. With a shortened season he was never able to get off the ground here. Very big kid, he will take the puck to the net; he’s going to compete. He came in and played a game in the playoffs for us and really competed, he played physical and he’s a big Finnish kid that’s going to score some goals around the net. You mix him with, I mean obviously the list of your talent up front is ridiculous with RNH and Eberle and Hall and Sam [Gagner] and now David Perron; you guys got so many guys, it’s crazy. He’ll be able to fit in there and be able to contribute.
A year ago, many who followed the Oilers felt that Teemu Hartikainen had a chance to break into a top-six role in Edmonton coming out of the lockout because he had size, some scoring, and a power game – in other words, he was a good fit skillset-wise for the talent Edmonton had. He didn’t pan out, and with the addition of David Perron and a year of growth for Nail Yakupov it’s harder to land a top-six job in Edmonton now than it was then. However, Joensuu appeals for the same reasons: he has the right complementary skillset for the forward group Edmonton currently employs.
Rob Vollman has overhauled NHL Translations – the number that tells us how many points to expect in the majors from a player who spent last year in the AHL or Finland or Sweden or wherever – in his new book, looking at how the most recent wave of players has performed in the NHL. I have used his numbers for the AHL (for players under the age of 23, as age matters) and gone for a 50/50 split between his historical numbers in other leagues and his current numbers (the current numbers do a better job of showing what’s happening right now, but suffer from a smaller number of evaluated players).
Here’s what Jesse Joensuu’s scoring numbers translate to over an 82-game NHL season, using my adaptation of Vollman’s numbers.
What It Means
Joensuu’s scoring in other leagues suggests that he can contribute more than he did in his lone extended NHL audition. It may be that he’s simply less effective than most players in the NHL, or it may be that he simply had a bad run in that one year. Regardless, it does seem unlikely that Joensuu can provide enough offensive punch to ride shotgun for a skill line.
Where he might have an opportunity is on the third line, which right now seems likely to be Boyd Gordon at centre, Ales Hemsky at right wing, and ??? at left wing. Lowetide wrote about this yesterday and favours Ryan Smyth for the role, while Ryan Jones seems to be the consensus choice. Joensuu is the third logical candidate on the roster for the job – his totals put him in the range offensively with the other two, he’s bigger and younger and the new management liked him enough to give him a two-season deal.
Right now it looks like that third line job is going to be one of the most competitive in training camp; the battle could be even more pivotal if Dallas Eakins does something unexpected to try and get a little more size into the top six.
Recently around the Nation Network
At Leafs Nation, Jeff Veillette looks at the possibility of Toronto trading Cody Franson. He isn’t thrilled by the idea:
This was never a good idea. The circumstances that lead up to this were very short sighted. The response from those excited on July 5th was "well, if there is a cap issue, we won’t have to worry about it for YEARS!". It’s been three weeks. The Leafs are going to be stuck giving away one of the league’s better offensive defenceman, at a still growth-friendly age, for peanuts. Amazing.
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