MODERN DRAPER

pitlick lander ferguson

NHL teams are always a little worried at this time of year, as they are forced to make decisions on prospects who are now waiver eligible. There are players who come available at this time of year who have value, and miles of track left on their careers. For the Oilers, two players may be vulnerable this season and the next few days will offer some challenges for management.

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MUCH OF THE ROSTER IS SET

Although Dallas Eakins is keeping many prospects around for a final glance, we can safely list 11 players as making the opening night roster:

  1. Taylor Hall
  2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  3. Jordan Eberle
  4. David Perron (if healthy)
  5. Leon Draisaitl
  6. Benoit Pouliot
  7. Nail Yakupov
  8. Boyd Gordon
  9. Teddy Purcell
  10. Matt Hendricks
  11. Mark Arcobello

Fair? I imagine those who don’t agree have some difficulty with Arcobello, but for the sake of our conversation let’s include him in. That leaves the following players trying for the final three spots (and Gazdic who is injured):

  1. Jesse Joensuu—26 years old, signed by MacT and has over 100 NHL games experience. 
  2. Anton Lander—23 years old, attached to org only by scouting department, did not blow away competition during 27 games under Dallas Eakins a season ago. 
  3. Tyler Pitlick—22 years old, caught the eye of the coach a year ago, called up and played well until injury. Solid training camp, waiver eligible for the first time. 
  4. Steve Pinizzotto—Acquired by the GM last year for a failed draft pick, he might be the most impressive of the group during training camp. Waiver eligible, but perhaps the least likely to be claimed among the top group.
  5. Kevin Westgarth—Fits  a very specific need. Oilers will either run with an enforcer—Westgarth—or wait for Gazdic. There is no other competition for the job.
  6. Will Acton—Overlooked by many, he fills a lot of needs, including center, penalty killer and physical player. Coach is familiar with him, and he is waiver eligible. 
  7. Bogdan Yakimov—Impressive camp has him legitimately in the mix and that’s a big news item. On the downside, they can safely send him out without a waiver worry, and 20 or 30 AHL games is the right move with this player.
  8. Jujhar Khaira—He’s here on merit and like Yakimov is in the mix. I feel the same way about Khaira, this is a guy who won’t be hurt by a short minor league audition. Miles better than we thought he’d be at this point in development. 

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    EASIEST CUTS

    I think you can make a really compelling argument for sending Yakimov and Khaira down this weekend. They look ready, but TC is a small sample size and you want at least 100 at-bats (about 20 games) to see how they run at NA pro.

    Westgarth is also an easy choice, despite an effective fight last night, and I think Acton is sent away with the knowledge he could easily be back soon.

    That’s four cuts.

    THE FINAL FOUR

    So it comes down to keeping three of Pitlick, Pinizzotto, Lander and Joensuu. Here’s how I see it:

    1. The only C in the group is Lander and he’s also a penalty killer and can play wing on a shutdown line with Gordon and Hendricks. The one thing he can’t do—score—isn’t vital if he’s getting own-zone starts and penalty killing. Despite the lack of offense, he can help.
    2. Pitlick is 22 and still a prospect of note. I’m not suggesting he’s Kris Draper (famously sent away for one dollar) but the Oilers could be waiving a useful role player. They asked the scouting department for effective two-way players, what if this guy is one? I think he stays.
    3. Joensuu was signed by Craig MacTavish and looked good in the fall of last year (and game one) before injury. Have the reasons they signed him changed? Is he still able to score a little and play (as coach Eakins called it) a big man’s game? Yes. 

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      THE ODD MAN OUT

      Which leaves us with Steve Pinizzotto to be the final cut. It is TERRIBLY unfair to this player, as he’s done everything asked, but sports is rarely fair. He’s the most likely to clear waivers and the least likely to earn another contract.

      I don’t like it—I would flush Joensuu and make him earn his way back to the NHL—but Oilers management probably plays the odds and sends Pinizzotto down.

      We’ll know soon, maybe by Monday.

      • 1979

        Agreed…well almost…I would keep Pinizzotto based on merit and his toughness that allows a kind-of replacement for Gazdic when they play stupid Vancouver! I would say bye to Lander as our other centre prospects have basically pushed him out of future plans. imo. Love your route of logic on this issue LT!

      • Czar

        We need Pinnizzotto and his grit in the line up a lot more than we do Lander, especially with Calgary and Van to start the season off.
        Eakins said he’d keep the players that have earned a roster spot regardless of their waiver status and from what I’ve seen so far that is not Anton Lander.

      • oilerjed

        Damn shame for Pinzotta if this is the case. He has outplayed Lander by a massive margin and if it is a winger spot, I would give it to him. Lander is crap on the dot anyways, cant score and isnt physical in any way. Seems like a no brainer to me, if a center gets hurt then call up Anton, not Acton! Leave that guy to mould in the minors.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        Good article. Bogdan and Jujhar need 2 years in the AHL in my world. Id send LD back to junior this year also and put him in the AHL next year. Everyone should play a year in the AHL, only less if you are obviously shooting the lights out. If you are a projected #3C in the NHL…prove you can be a #1/2 in the AHL first…and stay there until you do. I’m tired of the oilers being a development team,we have one, they are called the barons. Don’t bring up the kids until they prove themselves in the AHL. If we have gaps in our NHL lineup, don’t get greedy….sign plug and play free agents instead in the interm. The “bring them in early” approach worked well to secure high draft picks, its now time to reign it in a bit and develop these high picks properly.

        • HardBoiledOil 1.0

          ^no chance does every kid go to the AHL automatically if management thinks you are NHL ready! doesn’t matter if you were taken in the 1st round or 3rd or 5th, or if you are only 18 or 20 or whatever, if you are deemed to be ready for NHL play, that’s where you play.

          • HardBoiledOil 1.0

            Being NHL ready for 3rd line minutes against soft competition but being played on the 1st line against top line competition does not seem to jive with me. Even LD on the second line is going to be exposed. Go from playing against players who will be career beer leaguers in 1-3 years to 10 year NHL vets is too much in my opinion without some time in the AHL. The oilers are shifted forward 1-2 years with their player development. Put them in the AHL to learn your system first so its a seamless transition when they do come up. If we had proper management we would be planning for the arrival of our 1st/2nd round draft pics at age 21, and our 3rd rounders and onwards after their entry level deal is up if they’ve managed to get a few callups. Exception being 1st overall picks, but in some cases I think a year in junior and 1/2 a season at least in the AHL would be beneficial. The thought of bringing in an 18 year old kid should just be automatically off the table, and if it was, management would be forced to ice an NHL lineup. I think what our management things is NHL ready is flawed…so make a long story short.

            • HardBoiledOil 1.0

              ^if we stuck them back to junior then the AHL regardless, then this team will suck ’till until 2025! and i don’t agree that this would automatically make them better pro’s when they arrive. that’s a blanket statement because some will benefit, but some won’t, like Lander.

      • Tikkanese

        Just send down Joensuu. Like someone else said, make him earn his way back up. Some scoring confidence in OKC could do him wonders.

        Lander almost a guarantee to be picked up on waivers despite his poor showing. Lander can PK and sub in for Leon or Arco if heaven forbid they need to sit down.

        Pinizzotto more than deserves a spot.

      • Tikkanese

        Question:

        If they sign Westgarth to a 5 or 10 game contract does that count on the 50 man roster for the entire season? I could see them doing that since Gazdic should be back around then from the sounds of it.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        Eakins still has 35 players in camp……..to say he has a handle on who is good ( outside of RNH, Hall, and Ebs) is contrary to the evidence.

        Let’s see, everyone of his Marile experiments has failed miserably so we know he is not a good judge of talent. Now we start the season with no solid lines and not time left for these line to develop any chemistry. I thought history based on last year by not being prepared would have taught him a thing or two but I guess no such luck!

      • mithaman

        If the organization is going to practice what they have been preaching so far, then whoever earned they’re spot, keep them. Instead of losing someone on waivers you could always trade them before you have to have the opening night roster set. You could always use the IR like most creative GM’s do as well….

      • bwar

        at this point I think I’d keep Joensuu and Pitlick and then keep 8D on the roster to start the season. This give the team a better look at Nurse and Klefbom until Gazdic or Nikitin are ready to go at which point you’ve hopefully had enough time to see which Dmen you want to keep for the season.

        I really wish there was room for Pinizotto on this roster but I don’t think he slots in above Gazdic and to me solving the logjam on defense is more important than starting the season with 14 forwards.

      • elpol

        Well I see things different from Lowetide . I’m going with Pitlick , Yakimov , Joensuu . and Westgarth . Westgarth is our veteran muscle till Gadzik has a chance to take position back . I’d keep Khaira also if Perron out for any time . Arco and Lander start in AHL , or we keep them on team and flirt with the basement again . If youth flounders we can always bring Arco or Lander back up , but in AHL they can keep busy . I am sticking with youth that will look up to our young stars now and as they progress . That’s huge to team building . In the past it seemed as though veterans did not look up to them (young stars).

        We are going with size and preseason has shown when we do , we have had more success . Time to go with the future not the failed past or ineffective status quo /default players . Yes , and Nurse also draws in for 9 games at least as he starts to grow with our young stars . Joensuu and Pitlick deserve another shot based on preseason play and their past injuries from last season .

        So lets go with size and youth !

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        Lander is the odd man out. Hes useless who cares if he can play center.

        A 4th line of Hendricks-Gordon-Pinizzotto/Pitlick is very capable.

        Lander’s 1 assist in 20+ games last year is absolutely awful

      • elpol

        Who is going to take care of the gorillas on some of these teams, certainly not Lander:

        Vanc.. Sestito, Brassard, Kassian

        San Jose … Brown, Scott,

        L.A. … Clifford, Nolan

        These guys are not hockey players, but you can see a guy like Sistito spending his entire game looking for a fight.. unfortunately the Refs, all night long decided to even thinks up and 24 penalties later, they called this a hockey game.

        So much for the NHL doing away with face punchers.

      • elpol

        I agree with your selections. Lander over Pinnizotto or Gazdic. Has more upside, can actually play hockey, has been a leader on every team he’s played for and is 7 years younger than Pinnizotto

      • elpol

        Not sure why so many have Arco making the team. I have not watch any preseason but, by many reports, Arco has not impressed. Not the same level as first part of last season.