End of Roster Forwards

51-Lander-1

This late season run was supposed to be an opportunity for some of the Oilers top AHL prospects – players like Anton Lander and Tyler Pitlick – to show they belonged in the NHL.

Instead, Lander’s floundering in a feature role and Pitlick can’t string half a dozen healthy games together. But that doesn’t mean nobody’s taking advantage of the opportunity.

13-Pinizzotto-1

Steve Pinizzotto’s in a rough spot. He turns 30 this summer, and while he’s a scrappy, do-it-all kind of forward he’s at an age where a lot of teams are going to look right past him. When the Oilers first traded for him and assigned him to Oklahoma, I asked him something along the lines of how vital it was to make an immediate impression on the organization.

“I’m getting to an age now where there are guys that I am probably 10 years older than,” he replied. “The door can’t stay open forever. I can’t look at next year; like you said I have to worry about this year and hopefully catch some eyes.”

Through four games, he’s been pretty decent for the Oilers. He’s not a pure enforcer, but like Matt Hendricks he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty (HockeyFights.com has him at eight tilts this year, after he fought six times last season) and at the AHL level he’s been a secondary scorer and a penalty killer. He’s tougher than Tyler Pitlick and a better hockey player than Luke Gazdic.

36-Larsen-4

Surprising, at least for me, has been the play of Philip Larsen. Over his last five games, all at right wing, the Oilers’ fourth line has had a slight edge in scoring chances (8-7) with Larsen on the ice. He has three points in that span, too, and has looked better as a forward than he did at any point this year as a defenceman.

There’s a part of me that really likes the idea of the last skater on the roster being a swingman who can play on either the back end or on a forward line. I find myself wishing the Oilers had tried him at right wing earlier in the year – though of course there was no way Dallas Eakins and company could have known he was going to make the transition so seamlessly.

41-Acton-2

Finally, Will Acton’s had a pretty reasonable five games, too. He’s not producing any offence, but the fourth line has done a far better job of late in terms of out-chancing the opposition, and he’s been around for that. Like Lander, Acton got stuck at the start of the year with lousy linemates; unlike Lander he doesn’t have the pedigree that would get him a cameo on the higher lines. I’m not saying that’s wrong – Lander had earned his shot with strong AHL play – but any fair evaluation of Acton notes who he’s played with.

My Guesses

Craig MacTavish2

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the five fringe players – Pitlcik, Lander, Pinizzotto, Larsen and Acton – currently getting NHL minutes up front.

I do think that Pinizzotto – a pending unrestricted free agent – would be a really nice fit on a two-way contract next year, and it wouldn’t bother me at all to see him in the fight for one of the bottom spots in training camp next fall. Worst case scenario, he’s a useful AHL’er and a reliable call-up; best case scenario he can fill a depth role in the NHL.

Larsen, Lander and Pitlick are RFAs. My expectation is that the Oilers decline to qualify Larsen, but retain both Pitlick and Lander (unless one or both find their way into a summer trade). The wrinkle here is that both players should probably be in the same boat as Pinizzotto: signed to two-way deals and asked to come in and win a job in training camp.

Acton’s the lone guy under contract for next season, and he looks like a nice fit for the Chris Vande Velde role: the checking line in Oklahoma City and occasional call-ups if/when injuries warrant.

But those are just my guesses, and with only one of the five guys under contract the Oilers have the ability to go in an entirely different direction.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Greenlingj

    Pitlick,
    Lander,
    Larsen,

    Guys like this are not on any ones depth chart on the other 29 clubs in the NHL.

    Cut your losses and move on, or, Accept the fact that most depth players don’t become decent NHL products till they are 25 very rarely do you find players who can produce at the NHL level at 20-25, does not mean they are not good players.

    I would sign Lander and Larsen to two way contracts and keep them down in OKC until they need to be called up.

    Pitlick is a train wreck poor kid can’t stay healthy and that hurts your development at any level. He is a bust I would cut my losses and focus on the other players going forward.

  • vetinari

    If I had to guess:

    Two way, one year contracts to Lander, Pinizotto, Larsen

    Release Acton (average at most things but above average at nothing) and Pitlick (injury history and his skills can be replaced by other prospects)

  • Sevenseven

    Oh, and Lowetide wondered why Oiler fans have no love for Will Acton? Maybe because he doesnt look like an NHLer. Why is he here? Most fans think its cause daddy is on the coaching staff. Fair or unfair, hes going to have to really impress to gain any respect.

  • Sevenseven

    Almost sound like we need a past his prime Ryan Smyth again next year. And keep him on the wing! Arcobello sounds like a better option than anyone else on your list jw.

    Please reward our 8 year struggle as loyal fans oh hockey gods. Guide mac t to the best free agents, allow him three moves like the perron move. Guide our players to career years. Have both fasth and scrivens look like number ones. And if trots gets let go in Nashville, overpay that man to get him as an assistant here!

  • Sevenseven

    Any conversation about depth in the Edmonton Oilers is a good one to have. But, no offense to these guys, they are what they are, I just wish we were talking about actual players. It always seems like we’re on about these fringe-types.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    At this point Lander is a total NHL bust and Pitlick is a china doll and not that good of player.. I’d say two way deal only or move on.

    I would sooner sign Larsen, for a forward position, he’s not a good NHL D Man. He’s a great skater, can handle the puck, goes to the net and can play on the Power Play. Needs to beef up a bit. Be a good third liner.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      i agree. Lander looks like a bust and i wonder as well if Pitlick can ever stay healthy enough to realize his potential? if Lander were traded and Pitlick not re-signed, it wouldn’t bother me. not a fan either of Acton. don’t really want him back next year. Larsen i do like and the Oilers should re-sign just because of the fact he’s looked better up front, can play on D if he has to, and can pot a few points. he also skates well. Pinizzotto is a good, tough skater who can drop the gloves if he has to, but can’t get a point to save his life. i’d re-sign him to a two way as well.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    I struggle with Acton on every level. He just hasn’t made any impression that is worthy of being in the discussion of NHL employment. I appreciate that the ‘fourth line’ has received far too much press given the actual impact on the game but surely we can do a bit better than a 30 year old AHLer and Acton? I’d rather have Steve Downie and Matt Cooke out there. Really.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Last night during MacT’s interview, when he said J schultz was playing like “a veteran” my heart dropped.

    It’s too bad after playing in 4 playoff games (losses), however long it takes to get there….management will relaize this team is far too soft…and will have to rebuild again.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Must be hard to write this stuff at this point. I barely care to read it.

    Good job, JW. And thanks, 6Rings, for the “inspiration”.