During Todd McLellan’s seven seasons in San Jose, exactly five players classified as rookies dressed for 60 or more games—all of them forwards. As we prepare to watch McLellan evaluate and deploy the Oilers for 2015-16, how many rookies should we expect to see? Not many.
2008-09: Tomas Plihal (64 games);Jamie McGinn (35); Brad
Staubitz (35); Lukas Kaspar (13); Derek Joslin (12); Riley Armstrong (2
2009-10: Jason Demers (51 games); Logan Couture (25);
Derek Joslin (24); Benn Ferriero (24); Frazer McLaren (23); John
McCarthy (4); Steven Zalewski (3).
2010-11: Logan Couture (79 games); John McCarthy (37); Benn
Ferriero (33); Justin Braun (28); Andrew Desjardins (17); Brandon
Mishinter (13); Frazer McLaren (9); Mike Moore (6); Tommy Wingels (5).
- 2011-12: Andrew Desjardins (76 games); Tommy Wingels (33); Thomas Greiss (19)
- 2012-13: Matt Irwin (38 games)
- 2013-14: Matt Nieto (66 games); Tomas Hertl (37); Eriah Hayes (15); Freddie Hamilton (11)
- 2014-15: Barclay Goodrow (60 games); Melker Karlsson (53); Chris Tierney (53); Mirco Mueller (39); Matt Tennyson (27).
It’s a fascinating list. Even the good defensemen (Braun) didn’t play a ton of games as rookies, something Oilers fans may find foreign but aligns with successful NHL coaching going back a century. Rookie defensemen bleed goals, and a team bleeding goals often gets a new coach in a quick hurry.
The expectations and pace for Edmonton’s Oilers in 2015-16 aren’t similar to that of the Sharks when McLellan took over. Still, the odds of playing more than one rookie defenseman at a time are not high, meaning we should expect one of Griffin Reinhart or Darnell Nurse but not both this season—all things being equal.
McLellan’s forwards who played as rookies were no screaming hell and that’s for sure. Thomas Plihal was a fifth-round pick who had kicked around for a couple of seasons, Couture actually played 25 games BEFORE his official rookie season (MacLellan and the Sharks brought him along slowly and it paid off with a strong rookie year), Andrew Desjardins and Barclay Goodrow are not threatening to pick up hardware at the NHL Awards show next season.
What does this mean to the Oilers forward prospects? Well, McDavid plays 82 if he’s healthy and that’s a fact. After that, Leon Draisaitl offers a unique skill set (and isn’t a rookie) so his making the team this year shouldn’t be a shock if it happens. Iiro Pakarinen is a guy I can see McLellan liking, Tyler Pitlick too until he gets hurt.
However, we should probably expect only ‘cups of coffee’ for men like Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Slepyshev and others who represent the best prospects in the system. Source
HOW MANY ROOKIES PLAY 60 GAMES?
It’s a guess, but I’ll say two—plus Draisaitl. McDavid will make the team, that’s a non-issue. After that, I do think the Oilers will run a rookie blue and the Nurse/Reinhart shuttle to Bakersfield may end up going back and forth carrying one or the other all season.
However, based on their skills and Edmonton’s NHL needs on defense, I think Nurse gets the greater share of NHL games in 2015-16. His mobility is exceptional and based on reports Nurse was exceptional in a small sample of games this spring. Source
After that? If you’re an Oilers rookie pushing for NHL time? Cups of coffee all ’round.