McLellan capture 1

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


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.

  • Stone Cold Iceman

    I can’t express how happy I am since Bob took full control and changed it with a NEW Pres/GM, Coach,draft, some excellent trades and UFA signings! I am actually excited for the new season. For once, I might watch more than 5 games a year since this so called rebuild started! Hope I see each game like I have, before! Go Oilers! Us fans, needed this, long ago!

  • Oil Vice

    So sick of these ridiculous grasping at straws blogs… Does edmonton have anything close to the team SJ had???
    No… Comparing this to that is beyond silly…
    It’s like saying if Talbot was on Montreal he would be a backup so we should expect the same.
    Enough please… Sometimes there’s significant insight, but this is reaching

    • Lowetide

      And you, I looked at that because for me your point makes sense. And yet, they send Couture to the minors and watch him kick the living daylights out of the AHL, left him there anyway.

      McLellan did bring Hertl right to the show btw, so it did happen during his run (but the Czech didn’t play 60 games).

      • Poke Check

        “McLellan did bring Hertl right to the show btw, so it did happen during his run (but the Czech didn’t play 60 games).”

        Didn’t Hertl get injured after lighting things up at the beginning of that season?

      • Oil Vice

        Ya I understand that…. But this team doesn’t have the benefit of having maybe the most dominating forward in the league in his prime, and a supporting cast better than anything oil country has had since 1990…not too mention the kind of depth that allowed them to throw a stalwart defenseman such as Burns on forward for an experiment.

        That reasoning is why I would question anyone comparing what we will do with this team when our rookies are arguably more valuable in the present than our second rate crop of vets.

        If he sends them down I’m fine.. He knows more than me, but until those decisions are made I just don’t think we can go off of what happened in SJ as a measuring stick as to what to exp this year is all

        • a lg dubl dubl

          Of course the circumstances are somewhat different, and that has to be factored in, but I, for one, am interested in how he managed his roster in San Jose, because it reveals something about his general way of thinking about bringing young prospects into an NHL lineup. It’s July and every ON article can’t be about trading for Seabrook.


    What is this “Let the rookies dip their toes in and adjust to the NHL slowly” mentality you’re talking about Lowetide?? I mean, it sounds nice, but I thought the Oilers philosophy for the rookies was throw them in and see if they sink or swim? The team is changing for the better in more ways than one, and I for one am thrilled about it.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    If Mclellan and staff cant find a way to get more out of nikitin and ference, then we will either be seeing more rookies or there will be trades to bring in better D

  • Darkmanic

    Based on what little I know of Todd Mcllelan I’m starting to think he prefers players that do not cheat for offence.

    Leon and Oscar play a fairly responsible game so they should be safe……..don’t know about Griffin’s style of play just yet. But Darnell does take calculated risks and in the past has shown a flair for creating offence.

    I just hope that he gets a fair shake to stick with the team………in my eyes he has earned the right to stick……if there is such a thing.

    The guy I feel sorry for under Mcllelan is Justin Schultz……..his risk taking will get the better of him. ………..and no more Mac T to protect him.


      I know he did well in the playoffs for OKC, but TC and pre-season is where Nurse needs to still prove himself to the current coaching staff. He may seem ready, but the risk taking may make Reinhart a better bet for the big show. We will see. For once I think we actually have coaching and management in place that will make a proper decision, and if he’s in the A as our first choice D call up, I am totally ok with that.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    just spent a couple hours watching archive footage of Reinhart’s 8 games last year, and a few Sekera games in LA…..

    Reinhart may not be mean but he plays hard between whistles, aggressively clears the front of the net. Skating issue wasn’t glaring. He seems VERY sound positionally both defending and attacking (gap control was excellent)

    Sekera >>> Petry

    • Dan 1919

      Sekera is a top 3 NHL dman no question and doesn’t need to be playing with Subban to prove it. Anybody who tries to compare Sekera to Petry has no idea about hockey. It would be like saying Eberle is as good as Toews because their point totals are similar.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    I say let the best man win…vet or rook! Having competition at camp is a win win! Everybody’s got to win the job(especially on D) So if Nurse and Reinhart are our best chance to win than so be it. They’re only gunna get better playing against the best. But going down to the minors to play top pairing mins won’t hurt them either. I really think Nurse is ready for the show…The guys a stud…the real deal. Go Oil!!

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Two rookies on defence. Darnell and Griffon should both make the roster but one may be on the Condor shuttle. Does the waiver rule give us any grief over Griffon?

    Connor for sure up front.

    This may be the first time Todd has had so much young talent on a roster. I agree he may have a new horse in the stable by camp. Andrew F is on his last gasp but his contract is an issue. Do you think he would waive his NTC?


    For the last three + years we have been “eliminated” from the play-offs by November, why?

    Eakins ran brutal TCs that continued into game 10 ish of the season

    Too many rookies going through this process for the first time.

    Lets start the season with more seasoned vets, and maybe have Bakerfields struggling to make the play-off because this years rookies are going through AHL process.

    Bakerfield = best place to learn

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    I am hoping Chia makes one more excellent addition on D and makes one more (at least) smart subtraction at D. Start the season with a solid foundation of a D core then bring up Nurse and/or Griff when injuries happen because they will.

    • Darkmanic

      So much is wrong here.. where do you have Klefbom? Why are 2 RD next to one another and 2 LD next to one another?

      The D I see next season are


      To start anyway and that’s right now but it all can change depending upon who’s better in training camp and the veterans that aren’t the best will get traded.

      My reasoning behind the Sekera Schultz line is that Schultz needs someone to learn from and Sekera has been there before

      Also Schultz is still young and able to play top minutes. I also see Klefbom seeing time with Sekera to help round out his game. I would place Klefbom and Gryba together because Klefbom needs to add some of that grind to his game.

      Both Schultz and Klefbom are seen as rookie defense so will see time apart and Fayne right now is our best right shot defense man so needs little time to improve.

      Let’s not forget that Klefbom is one of those rare guys who get better the more ice time he’s given just like Keith. I can’t wait until both Klefbom and Nurse get going but I think we have time to get there

      Once we start getting in the playoffs I don’t see us stopping any time soon. Can’t wait for the season to begin and as with every season I will not miss one game.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Let’s hope another vet dman is on the roster when we start the season. The possibility of Nurse, Reinhart, klefbom and for that matter Schultz all starting is troubling.

    • Lowetide

      Isn’t there enough already?

      Borrowing lrg dbl dbl’s list:




      Adding another experienced D would add competition for a spot for an experienced guy, but with the cap situation being as it is, and the fact that the Oilers don’t need another 2nd/3rd pairing D guy, I think we can hold off on another guy unless he’s a first pairing D…which is asking for a bit much when Chiarelli has a few bad contracts to deal with. If Ference or Nikitin got bought out, then I’d be more in agreement with you.

      Because of this I don’t see “The possibility of Nurse, Reinhart, klefbom and for that matter Schultz all starting” as being a possibility. Outside of injuries, there’s no way all of them will be on the roster at the same time.

      Speaking of which, when injuries do happen, I won’t feel as nervous as I did in the past with the replacement. Nurse coming up, Reinhart, or Klefbom…big upgrade over Oesterle, or Hunt.

  • Oil Vice

    McDavid. After him who will even care if the Oilers run Draisatl and Nurse out there along with Rheinhart? The goaltending should be a little more stable. The defense should not be the circus of monkey’s we saw last year. Please Lord Jesus take NN contract and send him to Arizona. They are competing to be #1 next year for a shot at Mathews. Or they are trying to ensure that they lose money for 5 years in a row so they can leave the desert and go someplace where hockey is relevant.

  • Oil Vice

    Nitehawkus do you watch any eastern games..Faulk would be are 2nd best defenseman after Sekara probably 1st pairing and the right age.You wouldn’t have to pay 7 mil for a 31 year old.who do you think you are going to trade for a 1st pairing defenseman Pitlick