It has taken a decade but for the first time since 2006, it is beginning to look like the Oilers have some actual, useful organizational depth. Having prospects is one thing, having players who increase your chances of being competitive in the NHL is a completely different story, and the Oilers finally have some young players who are not only able to fill in when injuries occur, but are also contributing in games.
Iiro Pakarinen, Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl have all produced since being recalled from Bakersfield. Brandon Davidson was #8 on the defensive depth chart when the season started, but injuries to Griffin Reinhart and Justin Schultz created an opportunity for him and his play has earned him more icetime. Anton Slepyshev made the team out of training camp, and he hasn’t looked out of place.
Some of the injured Oilers are getting healthy, so head coach Todd McLellan will have some tough decisions to make.
This is a good problem for McLellan, one his four predecessors never had.
When Jordan Eberle, Matt Hendricks and Rob Klinkhammer got injured the Oilers recalled Draisaitl, and he’s scored five points in two games. I’m not saying he’s knocked Eberle out of the top-six, but when Eberle returns, possibly as early as next week, McLellan will have a few options of how he wants to run his top lines.
The salary cap could play a factor. The Oilers are already at the $5.5 million maximum for bonus overages, so Draisaitl counts as a $3.4 million cap hit, although he is essentially a $3 million cap hit due to when he was called up. Regardless of the actual dollars, when Eberle is activated they will need to shed some money. Draisailt might be a cap casualty, but if he keeps playing well GM Peter Chiarelli will have to look at other money-saving options.
The Oilers had 25 skaters on the ice this morning:
Talbot and Nilsson
Eberle and Lauri Korpikoski are not ready to return, but Matt Hendricks looks like he could be ready to play tomorrow vs. Philadelphia. If he is, the Oilers will need to activate him from the IR, and send someone to the AHL.
Mark Fayne was a healthy scratch on Saturday, but considering the Oilers lost, he could draw back in tomorrow. If they sit him two games in a row they clearly are unhappy with him. I’d dress Nurse ahead of many of the veteran defenders at this point, but I will admit I’m bullish on his ability. I recognize he makes some mistakes, but his skill overshadows his inexperience in my eyes.
Regardless of who plays tomorrow night, it is a welcome change to see the Oilers with actual depth. It isn’t perfect yet, but it is much better than we’ve seen in the past. The team doesn’t need to have Mark Arcobello or Linus Omark in the top-six. They have a legitimate offensive talent in Draisaitl.
Davidson and Nurse have emerged as contributing blueliners, and they are major upgrades over the likes of Brad Hunt, Philip Larsen, David Musil and others.
When Eberle, Schultz, Korpikoski and even Rob Klinkhammer are healthy, McLellan will have to make some decisions that might not be very popular. It should be an interesting next ten days as the Oilers shuffle their roster.
- I watched Saturday’s game in the crowd. My buddy Sean was celebrating his 40th and over 20 of us were at the game. I can’t recall a recent regular season game that crushed Oilers fans like Saturday’s loss to the Flames. Everyone in the building and watching at home was expecting OT, but then Talbot allowed Frolik to score from the corner. It was a terrible goal by Talbot, and it ruined any potential of another great comeback by the Oilers.
- All of my friends are diehard Oilers fans and Sean looked at me right after the goal and said, “I wish I was emotionally disconnected to the team like you are right now. This *&^&(*#$ sucks. That was awful.” I think many of you felt the exact same way. It was just an awful loss.
- Connor McDavid was named NHL rookie of the month for October after scoring 5-7-12 in 12 games. He edged out Max Domi 5-6-11 in eleven games.
- The NHL has not surprisingly found a new way to limit offence. The goaltending interference rule is a joke if they will regularly disallow goals like they did at Rexall on Saturday night. I would have counted both goals, but the Letestu interference call was atrocious. Joffrey Lupul’s disallowed goal versus the Rangers was just as mind boggling. The NHL’s explanation is bogus. Don’t be surprised to see more goalies initiate minor contact in hopes of getting calls. The last thing the NHL needs is disallowing goals involving minimal to no contact on the goalie, especially when players aren’t even in the crease.
- The Oilers have a few options when they activate Hendricks. They could just put Korpikoski on IR, retroactive to last Wednesday. Or they could send down Slephyshev or Reinhart, who hasn’t played in two weeks.