What did we learn from Jujhar Khaira’s first NHL stint?

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On Thursday, the Edmonton Oilers returned forward Jujhar Khaira to the Bakersfield Condors. Khaira played 12 games over a little more than a month in Edmonton, recording two assists and firing 13 shots on goal.

It was the first NHL call-up of Khaira’s career. What did we learn about the 2012 third-round pick during his time with the team?

Khaira played almost exactly 10 minutes per game at even-strength over his time with Edmonton, albeit in wildly differing roles. He didn’t kill penalties and wasn’t used on the power play, allowing us to focus exclusively at even-strength.

One thing Khaira did deliver was what’s often called “energy.” He’s listed at 6’3” and 214 pounds, and he wasn’t at all shy about throwing his weight around, being credited with 26 hits in his dozen games with the Oilers. Only Matt Hendricks and Rob Klinkhammer have averaged more hits/game among Edmonton forwards this season.

What about offence?

Khaira picked up two points. The first was this assist on a Taylor Hall goal against the Stars:

That was a good play, knocking down the puck and getting it over to Hall. This is the kind of point that one only picks up playing with skill players, because Hall then took care of everything else.

The other assist also came during his time with skill, at about 2:00 into this highlight package:

That was another nice pass by Khaira, but again the key move was made by Jordan Eberle, whose ability to score on the backhand is awe-inspiring.

Khaira spent just under an hour with Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and the line scored four goals and surrendered three. It also managed 44 shots at net as opposed to 47 by the opposition. Given that the trio was on the ice for just eight offensive zone draws and 17 defensive zone draws (along with 30 faceoffs in the neutral zone, where Nugent-Hopkins’ faceoff struggles are less of a big deal), that’s not bad. Khaira, whose offensive track record in the minors is not good, looked like a guy who could slot in as a complementary player on a scoring line from time-to-time.

Most of the rest of Khaira’s time came on the fourth line, playing with Anton Lander and some others. In 40 minutes with Lander he started 25 shifts in the defensive zone as opposed to just 20 in the offensive and neutral zones combined. Nobody scored and nobody got scored on, and shots at net were 45-30 in favour of the opposition, which is the sort of thing that happens to fourth lines when they’re asked to start lots of shifts in the defensive zone.

Khaira’s an interesting player and one who helped himself with a reasonably strong NHL debut. Scoring remains a concern; he’s never put up big numbers in a serious league and his seven points in 16 AHL games this year is by far the best sign we’ve seen that he can contribute offensively. But he isn’t clueless in that department, and with his size and physical edge he’s certain to get another look in the not-too-distant future.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Oilfaninvan

    I learned last night that the Oilers still suck.

    They need to bear down and not give up the battle.

    Need way more grit, hopefully Chai will trade some of the Oilers softer skilled players for skilled hard to play against players.

    Need to break up Hall and Drai. Put Hall RNH and Eberle together.

    Drai is showing his rookie inexperience and needs a bit of a break.

  • Oilfaninvan

    If this player is going to succeed he needs to play regular minutes, with regular line mates……….this year with all the injuries on both the Oilers and the Condors he has had to play multiple roles on various lines.

    He has the smarts and is constantly looking around prior to passing the puck, a good heads up player. I hope he works hard over the summer and comes in and stakes his claim……..we need more players like him!

  • Jiff

    I liked what he brought to the team. Worked hard and brought toughness. Didn’t shy away from anyone. Hopefully he keeps improving his offensive side in Bakersfield.

    Happy he got to spend some time with the Oil to see what it takes to play in the NHL. I look forward to seeing how he looks during the rest of his time in Bakersfield.

  • Van isl Oiler

    Nope, not sold on this player. He can’t produce in the AHL and he sure as hell ain’t gonna produce in the NHL. Winning teams/championship teams have players on their fourth lines who can put up approaching ten goals and 20 points. If we, as Oilers fans, are going to except this player type into our future ranks, we except mediocrity. He is fast enough, big enough, tough enough, but not smart enough. They should continue to develop him so they can use him as a small bargaining chip at some point. Seeing players like this as anything more than that will get us nothing more than being an also ran, not champions. So much losing over the last decade has clouded many fans vision of what is actually required to not only get on top, but stay on top.

    @Jordan Mcnugent Hallkins; Last article on this guy you mentioned a quote about the Oilers having the Kings, Jacks, and the Ace in the hole and that Khaira could be a 6 or 7 (depth player). Sorry, this guy is a 3 or 4 at best just like Lander.

  • MattyFranchise

    I see him providing mostly assists and he adds grit to a team that many people think is soft. I think he has a career with 8-10 minutes a night. The more time he spends in The Show the more he will learn.

    Hopefully he turns into one of those defensively responsible skaters that drive the play forward. All in all a good first call up for JJ and a decent pick up for the Oilers.

  • Jiff

    I think he is oilers good luck charm, they should keep him on the team. Oiler won 2 before he was sent back and 6 in a row prior to that. I think on 3rd line with McDavid and yak should improve his numbers. He is a keeper.

  • Anton CP

    Draft and develop that is what is finally coming to fruition and nice to see some good young prospects get a glimpse of the show. Build the bottom six from within instead of always looking to add UFA’s that don’t work out. JJ did great can’t wait to see more some improvement from him on his next call up.

  • S cottV

    Surprised that they didn’t play him in a game or two more while called up.

    Thought that he looked good.

    Appears to need some additional offensive upside and that may come playing top 2 lines with Bakersfield.

    Hope he progresses and becomes part of the bigger and harder to play against mantra.

  • Serious Gord

    Barring some magical transformation he will be a marginal fourth line nhler. Not that there is anything wrong with that. He seems like an honest player who gives a solid effort every night. It’s just that there’s not much there there.

  • He was way more effective then Klinkhammer in the same role, he uses his size to punish people and he wasn’t a defensive liability. I’d say that was a pretty solid first call up for Juhjar! Hope he keeps developing and turns into a regular NHL power forward, I really liked his game! (ps. plus that stache was top shelf!!)