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?
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) January 8, 2016
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.