YOU NEVER GET A SECOND CHANCE TO MAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION

khaira capture

Jujhar Khaira’s first one dozen NHL games surprised me. Watching Edmonton’s prospects develop in the AHL, you come to expect some semblance of offense at that level before a strong NHL debut is deemed possible. In the case of Khaira, his 2014-15 AHL season was very poor offensively, but his second season at that level showed great improvement. His NHL games have me genuinely encouraged.

If you are a 21-year-old minor league player, that is the kind of goodbye you like to read on the way to the airport and the minors. When I read it this morning, it struck me that Khaira had in fact delivered on a lot of levels in those one dozen games. He got an assist (which was taken away, and then returned), hit everything in sight (especially early) and perhaps most important kept up with the play and proved capable of taking and making a pass. How did Khaira’s debut compare to recent AHL callups in their first trip? Let’s have a look:

  1. Jujhar Khaira (2015-16) 12gp, 0-2-2, 13 shots, 25 shot attempts, 26 hits, 10:08 TOI/game
  2. Anton Slepyshev (2015-16) 11gp, 0-1-1, 5 shots, 16 shot attempts, 13 hits, 8:41 TOI/game
  3. Iiro Pakarinen (2014-15) 5gp, 1-0-1, 9 shots, 6:26 TOI/game
  4. Andrew Miller (2014-15) 9gp, 1-5-6, 14 shots, 22 shot attempts, 7 shots, 13:45 TOI/game
  5. Luke Gazdic (2013-14) 67gp, 2-2-4, 30 shots, 51 shot attempts, 103 hits, 5:48 TOI/game
  6. Mark Arcobello (2013-14) 41gp, 4-14-18, 70 shots, 127 shot attempts, 71 hits, 15:04 TOI/game
  7. Tyler Pitlick (2013-14) 10gp, 1-0-1, 9 shots, 18 shot attempts, 26 hits, 8:58 TOI/game

I think Andrew Miller and Mark Arcobello played a different game (although notice the hits total for Arcobello, he was excellent at separating player from puck despite being small), and Luke Gazdic was used more as an enforcer.

Among the rest, I think Khaira compares pretty well in their respective debuts. Khaira compared to Pitlick just looked like a far more confident player, and although Pakarinen looked good early he didn’t last long (returning in February of his rookie season). Khaira, for me, brought more of his game to the NHL than a guy like Pitlick. Maybe it has to do with injuries, but part of it may be that Khaira is physically bigger and more noticeable.

WHAT ROLE WILL HE PLAY, UPON RETURN?

I think Khaira will be a checker in the NHL, but am interested to see if he can post significant offense in the AHL, year two.  I think he ‘might’ be able to play in the NHL in a style and fashion similar to Jordan Nolan of the LAK. Here are their respective numbers in year two of their AHL careers:

  1. Jordan Nolan 40gp, 9-13-22 (NHL that season: 26gp, 2-2-4)
  2. Jujhar Khaira 17gp, 3-5-8 (NHL this season: 12gp, 0-2-2)

Nolan is not an especially effective possession player, but he is one of those heavy forwards who can be helpful in a limited, checking role.

WHAT IF HE DELIVERS MORE OFFENSE?

Khaira has been somewhat difficult to track as a prospect, as he kept moving around after draft day (BCJHL, NCAA, WHL) and played for button down defensive coaches like Kevin Constantine. Frankly, when he didn’t produce at the AHL level as a rookie, I felt we had him surrounded as a (very) limited offensive player.

We don’t know what we don’t know, and the AHL does not provide TOI totals. Based on his AHL totals this year, and his limited NHL exposure, there may be a more complete player here than first thought. We wait.

  • CaptainLander

    What I noticed the most about his recent stint with the Oilers was that he avoided making glaring errors while fitting into the play.

    In short, he did not stand out as being over matched, too slow, behind the play etc. He kept up and had some impact. This tremendous for a young player getting his first look.

  • CaptainLander

    Liked what we saw in his play. Needs to refine his game. Needs to a net presence. Has to go to the paint more often. Needs to be a physical force in front of thr net. He will be a garbage goal guy. His size. Which is still growing into a mans body.His strength. Speed. He has the physical tools. With TM as coach JJ has a legit shot.

  • For Pete's Sake!

    Khaira is a smart kid. He’s big, he can fight but he’s also a decent skater. I think he’ll be an NHL player before too long. I agree that what he has to do to improve, is impose his size a little more agressively, especially in front of the opposition’s net.

    He definitely has more upside than Luke Gazdic. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gazdic but he’s just too slow for today’s league.

  • Van isl Oiler

    That’s not a very impressive list of players to be compared to. What else was TM supposed to say? That Khaira sucks? I saw zero offensive ability from this guy…none, notta, zip. Yes, it was a first look, but as MacT once said, “At some point, you have to be a threat offensively.” We’ve seen several players of this type come and go in Edmonton and Khaira will be no different. He’s fringe player and that’s it.

    Go ahead and trash it, you know I’m right.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      To quote LT (or maybe it’s Arch?), we have the jacks and kings. Hell, we even have an ace in the hole with a newly repaired clavicle. Khaira can hopefully develop into one of those 6s or 7s that provide solid depth for good teams.

      • Van isl Oiler

        I agree that we need 6’s and 7’s…I just don’t see Khaira as that. He’s more like a 3 or a 4. I could be completely wrong, but I call em as I see em. Love your handle btw.

      • MattyFranchise

        say what you want about MacT, Purcell was a good trade and nurse was a good pick. Pouliot was a good signing and Gordon was useful, albeit overpriced. And both Perron trades were decent.

  • Van isl Oiler

    Guess it’s true what they say. Small guys have to prove they can,’and big guys have to prove they can’t.

    Everyone loves him cuz he’s big, I’m not holding my breath on this guy. I’m hopeful, but not yet convinced.

  • MattyFranchise

    do you remember the ducks game a couple of weeks ago 1 nothing loss should have been 4 nothing small oilers unable to break the cycle the entire game .in 2 years perhps JJ perhaps Kassien and Chase and others will be on this team you can see the type Chia likes .more size up front more skill on defense

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i think comparing JJ to Jordan Nolan is a good comparison, but JJ is less of a just sheer goon type of player and may actually have some NHL calibre scoring ability, unlike Nolan.

    • MattyFranchise

      Call it goon, or physically assertive, JJ could learn lots from Nolan. He affects the game with physicality, speed, and overall grumpiness. If JJ could learn to a bully like Nolan, he could have helluva career ahead of him