Todd McLellan appears to be a typical NHL coach in that he prefers forwards who cheat a little on the defensive side of the puck. I imagine there were nights when he was challenged to find enough to cover up for the fast cars who were set on offense most of the time in year one. I believe it is one reason Iiro Pakarinen found work in McLellan’s first Oilers season, and will likely see more work in the coming season. As much as fans love the gifted kids, those men who mind the store will have a place in the game as long as coaches get fired for losing. If Iiro the hero was the first of McLellan’s men, who’s next?


Pakarinen was signed by Craig MacTavish, a man who valued forwards who worked hard on the defensive side of the game. The first scouting report I read on the Finn sounded exactly like the kind of player MacT would like:

  • Elite Prospects: A large winger shooting from
    his right. An energetic player with good skating and a nice frame.
    Possesses a good sharp, wrist shot and is a solid finisher. A hard
    worker and versatile player who can also play as a defenceman.
    (Matias Strozyk, 2012)
  • Source

That is pretty much a MacT player. Short of saying ‘Iiro has videotapes of Toby Petersen he watches daily’ it would appear the young man has some coachability and two-way acumen—and those things have value to NHL teams.

In his first season with Edmonton, Pakarinen spent 39 games in the minors, scored well, and was the top forward on the OKC Barons in even-strength goals for-against differential:

pakarinen 14-15 okc

Among this group, Pakarinen (+17), Bogdan Yakimov (+10) and Anton Lander (+8) stood out, along with AHL winger Josh Winquist (+9, recently signed with Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL). Combined with good size and speed, Pakarinen’s showing (good offense, things went well with him on the ice) earned him an NHL look and some success with the organization.


rodgers forwards bakersfield

Among players who are on the Oilers 50-man list and could be considered two-way forwards, the best showings in 2015-16 were:

  1. Jujhar Khaira. He was +1 in goal differential and scored far better than he did as a rookie pro in 2014-15.
  2. Tyler Pitlick. The now veteran AHL winger was -1 in even strength goal differential and on this team that puts him in the group as the possible two-way farm wingers with a shot at the NHL.
  3. Marco Roy. Former second-round pick who is not signed to an NHL deal, but he was -1 in goal differential and scored at a decent pace in the minors this season.

It is interesting to see that both Greg Chase and Mitchell Moroz scored well here (among others), but neither man is regarded as a two-way player—and Chase played only 19 games in the AHL this season.

khaira williams


Todd McLellan will probably have a long look at both Jujhar Khaira and Tyler Pitlick in training camp, and maybe Marco Roy gets a look, too. The Oilers have signed an AHL veteran (Taylor Beck) and a KHL Finn (Jere Sallinen) so there is competition behind Pakarinen for this role.

I bet Khaira gets a very good chance in 2016-17. He could make the team out of camp, or receive a recall during the year. The year over year totals suggest he is worthy of a look.

(Pakarinen photo by Rob Ferguson)

(Khaira photo by Mark Williams)

  • All stats via the hard work and generosity of Eric Rodgers
  • Source
  • Reg Dunlop

    I always thought Pitlik looked like a player. Good wheels, size and fearless. This year is likely his last chance so he has my vote to finally break through. Good luck Tyler.

  • fran huckzky

    The Toby Petersen reference gave me flashbacks and they were not pleasant. The only 13th forward in the history of the NHL who also killed penaltys and quarterbacked the powerplay.

  • Oiler Al

    In 63 games Pakarinen had 13 pts. last year. Don’t think that qualifys him as a two-way player?

    To me,he just kind of runs around [decent skater],doesn’t shoot much and really with 8 min. in penatlties tells me he more Lady Bing style.

    He can play third line if he can’t score.

    • Jaxon

      Sorry, I’ll agree that calling him a two-way player may be a stretch as he does not provide much offense, But the rest of your statement is incorrect. He shoots a lot and hits a lot. In last 3 seasons of players with more than 700 minutes of icetime, he ranks 22nd overall for RW in shots/60 with 8.34.

      He ranks 6th overall for RW in hits/60. On RW, only Ryan Reeves, Mike Brown, Cal Clutterbuck, Chris Neil and Tom Wilson have more hits/minute than Pakarinen last season. I’d rather have a guy that hits cleanly without getting a penalty than one who puts his team down a player for 2 minutes.

      Pakarinen is 2nd on the Oilers with 8.34 shots/60 behind former Oiler Taylor Hall with 9.06 shots/60, then Yakupov has 8.18 shots/60. So, of current Oilers, he is the team leader in shots/60.

      He hits more than any forward on the Oilers with 13.46 hits/60. Kassian 12.71 hits/60, Hendricks 11.66 hits/60, Maroon 10.19 hits/60, and then all the way down to Korpikoski with 6.07 hits/60. His 13.46 hits/60 is not a Lady Byng style.

        • Jaxon

          Very true. Although, different players have different roles. A player who starts in his own zone often with Anton Lander and Lauri Korpikoski as his most common linemates, hits more than any other Oiler and shoots more than any other Oiler and whose Corsi for is generally solid is doing pretty good as an energy line guy. How do you think he shoots more than any other Oiler if ‘it means you don’t have the puck’? Shooting without having the puck must be a pretty amazing trick.

          • Oiler Al

            So far all he has shown is that he is a 4th line
            crash and bang kind of a player. The team needs scoring from the bottom six, certainly from the 3rd line, of which he has shown he is that player.

        • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          That must be why Ovechkin out hits Byfuglein, Weber, Phaneuf, and Hendricks (all team leaders in hits), yet has more goals than all of them combined.

          • Oiler Al

            There are exceptions indeed ., Ovechkin scored 40% of his goals on the PP last year.He is a shooting maching though, had like 400 shots last year. [not a play maker for sure ].

            Interesting that Lucic had more hits than OV.

            PS.. Also I would not compare Parakienen to OV.

          • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

            I don’t mean to criticize Weber or Byf for their scoring either. They’re 19 and 20 goal scorers, d-men and leading hitters. Seabrook had 50 pts, as well. Hitters can score–these are not mutually exclusive metrics.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    Still need a puck moving d-man springing Conner on the break out rush, Hate to say but Barrie could fill that roll but get fleeced again in the same off season is a little to much. I’m hoping Nurse could have a break out year.

  • Wintoon

    I have heard there is some dissension between the Avs coach and some of his players. I read that he is not sold on Barrie and has a problem with Duchene as well.

    If this is the case, is there a potential trade between the Avs and the Oil?

    Edmonton gives RNH + Reinhart + Yakupov

    Edmonton gets Duchene + Barrie.

    What would the reaction be to this trade?
    Would it improve/help the Oilers?

    Comments welcome

  • JBear

    How did this turn into a Barrie thread?

    Pitlick Pak and JJ all have potential. But have to be used properly. That’s what I think happened to Lander. He needs to be on a scoring line to be effective or else he’ll flounder.

      • Cheap Shot Charlie

        It’s true we over value our players. In our defense we’ve been encouraged to do so. Guys come in and they are slotted above where they should be. If they perform well they keep getting moved up the depth chart until they fail. (See Peter principle).

        If they aren’t slotted too high and don’t perform it’s “because he never got a chance”.

        I hope our young kids can fill out the 4th line well this year and next. Maybe they can take over for Hendricks in a few years and be solid 3rd liners.

  • Hockeyfan

    Edmonton gives RNH + Reinhart + Yakupov

    Edmonton gets Duchene + Barrie.

    Fantasy trade #389

    You oil fans just don’t get it. Teams are not giving your team fair value, you are in a severe overpay situation. Throw in Eggshell and nurse maybe a deal. teams aren’t looking for your junk.

  • YakCity1039

    Need Pitlick to bring it and solidy himself as an effective bottom-6 guy. He’s the kind of player you need for your bottom two lines during the season and in the playoffs.

    • Powdered milk

      Only thing pitlick has solidified himself as is an injury prone waste of a 2nd round pick, just like Moroz. Cagullia looks like a way better prospect for the bottom 6

  • Oilerproud

    Hendo letestu paks
    If Chiapete can grab his coach a top 9 right handed centre we could keep letestu at 4c and have one of the better 4th lines in the league.

  • kelvjn

    “A hard worker and versatile player who can also play as a defenceman. (Matias Strozyk, 2012”

    They are doing this wrong. Iiro the Hero could be the right shooting 2 way D they are looking for, in a modern day Steve Staios way.

  • Hockey Buddha

    Didn’t realize that Iiro Pakarinen is also a right shot defenseman. I’d like to see him get a few games on the point during camp to see what he can do.

  • RJ


    He is speedy with good hands, and handles the puck well in traffic. More importantly he plays with a “high compete” level. That screams Pakarinen 2.0.

  • JermBank

    Khaira sold me the night he got his flippers off with Dillon. Physical every shift and had the dmen looking over their shoulders every retrieval. If he can play like that most nights, he’s next.