WWYDW: Who Gets The Ice Time in Bakersfield?

54-Khaira-1

The Edmonton Oilers have some very interesting decisions to
make with respect to which of their young players make the NHL out of training
camp and which ones get sent down to the AHL to work on their games.

In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday, we ask what our
readers’ game plan entering training camp would be and how they would
distribute the minutes in Bakersfield.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Note: I have omitted defencemen Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones
from the depth chart, since both are almost certainly returning to major
junior.

Forwards

51-Lander-7

Left
Wing
Centre Right Wing
Milan Lucic Connor McDavid Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jesse Puljujarvi
Patrick Maroon Leon Draisaitl Nail Yakupov
Matt Hendricks Mark Letestu Zack Kassian
  Anton Lander Iiro Pakarinen
Drake Caggiula Jujhar Khaira Tyler Pitlick
Anton Slepyshev Bogdan Yakimov Taylor Beck
Ryan Hamilton Kyle Platzer Patrick Russell
Mitch Moroz Josh Currie Jere Sallinen
Braden Christoffer   Greg Chase
Scott Allen    
Joey Benik    

Players in grey are certain NHL’ers. Players in black are
under contract for the Oilers but not absolutely certain NHL’ers. Players in
red are on minor-league contracts.

Up front, I’d be planning to send down both Jesse Puljujarvi
and Anton Lander.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Puljujarvi has never played in North America before and penciling
him in for 20 games in the minors (barring a shockingly good training camp) won’t
hurt anything; moreover, there are several good RW options in free agency
still. As for Lander, he’s fine as a No. 5 centre, but if a cheaper, younger
centre were to show up on waivers there wouldn’t be any harm in sending him
down and saving some cap space.

With that in mind, my top three units in Bakersfield would
look like this:

  • Drake Caggiula – Anton Lander – Jesse Puljujarvi. This is a
    little like the Taylor Hall – Shawn Horcoff – Jordan Eberle line a few years
    back. Lander’s an elite AHL centre and this line could play a ton of minutes
    every night. Puljujarvi wouldn’t be here long in all likelihood, and Cagiulla
    probably wouldn’t spend the full season here either.
  • Anton Slepyshev – Jujhar Khaira – Tyler Pitlick. Pitlick’s
    an old hand at this point and a useful guy at both ends of the rink. Slepyshev
    and Khaira both have potential and need minutes to continue their development.
    If they fare well early, there will be space opening up higher on the depth
    chart.
  • Taylor Beck – Kyle Platzer – Patrick Russell. Beck would be
    the veteran on this line, though he’d likely be switching back to right wing
    once Puljujarvi was promoted. Platzer has some scoring potential and is probably
    the team’s second best centre prospect right now, while Russell is a
    fascinating rookie pro.

That leaves a few guys out in the cold, with Bogdan Yakimov
the obvious player missing out. I’m curious to see what happens with Yakimov
after his departure for Russia last year. If he comes in and plays well, it’s
easy enough to give him a spot in the top-nine.

WWYDW Q1: What does
your AHL top-nine look like?

Defence/Goaltending

8-Reinhart-2

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Left
Defence
Right Defence Goaltender
Oscar Klefbom Adam Larsson Cam Talbot
Andrej Sekera Mark Fayne Jonas Gustavsson
Darnell Nurse Brandon Davidson  
David Musil Andrew Ference (LTIR)  
Jordan Oesterle Griffin Reinhart Laurent Brossoit
Mark Fraser Dillon Simpson Eetu Laurikainen
Joey LaLeggia Frankie Simonelli Nick Ellis
Ben Betker    

If the Oilers could get a decent right-shot defenceman at a
fair price (James Wisniewski comes to mind) it wouldn’t bother me at all to see
Darnell Nurse start the year in the AHL, much like Oscar Klefbom did in 2014-15
(he played nine games and then finished the year in the majors). I can’t
imagine that happening, though.

The No. 7 spot on defence comes down to waiver eligibility for
me. Jordan Oesterle is exempt for another year, while David Musil isn’t; ergo,
Musil gets penciled in for the pressbox job. He could still lose it in camp, of
course.

After that, the top-four is pretty simple for me:

  • Jordan Oesterle – Griffin Reinhart. This is the recall
    pairing. Both guys played well together in the NHL last year. Reinhart’s bonus
    issues probably force him into the AHL (and that may not be a bad thing for his
    development) and Oesterle should challenge for a job in training camp, too.
  • Mark Fraser – Dillon Simpson. A year ago, Musil/Simpson was
    Bakersfield’s shutdown pairing, and this pairing is envisioned much the same
    with Fraser sliding into Musil’s old job. I wonder if Fraser ends up with the
    pressbox job in Edmonton; to me, he’s strictly an AHL option barring shocking
    growth in his game since the last time we saw him. Simpson is the No. 3 guy
    here and the first one into the top pair if somebody’s recalled.

Joey LaLeggia will get a ton of power play time and could
switch with Fraser based on game situation. The No. 5 defenceman tends to play
a bunch anyway so I’m not too worried about getting him more minutes at the
expense of overall team performance.  

(If Nurse were to be sent down, I’d slot him in on the top pairing with Oesterle moving over to the left side. That would bump Reinhart into Fraser’s slot on the shutdown pair. )

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

WWYDW Q2: What does
your AHL top-four look like?

1-Brossoit-1

Jonas Gustavsson would not have been my choice for the NHL
backup job, but with the roster now more-or-less set that’s where he belongs.
If he flops, Laurent Brossoit might win the job but entering training camp I’d
ticket the prospect for the Bakersfield starting gig.

I have Eetu Laurikainen in the AHL backup role, for two
reasons. The first, and most important one, is that Nick Ellis has only played
48 hockey games over the last three years; if I’m Edmonton, I want him soaking
up starts in the ECHL. The second is that Laurikainen went back to Finland for
part of last year when the AHL job wasn’t open, and it would be nice to keep
him around all season.

WWYDW Q3: How would
you order the goaltenders?

Those are my views; let us know yours in the comments
section.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS


  • 24% body fat

    Yak, Platz, Slep and Cag should get all the ice time.

    AS for the D if nurse is there 32 minutes a night.

    The rest of the D who cares. There are no other NHL D there. Maybe next year.

    • Lagesson just finished his first season of college hockey; we might not see him until 2019. Marino hasn’t even started at Harvard yet and is probably four years away from the pro game.

      Paigin’s interesting – I don’t have any idea what his mindset is, but when he comes over and his willingness to play in the AHL are going to be factors.

      I’m not writing Betker off, but he played fewer games in the AHL last year than Nick Pageau or Martin Gernat did, with Pageau an AHL RD and the org. basically done with Gernat. I wouldn’t be counting on him, in other words.

      That leaves two slots for Bear and Jones. Reinhart, Oesterle and Simpson will have all played out their waiver exemptions at that point, so finding two or even three spaces (in the event Paigin comes over and is AHL-bound) shouldn’t be any kind of problem at all.

  • Keepyourstickontheice

    Is Bogdan Yakimov willing to go play in the KHL again? I think either bottom line AHL or top line ECHL are a waste of his skills, but might be a good character developing idea(bury him until callups start happening and then take it from there). I honestly don’t know with this guy anymore.

    • There’s enough wiggle-room in Bakersfield’s roster that if he’s in the AHL and playing to potential he ought to be able to find minutes, certainly inside the top-nine.

      For me, last year opened up real questions about him as an NHL prospect.

      • @S_2_H

        Speaking of Chase, would you expect him to be higher up on the depth chart, or has his game leveled off since turning pro? He was an intriguing prospect, despite the issues in Jr. but I haven’t heard much of anything of him lately. Is he destined for the ECHL again Willis?

  • madjam

    What little truculence on blue line last year was only provided by Gryba and Nurse . Thus this year , it will probably be Nurse and Fraser . Not a big fan of Fraser , but he is more truculent than Gryba . Not sold that Simpson on same level as Reinhart , but seemingly getting closer . Laleggia brings an offensive flair that may prove useful . Top 4 seemingly go to Sekara , Klefbom , Larsson and Davidson . Maybe Fayne is 5th ?

  • Diamond Dick

    Is Osterle a LHD that can play RHD?

    Also, doesn’t he have great wheels and an apparent offensive upside?

    If so, could he not be the RHD/PP piece we’re all clamouring for?

  • someguy

    Brandon Davidson is a lefty, curious as to why you put him on the right side?

    By default?

    Can he go both ways (that’s what she said)?

    Something else I’m not thinking of?

  • Bubba Train

    I would think about switching Lander and Caggiula.

    Lander has faltered, I don’t know if he can make it as a Center, too slow. Can he make it as a winger? Worth a try.

    Cagguila would better suit the Oilers as a Center, if he is capable of filling that role better than Landers or Letestu. It would be good to try him at Center on the farm and see what he can do.

    Switching roles may give each a better chance of success.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    wouldn’t surprise me if Lander was in the AHL next season. to me, if Nuge isn’t traded or Leon moved to the wing, he can’t beat out McD, Nuge, Leon or Letestu, as you have stated. he has almost no trade value either.

    • Keepyourstickontheice

      I think it’s reasonably likely that Leon gets moved to the wing and the 4C job is available. Whether Lander can impress enough to claim it is another question. I sure hope he can step it up this year and make an impact, he’s been given plenty of chances.

  • Glass

    So many questions… this season will be interesting. I like our AHL depth, especially with Bear, Paigan, and Jones around the corner.

    Controversial – why not start Yak in the AHL, and give Puljujarvi a taste of the NHL? I firmly believe Pakarinen is a competent 4th liner, and Kassian easily could fill the 3rd line out (especially after the work he’s put in this summer). Pulj would do well on McDavid’s line imo.

    Lucic/McDavid/Pulj, Maroon/Nuge/Ebs, Pouliot/Drai/Kassian, Hendricks/Letestu/Pak. Pretty good balance imo.

    From listening to interviews, Puljujarvi believes he is ready for the NHL. That may or may not be true, but I have a hunch that he will be overwhelmed like Nurse was adapting to the speed of the NHL & competition in the West.

    Not to mention he is coming off an injury, doesn’t speak the language well, is in for a grueling schedule and more importantly a culture shock playing in this market. Ease him in, give him a taste.

    Send him down to the AHL after ‘x’ many games and call up Yak. Pulj will truly know what he needs to work on and have top line minutes in the AHL. He’ll know what to expect when he comes back for a full season.

    As for Yakupov, he was heavy ridiculed by Russia’s coach at worlds and lacks TMac’s trust (evident by the incredibly short leash he was on). He could be a very useful player for this team, but he has some things to work on. It would be best if he could do so in the AHL where there is less pressure and he will play a role in which he fits.

    P.S. Sign Rundblad and let Nurse marinate in the AHL.