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.
Note: I have omitted defencemen Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones
from the depth chart, since both are almost certainly returning to major
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.
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
- 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?
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
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. )
WWYDW Q2: What does
your AHL top-four look like?
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
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