Monday Musings: Now it gets interesting

Bubble

The Oilers have three preseason games remaining, and those vying for a roster spot will likely have two, maybe three, games left to secure a roster spot.

Who is on the bubble?

Iiro Pakarinen was in a battle to make the final 23-man roster, but a knee injury will have him starting the season on the IR. Todd McLellan said this about Pakarinen’s injury, “Call it a a month and see what happens after that.”

The final three games will make or break it for some guys.

The forward locks on the 23-man roster are:

Connor McDavid, Milan Lucic, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, Benoit Pouliot, Patrick Maroon, Matt Hendricks, Mark Letestu and Zack Kassian.

The only reason Yakupov isn’t a lock is because there is a chance he gets dealt. If not, I’d guess he’s here to start the season, but I could see him starting in pressbox instead of on the ice. This leaves two or three forward slots depending if they carry 13 or 14 forwards.

Drake Caggiula, Kris Versteeg and Jesse Puljujarvi are at the top of the list to earn a spot. It would be a surprise if both Caggiula and Puljujarvi start the season in Edmonton, but it’s not impossible. 

I think Versteeg will earn a contract and a roster spot. McLellan likes his experience and versatility to play both wings and on any line. 

Caggiula grabbed the coaching staff’s attention early in camp, but the final three games carry more weight. Puljujarvi has slowly gotten better, and scoring a goal will help his confidence. It was a well-placed shot, but if it was scored against an Edmonton goalie Oilersnation would have been livid.

If Caggiula plays well, then Draisaitl will play RW with RNH. I don’t see McLellan running two rookies on his third line, so Versteeg could play there. Yakupov starts in pressbox while Puljujarvi is in AHL. These three games will have a big impact on how the look of the 2nd and 3rd lines to start the season.

Both rookies will get at least two games, and maybe all three to make one final impression.

Anton Lander hasn’t done much this preseason. They aren’t expecting him to score, but when you are one of the main penalty killers and you are on the ice for three PP goals against, it doesn’t bode well. The Oilers would not be concerned about losing him on waivers, and he’ll need an outstanding week to avoid being demoted to start the season.

Tyler Pitlick and Anton Slepyshev are the other forwards still in camp. Jere Sallinen was assigned to the AHL earlier today, while 2015 draft pick Tyler Benson is heading to Vancouver in the WHL.

Slepyshev and Pitlick have had decent camps. Pitlick started great, but hasn’t been as noticeable since, while Slepyshev hasn’t made a major statement, but he’s been involved in every game. The Oilers like him. A strong week will at least have him in the conversation about the 23-man roster.

DEFENCE

Adam Larsson, Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Mark Fayne, Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson are the top six. Davidson left last night’s game after Tanner Pearson hit him in the head. McLellan said he was “day-to-day until they get home.” The Oilers have today off, so we won’t know until tomorrow if Davidson has any lingering effects from the head shot.

Jordan Oesterle, Griffin Reinhart, Eric Gryba, Matt Benning, and Dillon Simpson are still in camp. Mark Fraser was placed on waivers today and when he clears at 10 a.m. tomorrow he’ll be heading to Bakersfield. Simpson will also be heading to the AHL, but he is developing nicely. Benning has been decent in his first pro camp, but he could use some pro seasoning in the AHL.

Reinhart hasn’t had a great camp. He doesn’t require waivers so I suspect he’ll start the year in the AHL. He needs to be more assertive.

Gryba, like Versteeg, will need to sign a contract. Oesterle has more offence and puck moving skills in his game than Gryba, but Gryba has experience and the coaches liked him last year. The Oilers have very little right-shooting depth in the organization, and signing Gryba to a one-year deal makes sense.

Oesterle has quietly had a solid camp. He makes smart decisions with the puck and I won’t be surprised if he’s on the roster next Tuesday. Oesterle does not require waivers, so keep that in mind when the final roster is announced.

Davidson’s health could play a factor as well, and if he is out longer than 10 days then both Oesterle and Gryba could start the season in Edmonton.

Also, the Oilers must have Andrew Ference on the roster for one day, and then he’ll be moved to the LTIR. The Oilers will have a paper shuffle when the final cuts are announced. One player will be assigned to Bakersfield, but he’ll be recalled as soon as they move Ference to the LTIR for the season.

GOALIES

Cam Talbot is the starter. He’ll be between the pipes on opening night and unless he soils the sheets in a few games, I’d start him in all nine games in October. The Oilers have no back-to-back games and a very favourable schedule before Halloween. They play six games at home and their three road games are in Calgary, Vanouver and Winnipeg. Easy travel and they even have a few two day breaks between games.

This team desperately needs a good start and I’d ride Talbot all month. With this strategy in mind I’d send Brossoit to the AHL and have Gustavsson sit on the bench and open the door. I’d rather have Brossoit playing games in the AHL than sitting on the bench.

If Talbot struggles, the OIlers could easily recall Brossoit.

Who do you see in trouble or on the bubble to crack the 23-man roster?

QUICK HITS

Ali

  • I highly recommend reading this great piece by Penguins GM Jim Rutherford. There is much more to being a GM, and the story of Trevor Daley will make you feel both glad and sad.
  • The Oilers have the day off today, but I suspect we will see them spend some time on special teams this week. Their PK got lit up for four goals in Winnipeg on Friday, and last night the PP didn’t register one measly shot on a five minute powerplay. I realize neither game had the Oilers full roster, but Larsson/Klefbom were on the PK on Friday, and McDavid and RNH’s lines were dressed last night.

    I’d be more concerned if the Oilers were getting dominated at EV, which they haven’t been thus far, so that is a good sign. Their 5×5 play must improve this year, and I’m confident their PP will be decent. This week during practice they will have more of an emphasis on special teams.

  • Maroon is feeling good and will be on the ice for practice tomorrow. Klefbom also has no lingering symptoms from the Dustin Byfuglien hit on Friday.
  • Expect Leon Draisaitl and Andrej Sekera to be on the ice tomorrow morning, but I doubt Sekera plays until Thursday. I’d think Draisaitl would not play either, but they might put him in. I’m curious where Draisaitl will play, either on the RW with RNH or down the middle on the third line. Where he plays could give us an indication which way the Oilers are leaning regarding Caggiula and Puljujarvi.
  • I have another free Fantasy Pool for you to enter. You can sign up at draftkings.com/gregor1260. Winner takes home $100. This if for NFL, but if the contest goes well DraftKings will do something awesome with my show and no here for the NHL season. If you want an NHL pool, then sign up for this NFL one. Good luck.

Recently by Jason Gregor:     

  • GDB -5.0: Nugent-Hopkins makes preseason debut
  • Adam Larsson: Defensive stalwart
  • I miss you Dad
  • GDB -6.0: Canuck Hunting
  • Camp competition, Puljujarvi to AHL and more
  • GDB -8.0 and -7.0: Alberta Double Dip
  • Trouba trade: Can it work for Oilers?

    • Spydyr

      For the goalies I would send Brossoit down then recall him for a start when Talbot needs a rest or they play back to back games. That way Brossoit gets lots of work in the AHL and helps out when needed in the NHL. Platoon him between the AHL and the NHL.I have little to no faith in Gustavsson.

    • Spydyr

      “Maroon is feeling good and will be on the ice for practice tomorrow. Klefbom also has no lingering symptoms from the Dustin Byfuglien hit on Friday.”

      Great news but after seeing how Pakarinen’s knee folded I would venture to guess he is out closer to 6-8 weeks and perhaps surgery may be involved. Just remember I’m no doctor. It just looked that nasty.

    • Jason, glad you posted a link for the Trevor Daley story. The Players Tribune is a MUST READ if you are a fan of any sport, especially the NHL. You get a ‘inside’ look of a Sport from the Player, Coach, Manager, etc….point of view…Also, “Reinhart hasn’t had a great camp…” Face palm and huge Sigh. If anyone needed a strong camp, it was Reinhart. Go OILERS!

    • daryl

      Not sure why you are a Yak hater but he actually hasn’t looked bad. Would still like to see him on Conner’s line Milan and Jorden have both looked slow compared to Conner and speed is one thing Yak has in spades.

      • Rob19

        No, Yak is decievingly slow actually. He is a lot of things, but a very fast skater he is not. He is an inefficient skater, which gives the appearance of speed- end to end I bet he takes 2-3 times the amount of strides Connor does and still loses the race by a few lengths. I am hoping for Yak to find a happy place on this team though, but he has to acknowledge he has to change certain aspects of his game- not “keep doing the same things” like he has said in interviews.

        • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

          I wonder where Yak typically finishes in the skills competition skating event. Yak sure has a choppy skating style that gives the impression he’s going someplace fast.

    • DN

      Still not liking Kevin and Drew. Here is the secret. When the players are playing, Kevin gives his play by play. When play stops Drew can chim in. No inside jokes and no one cares about what they did last night.

      • WHH

        Somewhat the same thing happens with Jack Michaels on the radio. Only his shtick is to tell you the stats of the player carrying the puck, what he did last year, what he ate last week all while the play is going on. You can hear the sounds of the game, but he has decided it is not that exciting at that point, and it is better for him to tell you how much he knows rather than call the game. Extremely annoying. Thankful I don’t have to listen very often.

      • Boom or Bust

        Drews the worst. Makes me want to throw things at the TV. I’m sure he will be doing the same s**t this year…Babble on about something irrelevant…not call the game properly and negatively pick apart the Oilers constantly while also talking about how wonderful the opposing team is and how we should be more like them .. Even if we are playing good…hes a jackass

          • Boom or Bust

            Oh I hear that.. And I get it Spyder, But I don’t need him to point that out every game, all the bloody time. Especially when we actually do something right for once and he STILL dogs it. Just had enough of him.

            • WHH

              He talks as if he is the hockey guru and we all tuned in to listen to his wisdom. It’s the constant lecturing and talking down to the fans that drives me nuts. When it gets to be too much I just turn the sound off.

    • S cottV

      The biggest challenge is getting the d corps sorted out.

      Pretty shaky exchanges trying to get the puck out of the d zone.

      What will be the partners – need to get together and work out the bugs, as much as possible before the start of the season.

      Hopefully Davidson is back soon, but his spot can be used to work out the cuts. Otherwise – get some chemistry going back there.

    • Zamboni Driver

      Am I the only one who is actually not feeling super fantastic about the Oilers’ goaltending period? Including the starter.

      I’m actually quite content with the forwards, about half the D…and while I think Talbot is certainly better than the craptastic goalies they’ve had over the past 5 years, I am not sure he’s especially good.

      (and I have zero confidence in “The Monster”)

      • Hemmercules

        I’m feeling the same. I think Talbot is a bit better than you suggest though. There had to be better options than Gustavson. If Talbot gets hurt or has a bad stretch I can’t see either Gus or Brossoit helping that much. Any other options available in the UFA market??

    • Muddy

      The one glaring positional thing I noticed last night was at the backend. Not so much a glaring deficiency in talent but more so the inability to keep the puck in our own zone. I counted multiple pucks hoping over sticks, a lot of bad passes but also our D needs to work on techniques to keep the puck alive. Great start just an observation that would result in a ton more scoring chances.

    • YEGswede

      I thought Yakupov looked pretty good yesterday. My guess is that his history makes him virtually impossible to trade away, but his ability gives him a place in the top 9, even with Caggiula, Versteeg and Puljujarvi trying to push for spots. He will also be the player who gains most from the added depth in the top 9 (i.e. not having to play with Letestu).

    • 6th Cup

      Yak sitting in the press box… So much for drafting at #1. It can end be more of a problem than picking at #5-10. ex. Tarasenko, Galchenyuk, Rielly ect Seems like he has wheels but can’t process the game well enough. If they can play him mostly on the PP or offensive starts on a scoring line would help maybe… but man sure would be nice if some miracle happened there. Or they cut bait and take a 3rd Rd pick or something? Wonder what his trade value actually is right now?

      Hope the Oil have a strong start to the season! Cant wait for the Puck to drop Oct 12!

    • Man, poor Yak is under a friggin microscope. Like he can’t just go out and play a game of preseason without everyone just dissecting it.

      On another note, not that I’m worried about Lucic, but he should be worried. Maroon didn’t drop all that weight so he could look good at the beach. He knows if he’s ever going to play with McDavid full time, he needs to get faster. My guess is if McLellan at any point gives Maroon the nod, he will not let that chance go by. I see the same thing for Kassian. It’s nice the team has some hungry wingers, as oppose to guys playing in positions because they have literally no one else.

      Great points today in the media about Conner’s backcheck. Pre season game, best play of the night was a hard defensive play that Oiler fans are not used to witnessing. “Hey, what’s that guy doing? What the heck is that? NO CONNER SKATE TO THE BENCH AND AVOID THE MINUS! Oh my God he caught the guy! What the hell do you call that?” (just then some unseen old timer pipes up)
      “That there is called a back check. In my day the team was full of guys who did that on a regular basis. They may not have had the talent of some of the young whipersnappers nowadays, but boy did they care about both ends of the ice. Which by the way was uphill on either side.”

      • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

        When you are the team’s formal 1sy over all draft who has under-performed to the point here may not be a spot on the team for you, you will get a lot of scrutiny. It juts come with the territory.

        With the log jam on the right side and with Lucic and Maroon now on the squad, I do wonder a bit about Kassian’s role as well. Is he still guaranteed to be on the team just because he is a big body? Let’s hope he has to something more than just be big to make the team.

    • Yak looked pretty brutal to my eye last game and so did Oesterle. Oesterle just gets pushed around way too easily in the d-zone by bigger, stronger forwards…

      I think the coaching staff and GM are just waiting to see when (not if) puljujarvi will exceed yak in terms of usefulness, and then he is toast.

      Eking out a 3-2 win yesterday was impressive when you consider none of the defensemen playing on the Oilers should crack any NHL roster at this point (that is after davidson went down).

      Would like to see what we are dealing with with a full d-corps and the same 1-2 lines we ran last night, I think we would be cooking with gas.

    • AussieOil

      Great news “Maroon is feeling good and will be on the ice for practice tomorrow. Klefbom also has no lingering symptoms from the Dustin Byfuglien hit on Friday. “

    • madjam

      Both Kassian and Pouliot in a bit of the dog house over bad penalties . However there is little to take over their jobs . With each new exhibition game injuries keep mounting , a disturbing trend .

    • Cowbell_Feva

      Poor Yak?
      Really?
      The guy has been a bust. Its pretty straight forward. Are we supposed to feel bad for a guy making $2.5 million dollars a year to play hockey, because he is under the microscope?

      Kids trying out for Atom and PeeWee hockey teams are under the microscope. That is how the sport works.

      I really don’t understand the love people have for Yakupov. He has played mostly 3rd line minutes with Letestu because he was not producing on the top lines AND he is a huge defensive liability. Yeah, he had a few points with 97. Zach Stortini would get points playing with 97.

      The fact is he isn’t a great offensive player at the NHL level. He seems to be all over the place at both ends of the ice. And no he isn’t some all world speedster. He moves around the ice like he has insulation in his equipment, jittery and itchy. I honestly don’t think people know where he is going or what he is going to do with the puck half the time, him included.

      I sure wish he was a lock down 30-40 goal scorer like he was projected to be. But he isn’t. He is in a dogfight to even get playing time here in Edmonton.