This is Jujhar Khaira. He is currently with the Oilers in the NHL, but not playing much. Along with Iiro Pakarinen and Anton Slepyshev, Khaira is an extra forward hanging around and waiting for injury or his turn in the rotation. It can be a difficult role, but for an NHL team having extra hands is a big deal. I keep reading things like ‘why even have them here?’ and I get that, but depth at this time of year is very important.
Back in 2006, the Oilers dealt Marty Reasoner at the deadline, believing there was more than enough depth behind Shawn Horcoff, Jarrett Stoll and Mike Peca. As it turned out, Marc Pouliot got mono, Kyle Brodziak didn’t make a postseason game and Ryan Smyth ended up taking a bunch of faceoffs—they even brought Rem Murray back from the AHL. Not ideal.
Even worse, the Buffalo Sabres actually ran out of defensemen in the same playoff season, directly contributing to a playoff series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. NHL depth is a big deal, but for playoff teams that minor league club can be damned important, too.
I won’t include the three youngsters listed above here, but they should be counted among the group that could be very important for the NHL playoff run.
CONDORS WHO MAY HELP THIS SPRING
- R Jesse Puljujarvi. He is big and fast and can help offensively, while also being capable without the puck. In a way, the Oilers have set themselves up with real depth in the minors because they slow-played Puljujarvi for the back half of the season.
- RD Mark Fayne. The Oilers are damned fortunate to have Fayne in their system, he is a plug-and-play veteran and a real luxury for a playoff team. He may never see the NHL again as an Oiler (buyout coming? My guess is yes) but if they need him, Fayne can help an NHL team.
- C Anton Lander. There are several Condors who are unlikely to be back next season, including Lander. Rumors have the Swede heading to Ak-Bars Kazan of the KHL, just as whispers are hinting Ziyat Paigin is heading from that Russian team to North America to play in the Oilers pro system. That said, Lander can help on the PK, at center or wing and may get the call if injuries hit.
- LD Griffin Reinhart. He might be higher on this list by now, and could easily get the call depending on what the need is at the time. My guess is that he is 7D in the fall, so it’s logical that he would be in the mix for a bottom pairing role on LH side if needed.
- G Jonas Gustavsson. He has been playing very well of late, SP of .939 in March and he has been a key performer in the Condors playoff run. I don’t think the Oilers would recall him unless they were forced by injury, but if he does make it back we might see him go right into the lineup.
- LD Jordan Oesterle. His speed and ability to play on the right side makes him an attractive option. If the Oilers need a mobile defenseman, Oesterle would be the obvious option.
- LD Dillon Simpson. He played well in a cup of coffee earlier this season, and might get another chance this spring if injuries hit. As ridiculous as it may seem, NHL teams lose defensemen by the dozen come playoff time.
This list really should include Khaira, Pakarinen and Slepyshev, but they’re in the NHL. If the Oilers play more than five games in the playoffs this spring, odds are one of these men will get a recall and play in a postseason game. History tells us so.