The Edmonton Oilers announced on Wednesday that they had recalled four players from the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors. With the Condors’ season now over, the quartet of newcomers will add some depth options both up front and on the blue line for head coach Todd McLellan.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 19, 2017
Edmonton already had some spares at all positions, so it isn’t at all certain that any of these newcomers will play, though some are more likely than others.
Anton Lander probably has the best shot at getting into some game action. The Oilers’ fourth-line centre, David Desharnais, has been underwhelming since arriving in a trade deadline deal and his spot in the starting lineup might be vulnerable. Edmonton has some other forwards who could step in up the middle in Matt Hendricks and Jujhar Khaira, but neither forward is clearly superior to Lander.
Lander outscored Khaira at both the AHL and NHL levels this season, and has significantly more experience. Hendricks can play centre but has been most effective at left wing, whereas Lander is a natural pivot. And while Lander’s scoring deficiencies in the majors are well-known, he plays a gritty and responsible defensive game and does a good job in specific assignments, like the penalty kill and faceoff dot.
Mark Fayne is interesting because if there’s an opening on the Oilers blue line, it’s in a right-shot role on the team’s third pairing. Eric Gryba started the playoffs in that spot, but was scratched after a poor Game 1 performance. Matt Benning, his replacement, has mostly performed well over three games, though nobody looked good in a 7-0 loss on Tuesday. Fayne has history playing tough minutes, in both the regular season and the playoffs, and although he’s fallen out of favour with this coaching staff it’s debatable whether he’s actually a lesser option than the more physical but less polished Gryba.
Jordan Oesterle is stuck behind a bunch of left-shot defencemen, and if there’s an injury there it seems likely that the first move by the coaches would be to bump Kris Russell over from the right side. Now 24, Oesterle will need to clear waivers to be sent down to the farm next year, and it isn’t at all clear that he would. He’s in a tough spot, though, because Edmonton is loaded on the left side. If he manages to get into the lineup, he’ll bring speed and passing ability to the back end.
Joey Laleggia is probably my favourite prospect story this year, and this call-up is a nod to the quality season he’s had. An undersized puckmoving defenceman, he was forced up front by virtue of necessity in the AHL this year. He responded with a 20-goal campaign in his first season as a forward. He’s still a long shot as prospect, especially because he turns 25 this summer, but given Edmonton’s relative lack of quality forwards in the minors and the possibility that he can better those numbers he now seems to have at least a shot at getting NHL minutes at some point next season.
Whatever other problems the Oilers may have, the team is incredibly well-stocked in the depth department, which is a departure from years past. GM Peter Chiarelli has quickly and competently built up a series of reserves who can be called upon in any emergency.
Lander and Laleggia join Khaira, Hendricks and Iiro Pakarinen as scratches up front, and with the possible exception of Laleggia none of them would warrant so much as a batted eye if they were to enter the lineup. Defensively, Fayne and Oesterle join Gryba and Griffin Reinhart, giving Edmonton four legitimate replacements if a job opening appears on defence. If injuries hit, the Oilers have options.