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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Zack Kassian’s Potential

You’ve always wanted to know all about the Oilers, NHL, and life in general so the mailbag is here to tell you all about it. In this week’s mailbag, we take a look at Zack Kassian’s potential, Kailer Yamamoto, and Hockey Fights. As always, you guys are the star of the mailbag. If you’ve got a question, you can email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Enjoy.

Apr 14, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN;San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones (31) makes a save on Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian (44) during the first period in game two of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1) @BorealNinja asks – Do you think we have already seen Kassian’s full potential? Do you think he has a 20 goal season in him?

Lowetide:

Great question and I don’t know the answer. I will say he is faster than I recall and he was very unlucky a year ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if he scored 15, but 20 seems a stretch. Wish I had a better answer but that feels right to me.

Robin Brownlee:

I doubt it. What you see it what you get with Kassian. Not a developing player anymore. That said, he’s not without skill and he skates well enough to play up in the lineup. With enough time in the top-nine I could see him in the 15-17 range for goals.

Jason Gregor:

No, I don’t. He doesn’t play PP. Only 43 players in the NHL had 20 EV goals last year, and Paul Byron was the only one who didn’t have a PP goal. He had 21 EV goals and played 15:04/game. He had a massive career year, doubling his goal totals, so somewhat of an outlier. Kassian could be a 10-15 goal man I believe, which would be very solid considering his minutes and the role/line he plays on. Could he score 20 if he played all season in the top-six? Possibly, but I don’t see him as a regular top-six forward.

Jonathan Willis:

He might, but I’d lean against it just because I don’t think he’s likely to secure a regular power play role; circumstances have to work in your favour to have a big goal-scoring season. If he hit 15 goals and 35-40 points it wouldn’t shock me, though.

Matt Henderson:

A 20 goal season is a lot to ask for. Yes, it can happen. He has enough skill to do it, but I think 15 on the third line without a lot of PP time would be fantastic. He has a collection of skill, size, and speed that will keep him around for a while, but he hasn’t really put it all together before.

Chris the Intern:

On one hand, I want to say yes, and I’d be okay with that. But on the other hand, he’s only had a couple ‘sober’ seasons in him so if we refer to him as ‘starting over’ a couple years ago, I think he can still improve his skill for years to come.

Cam Lewis:

Kassian was a high draft pick, 13th overall in 2010, and was a pretty good scorer in Junior. Considering the fact he’s 26, it’s difficult to say if he’ll ever fulfill his potential of being one of those Milan Lucic types everyone was seeking at that point in time, but increased power play time would like see Kassian build on his seven goals and 24 points. If he was given top-six minutes there’s no reason he couldn’t see a major bump in production like Patrick Maroon did last season.

Baggedmilk:

I think he has the talent to possibly hit 20 goals but don’t think he’ll get the gravy ice time needed to get there. Kass plays a lot of 5-on-5 in the bottom six and PK minutes and that’s not exactly a recipe for a 20 goal season.

Mar 28, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Place. The win guarantees them a playoff spot for the first time in 10 seasons. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Al asks – If there was ever an inter-league hockey tournament would it be a foregone conclusion that the NHL teams would win? How would you personally rank the hockey leagues (NHL, KHL, AHL, SEL, Liiga) in a 1-5 countdown with one being the best? 

Lowetide:

I am sure the NHL would win any tournament. As for ranking, impossible to give an informed opinion because I haven’t seen all of the leagues. I will guess: NHL, KHL, AHL, SEL, Liiga.

Robin Brownlee:

NHL would win and it’s not close. If you’re talking all teams from the leagues and not just the top teams, I’d give the AHL a slight edge over the other three.

Jason Gregor:

NHL wins and it isn’t close. I don’t follow the three Euro leagues close enough to have an informed opinion on which one is the best. I’d only be guessing if I ranked the other four. I do think AHL would be competitive based on conversations I’ve had with players who have played in AHL and in the SEL and KHL. Very different styles of play and ice size, so hard to say how they’d adapt. I’d guess AHL would be better in NA games while Euro leagues would have an advantage on bigger ice.

Jonathan Willis:

A good way to look at this is though the lens of NHL equivalencies – how players from each league have performed when making the jump to the NHL. Rob Vollman’s most recent equivalencies show the average KHL’er retaining 78% of his offence, an SHL’er 55%, and a top-level Finnish-league player about one-third. The AHL varies based on age, but comes in at about 45% across the board. One thing to keep in mind about the AHL is that unlike these other leagues its a feeder league – a lot of times, its best talent is up in the NHL, and its hurt twice as bad by injuries as these other leagues (since both NHL and AHL injuries open up holes in the lineup). I’d rank them 1. NHL, 2. KHL, 3. SHL, 4. AHL and 5. Finland, with the AHL moving to No. 3 if we’re talking about opening night rosters.

Matt Henderson:

Yeah, I think it’s a foregone conclusion the NHL would win. I think the KHL is second behind the NHL and then the AHL. SEL and Liiga comes in fourth and fifth respectively. The NHL has the best players, in their primes, and nobody else can beat that over the long term.

Chris the Intern:

I have no idea the calibre of hockey most other leagues around the world are, but I’m pretty confident the NHL would crush. 1. NHL 2. AHL 3. KHL 4. SEL 5. Liiga.

Cam Lewis:

The NHL would win handily, obviously. But the KHL and SHL are much better leagues than most tend to give them credit for.

Baggedmilk:

I don’t watch enough European hockey to really know about the other leagues but I’d guess it would go something like NHL, KHL, AHL, then whatever. Am I close? I have no idea. I think I’m close.

June 23, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Kailer Yamamoto poses for photos after being selected as the number twenty-two overall pick to the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

3) Mitch asks – Looking at how the team is made up right now, do you think Kailer Yamamoto has a realistic chance of cracking the opening night roster?

Lowetide:

The ONLY way he makes the team is if the Oilers let him hang around and play with skilled centres. Mark my words: If he gets playing time with McDavid or Leon or Nuge then he is going to get traction. Edmonton should start the fall with Yamamoto getting plenty of playing time and then squeeze it when the big guns start playing big games. This is the year Jesse Puljujarvi needs to get a push, Yamamoto has all kinds of skill and could end up eating someone’s lunch. That’s the long answer. The short answer: Not a realistic chance, but an outside one.

Robin Brownlee:

No. Give him a look in pre-season and send him back to dominate. There is no need to rush an undersized player like Yamamoto into a league where he is physically overmatched. No percentage in it.

Jason Gregor:

No. No. No. He isn’t strong enough to play against NHL D-men right now. He’d likely get injured. He turns 19 in September. Let him develop in the WHL, go to the WJC, and keep getting stronger.

Jonathan Willis:

When they weighed Yamamoto at the draft combine he came in at 146 pounds. His odds of cracking the Oilers in his first training camp are incredibly low; I’d peg them at under two percent.

Matt Henderson:

I really don’t like Edmonton’s right wing situation. It depends too much on Puljujarvi being fully ready and maybe Ryan Strome being more than a third line guy. So on some level, Yamamoto has a chance. That said, he’s teeny tiny and sending him back to the CHL should be an incredibly easy decision.

Chris the Intern:

Nah I definitely don’t think so. He’s an extremely talented kid but I think he’s still got quite a bit of work to do with his size to crack our lineup.
Cam Lewis:
There’s really no reason for this. Keeping him on the roster would, unless there’s an injury or two, mean waiving somebody like Jujar Khaira or Iiro Pakarainen or starting Jesse Puljujarvi or Anton Slepyshev in the AHL. The Oilers are finally in a position where they don’t have to rush prospects, so why force an undersized 18-year-old into a short cup of coffee when there are so many more capable older players who need to hit the ground running?

Baggedmilk:

No, I don’t. I think Oilers fans have to start getting used to their first round picks going back to junior and getting some development time. How many guys has this franchise rushed into the NHL only to see it hamper their development? Let Yamamoto go back down to junior and be a big (read: little) fish. Give him some time to marinate.

Apr 16, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers right wing Zack Kassian (44) celebrates scoring a goal against the San Jose Sharks in the third period of game three in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center at San Jose. The Oilers won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

4) Wendel asks – Last season the Oilers finished with 103 points and I’m wondering whether you think they’ll meet that mark again, beat it, or fall short?

Lowetide:

Great question. I think they’ll be ‘in the range’ but injuries have already had an impact. I’ll say between 95-105 points and that seems about right.

Robin Brownlee:

I think they’re right at, or close to, the same number. Not going to split hairs as to one point above or below.

Jason Gregor:

I see them being between 100-106 points as long as they don’t incur major injuries. The Oilers are good. Last year was not a fluke.

Jonathan Willis:

I mentioned on Lowetide’s show last week that I like the Oilers to win the Pacific division, but the caveat on that answer is that I don’t think there is a clear front-runner; I think a bunch of teams have a real shot and the Oilers are a nose ahead of the Ducks. If I’m setting an over/under line for the Oilers it’s probably 100 points.

Matt Henderson:

Given the state of their second pairing, I would be very happy if the team can hit 103 points again. A lot has to go right for this team to be better after Chiarelli downgraded a couple spots in the offseason. The top six forwards need to stay healthy, Maroon can’t take a step back, Puljujarvi needs to replace Eberle, and the defence needs to tread water until Sekera comes back.

Chris the Intern:

I have a feeling they will meet it, or fall just short. It’s tough to say but Sekera being injured the first couple months will be a huge challenge for the team. BUT, when Connor averages four points per game, who knows where he’ll take us?

Cam Lewis:

Pretty much everything went right last season. Nobody was injured, as Connor McDavid, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera, RNH, Patrick Maroon, and Milan Lucic played at least 79 games. It’s difficult to bet the team will have that kind of injury luck again, and we already know Andrej Sekera is going to miss the first few months of the season. I don’t think it’ll be a massive drop, but the team won’t have as good of a regular season as it did in 2016-17.

Baggedmilk:

I’m guessing they’ll be in the same ballpark, give or take a point or two. I think the Oilers will be a playoff team for sure but where they slot in the division will be up for grabs. At least, they’d better be in the same ballpark or this website is going to be very angry come April.

5) Oliver asks – I just received my Semenko tribute tee that you guys did and it made me wonder if there was any NHL fight that you will always remember, Semenko or otherwise?

Lowetide:

Stan Jonathan versus Pierre Bouchard. I was so worked up I had to walk around the block twice. Lordy.

Robin Brownlee:

Jamie Macoun and Ron Delorme. Brutal fight. Close second is Rudy Poeschek and Craig Berube.

Jason Gregor:

Bob Probert and Craig Coxe. I still can’t believe how many punches they threw and landed.

Jonathan Willis:

I’m too young to have really seen Semenko fight. I don’t think there’s one particularly memorable fight that stands out from the pack for me, but the ones that do stick out are the unexpected ones. I don’t really care when two enforcers tee off; what’s more interesting is when someone like Dustin Penner snaps on Landon Wilson or superstars like Vincent Lecavalier and Jarome Iginla going at it.

Matt Henderson:

I was a child when Dave Semenko retired. I don’t remember him. I remember how my father remembered him. He called him the toughest motherf*%#er in the NHL. A monster that could cave a man’s face in if he wanted to and since everyone knew it, nobody wanted to test it. My favourite Semenko memory was being told about him like he was Robin Hood or Jack of beanstalk fame.

Chris the Intern:

Awesome! Thanks for supporting the cause. I don’t remember a lot of awesome old-school fights, but one that comes to mind was Macintyre’s KO of Ivanans.Macintyre’s KO of Ivanans.

Cam Lewis:

I was going to mention Bishai, but BM already did, so I’ll go with the funniest one I can remember witnessing live. Nail Yakupov being a pest and getting into it with Zach Bogosian. It really seemed like the team was turning a corner that season and Yak was going to be a big part of it. Sigh.

Baggedmilk:

If there’s a scrap that breaks out in the heat of the moment then nothing is better. One of my favourites has to be when Mike Bishai ended up in the Atlanta Thrashers bench after an entire line brawl broke out. That fight was a beauty.

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  • OriginalPouzar

    I see a decent amount of comments around the blogosphere, etc. having Kassian moving up the lineup and even on Connor’s right wing.

    I understand where these are coming from as the man was a 1st round pick and does have offensive skill.

    • OriginalPouzar

      With that said, I think a HUGE part of Kassian’s uptick in play is his aggressiveness – he understands his role is to skate and be aggressive – be a bit of a shit-distruber, forecheck and take the body. I fear that the farther he moves up the lineup, the more he will try and adapt to the skill of the line and lose the aggressiveness that has been making him successful.

      Yes, I think Zack can be spotted up the lineup and on the PP but I would like to see him as a bottom 6 right winger most of the time – keep using the speed and size Zack.

  • madjam

    Yamamoto soon same age as Puljujarvi , and doubtful he gains any size or weight going back to junior again . If he is going to make it to the NHL he will inevitably have to make it with the size disadvantage he has now . Despite obstacles his size presents , he may prove to be best option on RW . Looks like a superior talent with inferior size . Can he remain healthy for the year in NHL with his size is the question whenever he makes the team .

    • Jagrbaum

      You doubt an 18 year old will gain any size or weight going back to junior? Seems like a stretch, given that there’s no way his body is fully physically developed at his age.

      One of the reason number 1 overall picks make the NHL is because they are physically gifted and mature ahead of their age group. It’s rare, which is why they are drafted so high. However, that doesn’t mean that every 18 year old drafted in the first round is done growing significantly. I think Yamamoto has plenty of room to grow in weight (height is less likely) and a year in junior will certainly add to that as he will endure less wear and tear that will allow him to consistently add strength without being hampered by injuries that are more likely to occur when a 6’4 220lbs NHL dman takes him into a corner.

  • freelancer

    Yamamoto absolutely should not make this team out of camp, nor should he probably play next season either. If you look at some similar players to Yamamoto in stature, Gaudreau, Johnson, Sheary, Zucarello, Atkinson; not one of those players made the jump to the NHL before they were 21. Let the kid play in the WHL next season and the AHL the season after.

  • Space Pants

    Was the Mike Bishai fight and ensuing line brawl the game where Atlanta’s starting goalie had already been injured and they had to play without a goalie for two minutes in the middle of the game?

  • SeethingRed

    I appreciate the panel being somewhat honest about the regression that is about to occur in Edmonton…I think goaltending and a wafer thin defence will be the catalyst as opposed to multiple injuries…trash away!

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      You think OUR goaltending will be the reason for regression!? lol… Look at your own first.

      The panel was being honest, and basically all agreed they don’t see much regression if any at all…so I don’t know what you are talking about (at all – lol). They basically agreed we would be in the same ballpark give or take a few points. The commenters that did mention it said we should contend for the division title in fact.

      That would mean you would have to take a massive step forward to keep up. Can the Flamers do that with a 75 year old goalie? 😉 Good luck with that!

  • a lg dubl dubl

    That MacIntyre- Ivanis fight was one for the ages! Ivanis never laced the skates up again in the NHL, iirc.

    I vaguely remember a few of Semenkos fights, he was the Hulk on skates! A close 2nd to Semenko was Dave Brown; in the time he was with the Oilers, I’ll always remember his death stare at the opposing players.