Oscar Klefbom blossomed last season, staying healthy, playing 82 games and scoring 38 points. Although the Oilers have been very successful in drafting impact forwards over the years (from Messier to McDavid), quality defensemen have been a very rare thing.
Klefbom’s emergence gives the Oilers a real advantage when it comes to the left side of the defensive depth chart. He’s signed long term to a contract that pays him a little over $4 million a year (value deal!) and his offensive potential appears to have been realized this past campaign. If he gets more power-play time, perhaps he can stretch that point total out to 45 or more. Klefbom is a vital cog at the position for the 2017-18 Oilers.
- Oscar Klefbom. There were some very interesting numbers last season for Oscar. His 162 shots at 5×5 ranked No. 4 overall among NHL defenders. Interesting that he ranked tied for No. 36 in power-play shots, meaning he wasn’t shooting a lot on the 5×4 despite playing over 200 minutes. We know he’ll play a primary top 4D role this coming season, probably alongside fellow Swede Adam Larsson. Klefbom’s power-play time may see him as more of a feature player in 2017-18.
- Andrej Sekera. His injury during the postseason cost the Oilers a lot in real time (Edmonton needed Sekera in all Anaheim games) and will impact the 2017-18 season, too. What we know about his injury is that recovery can take several months and it could be a calendar year from injury date before he’s 100 percent. Potentially massive impact on Oilers playoff hopes.
- Darnell Nurse. The injury to Sekera means Todd McLellan has to fill that second pairing with another option. Nurse is through draft+4 and is through two seasons as a regular in the NHL. In 2015-16, he was unable to play a feature role successfully (not surprising, that’s a big ask). In 2016-17, especially early, Nurse showed he could be a productive third pairing defenseman. Can he move up? That’s going to be a big story this fall, possibly all winter if Sekera struggles upon return.
- Yohann Auvitu. An astute free-agent signing by Peter Chiarelli, Auvitu’s strengths are best displayed when he has the puck on his stick. Excellent outlet passer, has a good and accurate shot and can get the puck through to the net. We’ll have to wait and see, a year from now Auvitu could be on to another town. That said, he’s skilled and the Oilers need just that thing on the back line.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Kris Russell is also an option, we’ll talk about him when we look at RHD. For me, I’d lean toward playing Russell with Matt Benning on that second pair, asking Nurse and Eric Gryba to pick up the third pairing until Sekera returns. We should also allow for a training camp move and or a PTO offer to someone like Jared Cowen. Ryan Stanton and Keegan Lowe may also see playing time in 2017-18.
PREVIOUSLY IN THE SERIES
- Left Wing Locked
- Hazy on the Starboard Side
- Pipeline: Goalie
- Pipeline: Defense
- Pipeline: Forwards