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Photo Credit: YouTube

GDB -6.0: Going to Winnipeg

The advantage of playing early preseason games on the road is the coaching staff gets an opportunity to see how players look against regular NHL players. In Calgary on Monday the Flames had 13 regulars in their lineup, including their starting goalie, top-four defencemen and seven of their top-nine forwards. The Oilers had six regulars and backup goalie Laurent Brossoit played half the game.

Tonight in Winnipeg the Jets will dress their top-two lines, Steve Mason, their new starting goalie, and five of their top defencemen.

Todd McLellan will get a front row seat to see how his team reacts to the Jets aggressive forecheck and their top-end skill.

Unlike previous seasons, there isn’t a lot of intrigue surrounding the Oilers roster. There aren’t many spots open for newcomers.

If Anton Slepyshev was healthy, there would be a good battle for a top-nine spot, and when he does return McLellan will have some decisions on who plays where, but until then there isn’t much suspense.

For the Oilers organization this must be a welcome change. They won’t enter the season hopeful some young players can suddenly carry them to respectability.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t story lines.

Kailer Yamamoto will play with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jussi Jokinen. Yamamoto had a good game in Calgary and they will be the Oilers top line tonight. He has shown very well and next year I expect he will take a serious run at the Oilers top-six.

Jesse Puljujarvi took a crosscheck on Monday and is a little sore. Nothing remotely concerning, but there is no need to play him banged up at this juncture of the preseason. He didn’t have the best performance versus Calgary. He gave the puck away too often in the offensive zone, and when he got himself in good position to shoot he didn’t get off a dangerous shot. He is still very young, and keep in mind recent first round selections of the Oilers like Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse, Jordan Eberle weren’t regulars in the NHL at 19. Draisaitl started the season with the Oilers, but was returned to junior, while Eberle and Nurse played the entire season in junior and played for Canada at the World Juniors.

If Puljujarvi ends up in Bakersfield at some point this season it wouldn’t surprise me. And I wouldn’t see it as a disappointment. When Slepshev returns the Oilers would have ten forwards to fill nine spots. Assuming of course Jujhar Khaira, Mark Letestu and Zack Kassian make up the other line. Puljujarvi will battle for icetime when Slepyshev is healthy and healthy competition is a good thing.

LINEUPS…

Jokinen-RNH-Yamamoto
Khaira-Letestu-Kassian
Rattie-Kelly-Callahan
Laleggia-Gambardella-Malone/P.Russell

Russell-Benning
Stanton-Gryba
Auvitu-Mantha

Brossoit
Ellis

**The Oilers are bringing an extra forward, and with no line rushes I’m not sure who won’t dress.***

Jets

Laine-Schiefele-Wheeler
Perreault-Little-Ehlers
Matthias-Roslovic-Petan
Copp-Hendricks-Tanev

Niku-Byfuglien
Kulikov-Myers
Morrissey-Trouba

Mason

QUICK HITS…

  • Jujhar Khaira is having the best training camp of his career. He scored in both scrimmages on the weekend, scored a goal in Calgary and had another great chance on a breakaway. He looks quicker than in previous years, but more importantly for me he looks much more assertive and confident with the puck. He isn’t just chipping and chasing. He has made plays. He has never been a huge point producer, with 22 goals and 57 points in 133 AHL games, and 16-27-43 in his lone WHL season. Could he be similar to Tyler Pitlick? Pitlick scored 85 points in 196 AHL games (.43 points per game), while Khaira had 57 in 133 (.42 PPG). Khaira skates very well, is physical and has more of a grind out game than flashy skill. Confidence is a huge for any player and right now Khaira’s offensive confidence is as high as it’s ever been in an NHL setting. He is garnering the attention of the coaches and so far he has been much more noticeable than Iiro Pakarinen, whom he is battling for the LW spot on the fourth line.
  • My pick for breakout Oilers player this year is Drake Caggiula. He seems to be the least talked about of the Oilers wingers. I don’t understand why. He skates well, has a good, quick shot, was playing on the PK in the playoffs and as a rookie he earned the trust of his coach to play centre, despite not playing that position in his three previous seasons in the NCAA. Caggiula had a productive NCAA career, and with 43 goals in 81 games during his final two seasons he’s shown he can score. His speed and tenacity –he plays with an edge– and hockey sense shows me he’ll be able to play with elite players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. You need to think the game to produce with those players, and I expect we’ll see him become a productive forward. He scored twice in Calgary and was used on the PK and PP. His versatility will make him an important piece this season.
  • It was only one game, but I wonder if Monday was a hint of how we might see the Oilers use Klefbom and Larsson this season. They played 27 and 26 minutes respectively. Granted, the other four D-men won’t be in the opening lineup on October 4th, but with Andrej Sekera out for at least a few months, I believe Klefbom will see an increase in his minutes. He averaged 22:22 last season and I won’t be surprised to see him around 24 minutes/game this season. Nineteen defenders averaged over 24 minutes/game last year and at 24 years old Klefbom should be able to handle a heavier workload.
  • Ryan Stanton makes his preseason debut tonight. He is battling Yohann Auvitu for the #7 spot. Right now Auvitu is ahead, but at this time last year Matt Benning wasn’t with the “first” group either, but played his way onto the team. Tonight will be a good test for both Auvitu and Stanton to show they can handle an aggressive forecheck and the speed of the Jets.
  • There were preseason games on Monday and we saw a total 49 slashing calls and nine face off violations. In eight games last night, there were 32 slashing calls and five faceoff violations. That is a pretty substantial drop in one day. I’ll be monitoring it nightly to see how the players adapt.

TONIGHT…

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers likely will be chasing the puck a bit tonight. Jets win 5-3.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Laine scores a PP goal.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Khaira scores again. He continues to roll early in preseason.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Rust In Peace

    I haven’t seen anything I liked in Puljujarvi since we drafted him. Poor NHL debut followed up by an average AHL stint and being a healthy scratch on his International team. He needs to do more. Not saying he needs to make the team but just do… something.

    • Spydyr

      What he should be doing this year is playing in the AHL. I’m not sure if the Oilers are going to do that or gift him a rooster spot like they have in the past with high draft picks.

    • TruthHurts98

      I wouldn’t say there is anything to like, he’s big (going to get bigger) he can skate and he’s very young. It takes some players longer than others to adapt to the NHL. He’s needs to get grittier and hit more IMO. Another season in the AHL might be the best plan of action. I’m not sure he’s quite NHL ready, but it was one preseason game. The Oilers don’t need to rush him and I hope they don’t. Slepyshev is supposed to be back soon and they still have options via trade or a signing if JP isn’t ready.

        • madjam

          Jesse has not lived up to the offensive part of the game yet that we all look for . However , he made one defensive gem of a play in first game that leaves you in awe of his explosive speed when applied . Calgary speedy winger had a breakaway from center ice and Jesse caught him in two-three strides just inside our blueline , and stripped him easily of the puck and started possession back to opposition territory . Very impressive . He did this despite being a good 2-3 steps behind the player to start with . I doubt McDavid could have faired much better . If he can continue to play with that speed and intensity defensively he will definitely make the team , and despite only one game (small sample) his offence should follow before season starts . In a nutshell , evaluate his defensive acumen and offence not just the one , as most are so accustomed to doing .

  • TKB2677

    While I like the kid and I have high hopes for him, I am disappointed that the Oilers would be playing Yamamoto over Pulujarvi. I would be playing the crap out of JP to find out if he can stay or needs to be sent down. He needs time to develop to learn to play the NA game, he needs time to build some chemistry and confidence. I think that Yamamoto has loads of potential but in no way should he be on the team this season. He’s only 18, barely over 150lbs. He needs to get bigger and stronger.

    • Kepler62c

      I understand Jesse’s banged up tonight, so that makes sense to rest him. However, I agree that it shouldn’t be Yamamoto there. Yes he played well, it’s nice to reward the kid, but lets be realistic – he’s going back to the WHL, and he was always going back.

      With Jesse out, I’d rather see them give this opportunity to someone who might actually make the team. Iiro Pakarinen, Ty Rattie, Mitch Callahan, etc.

      • Leichs

        Why not let him play a game or two to show him what hes up against in his future? After this stint, the way hes played so far, hes going to go back to the W and know exactly what it takes to make the show and hopefully light the league up. No offense to Iiro Pakarinen, Ty Rattie, and Mitch Callahan, but they more than likely have no future on the Oilers roster bearing some freak injuries (maybe Pak will get some action but the others nope). Its a pretty safe bet that we will see Yammer in Oil silks before the other two. I would much rather see what a highly skilled Yamamoto can do with NHL caliber players. On the other hand if Jesse is good to play on friday, he will most likely be flanking Drai while Strome is slotted with Connor. Big opportunity for him to show his stuff. This all assuming our top 4 is playing on Friday night.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    Jason boosting up of Caggulia makes me want to see Oilers extend him on a 2-year deal. Takes hin to his last year of RFA (I believe) and should keep his contract in the value range.

  • Hemmercules

    I was saying the same thing yesterday. I realize he’s only 19 but I haven’t seen much to be excited about. I hope he can gain some confidence and learn to play the smaller ice a little better. I would like to see him play an entire AHL season this year and see if he can impress in camp next summer and make the team.

    • El Petrolero

      He seems like more of a defensive 2-way forward and is now just barely 19. Would not be surprised if he starts the year in the AHL and takes a similar trajectory to Drai. He has the gifts of size, speed, and skill, just needs to learn to use them to create more space in the O-zone. Seems fine backchecking and in his own zone already. Just needs a bit of luck to build that scoring confidence back up.

  • TKB2677

    I wonder when it comes to Puljujarvi and some fans being either concerned or not overly impressed is it a case that many Oilers fans are so used to all these high draft picks coming into the line up that when a high pick maybe needs a bit off development time, fans immediately think something is wrong?

    In tonight’s game, the Jets have their big, strong, right shooting, stud #1 center in Scheifele playing. Scheifele was drafted 7th overall in 2011. After being drafted, Scheifele didn’t make the Jets full time until the 2013-2014 season. So he spent 2 full seasons back in junior after being drafted. Would anyone say that was a mistake? So if it takes Puljujarvi a few years to turn into a good NHLer, what’s the big deal?

    • Oil4Ever

      I was thinking the same thing. After years of screaming at the Oilers for rushing kids, which hurt their development, the same people are screaming because the team is now showing patience, which is good for development. You can’t give up on JP already. It’s ridiculous.

      • 99CupsofCoffey

        Same concept that if you make “too much money” and are not quite performing, that you are driven out of Edmonton no matter what. Fans are fickle when it comes to the mighty Oil.

    • Matt Turner

      What? While the play is proceeding you don’t want to hear Jack and Bob discuss where the other teams third-line left-winger played his Midget hockey, and his point totals in the ECHL?
      Don’t you like hearing anecdotes about who some Winnipeg prospects Junior coach was?
      Stories of Golden Bear players from the Seventies or trivia of leagues that no longer exists?

    • Spydyr

      Yamamoto has underwhelmed me every game so far. Khaira looked a little faster. Brossoit appeared to have trouble tracking the uck but looks calm back there.

      • Dreadguy

        Wait… Yamamoto has been unreal for a 145lb 18yo playing against pro men that would love nothing more than to take his head home as a trophy. There is no doubt that he has the skill. If you doubt his tenacity you haven’t been watching. He will be a full time NHL’er in 2-3 years when he is 175-180lbs

      • Shameless Plugger

        I will no longer willl be your nemesis as I can’t get past your sheer ineptitude in assessing NHL talent. Yamamoto has underwhelmed ? What exactly were you expecting?

        Lucic on a 5 foot nothing frame ? The kid wins battles one on one and is super skilled one on one. Not sure what’s not to like about him. Mind you small players are useless in your eyes. No matter how skilled or talented they are.

  • One Khaira play that I liked was his pass up to Drai when Drai went in on 5 Flames and Yamamoto finished with a goal.

    It’s wasn’t a remarkable play, rather it was a textbook tape-to-tape pass to a Drai who had speed followed with a quick dart to the net. We’ve seen so many young players being a bit sloppy in that regard, either sending the puck past the player up-ice or just dumping it in for that rushing player.

    I don’t expect Khaira to be a 1st/2nd line superstar, I just want a solid 3rd-4th line guy who has size and can make simple plays like that consistently.

    He’ll make mistakes, considering his lack of experience, and hopefully unlike our pre-Chia days he’ll be sheltered with some vets on his line.

  • madjam

    Another well eaned victory , and a testament to the good job Chia has done in restocking and making better and deeper the farm team . Many look like they can play in NHL and can surely help should injuries occur this season . Well done Chia . Condors should have quite the team this season . Yamamoto gets another impressive passing grade on this game .