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Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday Thoughts: Yamamoto, Bouchard, Lucic and more

The Oilers will wrap up their development camp with a scrimmage tonight at the community rink. It is open to the public, and many fans will watch Evan Bouchard for the first time. I’m guessing you will come away impressed, but as often with young prospects, not named Connor McDavid, I encourage rationale and realistic expectations.

I believe Bouchard will be a solid NHL player, and the Oilers could go the Alex Pietrangelo route with him– keep him around the team for two months, play nine games, and then send him to the World Junior tournament and back to junior.

The Oilers biggest challenge last season was preventing goals, and I’d never expect a rookie defenceman to cure those woes, but I’d also be open-minded to seeing what Bouchard can do.

Bouchard could fill a role, not necessarily this year, the Oilers haven’t had since Risto Siltanen in 1982. A right-shot defenceman with a great shot who could produce 50 points. Siltanen had 63 points in 63 games for the Oilers in 1981/1982. Only Paul Coffey scored more points in a single season (six times between 1982-1987).

Edmonton has seen a few offensive left-shooting defenders produce more than 50 points in a season including Coffey, Chris Pronger, Charlie Huddy, Sheldon Souray, Steve Smith and Igor Kravchuk, but Siltanen was the only right-shot defender to do it.

The other RD to score 40 points include Boris Mironov, 46 points in 1998, and Tom Gilbert with 45 in 2009, but Gilbert never scored more than 33 points in any other season, while Mironov did have another 40-point season and three campaigns with 32+ points.

The only other D-men to produce 40 points in a season include Kevin Lowe (three times), Janne Niinimaa (twice), Doug Hicks, Norm MacIver, Randy Gregg, Roman Hamrlik and Dave Manson, and of these players, only Niinimaa (2001,2002) did since the turn of the century.

Producing 40 points as a defender is difficult to do. Only 30 defenders produced 40 points last season in the NHL, and there is no guarantee Bouchard will do that one day, but his pedigree suggests he presents it could happen in the future.

I understand why the Oilers were so excited to draft him, and now the must ensure they enhance, but don’t rush, his development.

QUICK HITS…

Oct 24, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matthew Murray (30) makes a save against Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (56) during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

1. I am more interested in Kailer Yamamoto’s strength than his height or weight. We can see the inches when measuring or the pounds when he steps on a scale, but how strong he is will have a bigger impact in showing if he is ready to play in the NHL. Can he battle with men? He is very competitive and has overcome his lack of size his entire career, but he’s never had to play against men who are five to 15 years older and much stronger.

His hockey sense, anticipation and competitiveness are his best assets, and why he has been a very prolific scorer in junior, and we have seen numerous small, skilled forwards succeed in the NHL, very few did it when they were 20 years of age. There is no doubt he will get stronger as he continues to mature, but his strength will determine if he can handle the NHL much more than his weight and height.

2. If you look for comparisons to smaller players. Marty St.Louis was never a regular NHL player until he was 25. At age of 27, he exploded up to 70 points. Johnny Gaudreau debuted in the NHL at 21 and has been productive quickly. This past season Alex Debrincat scored 54 points as a rookie. He is very small, but he’s also incredibly talented. Debrincat scored 104 points in 68 games at 17years young, 101 points at 18 and 127 points as a 19-year-old in the OHL. Yamamoto produced 71 points in 57 games, 99 points in 65 games and 64 points in 40 games from ages 17-19. Debrincat was outstanding in junior and more productive than Yamamoto, so while they are the same size, Debrincat produced much better. Yamamoto will have the advantage of playing alongside either McDavid or Leon Draisaitl if he makes the team, but is he strong enough to handle the challenges of the NHL?

3. I can confirm the Oilers have not asked Milan Lucic to waive his No Movement-Clause so far, so as of this moment there is no trade in place. Also, Peter Chiarelli won’t just give Lucic away to dump salary and take on a bad contract in return. Why take on a bad contract only two save $2 or $3 million. Do you see any winger you can sign for $3 mill or less who will score 40-50 points? Lucic has historically been a productive player. He was until Christmas, but then slumped terribly. I think it would be a knee-jerk reaction to give him up for nothing, just to create two or three million of cap space.

4. If Chiarelli can find a hockey trade for Lucic, then, of course, he should look at it. The length of the contract is a bigger concern than the cap hit. The Oilers do not have enough quality winger to just give Lucic away for nothing.

5. If Lucic was traded the remaining wingers with a proven track record is very short. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has only played 14 games as a winger, but he is a proven NHL player and I have no doubt he will be good alongside Connor McDavid, but after NHL experience and production is very limited:

Zack Kassian: 387 games and 117 points.
Drake Caggiula: 127 games and 38 points.
Jesse Puljujarvi: 93 games and 28 points.
Ty Rattie: 49 games and 19 points.
Pontus Aberg: 68 games and 18 points.

Lucic has 481 points in 811 games. He had a brutal second half, but I’d caution those who believe giving him away for nothing just to clear some cap space will not make the Oilers more competitive this season.

6. Kirill Maksimov is an Oilers prospect to watch. He was a 5th round pick in 2017 after scoring 21 goals and 38 points in 66 games split between Saginaw and Niagara of the OHL. This past season, he scored 34-46-80 in 62 games with Niagara.  He needs to keep improving his foot speed, but he took a major step last year and I’m curious to see where his game will go.

7. If you are looking for a great time be sure to get in the Oilersnation 2nd annual golf tournament. There are only ten spots left. Register here.

8. I see the Oilers signing three forwards and one defenceman in free agency. No big names or big money. Blake Comeau is someone on their radar.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Jimmer

    Does Andrew Shaw for Lucic (Montreal was his second choice during the UFA period) plus a 3rd round pick without holding salary work? Lucic is the best player in the trade…however, he has the worst contract and Shaw is 4 years younger. Shaw is a 3rd liner….nothing better but his grit and energy is undeniable. Having both Shaw and Kassian on the same team sounds nuts but…..sometimes a trip to crazy town is what a sometimes “lifeless” team needs.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Why are we running Lucic down all the time? I know, I know he had a bad 2nd half to last year… , like others, I don’t think that will continue.
      If he’s good for his 45 – 60 points per year for the rest of his contract, I’m great with that, all things considering.
      If he plays “heavy with his swagger” he’s fun to watch. Sure he is slow, but when he’s on, he’s good at getting to a spot before the puck. I think he will have a bounce back year. We shouldn’t be so hard on the guy? When he plays that way, he’s amusing & more importantly effective. He just has to get some “mean, heavy, swagger” back…

      • dsanchez1973

        If he was expected to be scoring 45-60 points for the rest of the contract, everyone would be good with it. He scored 34 points last year, and 50 the year before boosted by a previously unseen power play performance. He’s should be expected to be a 30pt or less player for the remainder of the contract.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Still hoping for a Kessel/Lucic trade. Yes, it probably won’t happen but with only having to pay Lucic 4.5 for 5years is that better than Kessel at 6.8 for 4 more years. Lucic does would save them 800,000 in cap space too whilst paying him less than his cap hit. Would Kessel want to come here and play with a younger better version of Crosby? Just throwing spit balls at the wall.

    If no trade can be made for Lucic, I do believe he’s going to come back angry and that could be a good thing for the Oilers.

  • Danoilerfanincalgary

    Enough is enough with the Lucic talk already cut the guy some slack. As for Yamo gaining weight doesn’t make you tougher, talk to Gaudreau he seems to do ok.

      • Oilman99

        Last fall Yammy did not look like he could handle the physical punishment when playing with the big club. He is a pretty small boned looking guy. He spent a lot of time on his ass when he got hit. I have a feeling he needs some time in the minors to learn how to handle the physical side of the game.

        • nbandito

          He’s going to be exposed to a greater level of physical punishment in both the AHL and the NHL than he was junior. I’d watch more if he can handle the pace of the play in the NHL and still be productive. You can’t say he wouldn’t be a good challenge today in an arm wrestle against Johnny G. Excited to see him try to break into the roster this fall.

  • belair

    Milan Lucic to Dallas for Brett Ritchie makes too much sense for it not to happen.

    Dallas was a big player on Lucic when he was a UFA. Their tough guy Antoine Roussel is leaving and they are in the market for a top six LW and their game isn’t exactly built on speed.

    Brett Ritchie is a $1.75m RW who is getting buried in Dallas’ depth since he was passed on the depth chart by former Oiler, Tyler Pitlick last year. He’s a physical, right shot third liner with decent goal-scoring instincts. He’s also Ryan Strome’s former RW from Niagara.

    Makes way too much sense.

      • belair

        Because prior to this season he’s been a regular 50 point power forward. That’s not exactly a common piece.

        After JVR, Neal and Perron, who are all likely to get PAID, there’s a significant drop off in terms of quality in the LW UFA market. Maroon is even rumored to be asking for $5m AAV. And it’s not like anyone in this group is significantly younger–they’re all 30.

        If Dallas chooses to make this deal after the July 1st bonus, they’re only committing $22.5m over five year in cash and they’re also sending a contract back so their cap impact for the first year diminishes.

        • fasteddy

          All the “don’t sell low” stuff does make some sense, and no one would rather see an effective Luc in an Oil uni than I, but I think we also need to think about the remaining years on his deal…..if he gets 25 points next year he’s completely untradeable. So yes there’s a risk in selling low, but there’s certainly also a risk in holding the asset.

  • Friesenhan

    Thank you, once again, for being the voice of reason about Lucic. It’s just getting frustrating now, the BS writing on him.
    Great read all around! Excited to see Bouchard as well, but unless he blows my mind, 9 games is enough for me.

  • Oil9744

    I really hope Edmonton can sign Grabner, he would be great with Connor or Leon, I think he’s skill and speed especially would complete that top line of Nuge, Mcdavid, Grabner,

      • Oil9744

        I think the oilers can afford him, Gregor was saying they are gonna get 3 forwards and a Dman in free agency? Would be nice but that seems like a bit much to me, I’d be happy just adding Grabner, 3 years 3 mill? He was just making like 1.8 or something, if he wants anything more then 4 mill then no

  • Bills Bills

    Thanks Jason, enjoy reading your opinions. Sound reason and logic rather than the PC sucks, trade Lucic for a bag of pucks posts that are ALL TOO COMMON HERE!!

    Lucic will remain a 45 point guy. He is too good of a hockey player not too. Clearly something went wrong with him after Christmas. Trading him for anyone who is not capable of putting up a proven and consistent 55+ points every year would be a huge mistake. Cap savings or not. He has intangibles that few players in the league have ever displayed and when push comes to shove, he’s the guy you want on your team. That’s why they got him. Let him be Lucic.

    • Gravis82

      throwing good money after bad. If we can trade lucic do it now, will be worse this year but better in the long run.

      Just to be clear, hes seems like a good team mate and still obviously an legit NHL player, but its a cap world and that was a cap mistake. If you can fix it you do it.

  • RexHolez

    I keep hearing how lucky the oilers were to get Bouchard. I can’t help but think of how lucky Bouchard is to get selected by the oilers. Mcdavid is going to make Evan a really rich man

  • RexHolez

    I wish Gregor used the quick hits to hit on more topics around the nhl. I respect Gregor’s view of the game and would love to read his views on more league wide topics

  • E-Mac

    If Tavares signs in TB and a Lucic deal is in fact in place, then I would love to get Kilorn who will probably need to be offloaded. Go for 20 goals and 40 points. Cap hit at 4.45M for five years. Seems reasonable.

  • The Rookie

    And if I remember correctly, Tom Gilbert’s 45 points in 09 was good enough for 3rd in team scoring. What a brutal time that was.

    I’ve been banging the Blake Comeau drum since the middle of last year. He’s a special teams work horse who, despite his age, would already be more productive in PP and PK than most of the guys on our roster. When I think of him, I’m reminded of when the oil traded for Oates at the deadline. It was for a specific role, but he then taught the younger guys and it stayed with them. Stoll often credits his Faceoff prowess to Oates who was a machine in the dot. I think Comeau could teach the younger players quite a bit about reading the plays on the fly.

    • fasteddy

      Obviously Comeau has been more effective of late than I’m aware of, but I remember him as a fourth liner 6 or 7 yrs ago in Cgy that could barely crack the lineup. Hard to picture him being a great addition now.

  • puckle-head

    It seems silly to think of Lucic as a positive asset that we “can’t lose for nothing.” And it’s probably unwise to pencil Lucic in for 40-50 points. Not saying he can’t do it, but at his current decline (remember, his 5v5 scoring rate the year before was just as dismal as last year), he has just as good a chance of only netting 20 pts as he does 40. Even if the Oilers get rid of him and don’t use the cap space this year, getting rid of the cap hit for the following 4 seasons (imagine how bad he’s going to be when he’s 34…) would be well worth it.

  • ROILYDoGG$

    The game he was gonna beat up the whole Calgary team including the goalie (Smith) Was worth every cent of the whole contract to scare Calgary in the battle of Alberta. No way I trade hiim !!! Jj K can be his prodigy and take over this role as the 3.0 version once his contact is over.