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.
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.