Over the past few weeks, I’ve gone through every player who should have an impact on the Oilers and tried to guess what that players “ceiling” is, and also what their “floor” would be performance wise.
In doing this, I’ll be making a few assumptions. The first being that the player stays healthy for the entire season. Obviously, the worst case scenario for any player would be to miss a significant amount of time with injury. The other is that the player will spend the entire season with the Oilers. It would be easy to say that the best case scenario for some names is that they’re traded away from Edmonton.
For the high end of things, I tried to be realistic yet optimistic. Of course, it’s POSSIBLE for someone like Cooper Marody to make the team and score 30 goals… but c’mon.
For this piece, I also added my estimated NHL games, so add a little more context to each prediction.
Now that I’ve explained my thought process, here is part five of my “Highs & Lows” for the 2018 Oilers: The Fringe
Estimated NHL GP: 65. I think there’s a chance he plays all 82, but also a chance he stays in Bakersfield until the new year.
CEILING: If he’s in the NHL, he’ll be playing in the top six and have a really skilled centre dishing him the puck. There’s no doubt in my mind that he has a pro level hockey IQ and we saw last year that he has the skill to go with it, it’s now a matter of putting it all together at the NHL level.
Last year, he had three assists in nine games, but no goals. That pace would have worked out to about 27 points over a full season.
If he gets rolling with either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, I think there’s potential for him to be a real impactful rookie. I’m talking 25 goals and 25 assists, which would be an incredible pace for a 65 game season, but I’m willing to make that his ceiling.
FLOOR: Again, I’m assuming Yamamoto plays 65 games when I’m making these predictions. A real floor would be him staying in Bakersfield all year and having a mediocre season.
But if he gets into 65 games, I think a good floor for Yamamoto would be 10 goals and 20 assists. If he’s on the team, he’ll probably be on a scoring line which will help him produce points no matter how well he plays.
Estimated NHL GP: 9. I think Bouchard will make the team out of camp, but considering the fact they already have six NHL calibre d-men. I don’t think he gets more than the nine-game trial.
CEILING: There’s a small chance that Bouchard does play the full season. After all, there were rumours that the team liked him so much they were prepared to trade up close to five spots to get him.
But if he’s here for the pre-season and nine regular season games, I think Oilers fans should be looking for him to not look out of place at even strength. He doesn’t need to be going up against top competition, or starting in the defensive zone a lot. He just needs to look like he belongs.
The potential for him to make an impact will be on the powerplay. If he comes into camp and finds his way onto one of the two powerplay units, I think he could put up some decent numbers.
I don’t really have a ceiling for Bouchard, but at the end of his nine-game trial, I would love to be able to look at him and be confident he can run the teams top powerplay in the 2019-20 season.
FLOOR: Even though he looks like he’s 30 and he dominated junior last year, it’s important to remember that he’s just 18 and has never had a sniff of pro hockey.
There’s a very real chance that Bouchard comes into camp and struggles off the bat, but even if he does, every lesson learned has value to a player who the Oilers hope will be a legitimate offensive stud. Even if the potential is there, it might not be a great camp for Bouchard. The game simply moves quicker, that’s obvious, and if he can’t keep up then maybe we don’t even see him make the trip overseas to start the season.
Estimated NHL GP: 30. He’ll probably start the year in Bakersfield and have to wait until an injury occurs. Once he gets called up, there is always a chance he never goes back down. But I’m still going to set the bar low.
CEILING: There’s no denying that Ethan Bear has the potential to be a good offensive NHL defenseman, he showed it last season.
If the Oilers powerplay is struggling again this year, and Bear gets a call-up, there’s a chance he gets in a groove and the Oilers can’t afford to send him back to the farm. Of course, if he’s going to stick in the NHL, he’ll need to be able to contribute at even strength as well. We saw him struggle with it last year, but with a full offseason to work on things, I think it’s fair to expect an improved Ethan Bear when it comes to defending at the NHL level.
If he plays between 30-40 NHL games this year, Oilers fans should be thrilled with anywhere from 12-17 points, with most of them coming on the man advantage.
FLOOR: Bear impressed a lot of people in his 18 game stint last season. In the offensive zone, and on the power play, he played like he belongs at the NHL level. I also liked his ability to move the puck up the ice efficiently.
As with most young defensemen, the concern came away from the puck. We saw him struggle with coverage in the d-zone and with puck battles below the goal line. I’m not saying that to rip on him, but it shows that he’s not quite NHL ready and probably needs another year in the AHL. There are some defenders that never figure this part of the game out. There’s no guarantee that Bear does it during his career, nevermind this upcoming season.
If he does come up and play 30 games, I think his floor would be the exact same type of performances we saw last year. He’ll look good with the puck on his stick and struggle when it isn’t.
Estimated NHL GP: 41. Lots of people are sleeping on Marody and I think he’s a darkhorse to make this team out of camp. But the bottom six is log-jammed, so I’ll say he gets half a season of NHL action.
CEILING: Peter Chiarelli wouldn’t have gotten this guy if he didn’t believe he could be an NHL player sooner rather than later and honestly, I don’t think Marody would have signed here without the promise of some immediate NHL playing time. That’s usually how these things work (Caggiula is a great example).
He was a point per game player last year at the University of Michigan and during his three-game trial in Bakersfield at the end of the season, he posted three points. I know it’s a small sample size, but Marody proved he can keep up and produce at the pro level.
He’s by no means big, at 6’0 and 190 pounds, but that doesn’t mean he can’t find a spot in the Oilers bottom six. If he does and let’s say he plays a good chunk of my estimated 41 games on a line with Ryan Strome, I think we could see him score 7 goals and add 7 assists, which would be close to what Drake Caggiula did in his rookie season.
FLOOR: Again, his sample size at the pro level is small and we still haven’t seen him against NHL competition so we don’t know how his game will translate over.
If he does end up playing close to 40 games, it could be on a fourth line with Zack Kassian and Kyle Brodziak, which would be a line that doesn’t get a lot of offensive zone opportunities.
His role could be limited, but Marody playing close to 40 games should be considered a plus regardless because it would show that he was able to keep up and be a competent NHL player.
It’s tough to even set a floor for him because a solid year in the AHL would be good for his development. But numbers aside, I’ll say less than 10 games in the NHL this year would be disappointing for both Marody and the Oilers.
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