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Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

High/Low: The Fringe

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.

Also, if you missed the first four parts of the series, here they are: “The Centres”, “The Top Six Wingers”, “The Bottom Six Wingers”, “The Goalies” and “The Defensemen”.

Now that I’ve explained my thought process, here is part five of my “Highs & Lows” for the 2018 Oilers: The Fringe

KAILER YAMAMOTO

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.

EVAN BOUCHARD

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.

ETHAN BEAR

Mar 1, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Ethan Bear (74) skates during warmup against the Nashville Predators at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

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.

COOPER MARODY

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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    • Sammy27

      For years Oiler fans lamented the lack of depth with young players. Not to say that Caggulia is a top 6 forward, but he is (used correctly) at times capable, and he was picked up using -no assets out. Could we please stop being driven by all the negatives. Find a middle ground somewhere, at last sometime.

        • 18% body fat

          so you would take caggulia over kessel, you go ahead and do that. Caggulia is a 4th line player at best. all stats fancy or regular show he is terrible on special teams, and that he brings down connor or leon.

          Is he a servicable 4th liner, yes. However they are a dime a dozen. And the reason he hurts this team is the coaches insistance on his utilization. They didnt fire the coach, so the only option is to cut the player unless the coach gets his head our of his butt on this one

        • Leichs

          Lol. I’m pretty over hearing this excuse “he works his ass off”. Cool… Pay me a million a year and Ill work my ass off even more.. Doesn’t make me a good hockey player. He worked so hard that he single handily drug down every single players numbers in virtually every single stat line that was out there with him. Case in point Eberle. Raw talent that doesn’t have a great work ethic. Il take 1 Ebs over 6 Drakes anyday because you can develop a work ethic, you cant develop talent. Trash away Drake fans.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I see, I see then… Cagguila is this season’s whipping boy?
      That’s clear…
      I guess Oiler Fans need one every year…?
      I wonder how great this team could get if the fans actually backed them?

      • Still Hate the Flames

        A friend of mine knows someone who lives near Cagguila and he said that one morning he was out for a walk and saw Cagguila kicking every kitten he came across. The guy asked him to stop but he just kept on kicking the kittens, one after the other, and I guess he was laughing while doing it and wearing a Flames hat. The guy is a pretty reliable source otherwise I wouldn’t be reporting this.

  • OilersBro

    Imagine if Yamo turned into a player like Johnny Gaudreau. I think its possible – he was on a tear the second half of the season and he doesn’t shy away from contact despite his size.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Or St. Louis? Yammo is more of a positional player like St. Louis, he seems to strive to be in the right place, which is great when you have the best player in the world feeding you the puck…
      Gaudreau is more of a puck-hog than a positional player, from what I’ve seen. He wants to run the play, which is great. He’s just a different style player than Yammo.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    All of these are solid NHL options, which we couldn’t say 3-4 years ago. I think all play in Bakersfield (save for Evan) but that shouldn’t be seen as a negative.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Great point. I often forget how this team was 3 – 12 years ago. It says a lot about all of our commitment to stay with them this long. It also shows, when looking back that Chia is doing a far, far better job than most of us credit him for. Let’s go Oilers… The season starts in three big fishing trips away.

      • Ryan Jones Is Still My Hero

        Completely agree. Chiarelli has done a better job at developing the prospect pool than any of the Oiler GMs have done since the mid 2000s. Obviously you can take a stance on how you feel about his trades, but it’s hard to deny that he is setting the organization up for sustainable success in the mold of Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Nashville, etc… with a deep farm system. They have 6 NHL defensemen now, with 3 ready to try and push for playing time this year, and the forwards will start bubbling up soon as well. The cupboards were extremely bare when he got here so I think people need to give him credit where it is due (and I do acknowledge that the Reinhart for 16 and 33 trade was the worst trade he has made and our system would be much further along if he had just kept those picks, regardless of who he picked).

  • OriginalPouzar

    I am looking for the Oilers to add one more depth forward – an experienced NHL player that can put another body between the NHL and the likes of Brad Malone.

    As it stands right now, Brad Malone is essentially fighting with Cooper Marody for the 1st injury call-up (subject to Yamamoto staying in Bakersfield – he isn’t applying for the same job as Malone/Marody).

    Now, I love me some Cooper Marody – I watched four Michigan games after the trade and was very pleasantly surprised with his skill level and “all-tools” type of game. He’s no sure bet but he is a real prospect and has a real shot at an NHL career.

    At the same time, he is a rookie pro and, although mature at 23 years old, I think deserves the privilege of some development time getting used to the pro game in the AHL which, to me, leaves Brad Malone as, essentially, the 14th forward.

    I would sign Nick Shore right now to bump Malone down a spot (he’d be in the $800K range, I assume) and there are various other experienced NHLers I’d bring to camp on a PTO to see what they have left (even Chimera, Bouma, Hansen).

    I would also pay very close attention to the waiver wire, there will be more established NHL players available than Brad Malone.

    For once, the organization has lots of room under the 50 contract limit to acquire one more depth forward.

    • Big Nuggets

      I don’t think they’ll sign anybody until Nurse signs. It depends if there if anything left over but another veteran for depth would be nice. We have some depth but the ability to make a difference is uncertain with many of them. Marody has no NHL games, Yam is only 19, Aberg looks decent but can he be effective in the bottom 6, Caggiula might be decent but hasn’t shown it yet. One more veteran to compete with the fringe sounds about right.

      • OriginalPouzar

        You might be right, however, at the end of the day, the type of player I’m talking about will not really have any material impact on the cap and the ability to sign Nurse. The player would have a cap hit of apx $800 (or even less) and this wouldn’t be simply added to the cap but it would be in replacement of the cap hit of the original player being replaced on the roster (i.e. Malone or Yamamoto or even Aberg – I’d like to say Caggulia but that won’t happen)

        • Big Nuggets

          I guess it kinda depends who makes the opening roster. I thunk Bouchard and Yam may both make the trip to Germany. I’m not sure how close to the cap that will put us but we could have to waive Aberg or Caggiula to make it work. I would actually be curious to see what Caggiula looks like in the AHL. It might do him well to play 30 games in Bakersfield.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Your needle seems to keep skipping when it comes to Malone. He is an AHL player that won’t see any meaningful NHL action. Just let it go and stop parroting what you read on Lowetide’s site.

      • OriginalPouzar

        You are right, he is an AHL player, however, at this point, he will almost undoubtably see NHL games, maybe even before the team plays a home game.

        He is essentially one injury away from the NHL and that is not acceptable given the number of experienced NHL depth forwards available for cheap and ample room under the 50.

  • OilCan2

    I think Kailer and Evan will stick for the season. Bear can be moved around (AHL) and will be the first D call up. Marody has the fire in his eyes and that bodes well for our depth. Wow we are talking depth not massive gaps and free agent overpays. Pinch me to see if I’ll wake up.

  • camdog

    Evan Bouchard turns 19 six games into the season. It means something to the organisation, perhaps it shouldn’t, but that 6 months was one of the reasons the Oilers were thinking about moving up in the draft to get him.

  • Johnnymaced

    No where else to post this so I need to ask…the off season is heading into August and nurse still isn’t signed. I check everyday…is it time to get worried? Or for sure this deal gets done?