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Monday Mailbag – What’s the ideal development path for Bouchard and Bear?

Welcome, welcome, welcome, friends, to another edition of the Monday mailbag. Once again, it’s that special time of the week where I’ve taken the questions you’ve sent me and fired them over to our writers to get all the answers and wisdom that you’ve always been looking for. This week, we look at PTOs, points predictions for Milan Lucic, the depth chart, and more. And I know I say this every week, but this segment is entirely dependent on you guys to make it work, so send me your questions. You can email me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk.com.

Dec 27, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Scottie Upshall (9) skates the puck up the ice against Nashville Predators defenseman Yannick Weber (7)during the second period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

1) Stephen asks – Do you think Scottie Upshall is the only PTO the Oilers will offer? Do you think they should add others? If so, who would be a good fit for a professional tryout?

Robin Brownlee:

I’d be keeping tabs on Jason Chimera. Other than him, I don’t see a need to offer a PTO to anybody because I don’t see a bunch of players who bring anything they don’t already have.

Jason Gregor:

A right shot D-man would be ideal, but there aren’t many available. Kevin Bieksa and Cody Franson are the only two with NHL experience. I’d also look to Alexei Emelin. Bieksa and Emelin would at least annoy the opposition during the preseason.

Matt Henderson:

They might squeeze in one more PTO on the blueline. I think if they can bring ANY right handed defender in to offer legit competition to Bouchard and Bear that would be great.

Chris the Intern:

I wouldn’t mind inviting a defenceman or two to camp. Maybe Franson? Maybe Chia should beg Davidson for forgiveness and try that again? I have a feeling Upshall will be the only guy coming, though. The PTO chatter has seemed very quiet lately.

Baggedmilk:

I guess it all depends on how much cap space they have left after the Nurse contract. I’d like to see them try to have looks at more depth on the wings and another defenceman for some competition, but there’s not much out there. But waivers after training camp is always a thing too, and sometimes there’s gold in that there trash… or at least, myrrh.

Nov 24, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Milan Lucic (27) against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Buffalo beats Edmonton 3 to 1. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

2) Macyn asks – The Hockey News released their points predictions and had Lucic coming in at 22 points which seems very low to me. I know Nielson wrote about it last week, but I’m wondering what the rest of the panel thinks he will get for points next year?

Robin Brownlee:

Projecting 22 points (in anything close to a full season) for Lucic is ridiculous. I’ve got him at 20-25-45.

Jason Gregor:

It is low. He will rebound. He won’t be nearly as bad as his final 46 games and likely won’t produce 26 points in his first 36 games. I’ll say 44 points.

Matt Henderson:

I’d bet higher than 22 points just on opportunity alone. He’s going to be hand-fed playing time with quality teammates in the offensive zone. I think he’ll be somewhere between his first-half performance and the disaster he finished with. So let’s say a solid 38 points.

Chris the Intern:

If Lucic only scores 22 points this season I’m going to tear my laptop in half. I’m predicting 55 points for the big guy. A nice bounce-back year.

Baggedmilk:

Honestly, I think they’re trolling for clicks with a guess of 22 points for Lucic. Dude had a horrible season last year, there’s no doubt about it, but I’m guessing he’ll have 20 goals again this year let alone 22 total points. Trolling, my friends. The Internet at work.

Dec 21, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Drake Caggiula (91) celebrates a third period goal against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Braden asks – Over the last year or so, the Oilers have added a bunch of college players to their prospect pool and I’m curious why you think that is? Is it because they’re a little bit older? Only require a contract instead of spending an asset? Anything else?

Robin Brownlee:

With any prospects, be it junior hockey or college hockey etc., there can be swings from year to year with where those players come from based on where the best guys are playing. Look at the lack of first-rounders from the WHL in the 2018 draft. In 2019, the first round will be loaded with WHL players — there were 11 of them on the Hlinka Gretzky Cup team. I don’t think the Oilers have set out to lean more heavily on college players.

Jason Gregor:

Young free agents is main reason, although they did trade for Marody, and the Oilers depth pool was basically non-existent so they needed to find some players who could add depth. In the coming seasons with an actual prospect pool in place, I suspect they sign fewer NCAA free agents.

Matt Henderson:

You pretty much answered your question. Those college kids are free prospects. Given the questionable drafting after the first round, adding these guys is practically necessary. And if one of them can actually play down the road, then great. It’s better to sign these guys as free agents than take long shots on draft day higher than they ought to.

Chris the Intern:

More and more NHL teams are doing this to speed up the development of prospects. College players are a little older, a little wiser, and a little bigger. Caggiula made the team right after being signed from U. of North Dakota for example.

Baggedmilk:

I think there are a few different reasons. When a guy is done with four years of college you’d have a better idea of how he’ll play against older, stronger competition, and sometimes, all it costs is a contract. The Oilers didn’t have much for skilled depth in the pipeline so I’m not overly surprised Chiarelli and crew tried to plug those holes with guys that could help now and be competitive.

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

4) Rene asks – I’m nervous about the quality of wingers the Oilers will be starting the season with, specifically on the right side. How do you think the top 9 will play out for right wingers? My guess is Yamamoto on the first line, Rieder on the second line, and Puljujarvi on the third line.

Robin Brownlee:

I’d rather see Puljujarvi get the first look with McDavid.

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see Yamamoto in Edmonton to start. Rattie won’t just be gifted the top spot. He will come to camp and have to show he improved his strength and conditioning in the off-season. If he did, and looks decent, then he might get the first line look because he has the smarts to play with 97-93. From conversations I’ve had I don’t think they have anyone locked into a spot at this point. They have some lines in pencil, because you need to start camp with some combination, but nothing is for sure on the right side.

Matt Henderson:

I think they start the year with Rattie beside McDavid, Puljujarvi beside Draisaitl, Rieder on the third with Strome, and Yamo in the AHL. When Rattie fails/Yamo destroys the AHL we’ll see change. If Puljujarvi is saddled next to Strome and Lucic again it’s just begging him to fail.

Chris the Intern:

I feel like Yamamoto is a bold pick on the top line. My guess to start the season we’ll see Rattie, Rieder, Puljujarvi, and Kassian. With Upshall in the mix now the bottom six will definitely be a battle.

Baggedmilk:

I bet they give Rattie a look to start unless Yamamoto or Puljujarvi blows everyone away in training camp. So let’s say Rattie does work out there for a bit, I’ll put Rieder on the second line with Lucic and Draisaitl and Puljujarvi on the third line with Strome. Unless Yamamoto blows the doors off the place in training camp, I’d like to see him work his way up to the NHL.

Mar 18, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan (24) skates with the puck as Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear (74) defends during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

5) Blair asks – Evan Bouchard and Ethan Bear both seem to be on the cusp of making the Edmonton Oilers, but it could still be a little bit early for them. My question is, what would be your ideal development plan for both players?

Robin Brownlee:

I think Bear likely needs more time in the AHL and Bouchard probably needs more time in the OHL (can’t go to the AHL because of his age). What I think should happen and what will actually happen are two different things.

Jason Gregor:

Bear needs more time in AHL improving his defensive game, which is usual for most young defenders. Bouchard will be back in junior as well. We could see Bear at some point this season, but the best path for both is not being a regular in Edmonton this season.

Matt Henderson:

Ideal development for both players as per Matt:

Bear is clearly better than Bouchard in this camp but the Oilers sign Franson/anyone reasonable to be the 7/8 guy and Bear spends the first half of the year lighting up the AHL before being called up in December.

Bouchard looks really solid in training camp and even shows flashes in his first four NHL games, but the team sends him back to the OHL where he completely dominates the league. He returns next season and is incredible but because they already have Karlsson, Benning, and Bear they send Bouchard to the AHL while working on a trade to free up a spot in the top-six.

Chris the Intern:

I don’t want to answer this until I see Bouchard in training camp because we have no idea what he’s going to be like. Tradition would have it for Bouchard to go back to junior, however, if the rumours are true that he is one of the most NHL ready prospects then maybe he’ll surprise us. For Bear, I’d like to see him maybe play 30-40 games this season? If he progresses properly maybe he can land a spot on the team next season.

Baggedmilk:

I wish Bouchard could go to the AHL but that’s not an option so, for me, it would be spending another year in junior and rounding out his game. For Bear, I’d like to see him go back to the Condors and play big minutes, because that’ll help him more in the long run than third pairing minutes with the Oilers.

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  • OriginalPouzar

    Yamamoto and Bouchard may blow the doors off at camp as the higher talent youngsters generally play very well in the early exhibition games against middling lineups. With that said, I think they are in a similar situation to Yamamoto and Puljujarvi were last year (even though Bouchard is a d-man).

    Once Bouchard is re-assigned to London, he can’t be brought back and, if he’s on the roster, I can see them carrying 8D and 13F which likely means Yamamoto is in Bakersfield.

    They can slow play Bouchard, spot start him in home games where they can shelter him. Even think about dressing 7D and 11F (extra ice for 97 and 29 early in the season is fine).

    After a month or two (or whatever), prior to being on the roster for 40 games (the threshold to burn a year towards UFA status) and likely before playing 10 games (the threshold to burn a year of his ELC), Bouchard goes back to London and Yamamoto is recalled.

    This also provides some cover for Bear to get at least a few months in the AHL.

    • ifiwasgm

      Sounds about how the Oilers like to do it, destroy their confidence while they sit in the pressbox, then send them down where they belonged in the 1st place.

    • That's My Point

      If Bouchard gets ONLY 5 goals and 26 points the ENTIRE NHL season it would match Erik Karlsson’s rookie season.
      Bouchard EASILY beats Karlsson’s rookie season points this year on the powerplay with Draisaitl and McDavid !!!

  • OriginalPouzar

    I aslo fully expect Puljujarvi to be a top 6 right winger by Christmas – in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is a top 6 winger by October 6 (if the coaching staff is flexible and isn’t pigeon-holing him as 3RW to start the season).

    In time, our top 2 RW are Yamamoto and Puljujarvi – this may happen by the turn of the calendar (or it may take a bit more time for Kailer).

    • Sean17

      I always wonder why some offensive players and prospects are held to different expectations then others. The line of “needs to be more responsible defensively is thrown out ththe window as long as you produce offense.

      • ed from edmonton

        Scoring ability is one of the most sought after qualities in a forward. If you have that other deficiencies can be lived with. Brett Hull is a hall of famer but may have never set foot inside his own blue line.

      • Big Nuggets

        I worry that Bouchard will score a lot in his early couple games and the management won’t have the guts to send him back down to junior. But I guess if he can score enough to stay in the line up thats a good thing. Might not be the best way to learn defense though, by being in over his head all season in the d zone.

  • 18% body fat

    the ncaa signings are all horrible. Cagullia is a fourth liner, Gamberdella is not even good in the AHL, and Vessey and Larkin are just laughable as to why the chose these 2 when there are better players out there.

    Marody looks good, but he has draft pedigree and was traded for.

  • Spydyr

    Jason Gregor:

    Bear needs more time in AHL improving his defensive game, which is usual for most young defenders. Bouchard will be back in junior as well. We could see Bear at some point this season, but the best path for both is not being a regular in Edmonton this season.

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    This all day.

  • Serious Gord

    2. Watched Chris Davis of the orioles for four games a couple weeks ago. The paralells with Lucic can’t be ignored. Both can’t keep up with the speed of the game or adapt to it successfully and both have big contracts with term left. Maybe Lucic recovers/adapts successfully this season, but maybe even more likely he continues to crash and burn…

    3. Its an indicator as to how horrible the depth is on this team – it is the factor that weighs heaviest on this team chances of ever winning a cup in the McDavid era. Depth is a multi-year project that requires discipline and tenacity – two characteristics this team’s management arguably has NEVER had.

  • Sean17

    I don’t fully understand why 18 year olds cannot go to the AHL? I know it is something with the CBA but, to me it is odd that an industry is restricting these men to make money in the profession they have chosen.

  • TalbotsJock

    “If Puljujarvi is saddled next to Strome and Lucic again it’s just begging him to fail.”

    Amen.

    I will burn Rogers to the ground if poolparty isnt in the top 6.

    • Big Nuggets

      But, has Puljujarvi looked competent enough to play in the top 6? Maybe this season will be different but it looked to me like the pace of the game was too fast for Jesse to keep up. Decision making wasn’t there. I see a player that is still adapting to the pace of the game. 3rd line seems like a good place for someone to figure things out. I don’t think people put enough weight on the learning curve for young players.

      • 18% body fat

        He has all the tools and is defensively reliable. He needs to play in areas to push him. if you play with smart players you should be able to pick up if you play with scrubs you are screwed, unless you are an elite talent.

    • ed from edmonton

      This is the argument that was used for years with Yak and we all know that Yak just wasn’t that good. Putting JP, or Yak or anyone else into a spot above their ability does no one any good. If JP has a pedestrian year TodMac will be crucified for either not playing him with good enough line mates (the Yak syndrome) or gifting him top 6 minutes before he was ready. What ever JP does this year is up to JP, don’t make excuses for him.

    • Redbird62

      Hopefullly at camp, Jesse shows he is ready to move up the roster. However, last season Strome, Lucic, and Puljujarvi spent 92 minutes together and actually played reasonably well together with a positive Corsi, Fenwick, shot differential, scoring chances and high danger scoring chances. Small sample size so the score was only 2 goals for and 2 against. The performance would have been better, except as a line they had a horrible shooting percentage of 3.57. I think that number can be improved. It might not be a bad line for Jesse to start; its not like Jesse is being saddled with players who have no offensive capability. Except for the last half of last season, Lucic has been a very capable offensive player in his career and Ryan Strome is just reaching the prime of his career. I think in a stable well defined role with two capable wingers, Strome can give a little more offensively than he has shown so far with the Oilers. If your 3rd line can average 35 to 40 points points a player (and stay even with the opposition or better), that would be a very good 3rd line in the NHL. Tampa was the highest scoring team in the league, and that’s about where their 3rd line averaged.

      • Big Nuggets

        The third line with Strome seems appropriate to me unless he shows otherwise. That is an exceptionally low shooting percentage. Lucic was bringing down the shooting percentage of whatever line he was on, but he was still getting shots so this year should be better. They might be a good third line.

    • TalbotsJock

      What i saw he is more than capable of top 6, he just needs to stay there instead of being juggled everytime he has a single off game. We want you to score like a top 6 winger in the bottom 6 please.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    The Oilers are in a bit of sticky wicket with Bouchard. He’s probably too good for the OHL and probably not good enough for the NHL … but they can’t put him in the AHL.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s a good problem to have. Never mind how Bouchard looks on the ice, in street clothes he looks like he’s 22 or 23. When he walked up to the stage to get his Oilers jersey at the draft, I thought the Bouchards sent up Evan’s older brother (note: I have no idea if he has any siblings at all).

    I have to believe he’ll get the nine-game look in the NHL. And good on the Oilers if that’s what they do. The bottom line will be the same as always – is the 18-year-old kid going to be better than most of the minor-leaguers/free-agents they’ve got in the system? Is he better than Bear or Jones? He might very well be.

    But all of that said, I’m not against him going back to junior, if only for the chance to play for Team Canada at the World Juniors and the chance to play for the Knights. London has a pretty decent track record for developing NHLers. Send him back to London and the Knights will build their team around him and make a run for the Memorial Cup. That’s what they do. The Knights go for it, pretty much every year. If they fall short, Bouchard heads to the AHL to finish out the season or heck, maybe the big club.

    That’s probably a pretty decent developmental year, even for a player who’s a man among boys. But if he looks like he can be a man among men in the next month or two … well … I guess the Oilers cross that bridge when they come to it.

    • ROILYDoGG$

      I totally agree with you Spaceman, playing the 9 games if he’s good enough will be important for development ( good gauge of what to improve on and speed of the NHL). Also playing in Playoffs and Memorial cup adds valuable experience then finishing off some Pro games in the Ahl would be plenty of pro games to get his feet wet.

      By 2019/2020 season we could have a young bottom defence core.

      Klef. Lars
      Nurse. Benning
      Bear. Bouchard.
      Gravel.

  • ROILYDoGG$

    I hope the older players such as Rattie, Aberg and Rieder take this opportunity and stick with the big club adding the depth we need. Yamo and recent draft pics plus young free agents to develop in the Ahl.
    Recently I’ve been thinking about Aberg being a good fit for Leon as he is very fast and Leon with excellent passing hitting stretch passes to Aberg for the rush to bury. Having a few options for Todd would be ideal using Rieder, Leon, Aberg on line 2 and moving Lucic between 2-3 lines depending on the team we are playing.
    Nuge. Mcd. Rattie
    Rieder. Leon.Aberg
    Lucic. Strome. Pulj
    Jjk.Brodz. kassian

    Lucic and Rieder could switch spots for when the player slumps or is hot. I also think Lucic will do 1 of 2 things , bounce back to his yearly averages or put up record numbers due to his compete level and wanting to succeed( team success ) will be a factor also.
    I think Bear looks more NHL ready than Bouchard for his complete game (what scouts and Analyists say) however we will need to wait till pre season to be sure.

    • LAKID

      J.J. is currently better than the slouch he fights for his teamates/skates and gives a crap. The question is how the heck does Chia get rid of Lucic before he himself is gone?

  • OilCan2

    I think a lot of what happens to who is going to be based on the new hires of the coaching staff. If T Yawney can chisel away the rough edges on Bouchard and have him as a workable third pairing then go for it. Bear and Jones are waiver exempt and can move to Bakersfield and back as required. We have McDavid and several solid NHL stars its just a question of role players excelling. Summer signings and younger guys; we’ll see you in September,…