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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Biggest Preseason Surprise

Welcome, friends, to another edition of the ON mailbag! Look at our beloved Oilers making their way through the preseason in good shape with the 2018-19 season drawing closer. If you’re anything like me, you’re champing at the bit for the regular season to start, and while these preseason games have certainly scratched an inch they’re still not quite the same as the games that matter. Thankfully, the mailbag is back to help you kill off a little bit of time until the sweet sweet regular season starts on October 6th. As always, need you guys for this feature so email me your questions to baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Now sit back, relax, and pretend to look busy for as long as possible. Have a good week, everybody.

Sep 20, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ty Rattie (8) celebrates his second period goal against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1) Allan K. asks – What has been the most pleasant surprise for you from the preseason so far?

Jason Gregor:

Would have to be Ryan McLeod. He has performed better than I expected. His skating is already NHL ready. He will still go back to junior, I presume, but he has opened many eyes. Puljujarvi looks more comfortable in every area of the ice. He is an ideal reminder of how development isn’t always a major splash. Even for a high pick, it can be a slower process. Most big bodied players take a bit longer. I still believe he will take a big step at 21 or 22 years of age. People just need to be patient with him. And Rattie’s production has been a surprise. I thought he had a good chance to play well, but obviously I didn’t expect seven points in two games.

Robin Brownlee:

How good Ty Rattie has been. It’s one thing to get the chance to play alongside McDavid. It’s another to make the most of it with all eyes on you to see if you’ve got what it takes. He’s also been very good away from McDavid.

Cam Lewis:

Ty Rattie looks better than he did during the final stretch last season. He clearly sees he has a ridiculously good opportunity in front of him and he wants to capitalize on it. Ryan McLeod is another given the fact there weren’t really any expectations for him.

Matt Henderson:

Rattie looking fantastic early on has been very pleasant. Biggest (positive) surprise for me has probably been Ryan McLeod. That kid can skate like the wind and he’s very talented. Impressive vision.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Ty Rattie and Ryan McLeod are both solid answers to this question, but my answer is actually going to be Jesse Puljujarvi. Maybe this is because I’ve been watching him the closest, but he appears more comfortable than I’ve ever seen him at the NHL level. In past seasons he’s looked frantic with the puck, and through two preseason games, he looks calm when the puck is on his stick. He isn’t afraid to make plays, but he also isn’t forcing them like he would in the past.

Is it just preseason? Yeah, but this is a nice start to what I’m hoping will be a breakout year for #98.

Chris the Intern:

Ty Rattie is an easy pick. But I’m going to say Ryan McLeod. He’s been playing very hard and is surprising everyone with the persistence he’s shown. With that said, I still don’t think he makes the team. But it’s reassuring knowing we’ve got a skilled prospect in the system for when the day comes.

Baggedmilk:

There have been a few nice surprises for me. Ty Rattie is the obvious pick. The dude seemingly wants to win a Rocket Richard Award in the preseason and I respect it. Jesse Puljujarvi has also been fun to watch, and he seems to be playing with more confidence than ever before. Now, of course, the key is that they both keep it going into the regular season.

Mar 17, 2018; Sunrise, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers with defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) in the third period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

2) Braden asks – Curious to know the writers’ first thoughts about the Darnell Nurse contract? Is the deal and term fair relative to what you were expecting?

Jason Gregor:

Pretty much exactly what I was expecting all summer. Fair deal for both.

Robin Brownlee:

Yes. Always saw it falling right in the range that it did. Fair deal for both sides at this point.

Cam Lewis:

I thought it would end up at two years, $3 million, so I’m not complaining about $3.2 million.

Matt Henderson:

It is pretty much spot on with my expectations. The Oil didn’t have any other option so it was only about whether he got one or two years on his bridge. It’s a good deal for Edmonton.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

My first thought was “holy $%#& they actually got it done”. I was very worried this holdout was going to creep closer to the regular season and with the team heading to Europe early, he may have missed the first game. I’m happy that didn’t happen. As far as the value, it’s a slight overpay considering what Josh Morrisey and Brandon Montour got, but I’m not mad. It’s a good deal and I’m just happy he’s signed.

Chris the Intern:

Yeah, that’s pretty much in the ballpark of what I was thinking. It’s frustrating that it took so long for it to go down but as Darnell said, it’s all part of the business. I ESPECIALLY wasn’t surprised when Josh Morrissey signed the day before because they are identical players.

Baggedmilk:

I liked the deal and the term. It wasn’t too much money and the term allows both the player and team to see what they really have here. I’m just grateful that it got done before the season started.

Edmonton Oilers second round pick (40th overall) is centreman Ryan McLeod.

3) Taylor H. asks – I’ve been very impressed with Ryan McLeod so far this pre-season and my question is, based on what you’ve seen, how far out is he from playing for the Oilers?

Jason Gregor:

Hard to say. He has looked good, but early in preseason games are very different than NHL games. He has NHL speed right now. He has shown many great things. I can’t say if he will have the consistency next year or the year after to be a regular, but he has done very well this camp and if he keeps progressing there is no reason to think he can’t compete for a job next season.

Robin Brownlee:

At the very least, he’s opened some eyes and he’ll get a contract. That’s a start. I don’t think he’s close, yet, but he’s a lot closer than he was when camp started.

Cam Lewis:

He could surprise and make the team out of camp next season, but given the fact the Oilers are deep down the middle he likely won’t be here until 2020-21 at the earliest.

Matt Henderson:

I would be shocked if he isn’t returned to Junior no mater how great he looks. So with that expectation, I’d say at least one more year out. He’s fast and a good passer, plus he has NHL size. If he has another great season in the OHL then I think they will seriously consider a spot for him.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I have also been very impressed with McLeod and I wouldn’t be stunned if the team brought him to Europe. He obviously won’t stick for a full year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he continued to develop and god a look sometime in 2020. Whether that’s the end of next year or the year after, he’s a skilled centre and those aren’t easy to come by.  He’s turned into one of the prospects I’ll be keeping an eye on all season no matter where he plays. Will also be interesting to see if he cracks the World Junior team.

Chris the Intern:

In a perfect world, he’s three years out from making the team, I think. If I had it my way he’d play his last year in the OHL this season and then play for the Condors next season. But with the way prospects get developed in the Oilers system, we may see him play a few games next year, unfortunately.

Baggedmilk:

He’s looked really good so far! But again, it’s important to remember that he’s doing all of this against weaker competition so we all need to show some chill with the guy. Personally, I’d be a little bit surprised if he gets any regular season games and expect that he goes back to junior and rips it up in the OHL. Here’s hoping he has another great year in junior and takes another big step towards going pro.

Jan 9, 2018; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Calgary Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

4) Alex asks – Now that the Oilers have had a few preseason games under their belts and the new coaches have met the players, have you noticed any differences in their style of play from last season?

Jason Gregor:

Much different forecheck. More aggressive there and with D-men stepping up in the neutral zone and at the blueline.

Robin Brownlee:

Yes. It’s been talked about since before camp opened. More aggressive on the forecheck, quicker transition up ice from D-men to forwards, PP re-aligned.

Cam Lewis:

We really won’t be able to see major changes until the season starts, but the team looks more aggressive on the attack and the defencemen are joining the play more. It’s a more modern style of play.

Matt Henderson:

I’m trying to repress most of last season.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I still think it’s too early to determine, but mind you, I haven’t exactly been breaking down the film from their game. I expect that once we see a few games with the actual NHL roster we’ll start to notice some differences.

Chris the Intern:

It’s been tough to notice significant changes because the lines have been mismatched and we’ve had a lot of no-names in the lineups. What I could tell you from last nights game is that we look a lot faster, especially Jesse Puljujarvi. He was flying out there which could mean some good things for our second/third line.

Baggedmilk:

I like that they’ve been a little bit more aggressive on the forecheck — that’s the biggest thing that I’ve noticed so far. Right now, I’m trying not to get excited about preseason results too much but the biggest thing I’ve noticed is how they pressure the puck in the offensive zone.

5) James asks – My buddies and I are planning to hit up an Oilers game in another Canadian city this season and I’m looking for some advice on where we should go. I was thinking Toronto might be fun, but my buddies think we should go somewhere else. If you were choosing a road trip city to watch an Oilers game in, which city would it be?

Jason Gregor:

In Canada only? Montreal is outstanding. You will love Crescent Street. If you want to go to USA, go to Nashville. Unreal atmosphere, the fans are very friendly and you will have fun experience at the game and, if you boys like to go out, just walk outside the arena. Bars everywhere. It is impossible not to have fun.

Robin Brownlee:

Montreal. Great building. Great restaurants and delis. Great bars. Lots of nightlife. If you want to sight-see you can get around on the Metro without having a car.

Cam Lewis:

Go to New York and watch them play at Madison Square Garden. I went to a game at MSG last year with a friend who has season tickets and it was a great environment. There’s a great place called Rose’s Pizza in the Subway station at the MSG stop that sells huge beers for like $4.

Matt Henderson:

Montreal, all the way. I got to spend just a couple days there but I loved it. Food, hockey culture and tradition, beautiful city. That’s where you wanna go, my man.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’m far from a travelling connoisseur, but I’ve been to Toronto a few times and it’s always a blast. Montreal seems like a great city and the rink is historic so you probably can’t go wrong with that. Both those options would be pretty pricey though. I would recommend NOT going to Ottawa. If you’re going in the middle of winter, Winnipeg might not be the best destination either. My vote will be Vancouver. You should be able to get tickets for fairly cheap, the city is gorgeous, and the odds of you seeing an Oilers win are pretty good too.

Chris the Intern:

Definitely not Winnipeg because they don’t have an airport so you’d have to drive there. I would probably choose Toronto, even though I’ve never been. It’s the centre of the universe after all, and their teams fairly entertaining to watch as much as I’d hate to admit it.

Baggedmilk:

This one is hard for me to answer since I’ve only been to games in Calgary and Winnipeg, but if I’m guessing I would say Montreal. Not only is the atmosphere in the arena great, Montreal has millions of strip clubs, as the legend goes.

THE SEASON OPENER BRUNCH PARTY

If you’ve ever been to one of our season opener parties before, you already know that one of the best parts is getting 200 Nation citizens together to meet up and start off the new season on a high note. Not only are these parties a great way to get the band together, it’s especially fun to meet new people that you’ve been arguing with talking to online for Gord knows how long.

WHAT YOU GET:

The bag: Exclusive Season Opener Party tee, Pint GC, Oodle Noodle GC, stickers, and a ticket to enter all of the draws and raffles
The giveaways: 
Memorabilia giveaways, NationGear giveaways,
Anything else: We’ll also be having a NationGear pop-up shop that features some of the new shirts and hoodies that we’ve got for the upcoming season.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Where: The Pint Downtown
When: October 6th, with doors opening at 10 am and the hockey game starting at 11 am
Who: Every single one of you… that is of legal drinking age
Why: To celebrate the launch of a new season, get together, and to raise as much money as possible for our friends at KidSport
How much: Tickets are $25 each with net proceeds going directly to KidSport
How: Tickets are available here.

  • Spydyr

    Puljujarvi has looked much more confident so far. When he learns to use his size and speed at the NHL level look out. The entire team seems to be passing crisper and accepting passes cleaner so far as well. last year the passing was atrocious.

    The bad: Goaltending. It would be nice to see a over .900 save %. Talbot was .870 his last game and Koskinen was .762

    • steveOilersfan

      Rattie, Jesse and McLeod have all shown well so far.
      I agree Nurse’s contract is where most thought it would be, a good deal for both sides. McLeod is looking great so far, with speed to burn, however he still has to break the junior habbit of beating guys to the outside, he needs to get to the good ice and to the prime scoring areas. A bit too early but they are alot faster on the forecheck and the d moving the puck out of the zone. Well the fact no one mentioned Boston or Chicago means you have to get out a bit more, Montreal is fantastic a great arena, mind you beer are $15 and tickets are $$$, but the old city is beautiful as mentioned above it’s Europe in Canada, and Schwartz has the best smoked meat sandwich period. On a side note, Chris the intern, your privelages for posting should be revoked. ” Definitely not Winnipeg because they don’t have an airport” your new duties should be fact checking and research only. New York is another good one, you get all the hype of NYC, but drive or metro to New Jersey the tickets are dirt cheap in comparison. Avoid Toronto like the plague, hard to get way overpriced tickets and all the annoying leafs fans everywhere, the only good thing is to see the HHOF, the building is built around an old bank, and the cup resides in the bank vault.

    • Redbird62

      Hopefully Ty earns a better nickname than that. Kenny was given that moniker for very different “offensive” attributes, which Ty does not seem to have as part of his game.

  • Div 13 superstar

    It hasn’t really been a surprise, but nice to see Yamamoto doing what everybody hoped he would. And Chris- Winnipeg doesn’t have an airport- maybe fact-check that one :).

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    1. McLeod, Rattie, and Puljujarvi
    2. Happy to have Darnell back on the team. If you ask any Oilers fan who makes up the “core” of this team, Nurse is usually right behind McDavid and Draisitl.
    3. Loving what McLeod has brought thus far, but I think it isn’t for a season or two before he takes on full duties in Oilers silk.
    4. Pre-season yes, lots of mismatches yes, but I have noticed a difference. The PK has been absolutely fantastic, only allowing 4 PP goals against, the PP has looked better at points, and the overall play of the team seems to be quicker in terms of puck movement. Fire check has improved immensely.
    4. Montreal for sure. Having been to Europe a number of times, the Montreal architecture reminds me a lot of Europe. Beautiful city. Avoid Toronto if you can. It’s expensive, traffic is horrendous, and some Leafs fans are annoying.

  • Redbird62

    I think McLeod is the biggest surprise of the pre-season. While Rattie and Jesse have performed somewhat better than I expected, it is not a surprise. Still, I don’t think McLeod makes the team out of camp. I am not sure how much of his ice time has been against bonafide NHL forwards and defenseman. If I understand the waiver process correctly, keeping him on the roster comes with some risk. Of the Oilers current 23 man roster, only Puljujarvi can be sent to the minors without being waived and based on his play thus far, McLeod is not replacing him. Aberg is the only other forward I could see the Oilers considering sending down, but I am not sure they would risk losing him on waivers just to see what McLeod could do for 9 games, but they might do that to get Upshall on the roster.

    I am not sure the mechanics and timing the Sekera’s LTIR designation, but unless they replace him with a trade, Bouchard will likely get his 9 games as his replacement (Can the Oilers send Jesse to the minors at the end of camp, then recall him the next day after Sekera is placed on LTIR, in order to have Bouchard on the opening day roster?) I also can’t see the Oilers waiving Jerabek or Gravel either again unless they know they will be making a trade for a replacement defenseman right after the season starts, but even then that move would not be done to keep McLeod. The CBA, at the players request, has the waiver wire designed to prevent/limit veterans from being bounced up and down to the minors so that GM’s and coaches can experiment.

    • ed from edmonton

      Despite the outstanding performance, it is hard to see a path that keeps McLeod on the opening day roster. It seems to me there are 11 forwards who are a lock to be o the opening night rodter:

      McD, LC, RNH, Lucic,JP, Rattie, Yamamoto, Khaira, Brodziak, Reider, Strome. There are 5 guys fighting for the last 2 or 3 forward positions, Kassian, Caguilia, Aberg, Upshall and Chaisson. It will be interesting to see how this works out.

      AS the Oil will be in Europe on cut down day it may make it a bit tricky wrt sending someone down just to recall them the next day. I know they will be allowed to carry a 3rd goalie essentially as a 24 player when they are in Europe. I fully expect they will keep all 2 goalies until they return to NA.

      Defence will be Larssen, Klef, Nurse, Benning, Russel and then ??? Unless Bouchard implodes in the last pre-season games will likely at least start the season with the Oil. That leaves Jarabek, Gravel, Bear and Garrison for 1 or two remaining spots. I think Gravel has been the most steady of this group and has the inside track for now. Bear has offensive pop, but if they keep Bouchard it is less likely they keep Bear as well.

  • ubermiguel

    Montreal is a beautiful city and they are hockey crazy there, even more so than Edmonton, so each game is a party. Bonus: their team sucks so you’ll likely see an Oilers win. I think it’s against the law to serve bad food in Montreal, so the food in and out of the stadium is good. And if it’s not snowing the winter weather is much nicer than here. Man, I’m dying to go back to Montreal now, someone organize a trip to la belle province!

    • grumpyKoala

      What about Kassian, do he still belong in the top 12?
      I think that kind of player is very valuable in post season where you need to keep up with the speed but add up some toughness to your game.

      Thought ?

  • Living in the Midwestern United States, I’d say Nashville is a must, but Columbus is actually pretty great, too. Not a bad seat in the house, and when they fire the cannon after a goal, it gets the place rockin’. Chicago’s rink and St. Louis have really fairly bland rinks, but the cities themselves are great. Haven’t been to the new arena in Detroit, but I hear it’s insane (in a good way.)

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Really? Going to a Hawks game in Chicago is far from bland…
      Chicago, Boston,… really any of the original 6. Or, if you wanted a winter holiday any of the beach teams?
      Tickets for the latter are around $30.00US at the door, as a bonus…

    • IRONman

      Jesse is flying. Good guy. Keep go in. McLeod is future star, love his attitude. Oilers need Heart players like McLeod. I am believing in TY, want the underdog to score 25 goals. Maroon did 27, Ty is quicker.

    • Redbird62

      Perhaps, but he will need to develop an all around game to be a 3rd line center since he is not cracking the top two lines as a center with McDavid and Drai locked in and then there’s Nuge. Strome, a junior scoring star as well, has been adapting himself to that role which includes being very responsible defensively and probably killing penalties. It is great to have that depth though even as trade bait if they don’t crack the line up. Walt Poddubny and Marc Habshied were very strong candidates in the Oilers system and even having some limited time with the team, but they couldn’t crack the Oilers top 6. In the end, through a series of trades, Sather turned these two into Willy Lidstrom and Mark Napier, very useful pieces for some of the Oiler’s cup years.

  • Serious Gord

    Well it seems the general consensus is Montreal – and I would agree if the goal is just to see hockey and not get some warm weather. Montreal can be bitterly cold – as bad as edmonton in some respects.

    But if you do go there go to guy street and feast at the bar-b-barn. It’s just a couple blocks from the bell centre and a haunt for hockey players going back 50 years. Ribs to die for.

  • Serious Gord

    Bagged milk:

    Back in the day there was a huge strip club in the west end called “le aquarium strip” or something like that. Three separate stripping areas and naked chicks in aquariums.

  • CDNinATL

    #5 – Places I’ve gone to see NHL games include Edmonton (of course), Toronto, Atlanta (before moving to Winnipeg), Nashville, Carolina and Tampa. I’ve also been to the arena in Florida to see McDavid getting drafted by us. For cheap seats that are good, that would be Carolina and Florida. Nashville now sells out almost every game. I will say that Nashville does know how to put on a good show but their fans are beyond irritating. Just my 2 cents.

  • Freddie the fog

    Saw games in Nashville and Chicago a couple years ago. Chicago Arena in a not so nice part of town. The Nashville Arena was really nice. Good atmosphere. Ya you cross the street and there are a lot of bars. We found most of the places a little too ” honky tonk” …but if that’s your thing….As a city Nashville was just ok for us. We loved Knoxville, Tenn. But you would have to forego an NHL game for an ECHL game . Also alot of fun