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Monday Mailbag – Should Connor McDavid be on the penalty kill?

You watched a pair of afternoon games, you’ve got thoughts, and here were are with another round of the mailbag to break down what’s going on with the Edmonton Oilers. You sent in the questions, we spit out the knowledge — you know how this works. And as always, the mailbag depends on your questions and I need stuff for next week so fire up your brain machine and get in touch. You can email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Enjoy the distraction, my friends, you’ve earned it.

Mar 31, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan on his bench against the Calgary Flamesduring the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

1) Kevin asks – I’ve noticed that Todd McLellan has been using his skilled players more often on the penalty kill this season. What do you think about having guys like Connor McDavid out there to kill penalties?

Jason Gregor:

McDavid is 8th among Oilers forwards on the PK with a total of 7:00 in ten games. I don’t have an issue with that. RNH is 2nd among forwards at 16:37 and Leon Draisaitl is 6th at 9:02. Zack Kassian has played 7:53, but in only seven games. Many top players play on the PK, but I am happy to see McDavid is playing mainly at EV and on the PP.

Robin Brownlee:

Actually, that’s not the case. McDavid averaged 1:05 shorthanded last season. Going into Chicago, he was at 41 seconds. Draisaitl was 1:01 last season and is 52 seconds. McLellan is leaning most heavily on RNH (1:41), Strome (1:37) and Rieder (1:34) up front. On the back end it’s Kris Russell (2:24) and Adam Larsson (2:16).

Matt Henderson:

I love skilled guys on the PK. Good players know where the puck is going and they have the skills to take it away from the opposition. As long as McDavid isn’t there to block shots with his face I’m all for it.

Cam Lewis:

Sure. Get him out there as much as you can. It’s nice to use skill players on the PK because they can add an element of risk to the other team when they try to be fancy. Look back to RNH’s goal against the Capitals last week. I think the key is just ensuring he isn’t blocking shots.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I get a little nervous when McDavid is out killing a penalty because obviously the last thing this teams needs is for him to get hurt blocking a shot. Given how much they play McDavid at even strength and on the powerplay, I think McLellan can leave him on the bench during penalty kills. In general though, I don’t mind skilled players killing penalties if they’re good at it. I like that McLellan trusts players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto enough to put them on the PK.

Chris the Intern:

I love seeing Connor on the penalty kill. Playing him more will always be better than us. My one concern with this is that I really don’t want to see Connor blocking shots out there. I mean, him getting injured from blocking a shot is the last thing we need, right?

Baggedmilk:

I like the idea of Connor out on the penalty kill but I also hate the idea of him blocking shots. I get why you’d want him out there, that’s obvious to anyone with eyes and a brain, but I get nervous when I think about him sacrificing his body to prevent power play clappers from the point.

Oct 16, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Jesse Puljujarvi (98) celebrates his third period goal against Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

2) Blake asks – If you were to guess and I know it’s purely speculative, but how do you see the Jesse Pulujarvi story playing out for the rest of the year?

Jason Gregor:

I think he will go to Bakersfield. There is a lot of pressure on many people in the organization. They want him to succeed. If he doesn’t the scouts, GM and coaches won’t look good. The hard decision is sending him to the AHL, but I believe it is the right one. He needs to rediscover his confidence and it will be easier doing that in the AHL. The AHL is not an easy league, so don’t be stunned if he isn’t instantly lighting it up there, but I’d send him there to work on his game, but where he can be on the first PP unit and regain his offensive confidence.

Robin Brownlee:

If the team continues playing well with him sitting out, he needs to go to Bakersfield. He needs to play.

Matt Henderson:

I guess he gets sent to the AHL or traded. I don’t see this coach extending him any chances in the top 6 for a long time and he needs to develop into a top 6 guy. Might as well be playing those minutes somewhere.

Cam Lewis:

I’m sure he’ll end up Bakersfield sooner rather than later. That said, I have a hard time thinking he’ll figure it out here. I bet he’s dealt for another reclamation project.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

There’s a difference between what I want to happen and what I think will happen. I believe they need to play Jesse with skill and allow him to become comfortable with Leon Draisaitl. I wouldn’t even complain if he was on the third line with Ryan Strome every game, I think he can provide value from that spot. The reality is that the Head Coach doesn’t trust him and his leash is much shorter than any other players. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is his final season in Edmonton.

Chris the Intern:

Two ways, in my opinion, either he’s sent down for a few games and returns to use for the remainder of the season, or he stays with us and plays 10 minutes a night until he starts to produce. If they’re going to continue to play him 10 minutes a night, I would suggest sending him down.

Baggedmilk:

To me, it should play out with him spending some time in Bakersfield to get his confidence back. Let him play 20 minutes per night down in the AHL and work on the things that are keeping him out of the lineup. Not playing him anywhere does absolutely nothing.

Sep 17, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (75) skates against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Edmonton Oilers won 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

3) Kerry asks – We’ve seen Evan Bouchard for almost a month now and I’m curious to know what you think he does well and what he needs to continue to work on as he moves forward in his career?

Robin Brownlee:

He does a lot of thing well but he has to do them consistently, which is the case with most young players. Patience and poise come through experience. Mistakes will happen. Don’t get rattled. Learn from them. He’s better with the puck than playing defensively right now, but he’s still better at both than I thought he’d be this early.

Jason Gregor:

He sees the ice very well. He handles the puck like a veteran and can get his shot off very quickly. I think he has a lot of upside. He will want to add some speed, which 99% of young players need, and he will. He just needs time to gain experience. I think he will become a really good defender for the Oilers in the coming seasons, but he will be going back to junior before his 10th game.

Matt Henderson:

He just needs to get a little faster, a little stronger, and gain experience. I love his passing ability and his shot, and he plays like he has ice water in his veins. He’s definitely not scrambly at all out there, which is very cool for a 19 year true rookie.

Cam Lewis:

He’s pretty much come exactly as advertised. He has a hell of a first pass and he handles the puck nicely in the offensive zone. I think the most impressive thing about him, though, is his calmness on the ice. He doesn’t look like he’s 19 out there.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from Evan Bouchard. He never seems to panic in his own end, he’s very competent on the powerplay, and he’s one of their most efficient puck movers. If there’s one area he needs to improve on it’s just his decision making and defensive zone coverage. I think each of those will come with more experience.

Chris the Intern:

Moving the puck is his best asset for sure. Next, his shot. He finds ways to get shots through to the net and they’re hard too. What he needs to work on in my opinion is his defensive zone awareness. Knowing who to cover and how in his zone will help his game.

Baggedmilk:

This kid is silky with the puck, man. WOOOWEEE. That said, he’s only 19 years old and has had trouble in the defensive zone, which is completely reasonable for a rookie defender. I think he needs to work on his d-zone awareness and footspeed moving forward. If he can improve those two items then he’ll be absolutely dynamite.

Photo: Twitter.com/EdmontonOilers

4) Jace asks – There has been a lot of talk already this year about the way the Oilers develop their prospects and I’d like to know the panel’s take on how they do as an organization?

Robin Brownlee:

Pretty broad question. Generally, they haven’t shown enough patience or willingness to put top-end prospects in the minors for seasoning. That’s been, in part, because of lack of depth on top in recent seasons. That appears to be slowly changing now. Teams are better served filling depth spots with proven and cheap vets like Brodziak and Rieder than they are forcing kids into roles they aren’t ready for.

Jason Gregor:

It has not been good. Scouts made some questionable picks, and the organization still leans towards having young players in the NHL too early. I hope they learn from Puljujarvi, who should have stayed in Finland at 18, and started in the AHL at 19. Rushing does not work. Players will tell you when they are ready through their performance on the ice. Some are ready earlier than others, and the organization has to have the courage to make the right decision and not worry about how “it looks.” Send JP to the AHL, but Bouchard in junior and when Ty Rattie is healthy I’d even look at sending Yamamoto to the AHL. If they aren’t difference makers in the NHL then let them develop in the minors or junior.

Matt Henderson:

Ask Yak, Puljujarvi, Paajarvi, Schultz, and Gagner how they do developing prospects. They suck. Earlier this past week Ryan Rishaug said the team STOPPED looking for D options at the NHL level after they drafted Bouchard. That says everything you need to know about this club’s developmental philosophy.

Cam Lewis:

I mean they’re clearly bad at drafting and developing given the fact virtually none of their non-first-round picks have made it on to the roster. We’re only a few years into the Keith Gretzky era so maybe it’ll get better. I think one issue has been coaching at the AHL level. If the players they do draft even make it there, they seem to just stashed behind a bunch of random veterans and get lost in the shuffle. There seems to be an odd lack of priority in having prospects actually playing down there.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Well not very good under previous regimes, but I think Chiarelli/Gretzky have actually done a decent job identifying talent outside of the first round. That’s been a huge problem in this organization for a while but now with guys like Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, Tyler Benson, and Stuart Skinner all taking steps forward in the AHL, it looks like that might be changing. You could also look at the Jesse Puljujarvi situation as a black spot on the current regime.

Chris the Intern:

Well they don’t really have a good track record that’s for sure. The situation we’ve been in has forced us to force prospects into the NHL at an early age, which in the long term will ruin their development. The NHL is not a development league, but we never have enough solid assets to keep our prospects in the AHL or junior.

Baggedmilk:

Just look at the record. How many of their own draft picks from outside of the first round do the Oilers have playing for them right now? Thankfully, Keith Gretzky certainly looks like he’s changing that these days.

5) Josh asks – Maybe too early, but which teams and players from around the league have shocked you the most?

Robin Brownlee:

Surprised by how bad St. Louis and the Kings have been. The Red Wings are even worse than I thought they’d be.

Jason Gregor:

The Kings are worse than I expected and Montreal is much better thus far. The Oilers 6-3-1 start is a bit surprising based on travel and opponents. They have looked very competitive against top teams. I’m surprised Patrick Kane is looking like Alex Ovechkin of the league. He has 58 shots in 12 games, almost five per game.

Matt Henderson:

I think it goes without saying that the Oilers having their record at the end of October with the schedule they had is shocking. I would have been THRILLED with a .500 record and instead they stand right near the top of the Pacific with game in hand.

Cam Lewis:

I’m shocked Colorado is as good as they are.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’ve been really impressed with the Montreal Canadiens and Max Domi, who is adjusting very well to life as a centre. I kind of figured Carey Price would be able to keep them out of the basement, but I didn’t think they would look this good. The Carolina Hurricanes look much more skilled than I thought they would be and have been really fun team to watch. Sebastien Aho is going to be a star for a long time.

Chris the Intern:

Vancouver is shocking me for sure, same with the Canadiens. Those are two teams I expected to not be at the top of the standings. I knew Auston Matthews was going to be good this year but I wasn’t expecting him to be THIS good.

Baggedmilk:

I’m surprised that St. Louis is having the start they are and to a lesser extent the Los Angeles Kings. The Blues have a good lineup and it doesn’t make much sense to me that they’re not winning more games, though they pummel the Blackhawks on Saturday night.

NATION ROADIE TO CALGARY

Photoshop: @isuckatpicking

Just like last year, it was important for us to try and make this trip as cheap as possible and to announce it as early as we could to give you as much time as possible to get your life in order. Based on last year’s trip, this is a roadie that you really won’t want to miss — it’s an absolute blast and a good chance to get ridiculous behind enemy lines. And since I already know that you want to come, let’s get to the when, where, and how much, shall we?

Give me the details, guy:

  • When? Saturday, November 17th, 2018
  • How much? The depends on how many people are coming with you. To put it another way, we’ve got a range of options including single occupancy ($329/person) up to groups of four ($249/person).
  • Why? Because we love to party
  • Where do you buy tickets? Right here, friend. But be warned, just like the last time we did this, the trip sold out quickly and procrastinating will be your enemy if you want to come.
  • Dynasty No More

    Why shouldn’t McD be on the penalty kill? Wayne Gretzky was and it resulted in short handed goals! It would also keep opposing teams honest about going all out offensively on the PP knowing Connor could burn them for a shortie.

    • Odanada

      and knowing Connor can burn them with a shortie, they will not be shy about firing pucks in his lane, especially come the playoffs.
      This is a double edged sword.

  • Jimmer

    Pool Party Post #10,674.
    If you trade him now you get terrible value. Let him light up the AHL (hopefully) and then decide to trade him for a decent player around the trade deadline if we are still in playoff contention….rumour has it we have a few holes to fill on this team..LOL!

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Throwing McDavid on the PK in the last 20-25 seconds creates a challenge for the opposition when their 1st and 2nd units are gassed or off the ice. The likelihood that McDavid can be sprung or force an error at this point goes up significantly and there’s also less likelihood that the big shots from the point are on the ice at this time as he plays against a tired 2nd unit or a 3rd unit that is typically inexperienced on the pp. Timing is everything, but I’m happy to TM find a way to get McDavid pk ice time where it puts opponents back on their heels and creates opportunities for the Oilers for scoring and momentum.

  • camdog

    Standard practice to try and get skilled players on penalty kill in the last 30 seconds of the kill. As to Jesse he’s a bit all over the place. I’ve been hoping they’d be able to get him some time in the AHL to refine his skill. There’s a reason why the Finnish GM in Columbus passed him over. I know some like to blame the organisation every time a player doesn’t pan out, it’s not always as simple as some try and make it out to be.

  • The future never comes

    I agree with Gregor, send Yams back once Rattie is healthy. Send Jesse to the A and Bouch to junior before he hits 10 games. Yams is dogged on the forecheck and draws about a penalty a game but is not producing with that first line. Play Jesse in every situation in Bakersfield and 22 minutes a night. Tell Bouch to work on his defensive reads and foot speed.

      • Hemmercules

        If the Oilers lost those first two games looking like a team the heat wouldn’t have been nearly as high. The team looked like last years team from top to bottom in those first two games. Their play the last 3 games is what this team can really do if they execute and put in the effort.

    • Spydyr

      When someone suggest sending a young player down to develop why do some people like you think he is a bust. The player is going down to work on his game and develop. Perhaps decades of the Oilers using the NHL as a development league has done this to some fans. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sending a young player down. They get more playing time in more situations, work on their shortcomings and build confidence. It is not a bad thing and they are not busts.

  • Ty Guy

    Hi Gang,

    Say a Nation follower wanted to join in the festivities Nov 17th but lives in Calgary already. Could he or she meet up somewhere with the tour to tip a drink or 6 and share a laugh over the Flames that night? its just a nice break to be around “my people” (A.K.A.- Oil fans) once in a while…..Can you open the door for Oiler fans living in Cow town?

  • TKB2677

    As much as I like seeing skill guys on the PK, I wouldn’t have McDavid out there much. He’s the team. The last thing the Oilers need is for a shot to hit him in the foot and breaks it. They lose McDavid, they are done. If you want to throw him out there for the last few seconds of the PK. Sure. If there are a ton of penalties and it makes it so McDavid isn’t out there for a long time, then sure throw him out there once in a while. But I wouldn’t on a full time basis.

    For JP. Send him to Bakersfield. Play the crap out of him. Play him in all situations. If he makes a mistake, send him back out there. He’s barely 20. If he was a later first round pick, no one would care if he wasn’t in the NHL. He’s 20. It’s OK he’s not ready. Someone needs to tell Nielson that lot of barely 20 yr olds are not NHL ready.

  • Odanada

    JP needs to assert himself beyond waving his stick on the forecheck. He is a big guy, and could withstand a more physical style of play; one that would open up some space in the offensive zone.
    I really like JP and think his confidence would improve if he adopted a more physical style.
    Can “they” teach a young pup new tricks? I really hope so.

  • chezzychez

    I don’t remember the last time we had some talent brewing in the farm. For years our ahl team has been led by journeymen so it’s nice to finally see a few young draft picks leading the team. I’d be okay with adding Yamo and/or Pool Party down there to get their games really going on an already strong team.

  • Oiler Al

    Love him or hate him, Tkachuk has 110 points vs Pulj;s 29 pts. Think we drafted the right guy?Pulj played fewer games with reason, but they are both 20 yr olds.

      • Randaman

        It’s not going to make a difference because Tkachuk will be going strong long after JP is back at home in Europe with Mommy. He plays like a he is 5’10” and 165 lbs., has a weak shot, no clue defensively and skates in circles rather than straight lines. BUST!

      • TKB2677

        I agree. If you are basing the evaluation of the 2 players right now, then it looks like Tkachuk is the better player. That being said, I think the deck was stacked a little bit in Tkachuk’s favor. He played Canadian juniors so he knows the North American game on probably the most close to professionally run junior team in North America in London. Plus his dad was a star NHLer so he was around NHL dressing rooms his whole life so he would know how to act and what to do. But based on the way the NHL is going with speed and skating being more and more the way it’s going, JP has the potential to be the much better player. He’s huge, has skill and can skate. The knock on Tkachuk is his skating.

    • OILERSORDEATH

      I still think JP will figure it out. He isn’t dumb and realizes the opportunity he has to play on a team with the best player in the world. Kinda reminds us me of Neo when he was struggling with it, then all of a sudden he’ll just know. I’m not giving up on you JP!!

  • OILERSORDEATH

    Chris the intern obviously a Toronto guy, sorry bro but Matthews is even as the same realm as a Mcdavid, Crosby, Kane or Ovechkin. Sure he’s scoring goals but so is Laine, Kane etc. Even before his shoulder injury he hit a wall back to reality. Everyone always says the Oil is dead without CM, well same can be said for the Leafys.