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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Prospects to Watch

Welcome, Nation, to a brand new edition of the Monday Mailbag where we answer all of your Oilers related questions and give you a few minutes of peace from whatever it is that you’re trying to avoid. Despite the August timestamp, there is still plenty to talk about as the Oilers look to get themselves back on track after yet another tough campaign. This week, we look at the recent Taylor Hall rumour, prospects of note, Mike Smith’s goalie gear, and much more. As always, I need your questions to make this work. If you’ve got one, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.

1) Kyle asks – Last week, a rumour kicked off on Twitter that Taylor Hall would be open to coming back to the @Edmonton Oilers and I’m wondering if anyone thinks this is realistic or if it’s simply offseason fodder to get a reaction? Could the Oilers even afford it?

Jason Gregor:

I’ve spoken with Hall numerous times. He has never shied away from saying he’d love to play in Canada again. As for him suddenly saying last week he is open to Edmonton, I’d say that is a bit misleading. His focus is on the Devils right now. If he tests free agency he will want to go to a place he feels has a good chance to be competitive year after year. How likely is it he returns? Really tough to say with any accuracy at this point, since much of it will depend on how the Devils perform this season.

Robin Brownlee:

The rumor was from a trade speculation Twitter account with a dubious — make that awful — record of getting anything right. Until we see how Hall’s season unfolds in New Jersey, I don’t think it’s realistic to have a strong sense of what might happen on way or another. Same thing for the Devils. What kind of season will they have? Will they want to commit to Hall? If they do, and if he’s happy there, they have the inside track.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It’s simply offseason fodder. Could Taylor Hall be open to a return? Maybe. Would the Oilers want him back? Probably. Is it realistic? No. There will be teams lining up to pay Hall $10 million a season and the Oilers simply won’t have the money to do it.

Christian Pagnani:

It would be strange, but stranger things have happened. I’m pretty sure Hall enjoyed his time here, so maybe he feels like there’s some unfinished business in Edmonton. I don’t know how they’d make it work with the cap but they should get a decent amount of space next summer with the cap going up and a Neal buyout. I wouldn’t bet on it and I’m not even sure I’d want Hall on a free agent contract with his injury troubles.

Chris the Former Intern:

I really don’t think Hall will want to come back to Edmonton after seeing what it’s like to NOT play in Edmonton. AND unless we give up something major, we would definitely not be able to afford him.

Baggedmilk:

I’d love to see Hallsy back with the Oilers and I could even see him being down for a return, but I don’t think the team could afford it. Thanks, Pete.

2) Kristen asks – I’ve read lately about how much better the Oilers’ prospect pool is looking and I’m wondering who are three prospects that you’re most intrigued by or will be watching closely throughout the year?

Jason Gregor:

Benson, Marody and Jones because I think they are the most NHL ready today. I’ll be watching the development of Bouchard and Samorukov closely. I’m also intrigued to see what Maksimov does as a pro. He has an outstanding shot, has some edge to his game and the potential to be a solid scorer.

Robin Brownlee:

Tyler Benson, Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear. There are younger players on the way in the system as well, but the Oilers need to find out who from this group of three has a chance to force their way onto the NHL roster. Their best window to do that is this season and next season.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Evan Bouchard is the obvious answer. He has serious top four or maybe even top-pairing potential and watching him go through his first full pro-season will be interesting. Dmitri Samurokov is up there as well. He took such a massive stride forward last season in the OHL and I’ll be keeping a close eye on him to see if it translates into success at the pro level. My third choice is Kailer Yamamoto. This is a big year for him. This will be his second pro season and for a first-round pick, this is when I’d like to see him take a massive stride forward either at the NHL or AHL level.

Christian Pagnani:

Tyler Benson, Philip Broberg, Evan Bouchard. Benson to see how close he is to NHL playing time. Broberg to see if he has more offence than initially thought and whether Bouchard can skip the AHL and be a difference maker in the NHL.

Chris the Former Intern:

Definitely Stuart Skinner, Ostap Safin, and Ryan McLeod. We’ve got a bunch to be excited about, but I’m anxious to see how these three guys’ year goes.

Baggedmilk:

I’m looking at Bouchard, Samorukov, and Benson. Those are the three that I’ll be checking in on as often as possible. Honourable mention goes to Philip Broberg because he’s our newest toy that could be very exciting in the future.

3) Craig asks – We’re coming up on the end of August and I’m wondering who would be everyone’s guess to be the Oilers’ third line centre for the upcoming season? Is there someone that’s currently on the depth chart that has a leg up?

Jason Gregor:

Today, I like Marody. If they sign a veteran to a PTO before camp that could change. He checks off a lot of boxes. Smart, right shot, very skilled. With the top two lines likely facing the toughest competition most nights, Marody won’t have to be called upon to be a defensive shutdown line. More a line that can compete and contribute against opposing bottom-six lines.

Robin Brownlee:

I’d like to see Jujhar Khaira tried there, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Maybe Gaetan Haas is the best bet, but I don’t know enough about him to say with any certainty.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I don’t think anyone has a leg up in the race. Kyle Brodziak, Colby Cave, Gaetan Haas, and Cooper Marody are all certainly options, they just aren’t great options. Sam Gagner, Jujhar Khaira, and Markus Granlund have all played centre in the past, but I think they’re all better suited as wingers for the upcoming season. There definitely isn’t a clear cut favourite for that third-line centre role, which is why I believe we’ll see one more free-agent signing or a player brought it on a PTO. If I had to pick a wildcard, I would say keep your eye on Ryan McLeod. The speedy centre almost made the team last year and I bet he’ll stick around longer than expected this season.

Christian Pagnani:

Right now it has to be Cooper Marody. They clearly plan on using Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid together, so neither Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be at the third-line center spot. Markus Granlund isn’t a full-time center. Same with Jujhar Khaira and Sam Gagner. Kyle Brodziak and Colby Cave aren’t locks for a fourth-line spot, let alone a third-line spot. Marody might not have the best skating, but he shoots right and is a natural center. My money’s on him.

Chris the Former Intern:

One of the best things we’ve got going right now is the competition in the bottom six. My final guess is that it comes down to Jujhar Khaira or Granlund for third line center.

Baggedmilk:

I’m going to guess it’ll be Cooper Marody because the Oilers don’t have much cap room to make anything else happen. For a minute we thought it was going to be Derick Brassard, but that ended up being just a tease. Thanks, Georges.

4) Geoff asks – Just saw Mike Smith’s new goalie gear on Twitter. Looks good but it raises a question I’ve always had. Why don’t more goalies go with white pads and white gloves? Wouldn’t dark or colourful pads be a greater contrast with the white net background and therefore make it easier for a shooter to see the open net? What does everything like in goalie gear?

Jason Gregor:

I want a goalie who stops the puck. If he is dressed in one colour or has a rainbow of colours, I don’t care either way, as long as he stops the puck that’s what matters to me.

Robin Brownlee:

White was tried for years, but it’s out of vogue now in the drop-and-stop era of guys shuffling around on their knees. Most of the holes are up high now and that tends to take away the impact of white leg pads. Some would argue dark pads can better hide the puck, but I don’t know about that.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I believe there has been research done on this topic. I’m not sure if it really matters too much — if you’re a good goaltender, it really shouldn’t matter what colour your pads are. The one area I’ll say it matter is at the bottom part of the pads and on the skates. I think goalies should have that area be either black or very dark so that it’s more difficult for a video review to detect if the puck completely crossed the line or not.

Christian Pagnani:

First off, Smith’s gear looks super slick. I’ve wondered the same thing you have. I don’t have an answer. Maybe white gear prompts shooters to go higher up? I like unique designs with brighter colours.

Chris the Former Intern:

You’re right about the white pads. But I think it’s a trend right now to go opposite of what the current trend is. These goalies probably wear white their whole lives. I’m sure it’s a nice change for a lot of them to try something different.

Baggedmilk:

I’m with Gregor. I don’t care what colour your gear is as long as you stop the puck. Paint unicorns all over it for all I care. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, that might look dope.

5) Vetinari asks – With summer almost over and training camp on the horizon, what’s left on your personal “to do” list this summer?

Jason Gregor:

Grow out my hair, but like the previous ten summers, I think I’ve waited too long to start, so I’ll just keep the same style.

Robin Brownlee:

I’ll know when my wife gives it to me.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

My ‘personal’ to-do list includes things like go to Banff for a weekend, golf a lot, and just relax. Once hockey season gets going it can get a little hectic with the teams I cover so I try to not have a to-do list in the summer. I like not thinking for a few months (some would argue that I don’t do very much thinking during the hockey season).

Christian Pagnani:

Finish reading the second Game of Throne’s book. Get in a bit better shape. One of those is going better than the other currently.

Chris the Former Intern:

Honestly, I’ve accepted that this summer weather isn’t going to meet expectations. If this summer’s going to act like Fall, we might as well just start it. I’ve done all my vacationing and I’m ready for the hockey season!

Baggedmilk:

Continue living my best, beet-free life for as long as possible.

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  • VitaminMike

    “Baggedmilk: Continue living my best, beet-free life for as long as possible.”

    Good laugh first thing in the morning.

    Nice to see McLeod get a little shout-out as well, really liked his showing in training camp last year. Hopefully we will see if that was just post-drsft adrenaline or what.

    Also, Hall isn’t coming back people. Move on.

  • ARB

    You guys should check in with Yamamoto, I’d be interested to hear about what he’s been doing this offseason to become stronger to avoid injuries and improve his game!

    • OilTastic

      Ya I’d sure like to see a whole lot more out of this guy this season in the AHL. Of course I say this about most of the Oilers players and prospects anyways….

    • FutureGM

      No long term deal for Hall. Too reckless results in many injuries. Definitely sign him 1yr 11 million if he’s into it

      Yamamoto to see how/if he progresses. Bear to see if he can make an impression in his RFA season. Can he replace Benning for next season?

      Marody, khaira, gagner, Haas. Maybe sign Boyle for cheap to bring in PK and leadership experience. Otherwise competition is good. Trading JP for a 3rd line C is a fail when you have Benson and Marody on the cusp and 3 legit NHL C already

      MAF ditched his iconic yellow pads with the mind frame that opposing players could detect pucks easier against them in goal crease scrambles. Does it truly help? Maybe. In theory yes

      Let’s see a mop Gregs!!

  • Redbird62

    I just hope that Cooper Marody is not the second coming of Anton Lander. Excellent AHL player, but he couldn’t seem to make an effective jump to the NHL (except under Nelson in 14/15) likely due to his lack of foot speed. They both began flourishing in the AHL at about the same age, and had similar scouting reports. I think from Haas, Marody and MacLeod, I’d bet that Haas probably has the best shot at the 3rd line job but not by much. Under Holland, I can’t see the Oilers expecting MacLeod to be ready right out of the gate, and Haas is a better skater and has more experience than Marody though admittedly not on an NHL sized rink.

  • Neilio

    Most of the Oilers rumors out there are made to generate clicks. Few fan-bases are reading about their teams in July and August. If you write about the Oilers, especially something ridiculous, you’ll get some traffic.

    Some of the rumors are, IMO, using the Oilers supposed interest in a player to boost value and get a team to commit. The Brassard one sticks out. I think Laraque is probably friends with him and he was doing a favor. Leaking that he was about to sign with the Oilers made at least one team (the Islanders) get off the fence and make him an offer. Probably had no intention of signing with the Oilers, but its better to have that possibility as bargaining leverage. Brett Connolly also took good advantage of this. It wouldn’t surprise me if one or more of the remaining free agents out there give it a shot before camps open.

    As for Hall, man that ship has sailed. He may have enjoyed his time in Edmonton. Maybe he liked the attention more than he realized. I don’t see a scenario where that works out. Maybe later in his career after the wheels fall off a bit.
    But it just wasn’t a fit on a team with McDavid. People act like it wasn’t tried. They played together right off the bat when McDavid broke in. It was like a band with two lead guitarists and nobody playing rhythm. Hall is a first line winger. He’s a puck carrier, everything goes through him and that’s when he’s most effective. The problem with playing him with McDavid, is that there is only one puck. Its McDavid’s puck. As good as Hall is, nobody would rather he has the puck. Each one is at his best when he is the best player on the line. Hall would be great as a second line LW with the Nuge, but are you going to pay 11M for that? And would he produce enough with second line minutes to earn it? Would he accept a second line role? No to all of those.

  • The Oilers have a few good prospects that need time in the minors and not rushed onto the Oilers this season. Bouchard is by far the best of the bunch and should be a top pairing d-man within a year of joining the team. Patience is the key, which the Oilers and their fans have rarely shown in the past. This team has a lot of holes to fix and it may take 3/4 years to be a serious contender.

  • oiler_head

    My son’s goalie coach tries to get all his students to go white all the time. He prefers not giving the shooters an outline. Certainly the ability to track and stop pucks trumps all but I can see the logic in not handing the shooters an advantage.

  • bazmagoo

    Pretty doubtful there is any chance Hall could come back, although it would be extremely interesting to see how him and Draisaitl would play together with a few years more experience under their belts. They did have some pretty good chemistry.

    I’m most intrigued by the older European prospects. Nygard, Haas, and Persson. Even if 1 of those guys makes it, that would be super helpful for the team. Does their game translate to the NHL? Will definitely be interesting to find out.

    For third line center I’m betting on Riley Sheahan at 1 million or so, for 1 year. This would push everyone down a spot in the pecking order, give Riley a chance to resurrect his career, and put the pressure on the young kids to win their NHL spot.

    • ed from edmonton

      There is rarely a shortage of rumors and Hockeybuzz has stated the Oil and NYR have had a number of talks about Krieder. Kreider would be a great add and might allow the Oil to run McD, LD and RNH as 3 centers. The rumor states the ask is JP, a draft pick and a prospect. This can’t work as the Oil do not have enough cap space to add Krieder.

      • bazmagoo

        No chance I’m trading 2 prospects and a pick for Kreider, not even 1 prospect and a pick, he’s UFA after this season. If it was Jesse straight up for Kreider I would do it. Otherwise Jesse can go play in Finland for as long as he wants. Hockeybuzz isn’t a credible source, never has been.

  • Can't Fix Stupid

    I remember reading something during Marc Andre-Fleury’s first couple of years when he went to from the yellow pillows in Pittsburgh to white ones and his SV% went up with his GAA going down after the change and it was because the shooters allegedly found it easier to find the outlines of colored pads versus the white pads. I found it interesting. Much like the black tape vs white tape debate.