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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What’s changed with Kailer Yamamoto?

Can you believe it’s been already been a whole week since the last mailbag? I guess time flies when you’re riding the wave of being an Edmonton Oilers fan, amirite? As always, you’ve submitted your questions and I’ve sent them off to our team of mental warlords for their thoughts and ideas. If you have a question for next week’s mailbag, you can always hit me up through email or on Twitter. Until then, enjoy the free learning opportunity.

Jan 6, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates a goal by forward Leon Draisaitl (not pictured) against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. Edmonton defeated Toronto. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

1) Jeff asks – It’s been days and I can’t stop thinking about Connor McDavid’s goal against the Leafs. What were everyone’s first thoughts when they saw the goal and do you think it was even more special that it happened against Toronto?

Jason Gregor:

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My initial thought was I need to see it again. His lateral acceleration is amazing. For Connor to score his first NHL goal in Toronto that way likely made it a bit more special for sure.

Robin Brownlee:

Everything that can be said about it has been said about it. Special goal by a special player. Means something to McDavid that it was scored in Toronto for sure.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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That was just incredible. The speed, the deception, the hands. It was a goal that only Connor McDavid can score.

Baggedmilk:

I mean, what else needs to be said at this point? The guy is magic on ice and I probably watched the highlight four or five dozen times and the best part about that goal was watching Morgan Reilly’s soul leave his body.

2) Captain Canada 94 asks – The trade Deadline is getting closer and closer and with the loser point, the number of true sellers is fewer and fewer. That said, who should the Oilers target at the Trade Deadline, and what is the cost they should be willing to pay? Are there any teams that are already set to be sellers? Lastly, would the status quo with no moves be acceptable? (I’m talking NHL acquisitions, not Bakersfield/ Benson being brought up)

Jason Gregor:

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I had some ideas here. I see them going for a winger…

Robin Brownlee:

Look at the bottom of the standings. Those are the sellers. Talk that Nashville’s Nick Bonino could be a fit as a third-line centre isn’t without some merit but I’m not sure Edmonton’s defence is deep enough right now to send out Kris Russell for him, as some have suggested. Plus, Russell has a limited NTC. I’d bee surprised if Holland stands pat, but I bet we get a look at Benson before a decision is made on the bottom six.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I would be open to trading a second round pick and defensive prospect for a player who is under team control for another season. I think it’s important that Holland looks at improving the team this year while also keeping an eye on next season. Josh Anderson, Ondrej Kase, and Andreas Athanasiou would all be interesting.

Baggedmilk:

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If the Oilers are going fishing at the trade deadline, I hope it’s for younger players that still have some years of team control. The problem, for me, is that the Oilers still don’t have a whole lot of expendable assets to spend so they need to be careful.

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Oct 30, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto (56) skates against the Minnesota Wild at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Stephen K. asks – It’s only been a handful of games so far but I’ve been impressed with Kailer Yamamoto. What do you see in his game that is allowing him this early success?

Jason Gregor:

He is quick on pucks and he is smart. He is having more success because he is stronger than he was two years ago. Prime example of why time in the minors to develop is a good thing.

Robin Brownlee:

He goes to where the puck is and he’s tenacious when he gets to it, Slips out of traffic and into open ice with quickly. He’s smart. Plays to his strengths.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

He’s looking confident and more complete than he did in his previous stints. I always admire his willingness and ability to go to the tough areas of the ice and retrieve loose pucks or force turnovers. For a small player, he doesn’t have very much fear in his game.

Baggedmilk:

I’ve liked the way that he’s been strong on the puck and throwing his fun-sized body around. Obviously, we want him to be chipping in offensively, but he’s been playing well on both sides of the puck which has been a nice surprise.

Sep 28, 2019; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Matt Benning (83) skates with the puck against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

4) Trevor asks – Matt Benning seems to take a lot of heat around here and I’m wondering what the panel thinks of his game and whether or not it’s believed that he can be a part of the solution on defence?

Jason Gregor:

They miss him in the third pair RD. No question. Kris Russell or Caleb Jones are not as good on their offside as they are on LD. If people would focus on what Benning is, rather than what they hope he could be they’d be better off. He is a solid third pairing D-man. And most importantly when he is on the ice at 5×5 he outscores the opposition.

Since joining the Oilers at the start of 2016/2017 he is +29 at 5×5 (149-120 in 3269 minutes). Here are the other D-men (Prior to Saturday’s game).
Kris Russell: -4 (153-157 in 4426 minutes).
Darnell Nurse: -4 (203-207 in 4645 min).
Andrej Sekera: -5 (74-79 in 2151 min).
Adam Larsson: -27 (172-199 in 4544 min).
Oscar Klefbom: -29 (169-198 in 4482 min).

Here are the other D-men who have played at least 450 minutes since Benning arrived.

Ethan Bear: -16 (49-65 in 1119 min). He was -10 as a rookie two years ago, and he has played in a top-four role mainly this season.
Eric Gryba: -4 (31-35 in 804 min).
Brandon Davidson: 0 (26-26 in 740 min).
Caleb Jones: -14 (20-34 in 562 min).
Kevin Gravel: -1 (16-17 in 466 min).

Benning has mainly been in a third pairing, but even those who were also third pairing guys never came close to similar numbers. I know Bear and the other four D-men played tougher competition and that must be considered. But Benning’s results can’t be ignored. He isn’t flashy, and his isn’t the smoothest skater, but he gets the job done much better than others in the same role.

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Robin Brownlee:

Those who don’t understand that Benning is a really solid third-pairing defenceman and a good fit on the right side aren’t paying attention. Benning doesn’t grab you with any one aspect of his game, but when you look at the results, the Oilers are a better team and the puck goes the right way when he’s on the ice.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I don’t know if I’d describe it as ‘heat’ but I can understand why some view him as an expendable asset. They have lots of young defencemen coming through their system and Benning is an RFA who is likely going to get a slight raise on his current $2 million cap hit. He’s a good NHL d-man, but he might bring back a good forward in a trade.

Baggedmilk:

I don’t know why Benning takes so much shit around here to be honest. Frankly, I think he’s a fine third-pairing defenceman and plays well provided that he’s not fighting above his weight class.

Jan 6, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Alex Chiasson (39) scores on this shot against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

5) Oilers fan in Van asks – The Oilers are finally getting some depth scoring and I’m wondering what everyone’s take is for why it’s happening now as opposed to earlier in the season. Thanks!

Jason Gregor:

It was the first 14 games, then they woke up. So really for 70% of the year they have been fine, it was just October where they couldn’t score. A combination of things. Many new faces in Haas, Nygard, Sheahan and Archibald. Getting used to a new team, and for some, a new league takes more time for some than others. Chiasson put too much pressure on himself to repeat last year and you could tell he was pressing. Khaira got hot for two weeks in November.

Robin Brownlee:

New players have settled in, the addition of Yamamoto has helped jump-start the second line and Chiasson seems to have shaken off a slow start.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Some of it is certainly luck but the production and play in general from the bottom six has been great to see. Gaetan Haas and Joakim Nygard are both getting more and more comfortable at the NHL level, which is something I expect to continue, and Riley Sheehan and Josh Archibald are looking like the players we were hoping they’d be. I’m not sure what the explanation is, but Tippett seems to have found some good pairings for the bottom six.

Baggedmilk:

The bottom six guys have some chemistry going right now and I think, maybe, it took some time to gel together and get comfortable with a new team. Obviously, I’m guessing but there could be something to simply feeling more comfortable in their spot.

PRAY FOR PLAYOFFS

The boys are in the mix and we’re looking ahead to April. Please, Hockey Gords, make it so. Competitive games in January! Exclusively at NationGear.ca.