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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Random Thoughts: Europe-bound Prospects, Drafting a Goalie, Jesse Puljujarvi, and more…

It’s a cloudy Saturday morning here in Edmonton and it’ll be a while before we’re able to watch our beloved Edmonton Oilers play hockey again, which has given me plenty of time to think about what’s to come for the franchise and the league in general.

PROSPECTS ON LOAN

I wanted to take a minute to give Ken Holland some major props for the work he’s putting in to ensure that his top prospects are getting some playing time during the period while we wait for the AHL to come back. Normally in mid-September, we’d all be getting ready for training camp and the pre-season but because of COVID-19, the Stanley Cup playoffs are still happening, the draft and free agency are still weeks away, and all normal timelines have been thrown out the window, which makes this fall unlike any that we’ve ever seen before. Yet, despite the situation we’re all navigating together, time is rolling on and I’m giving Ken Holland plenty of credit for making sure that the top prospects on his depth chart won’t go even longer than they already have without getting back on the ice. I like knowing that Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod, Philip Broberg, Cooper Marody, et al are playing in competitive leagues around Europe while they wait for their normal seasons to get going, and you have to give Holland credit for making that happen.

DRAFTING A GOALIE

There’s been some talk around the ol’ Twitterverse over the past little while about the Oilers potentially using their 14th overall pick to select Russian netminder Yaroslav Askarov provided that he’s still on the board. While I completely understand why many of us would be intrigued by the opportunity to draft “the best goaltender since Vasilevskiy” I just don’t think that now is the time for a ‘hope and wait’ goalie pick. This is a team that needs to win now, and I think they’d be best served to spend first-round picks on players that will be able to make an impact sooner than later. I’m not saying that Askarov won’t be able to step in and do that, but the odds are better for a forward.

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The way I look at it, we’re already heading into Connor McDavid’s sixth NHL season and that makes me feel like we should probably be more open to trading picks than always sitting on them provided that the return was a young player that can help him win now. So what does that mean for Askarov? I’ve read the scouting reports too, the tire pumping on this kid is something to behold, but goaltenders are also draft voodoo at a high rate than forwards too. Do the Oilers need a franchise goaltender? Of course. Do they have the time to wait for one to possibly develop? Not to me, they don’t. At least, not in my opinion. Tyler Yaremchuk defended the idea of taking Askarov on Friday’s Oilersnation Radio at about the 10-minute mark if you’re interested.

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JESSE PULJUJARVI

Before you give me shit for talking about Jesse Puljujarvi again, I promise you that this is going to be quick, but I’ve gotta say that the kid has me intrigued after putting up 24 points (10G, 14A) in 14 pre-season games over in Finland. Now, I also recognize that pre-season production doesn’t mean anything, I still remember Jesse Joensuu coming to town and putting up points in the warm-up rounds only to disappear in October, but you have to admit that the numbers are enough to raise an eyebrow. We all know that this kind of production isn’t sustainable nor will it translate to the NHL by any stretch, but if he can bring even a little bit of that scoring touch to town then it could make a serious difference.

If Ken Holland can actually wrap up a reasonable deal that brings Puljujarvi back to town and he can chip in with some offence anywhere in the Top 9 then that’s gotta be a big win for Old Dutch. Put another way, could Puljujarvi realistically come back to Edmonton and outscore Chiasson’s 24 points or Archibald’s 21 points? I wouldn’t say that idea is a lock by any means, but I wouldn’t bet against it either. Could he challenge Zack Kassian’s 34 points? Maybe he can. I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to finding out. Wouldn’t it be nice to have another guy in the lineup that can put up a little bit of offence and push everyone back a spot or two on the depth chart? I think so. But as we’ve done for the last year and a half, we’ll just have to wait and see.

FANS IN THE STANDS

With the NFL kicking off this past week with fans in the stands, you have to wonder how closely the NHL is monitoring the situation as it relates to bringing in a crowd for their own 2020-21 season. Yes, NFL stadiums are largely outside and spread out over a far bigger area than what you’d get from an NHL rink, but you’d have to think that the National Hockey League would love to allow a few thousand people into rinks provided that this whole football experiment doesn’t blow up in everyone’s faces, right? I’d even bet that there would be plenty of people willing to go too, but is it the right idea given the circumstance? Can the NHL survive without? Would you go to an Oilers game if you could? With the NFL allowing fans in for the start of their year, I feel like the answer to whether or not the NHL follows suit will come sooner than we think.

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I’M A HORRIBLE SPORTS GAMBLER

Since the start of the NHL playoffs, I’ve been having some fun betting on games but I have to admit here and now that I am absolutely terrible at it. Early on, especially in the play-in round, I was actually doing alright, winning about 55% of my bets, but since then, I’ve taken a real nose dive and my bankroll is plummeting. It’s not that I’m betting big money on anything, my units are hilariously small to be honest, but I got lured in by the fun randomness of prop bets and they’ve been treating me with the all of the warmth of a swift kick to the shin. I don’t know if any of you are sports bettors, but for your ol’ pal Baggedmilk, my dreams of riding a parlay heater all the way to the private jet life aren’t going to happen unless I find Biff Tannen’s sports almanac or one of you gives me unbeatable advice.

GOTTA BE THE LIGHTNING

The Stanley Cup Finals are set to kick off tonight and despite telling all of you that I’m a terrible gambler two seconds ago, I’m going to be betting on the Lightning to win the Cup. Not only do I think they’re the better team overall, but they also don’t play that horribly boring trap style of play that suffocates offence and keeps scores down. At this point, I want to see more 5-4 games than 2-1 snoozefests. Not to mention, I’m still holding a grudge against Dallas for all of those beatdowns in the late 90s and early 2000s. Tampa in six.