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Random Thoughts: New guys, the PK, Jujhar Khaira, and more

It’s a lovely November morning here in the capital city and we still have no idea when the next NHL season will begin, and that’s giving me plenty of time to think about what’s to come for the franchise and the league in general.

THE NEW GUYS

Looking at the work Ken Holland has done so far this offseason, I have to admit how excited I am to see how the new guys fit into the roster. I know I’m the type of Oilers fan that drinks the Kool-Aid every single offseason, but the idea of having a few new faces and value-contract returnees that can actually score has me feeling about as confident in the top-9 as I have been in years. It can’t be just me, right? I mean, between Kyle Turris (9G), Dominik Kahun (12G), and Tyler Ennis (16G), Holland added 37 goals to the roster (35 if you take away the two that Ennis scored in Edmonton after the trade) with the only real subtraction being Riley Sheahan (8G) (it’s not like Athanasiou did any scoring in his time in Edmonton) and that’s an offensive boost to the depth chart that I didn’t think was possible given the limited cap space the GM had to work with. Add in whatever Jesse Puljujarvi can put up — 10-15 goals pro-rated over a full season might make sense — and all of a sudden, the Oilers are a bigger threat to score when McDavid or Draisaitl aren’t on the ice. That’s the dream, isn’t it?

THE PENALTY KILL

Last season, the Oilers had the second-ranked PK in the entire NHL at 84.4%, which was an unbelievable turnaround from the disastrous 74.8% effectiveness that they were sporting during 2018-19 or the lowly 76.7% kill rate from the year before that. Needless to say, outside of last season, the Oilers’ PK has been a problem for a long time and I’m thinking about how they’ll be able to keep it together with two of their best penalty killers either moving on or on the shelf. Last season, Riley Sheahan and Oscar Klefbom led the team in average shorthanded minutes per game with 2:20 and 2:29 respectively, and with neither of those guys available or around, I think it’s fair to wonder who is going to pick up the slack. And before you get on my case, I know that the likes of Josh Archibald, Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kris Russell, and Jujhar Khaira will have to kill off more minutes, but I also think we’re going to also need some unexpected contenders to step up and chip in with a few supporting minutes as well. Will Leon Draisaitl have to play more minutes when down a man than the 52 seconds he averaged per game last year? Is that even a good idea? Will Kyle Turris be called upon when down a man as one of the only right-handed centres the team has in its lineup? He averaged only 38 seconds on the PK last year in Nashville so it seems generally unlikely that he would kill penalties, but there are only so many choices to help out, you know? Who do you think is the most likely contender to step up on the PK? Tyler Yaremchuk gave his take on the PK yesterday and it got me thinking about how this is going to work.

WHAT ABOUT JUJHAR KHAIRA

When I think about where Jujhar Khaira fits on the roster it bums me out because I absolutely love the guys when he’s on his game. When he posted his career-high season (69GP: 11G, 10A) back in 2017-18, I felt like he had turned a corner and was well on his way to locking down a spot in the bottom-six as a guy that could throw hands while also killing penalties and chipping in with a few goals from time to time. Unfortunately, over the next 124 games, Khaira has only put up nine goals and 19 assists which isn’t all that close to what I had been hoping for from him. Now, with the team having more depth than it’s had in a while, I wonder how much leash Khaira will have on the fourth line and whether his 1:35 in average time per game on the PK will be the hammer he needs to stay dressed? I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud here. Either way, I love Jujhar and I hope he can get back to the level of play we saw from him a few years back because he’s a lot of fun to watch when he’s on his game.

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KAILER YAMAMOTO

There’s little doubt that the emergence of Kailer Yamamoto was one of the best storylines from the 2019-20 season. After being recalled in late December, Yamamoto put up 26 points (11G, 15A) in 27 games after creating incredible chemistry with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on a second line that ended up being one of the best in the NHL. But when I think about how much he’ll contribute in 2021, I wonder if it’s fair to expect the same level of production from a guy with 53 career NHL games. I mean, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that the National Hockey League won’t have gotten any easier by the time games resume, and at 22 years old, Kailer Yamamoto still has plenty of bumps in the road left to clear as he navigates the early days of his career? I don’t know where you guys are at with your expectations for him, but for me, I’d be happy if he can chip in at a pace that would have him finish a full season with 18-20ish goals and 45-55 points. Anything above that would be gravy for me at this point in his young career.

ADAM GAUDETTE

I know this news is a few days old at this point but I still can’t help but laugh when I see the video of Adam Gaudette kicking his wife in the face at their wedding from back in the summer. Gaudette was trying to pull out his best Magic Mike moves for his new missus, but instead, ended up popping her across the jaw with a sweeping roundhouse kick. You can blame the incident on the poor form or the excessively tight white pants, but I imagine Adam had some explaining to do when the festivities were over and he had to try and convey why he thought it was a good idea.

THE NATIONGEAR BLACK FRIDAY SALE!

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For this year’s Blackout Collection, we’re introducing some new designs while also bringing back some old favourites as well. As for the new items, we launched a new hoodie, t-shirt, and toque that we’ve never done before and as you’ll soon see, these babies are sharp. In addition to the new designs, we’ve also relaunched the black-on-black logo hoodie as well as the classic Nation Hat (both flat brim and dad style) with the same esthetic from a few years ago. These two items were huge sellers back in 2016 and after hearing your feedback about wanting us to bring them back, that’s exactly what we did. But be warned, these items are all limited edition and once they’re gone they’re gone, so I’d recommend squashing your internal desire to procrastinate to make sure you get all of your Christmas shopping done before everything sells out. Check out all of the Black Friday deals here.