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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Reasonable expectations for Kailer Yamamoto

Welcome, fair citizens, to a brand new Monday Mailbag where I’ve taken all of your Oilers-related questions, distributed them to our writers, and compiled their answers to give you a few minutes of time killing distraction from whatever you’ve got going on in your life today. This week, we’re looking at the Kailer Yamamoto’s expectations, Jujhar Khaira’s place on the roster, Tyson Barrie, and a whole lot more. If you’ve got one, email it to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.

Jan 29, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie (94) skates against the Dallas Stars during the third period at the American Airlines Center.

1) @BorealNinja asks – From a Leafs fan: How long is Tyson Barrie’s leash? We were excited, but that feeling did not last.

Jason Gregor:

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I’m not sure what Leafs fans expected. Barrie was quite good once Babcock was fired. Babcock tried to make him into something he wasn’t. Once Keefe came in Barrie’s numbers, offensively, as well as GF-GA at 5×5 where he was +10, were very similar to what he was in Colorado. If he does that in Edmonton with a $3.75M cap hit, they should be thrilled. I expect him to have a long leash, but also put in a position to succeed right from the start, unlike how Babcock deployed him.

Robin Brownlee:

Won’t be a factor if he’s used properly, which he wasn’t in Toronto. Ray Ferraro talked about Barrie recently: “When he is at his best, what you will see is not a defenceman who starts the break-out and follows the play up. He’s in the rush. That puck goes to the winger, Tyson will move it to the winger, and his legs carry him in the middle of the rush. Toronto, they didn’t want him to play like that. He was always behind the play. He never had the puck. His strength is with the puck.”

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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Honestly, I think his leash will be pretty long in Edmonton. It’s worth noting that Barrie went to Toronto with a lot of expectations and that’s just not the case here in Edmonton. Even if he ends up being a third-pairing defenseman who is productive on the powerplay, the Oilers will likely be happy with that. They also have Adam Larsson and Ethan Bear on the right-side so assuming everyone stays healthy, Barrie won’t need to be relied on for heavy even-strength minutes. That’s not to say he isn’t capable of being a really good top-four defenseman for this team, I personally think he will be, but the expectations are just different this year in Edmonton.

Zach Laing:

I think he’ll have a fairly long leash. I imagine him playing lots and lots of powerplay time and a more limited, likely third pairing role, at 5v5.

Nation Dan:

I think back to when the Leafs signed Barrie and I do think we are at a similar high. The difference for us is that we have tempered expectations on the player trying to replace Klefbom’s defence. That is a concern but what’s different from other years? Barrie now joins the best PP in the NHL from last year, and the excitement is high and should be.

Baggedmilk:

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If we can all agree on the fact that Tyson Barrie is an offensive defenceman that will make some mistakes in his own zone from time to time then I don’t think this will be an issue.

Maybe I could do something like this as a reminder to all of us:

Do: Expect Barrie to get points on the powerplay
Don’t: Expect Barrie to be Jason Smith

Mar 3, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Jujhar Khaira (16) during the game between the Stars and the Oilers at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

2) Oilers fan in Van asks – Could this season be the end of the road with the Oilers for Jujhar Khaira? He has yet to match the totals he put up in 2017-18 (11G, 10A) and doesn’t look nearly as assertive in his role to me.

Jason Gregor:

His penalty killing prowess likely keeps him in the lineup to start the season, but I agree if he doesn’t show consistent intensity, assertiveness, competitiveness and ability to help at 5×5, he won’t be a regular in the lineup. He needs to play how he did the final few weeks of the regular season and in the playoffs. He was effective then.

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Robin Brownlee:

Not worried as much about his totals as how he plays. As depth gets better, Jujhar isn’t going to be in the line-up regularly if he doesn’t do enough to earn and keep a spot. He’s right on the edge now. I’m not sure which way he goes.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think this could be his last chance. I love the player but he’s been pretty inconsistent over the last couple of seasons. When he’s playing his best, he’s a damn good bottom-six centre. He just needs to bring his best more often. Contract years can bring out the best in players so I’m hopeful that Jujhar will have a really good year.

Zach Laing:

Could be. I’m a Khaira apologist and he was one of, if not the best, penalty killing forwards in the league last year. Edmonton should try and limit his 5v5 play as he struggles there and maybe it means more ice time for McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins.

Nation Dan:

If he doesn’t bring the sandpaper back to his game, I definitely think he will be replaceable on this team and at a higher value. I love Jujhar a lot, and I believe he could be our Kassian replacement, but he needs to hit more and fight more.

Baggedmilk:

I love Jujhar so this bums me out because I truly believed he had turned a corner after his career season in 2017-18. I think he can get back to those levels, but it will take him being more assertive to regain that confidence. YOU CAN DO THIS, JUJHAR!

Feb 16, 2020; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (56) celebrates his second period goal against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.

3) @Browndalorian asks – Yamamoto point production projections?

Jason Gregor:

Are we assuming it is a 48-game season? Then I will say he produces 15-21-37.

Robin Brownlee:

Obviously it depends where he plays and how many games this season is. He’s .58 PPG for his career after going .96 last season. I don’t think something in the .70 range is unreasonable at this point in his career.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

He was almost a point-per-game last season, which is wild. Even if he spends the entire season in the top-six, I don’t think he’ll be in the 80 point range (assuming an 82 game schedule) especially when you consider that he doesn’t get very much powerplay time. For me, I think 55-65 points is a good range to expect Yamamoto to be in.

Zach Laing:

30G, 30A over a full season.

Nation Dan:

Well, all projections for any player are going to be out of whack because I don’t think this will be an 82 game season of course. My projection for him would be a modest (according to his almost point per game pace last year) 65 points if we were to play 82 games.

Baggedmilk:

If we’re talking about an 82-game season, then I think it would be fair to expect 18-20 goals and something around 45-55 points. Anything over that would be gravy for me at this early stage of his career.

4) Brandon asks – Outside of the obvious Hall of Famers, which Oiler from years past do you think would be the best fit to plug a hole on the current roster and why? i.e. Curtis Joseph in net, Sheldon Souray for the powerplay, etc.

Jason Gregor:

Bill Guerin. A power forward winger to play with either McDavid or Draisaitl. His size, speed and skill would be an excellent fit for either centre.

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Robin Brownlee:

You named two of the guys I like the most. Ray Whitney would look pretty good in the top-six forward group, no? Likewise, Jason Arnott. On the back end, I’d take Boris Mironov or Roman Hamrlik. In goal, Bill Ranford.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think there are some great candidates. Curtis Joseph, Bill Guerin, Doug Weight, Charlie Huddy, and Steve Smith in their primes would all be excellent fits. Personally, I think goaltending is always important so I would go with Joseph.

Zach Laing:

I have two answers to this. One would be 2000-01 Jason Smith. Scored 20 points, +14 and was a beast in his own zone. Second would be peak Ryan Smyth. He could play up and down the lineup and would be a great addition to an already great powerplay.

Nation Dan:

We all were able to talk about this one on this week’s ON Radio Podcast, and I definitely think you’re looking to plug either a defensive or goaltending position, and for me, it would be 2006 Dwayne Roloson. To have him in a tandem with Mikko Koskinen would be unbelievable. You can’t go wrong with any of the great goalies that we had in the past that were lacking a complete team in front of them, though. Tommy Salo and Curtis Joseph both come to mind as well.

Baggedmilk:

Should I troll and say Taylor Hall or go with my true answer of Ryan Smyth? The internal dilemma is real.

5) @Balf94 asks – Who do you think was the best Russian player the Oilers have ever had past or present?

Jason Gregor:

Boris Mironov. Bobo was a legit top-pairing D-man, who could skate, was physical and could produce points. When he was on his game he was very good.

Robin Brownlee:

Always liked Sergei Samsonov but we only got a short glimpse of him here. I’d probably go with Boris Mironov.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Has to be Boris Mironov, right? Honourable mentions to Nail Yakupov, such a shame that didn’t work out, and Sergei Samsonov for his contributions to the 2006 Cup run!

Zach Laing:

This is a tough one. I’d have to say it’s probably Andrei Kovalenko. He played parts of three seasons for the Oilers and scored 51 goals and 109 points in 176 games. Although, I would say that Nail Yakupov could contend too. 50 goals and 111 points in 252 games with the Oilers and if you take away the expectations that come with a first overall pick, he was still a solid player.

Nation Dan:

The only answer I have is IGOR ULANOV. The Goat.

Baggedmilk:

ANTON BELOV! Kidding. It’s Alexei Mihknov. Okay, so that was a joke too. For real this time, it has to be Boris Mironov. The guy played in 320 games with the Oilers and produced 47 goals and 131 assists for 178 points.

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