We’re well under 24 hours from the start of Edmonton Oilers training camp and with the club’s roster released Saturday, there are lots of questions that remain.
Oilers head coach Dave Tippett answered some of those in an interview with Jason Gregor this past week, but a few things still have me incredibly curious.
Who will lead the way in net?
The Oilers took a big swing this offseason in an attempt to fix some goaltending woes by offering a big deal to free-agent netminder Jacob Markstrom. Edmonton circled back and inked Mike Smith instead.
It leads to arguably the largest looming question this year: who will lead the way in net? Mikko Koskinen was by far the better goalie when you take the full season into account, but there’s no denying that Smith had his moments where he played solid hockey.
But in a 56-game “playoff series season,” as Tippett described it, how will the games be split between the two?
Koskenin was a league-average goalie last year. He posted an 18-13-3 record along with a .917 save percentage and a 9.25 GSAA in 38 games played.
While Smith came out hot to start last year posting a 4-3-1 record and a .919 save percentage in October, he quickly fell off the wagon. In November and December, his save percentage plummeted to .875 as his record fell to 3-6-1. Between January and the end of the season in March, he rebounded to a .911 save percentage with a stellar 12-3-4 record.
All in all, he posted a 19-12-6 record with a .902 save percentage and a -7.71 GSAA.
At some point I’d expect Anton Forsberg to see some game action too.
So who leads the way in net? I’d reckon the Oilers should be giving a lump sum of games Koskinen’s way in the split, but with the way the games are scheduled there will undoubtedly be Smith action this season. Let’s hope he’s able to give the Oilers more January-March hockey, rather than November-December hockey.
What about Jujhar and the 4C spot?
Khaira is an interesting player to follow right now. He really struggled last year at 5v5 but was one of the league’s best penalty killers. Based off what Tippet has said up to this point, it’s clear he hasn’t earned a spot on the roster or on the PK in any sense of the word. I like the player a lot and he’s been a great story, but he’s at a crossroads as a professional hockey player.
He needs to come in and have a huge camp and an even bigger season. The Oilers have brought in lots of competition for him in the 4C role.
Khaira may have a slight advantage given that Gaetan Haas is still quarantining and won’t be immediately available.
Can Kailer keep it up?
Kailer Yamamoto was a massive bright spot for the Oilers last season scoring a point-per-game between his late December recall and the end of the regular season. He blew up with the Dynamite line alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl, but will he be back there again this year? If so, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him continue his highly-impactful offensive ways.
But he was a very solid defensive player last year, too, making plenty of solid plays in his own zone to break up cycles and eliminate scoring chances. With the new talent on the right-side in Jesse Puljujarvi and returning faces in Alex Chiasson and Josh Archibald, he still has lots to prove.
On Twitter: @zjlaing