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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers Schedule Options and Prospect Update

The Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens had all their of their games (March 22nd, 24th and 26th) postponed due to Montreal placing two players, Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, in COVID protocol, and now the question is: when will those games be played?

I’m told the NHL wants to get them in. Its first choice is to have all games played. They have commitments with advertising and broadcast partners and they want to play all 56 games.

To date the NHL has managed to reschedule all postponed games no later than May 10th, but with only six weeks remaining and Montreal having an already condensed April schedule, the NHL might have no choice but to extend the regular season past May 10th.

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Montreal is currently scheduled to play 21 games in the final 40 days of the season starting Tuesday, March 30th. Asking them to play 25 games in 40 days will not happen. They also had their game against Ottawa this coming Sunday postponed which means they need four games made up.

The Boston Bruins had their previous two games postponed and they currently have 26 games scheduled in their final 45 days starting tomorrow. Playing 28 games in 45 days is not something I can see the NHLPA agreeing to.

So the most likely scenario is that the regular season will be extended. It isn’t ideal, but in their original schedule they did have a scenario with postponed games being rescheduled for the week of May 9th. They’ve already added some games up to May 10th.

Edmonton’s current schedule finishes Friday May 7th in Calgary. They could just fly to Montreal and play the Canadiens on May 10th, 11th and 13th. Montreal’s season is scheduled to be completed on Saturday May 8th. The league might try and re-work a game so Montreal and Edmonton play May 9th, 10th and 12th, but that would require moving around multiple games and with only six weeks remaining in the season the opportunity to move dates becomes a bigger challenge.

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The negative to Edmonton and Montreal having to play at the end of the season is that their North division playoff opponents could be more rested heading into the playoffs, but under the current schedule some teams were going to be more rested anyways. Ultimately, the NHL wants all teams to play 56 games and I think the most reasonable scenario has the Oilers/Canadiens games being added to the end of the season.

And COVID is still in the communities so other teams might be impacted between now and May 8th, and we could see more games added to the end. The NHL already extended the regular season to May 10th, so moving it a few more days isn’t a major deal in my eyes. I think all teams should play the same number of games, if possible, and adding a few games at the end of season isn’t that big of a deal.

“I think to make it fair all teams should play the same amount of games heading into the playoffs,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett in his media avail this morning.

OILERS PROSPECTS…

You can expect Rapheal Lavoie (38th pick, 2019) and Phil Kemp (208th pick, 2017) to join the Bakersfield Condors very soon. Lavoie had an excellent season leading Vasby in goals and points with 23-22-45 in 51 games in Sweden’s second best league, the Allsvensken. Kemp joined the team just before the midway point and played 32 games. Lavoie is a big (6’3″) winger with a hard shot and he is better in tight spaces than on the rush. He isn’t a speedster, but his skating is average. Like most young prospects he will want to get a bit quicker.

Kemp is a reliable defender, but he believes he has a sneaky offensive game. He is also 6’3″, and the Condors defence is going to be a mix of size and youth next year. They signed Micheal Kesselring (6’4″) to an AHL contract (for this season) and a three-year ELC (starting next year) earlier this week. 

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Add in Markus Niemelainen (6’6″), who is in Bakersfield now, Dmitri Samorukov (6’3″), Philip Broberg (6’3″) and Vincent Desharnais (6’7″), who is on an AHL deal, and has opened some eyes this season, and the D corps is massive. They will be young, but Oilers GM Ken Holland has put an emphasis on having skilled size on the blueline and we are seeing that in the AHL.

Filip Berglund could join Bakersfield next week as well, but he is having issues getting a work visa. The American consulate in Sweden has had some delays. It is nothing Berglund or the Oilers are doing wrong, just that the consulate has postponed his appointment a few times. Once that is sorted out he should be coming to Bakersfield.

Broberg’s team is expected to have a deep playoff run, so the odds he comes over are lower.

I’m hearing Dylan Holloway will turn pro once Wisconsin’s season in the NCAA is over. The NCAA hockey bracket was announced earlier this week. Wisconsin is a #1 seed in their region and will take on #4 Bemidji State, and if they win they face the winner of UMass (#2) and Lake Superior State (#3) this weekend. Holloway will report to Bakersfield in the coming weeks. I envision him signing a deal similar to Kesselring — an AHL deal to finish this season and he signs a three-year ELC as well.

For those wondering if he will play in Edmonton this season, it is important to note that the #1 pick in the 2020 NHL draft, Alexis Lafreniere, isn’t an impact player in the NHL, so expecting Holloway to come to Edmonton for the playoffs seems a tad premature for me. I suspect the Oilers will construct their roster next season planning for him to start in the AHL, and if he plays unreal in the preseason they will adjust. Consider the development curve of Jesse Puljujarvi, Evan Bouchard and Broberg when looking at Holloway. Rushing players is not the answer.

Ilya Konovalov’s contract in the KHL expires at the end of April, so he likely won’t be coming over this year, but right now the Oilers are hopeful he signs a contract and comes to training camp in September. He hasn’t played as many games this season, and I wonder how much of that is due to his team knowing he will be leaving. He wouldn’t be the first player who didn’t see the ice as much in the final year of his contract before coming to the NHL. In 19 games he’s posted a solid .925Sv% and 2.29 GAA. Usually those numbers translate to a legit prospect. He turns 23 in July, so when he comes to Edmonton he will be a rookie by NHL standards, but he’ll have played three seasons in the KHL.

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If one of Konovalov or Stuart Skinner can become an NHL goalie in the next two seasons that will be a huge win for the Oilers. Most Cup contenders develop their own goalies.

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