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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Let’s Talk Depth Scoring

It’s Monday once again and that means we’ve got a brand new Mailbag to help you get your week started and also to make sense of everything that’s going on with our beloved Edmonton Oilers! This week, we’re looking at depth scoring, Kailer Yamamoto’s struggles, goaltending, and more. If you’ve got got a question you’d like to ask, 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.

Sep 26, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (75) controls the puck against Calgary Flames center Glenn Gawdin (42) during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

1) @ShroomSauce asks – We saw some interesting adjustments under pressure vs. Anaheim. If I recall correctly, Bouchard, Barrie, Yamamoto, Perlini all had assignment changes. (Were there more?) Do you think this is a sign of things to come? Bouch & Lambo rising, Barrie & Yamo falling?

Jason Gregor:

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I expected Bouchard to be in top pair at mid-season. He was there again v. Vegas. I could see that continuing. He and Barrie could switch at various times during the season. Yamamoto played better against Vegas, but he is pointless in five games. At some point, he will need to produce some points to remain in the top six, but if he plays more games like he did against Vegas he should get some points. If he doesn’t, then Turris or Perlini will get a look there. I don’t see Tippett changing up the Ryan line. They’ve been solid and give him exactly what he wants in a third line.

Robin Brownlee:

Tippett will make the kind of adjustments you mentioned, be it period to period or game to game, as we move along. Nothing out of the ordinary in that. Bouchard will move up and down for a while yet, but at some point, Tippett will leave him with Nurse for stretches of games, not just periods. That might not be too far down the road.

Cam Lewis:

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I expect the lineup to remain fluid. The Oilers have quite a bit of depth this year so there aren’t many players who are totally locked into roles and guaranteed playing time. There’s lots of internal competition, which is a positive.

Zach Laing:

Yeah, Tippett mixed things up in that game a bit. I was a fan of Bouchard getting that bump up and moving Barrie down the ladder a bit. Much has been made about Barrie’s defensive struggles, but those feel more egregious early this season than in the past. Small sample size, but I’m a fan of Bouchard playing higher up the depth chart.

Baggedmilk:

Dad already moved up to the first pairing against Vegas, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was surprised it happened this early. I figured that Bouchard would get up there at some point, but this is way earlier than I expected and I love it.

Oct 13, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) makes a save on Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Peterson (40) during overtime at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Calvin asks – Does the injury to Mike Smith punctuate the need for Ken Holland to find help in the crease or is Mikko Koskinen a good enough plan in case he’s out longer than expected?

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Jason Gregor:

He won’t find any help now. Koskinen and Skinner will be the tandem until Smith returns. At the trade deadline, I’m sure Holland will look at options, but it will all depend on which teams are out of it and have a goalie who is an upgrade.

Robin Brownlee:

Koskinen looked fine in the two games on the road, no? Don’t want to see him have to play 10 in a row, but there’s no indication at this time that’s going to be the case. By finding help in the crease do you mean getting rid of Koskinen and bringing in another goaltender for the NHL roster with the season underway? Do you mean keeping Koskinen but acquiring another goaltender and playing him in the AHL ahead of Skinner? I don’t see any need for a move right now.

Cam Lewis:

This will be the duo for the first few months, at the very least. The only way the team would acquire a goalie in November or December is if one of them suffered a long-term injury and they didn’t want to use a rookie like Stuart Skinner as a backup. Even then, it isn’t easy to pull the trigger on a trade right now.

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Zach Laing:

I have a hard time imagining the team being comfortable with Koskinen having a full workload ala last year when Smith was out. He’s a solid goaltender, but it’s clear he can’t be a workhorse in the NHL.

Baggedmilk:

I could see him trying to find someone if Mike Smith is out longer than expected, but I think this is the duo we get for the year.

May 19, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto (56) and Winnipeg Jets defensemen Josh Morrissey (44) follow a loose puck during the second period in game one of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Tanya asks – What do you see or not see in Kailer Yamamoto’s game right now that is contributing to his struggles?

Jason Gregor:

I think too many focus on the 26-game heater he had in 2020. He won’t produce like that consistently. He needs to get to the net for deflections and rebounds. He isn’t a shooter from distance, so for him to produce most of it will come below the circles. When he is quick and darting in and out of areas below the top of the circles is when he creates the most.

Robin Brownlee:

Not seeing the in-and-out quickness and opportunism that allowed him to steal pucks and to get to open ice for scoring chances that he showed when he was at his best. He’s not big enough to get caught up in physical battles. He has to play smarter, not harder — pressure the puck, quick stick, etc.

Cam Lewis:

Seems there isn’t the same tenacity as before. We’re missing that quickness that gave defenders fits back in 2019-20.

Zach Laing:

There’s always lots to like about his game — it’s a big reason why he’s consistently given chances in the Oilers’ top six. He is, in the worst sense of the term, getting PDO’d here. Dating back to April, Yamamoto has played in 21 games scoring one goal and five points and has an abysmal on-ice shooting percentage of 4.31. If there was ever a player who needed a puck to go in off any body part possible, it’s him.

Baggedmilk:

I’d like to see him shooting more. I think if he gets a greasy goal or two that his confidence would shoot up a little bit. I think he’ll be fine but that we shouldn’t expect that he’s a point-per-game guy like he was two years ago? I hope to be wrong here, though.

Oct 16, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Warren Foegele (37) and Calgary Flames forward Trevor Lewis (22) battle for a loose puck during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) Ted asks – The Oilers third line has scored a handful of goals which already feels like an upgrade over what we’ve had around here over the past few years. What is everyone’s take on how this trio is performing so far?

Jason Gregor:

They have been solid. Kassian and Foegele are excellent bookends and Ryan is the conscience in the middle. They have scored the Oilers’ first goal of the game in three of the five games. They are producing and scoring at key times. The best part for the Oilers is none of their goals have come with 97 or 29 on the ice. Getting production away from those two has been missing for quite some time.

Robin Brownlee:

It appears Foegele and Ryan have helped get Kassian engaged. They’re a good fit based on complementary styles. Ryan is a smart player and his wingers are physical and they both can skate. Quick and smart is a good combination.

Cam Lewis:

It’s the best third line I’ve seen on this team in a while. Kassian bouncing back is huge, Foegele has come as advertised, and Ryan has been better than expected. This makes life much easier on the top-six. It’s something the Oilers have been lacking since 2016-17.

Zach Laing:

It’s been great to see the way this third line has been playing. McDavid alluded to how important it was after the Arizona game last week: “They’ve been so good for us. I think in our four games, they’ve got the first goal in two or three of the games at least. They’re getting us going and they kind of have that identity. They’re all buying into that and giving us a ton of momentum. I think the most impressive thing is how they all skate, and their forechecking. I think they take pride in forechecking and getting rolling around in the ozone. It’s impressive to watch.”

Baggedmilk:

I really like the third line so far and the fact that they’re chipping in with a few goals here and there is excellent. I love what Foegele brings to the table, Ryan is a stabilizing force as advertised, and Kass is looking more like the guy that was a menace in the playoffs a few years back.

Dec 6, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) and forward Leon Draisaitl (29) discuss a play during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

5) Trent asks – Who will end their career with more goals, Connor or Leon?

Jason Gregor:

Great question. It might come down to who plays longer. Draisaitl is at 203 and McDavid is at 201. I will go against the grain and say Draisaitl for fun.

Robin Brownlee:

Fun question. That’s 10 years down the road. My crystal ball doesn’t work that far ahead, but based on GPG rate, I give the edge to McDavid (.49) over Leon (.42) unless there’s a drastic difference in career GP when they’re done.

Cam Lewis:

They finish their careers with the exact same amount of goals.

Zach Laing:

I think it’s Connor. His ability to shoot the puck has only improved with time and I think it will continue to do so for some time.

Baggedmilk:

Hmm… Hopefully, we have a lot of years left before we figure this one out but I’ll say Leon gets more goals with Connor setting him up on most of them.

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