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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Have any of the kids played their last game in Bakersfield?

A fresh week means a brand new Mailbag is here to help you get your Monday started and also to make sense of everything that’s going on with our beloved Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re talking about the Oilers prospects going back to Bakersfield or not, Mike Smith’s injury, Leon Draisaitl, 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 Philip Broberg (86) skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

1) James in Peterborough asks – A number of injuries have meant young players have been thrust into prime-time play, sooner than expected. Who has been the most pleasant surprise and why?

Robin Brownlee:

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I’ve liked Skinner a lot. Looks so much more stable, calm and confident than he did in his debut last season.

Jason Gregor:

Philip Broberg has looked solid. His skating isn’t a surprise, but he has really improved his decision making and positioning. He used to put himself in positions to get hit hard, and he hasn’t done that this time around. In the preseason he got rocked a few times because of it, but he worked on that in the AHL and he is not putting himself in dangerous spots.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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Broberg has come up and been solid for this team and they’ve desperately needed it. The biggest surprise for me though has been Stuart Skinner. When he first came up, I was against this guy getting starts and now I’m actively advocating for him to play more than Koskinen. My perception of him has totally changed.

Baggedmilk:

Has to be Stuart Skinner, right? I don’t think anyone expected him to play this much or this well this season and it’s been a lot of fun to watch.

Nov 14, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan McLeod (71) handles the puck as St. Louis Blues left wing Brandon Saad (20) defends during the second period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

2) Trent asks – Have any of Skinner, McLeod or Broberg played their last game in the AHL?

Robin Brownlee:

I expect Broberg will need more time in the AHL. Really rare for a 20-year-old to stick after just 13 AHL games. Looks like a player, though.

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Jason Gregor:

If I was picking one it would be McLeod due to the competition for bottom six centre spots. He is clearly the best right now. Skinner might go down when Smith returns as there isn’t room for three goalies for the time being. Broberg might see a few more games when all the D are healthy, but all three have shown well, and if one goes down again it is likely short-term.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think McLeod has for sure. I don’t think the return of Devin Shore will force him back to the minors. Skinner may have as well if he can keep up this level. I could see Broberg going back down though. We know Tippett loves his veterans.

Baggedmilk:

No way McLeod is going back to Bakersfield after what he’s been able to do lately.

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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

3) Gregg asks – It was reported that Mike Smith may not be back until mid-December and I’m wondering what happens with Stuart Skinner considering he’s played very well over these last few weeks.

Robin Brownlee:

Skinner and Koskinen keep playing until he’s actually back. Cross that bridge when we get to it.

Jason Gregor:

He likely goes back to AHL for a stint. He doesn’t require waivers. Koskinen just played unreal in a big game against Vegas, and I see him as the starter more now than Skinner.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

If he keeps playing well, the team will either have to keep three goalies or find a way to get rid of Mikko Koskinen. If Skinner is the better option, you can’t justify sending him down. It’s as simple as that.

Baggedmilk:

That’s a good question but I don’t know the answer. Smith has a two-year deal so you’d think Koskinen would be the one to go, but what is likely to happen is Skinner going back to Bakersfield. At least, I think so anyway.

Nov 20, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Philip Broberg (86) checks Chicago Blackhawks defensemen Erik Gustafsson (56) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) Ed asks – Broberg has been recalled at almost the exact point in his career as Nurse was, after about 20 games in their D+3 season. Given that virtually every writer in this site has for years lamented that the Oil management of the day rushed Nurse into the NHL and this hurt Nurse’s career development, what are their thoughts about bringing Broberg up at this time Should Holland quickly acquire a journeyman fringe NHL/AHL type guy to fill so that Broberg won’t be damaged?

Robin Brownlee:

Damaged? Broberg is a fill-in with the left side banged up. Nobody is counting on him having to stay here for the balance of the season. There’s no need to acquire another defenceman when everybody is healthy.

Jason Gregor:

I don’t think Nurse was rushed to the NHL. He was recalled due to many injuries. Way too many people wrote him off because he had bad numbers that year on a terrible team and he was paired with Andrej Sekera, who was playing his off-wing. When Nurse and Keith return Broberg won’t be asked to play huge minutes like Nurse did that season. Very different situation, but if injuries do continue then Broberg will play 20+ min most likely. I don’t see it ruining him. He is on a much better team than Nurse was, so even if he has to play more minutes than he should for longer he will be okay.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

If he keeps playing well, the team will either have to keep three goalies or find a way to get rid of Mikko Koskinen. If Skinner is the better option, you can’t justify sending him down. It’s as simple as that.

Baggedmilk:

Broberg is only here to fill in for some injured guys ahead of him on the depth chart so I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him head back to the Condors for more seasoning once everyone gets healthy again.

Nov 24, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) skates during the second period against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

5) Britt asks – We know that Leon Draisaitl won’t score at a goal per game pace forever, but I’d love to hear everyone’s take on why he’s become such a prolific scorer over these last few seasons?

Robin Brownlee:

He’s found a sweet spot he likes low in the circle for that one-timer and it’s really effective on the PP. He’s been in double-digits in goal-scoring on the PP for four straight years and I think that’s a sign of his confidence. Look how long Ovechkin has been scoring from his spot higher in the circle — teams know it’s coming but they still can’t stop it. I can’t imagine Draisaitl will shoot at 28.6 per cent all season, but you never know — if he finishes where he is now it’ll leave him 10th all-time for a single season.

Jason Gregor:

He never stops working on his game. He wanted to become a better shooter and he has. He is also a very accurate shot. That massive canoe paddle of a blade isn’t just great for passing, we’ve learned. The hardest workers are often the most successful and Draisaitl is always working on improving his game.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

He has a world-class shot, he knows how to find the right areas, and it helps that he has the best playmaker in the NHL on his team. That’s a pretty dangerous recipe.

Baggedmilk:

His shot is heavy and accurate and it’s amazing how often pucks go through the goalie when he fires it. I don’t know where this goal scoring came from but the dude is an absolute warlord for this hockey team and I’m having a great time watching him do his thing.

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