Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Edmonton Oilers Report Cards for the First Half-ish of 2023-24: Players in the “C” to “F” Range
1 month ago
Recently, we looked at several players with “A” or “B” grades on their report cards at the Christmas Break. In this article, we’re going to look at those who graded between “C” and “F.”
Brett Kulak (C+):
Kulak is an underappreciated part of this Oilers team. The 29-year-old left-shot defenceman has a goal and three points, far behind the pace he set in 2022-23 when he had 20 points in 82 games. Interestingly, his goal share of 43.59% is the seventh worst on the team with 100+ minutes played, but his goal share of 56.67% is the 11th best.
Kulak is just a steady defenceman who gets the job done and doesn’t make many mistakes, which is exactly what the Oilers need for their bottom pairing.
Derek Ryan (C+):
The 36-year-old undrafted right-shot centre has been a valuable piece to the Oilers bottom six for the past three seasons. In fact, I nearly included him in the other article as well.
So far in 2023-24, he has three goals and eight points in 31 games, which is on pace for about eight goals and 21 points in a full 82 game season. In terms of points, that’d be right in the middle of where Ryan has been the past two seasons, posting 22 in 2021-22 and 20 in 2022-23.
However, if he only scored eight goals this season, that’ll be the first time in his Oiler tenure that he’s failed to reach that mark, and only the third time in his career. For context, he only played six games in 2015-16 and scored twice, while his two goals in 43 games were in the COVID-shortened 2020-21.
Raphael Lavoie (C+):
If we’re looking at Lavoie’s American Hockey League season, he’d easily get an A. However, the 23-year-old right-wing/centre didn’t show much in his brief tenure with the Oilers.
The second-round pick in the 2019 draft played six games and didn’t register a point, while picking up a -2. Lavoie, a skilled player, was saddled in the bottom six, mostly playing with James Hamblin and Derek Ryan. He did play 6:27 minutes with Connor McDavid, where the two of them had eight shots for and only five against.
Maybe the Oilers should give him a shot in the top six because they desperately need a right wing that can score, and that’s all Lavoie has done in the AHL. In 17 games with the Bakersfield Condors, he has nine goals and 12 points in 17 games.
Call him back up!
James Hamblin (C):
The best way to put it is that Hamblin has been fine this season. So far in 2023-24, the 24-year-old has two goals and three points in 21 games on the fourth line. He’s had numerous linemates, but the most common pairing is Hamblin with Sam Gagner and Derek Ryan.
That fourth line has played 42:16 minutes together and has a 66.67% goal share (two goals for, one against), as well as a 61.12% expected goal share. That’s all you can ask for from a fourth line. Hamblin has a 57.14% goal share in 168:06 minutes played at even strength this season, which is the fourth-highest on the team. He has a 48.90% expected goal share.
As long as he and his line continue to be the better of the two fourth lines, Hamblin should have a job with the Oilers, at least until the trade deadline.
Dec 19, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders center Bo Horvat (14) celebrates his power play goal against Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) with teammates during the second period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Stuart Skinner (C):
Expectations were high on Stuart Skinner heading into the 2023-24 season, and it’s been quite the weird season.
So far this season, he’s appeared in 23 games and has an .886 save percentage and a 3.04 goals-against average… so not great. These poor numbers are due to a really bad start for the 25-year-old netminder. In his first eight games of the season, he had a 1-5-1 record with an abysmal .854 save percentage in 449:34 minutes played.
However, he’s been better over the past month and a half, posting a .903 save percentage and winning 11 of his last 15 games. It’s also worth noting that it seems like Skinner will have two good games in a row, before having a game (usually against a Florida-based team) where he allows four or five goals when Edmonton is dominating the run of play.
Prior to allowing five goals on 22 shots on December 14, Skinner had a .914 save percentage from November 11 to December 12, before two straight poor games against Tampa and Florida.
He’s been better since Edmonton turned their season around, but the Oilers still need a 1B to play alongside him.
Adam Erne (C):
Adam Erne is a rockstar. His first six games were rather uneventful, picking up a fight in Edmonton’s third game of the season and only shooting the puck four times. He proceeded to sit for half a month and then elbowed Seattle’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and was fined a little over $2,000.
Including the Seattle game, he played another six games and was a +3 and also assisted on a goal, before nearly sitting out a month. In his first game back, he replaced Connor Brown and did what he couldn’t do, which is score a goal.
Erne has been a decent player in the past, he’s hit the 20-point plateau twice and came within two points twice. His career-year was in 2020-21 with the Wings (teammates with Sam Gagner), where he had 11 goals and 20 points.
In 107:16 minutes played, Erne has a goal share of 62.50%, the highest of any Oilers, while his 46.61% expected goal share isn’t too great. Either way, Erne is a guy you can keep as an extra skater and stick in the lineup when you need it.
Cody Ceci (C):
Ceci hasn’t been bad, but he also hasn’t been good. In 31 games this season, the 30-year-old right-shot defenceman has eight assists and is a +5. He’s on pace to beat his totals from last season, where he scored a goal and had 15 points in 80 games, but he’s behind his pace in the 2021-22 season where he had five goals and 28 points.
So far, in even-strength play, Ceci has a 52.17% goal share and a 54.27% expected goal share. Ceci has played 451:19 minutes with Darnell Nurse, as he has for the past season, and they have a 56.10% goal share together.
Personally, I’d love it if the Oilers make another Ekholm-like deal at the deadline to bring in a right-shot defenceman to partner with Nurse, but Ceci will do.
Mattias Janmark (C-):
A healthy Mattias Janmark can be valuable to a contender. Unfortunately, Janmark has missed a handful of time due to injury and just hasn’t looked very good since returning, save for a stretch of three games. In those three games, Janmark scored a goal and had five points, including a three-assist showing.
There’s obviously still enough time to turn it around, as he had 10 goals and 25 points in 66 games for the Oilers last season. While he may never score 19 goals and 34 points as he did in 2017-18, Janmark could still prove to be a valuable penalty-killer and depth scorer for the Oilers.
Calvin Pickard (C-):
The team’s third-string netminder has been a serviceable goaltender for the Oilers So far, Pickard has played five games and has a 2.99 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage, the highest of any of the three Oilers goaltenders. Hilariously, his two wins have come against the New Jersey Devils, where he has a .923 save percentage… So if the Oilers play the Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals, you know who to call.
For his career, Pickard has played 121 games and has a .903 save percentage and a 3.03 goals-against average, so he is bad, but the Oilers desperately need to trade for a 1B to play some games for Skinner.
Philip Broberg (C-):
The left-shot defenceman was Ken Holland’s first pick as the general manager of the Oilers, and the entirety of Oiler Country is still shaking their heads.
Broberg isn’t really bad, and he even has the potential to be a good player, but he just hasn’t shown it in his NHL career. So far in 10 games, he has been held pointless and is a -2 on the season. His best year came in 2022-23, where he had a goal and eight points in 46 games, and even played in nine games in the postseason.
Still, there’s a lot to be desired in a former eighth-overall pick, as the smooth-skating defender is now 22 years old and hasn’t become a regular on a team that has a suspect defence. At some point, he needs to excel at something, and he just hasn’t.
In fairness, his numbers in the AHL have been better where he gets regular playing time, as he has a goal and five points in 11 games, and is a +5. However, in recent times he’s been seen as someone who could be traded, potentially even to make a team pick up Jack Campbell’s contract.
Personally, I’d rather they keep Broberg and just buy out Campbell, but who knows what they’re planning at this point.
Dylan Holloway (C-)
From Edmonton’s 2019 pick to their 2020 pick, Holloway has yet to take that step forward as well. Holloway played Edmonton’s first 14 games before losing his balance and sliding into the boards, injuring a knee and has been out for over a month, and could be out for several more. The 22-year-old was fine in 2022-23, scoring three goals and nine points in 51 games, so perhaps he deserves a run alongside Leon Draisaitl when he returns.
In those 14 games, he had a 33.33% goal share (three goals for, six against), but a much better 61.07 expected goal share. He spent most of his time (88:23 minutes) with Ryan McLeod, but played some time with Warren Foegele and Connor Brown.
Still, you’d hope the Oilers would be able to get more out of their first-round picks, as they were so steadfast in not trading them to get better up until last season.
Connor Brown (D-):
Does a D+ or D- grade exist on a report card? I’m not sure, I regularly got F’s. Anyway, relying on a player coming off major knee surgery to produce the way he did in the top six was one of Holland’s biggest mistakes.
It’s been a rough season for Brown, as he’s played 24 games and has a single assist, along with the worst +/- (-10) on the team. This is despite playing 125:07 even strength minutes with Leon Draisaitl and 46:16 even strength minutes with Connor McDavid.
Brown’s advanced analytics aren’t too great either, as he has the worst goal share (with more than 100 minutes played) at 20%, while his 48.98% expected goal share is the fourth-worst on the team.
This would be fine for a player on a $775,500 cap hit… which he is for this season. However, he has a $3.25 million bonus that kicked in after 10 games this season that will count towards Edmonton’s cap next season. It’s not a great situation to be in for the Oilers, and hopefully Brown can get going soon.
Jack Campbell (F):
I hope Campbell can figure it out, I really do. The 31-year-old netminder played five games for the Oilers early in the season and had a 4.50 goals-against average and an .873 save percentage. This was after a rough season in 2022-23, where he had a 3.41 goals-against average and an .888 save percentage in 36 games. So the Oilers did the only logical thing they could do, which was send him to Bakersfield so his contract could be buried.
Campbell’s tenure hasn’t been great, as he has near identical numbers to his 2022-23 season, but at a much lower level. He has an .888 save percentage and a 3.46 goals-against average in 10 games and is being outplayed by 23-year-old Olivier Rodrigue, who has arguably surpassed Campbell in the depth chart.
Then comes his contract. Before the start of the 2022-23 season, Campbell signed a five-year, $25 million deal after three strong seasons behind a good Leaf defence-core. At this point, the Oilers will need to give away high valued players and picks like Broberg, a first, or Xavier Bourgault, just to move the contract.
Sadly, it seems like Campbell’s tenure in Edmonton is all but over, as his poor play in Bakersfield has deterred the Oilers from giving him his second chance.
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