Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Oilers should do the smart thing

 Ever since Rebuild 1.0, the Oilers have had to use rookies in top positions to fill the void left from management unable to find the right free agents, the right draft choices, and not even having a sole farm team to plop those drafted players into for development until they were fully ready to hit the ground running to play in the big league.

That scenario put new coach Tom Renney in a difficult position to find that balance between "protecting the kids" to winning, knowing they were the better players on the team.  Then injuries ensued and the Oilers had to call up almost half of the Oklahoma City Barons roster to fill in.  Renney knew the real reason he was fired was because he knew the management was terrible in not providing him developed NHL-ready players.  What was he supposed to do?

Two coaches later, nothing really changed much.  When you look at the drafted and developed players who went from the AHL to the NHL, the Oilers cupboard is pretty bare.  Not only that, there were many first round top draft picks, including #1s that didn't even play in the NHL.  Look here to see the carnage.

Since 2007, out of the 76 players drafted, about 1/3 have played NHL minutes and 1/4 regular minutes.  Since 2010, about 12 players.

Here's a list of the players since 2007 who at least had some regular minutes and where they are now:

By Kevin Lowe:
#6 Sam Gagner - Oilers regular then traded by MacT
#22 Jordan Eberle - 11 games in AHL before Oilers regular

By Steve Tambellini:
#40 Anton Lander - AHL, then Oilers fill-in
#10 Magnus Paajarvi - Oilers regular then traded by MacT
#1 Taylor Hall - Oilers regular then traded by Chiarelli
#31 Tyler Pitlick - AHL, some NHL time
#46 Martin Marincin - AHL, Oilers regular, then traded by MacT
#162 Brandon Davidson - AHL, then Oilers regular
#1 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Oilers regular
#19 Oscar Klefbom - AHL, then Oilers regular
#1 Nail Yakupov - Oilers regular
#63 Jujhar Khaira - AHL, some NHL time

By Craig MacTavish:
#7 Darnell Nurse - AHL, Oilers regular?
#3 Leon Draisaitl - short AHL stint, Oilers regular

By Peter Chiarelli:
#1 Connor McDavid - Oilers regular

9/16 players with 7 traded.

Of those non-#1 draft picks only Kevin Lowe's picks of Sam Gagner did not start in the AHL. (Of course, many drafted had to complete their years of junior hockey.)  Everybody else had a shorter or longer stint in the AHL.

I would argue that if the Oilers had a deeper organization from better drafting, then there wouldn't be a need to rush these other picks onto the team.

So, what to do with this years' #4 draft pick 18 year old right winger Jesse Puljujarvi?

Jesse Puljujarvi image courtesy of gettyimages and the NHL

Many would say he will make the NHL this year, but the history shows that he will have to play more junior/other league. He's only 18 and only if you are from the CHL do you have to be 20 to play in the AHL, so he can be sent down.  He needs to get used to the smaller rink and the heavier style of play here.  There's no doubt that he will be impactful NHL player.

The question is, for how long should Puljujarvi play in the minors?

In looking at the right side of the forward lineup as far as experience and where they should be playing:

  1. Jordan Eberle is most certainly a top line scoring winger.
  2. Nail Yakupov is not a top line guy, nor is he a 3rd line checker, but more of a 2nd line scoring/power play guy.  Trade rumours abound.
  3. Zack Kassian may be deemed a 3rd line checking forward but he's better positioned as a 4th line two-way winger.  
  4. Iiro Pakarainen is a lesser version of Kassian.
  5. Tyler Pitlick has a chance to make his case again.

So essentially the Oilers are not really deep on the right wing of overly impactful players.

What to do?  What to do?

If Yakupov does get traded, Chiarelli himself told a friend of mine that he's only been offered a 4th round pick.  If that's the case, then it leaves a hole on that 2nd line to be filled by a veteran free agent. Names like Vrbata pop up.

Ideally, Puljujarvi would play a season or two in the minors in North America.  Then he would easily slide in on a middle six role.

Let's hope the newerish management sticks to their guns and doesn't rush this player.

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