The Cult of Hockey put out a late blog (as they tend to do) with 22 questions about the Edmonton Oilers going into the 2017/18 regular season and I’m going to answer them to the best of my abilities using my limited Oilers and hockey knowledge.
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- Will Jesse Puljujarvi turn the corner and become a Top 6 NHL winger?
– The way I want to look at Jesse Puljujarvi is that THIS is his rookie year, even though we all know it isn’t. He’s 19, a year older, stronger, smarter, and he’s going to be put in a better spot for his development and NOT be force-fed ice-time and opposition he’s not ready for.But with that being said, he will not put up top-6 numbers on the 3rd line with Nuge and Juicy. He will, however, put up respectable numbers for a 19-year-old on the 3rd line and show us what he is capable of. I’m thinking 3o-35 pts.
- Will Milan Lucic be more of a force as a two-way player at even strength?
– I believe so. He’s changed up his off-season routine a bit and he’s brought his body fat percentage down a bit meaning he’s a leaner tougher Lucic this year. His one-year grace period is over and now that he knows what’s expected of him and the systems, he’ll be returning the Lucic of old. But don’t expect him to be running around smashing bodies or fighting all of the time. That’s not really what he does. He spent many-a-year building a reputation so that he doesn’t have to play that game all of the time even though we love it when he does. He preserves his body that way too because that’s a tough way to make a living as you get older, ask any power forward.A counter question I have is if Lucic does become more of a 5×5 force, will that take away from his PP numbers?
- Will Laurent Brossoit be an adequate backup goalie for Cam Talbot?
– Laurent Brossoit has taken some time to become a top goalie in every league he’s played since junior. Patience goes a long way with LB and to date, it’s always paid off. Brossoit WILL be a perfect backup to Cam Talbot.
- Will Ryan Strome earn a place in the Oil’s Top 6 with steady play and scoring?
– He doesn’t have to “earn” a place in the top-6. He’s already been placed there. Will be stick is another question.One of the reasons the Oilers picked him up is because he’s good at moving that puck off of the boards to his streaking centre and that’s important because his centre will probably be Connor McDavid and how many times did we see him curl down into the zone and circle up to the blue line expecting a pass to fly out of the Oilers zone and natta. Eberle or Puljujarvi or Slepyshev or Caggiula couldn’t get it to him and a chance to exit the zone was lost.It shouldn’t be the case this season.
- Will Ryan Nugent-Hopkins regain his offensive mojo?
– 50 pts as a player being deployed like a 3C would be something, 60 would be GLORIOUS but unrealistic. His wingers will probably be Jussi Jokinen (who’s also looking to bounce back) and the Grinnin’ Finn Jesse Puljujarvi. This could be an offensively devastating line because it’s going to see the 3rd defensive pairing of the other team most likely.So if Juicy Nuge Pu is coming down on a Flames 3rd pairing of Michael Stone and Brett Kulak, does the ice not tilt Edmonton’s way a bit?The Oilers have no intention of putting RNH up with McDavid, therefore, I’m of the impression that they’re not truly concerned with his offense. But would they toss him up with Draisaitl? Chiarelli did talk about having McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nuge in the top 6 as a way of making the money work. We may see 93 in the top 6 after all.
- Will Darnell Nurse and/or Matt Benning step up to be decent Top 4 d-men?
– I’m very confident that we might see Nurse and Benning end up being the 2nd pair in Edmonton come the New Year’s Eve this pushing Kris Russell down to the 3rd pairing where some believe he should be.Nurse, before his injury last season, was showing great gains in his development and Benning stepped up on numerous occasions to help the Oilers out as a no-nonsense Adam Larsson-lite.
- Will Adam Larsson’s two-way game develop to the point where he’s seen as a strong first-pairing d-man?
– I’m not sure he’ll get to that Scott Stevens level of dman but Lordy is he good! But as long as he’s in Edmonton and the Oilers don’t go out and get a player like Erik Karlsson or Drew Doughty, he’ll be top-pairing.Today I was thinking on Auvitu though because Bob Stauffer put him in the same breath as Brian Rafalski. Would Rafalski have performed as well as he did had he not been paired with great dmen? I want to say he played a lot with Lidstrom and Stevens but I could be wrong.Could Auvitu blossom being paired with Larsson or Benning? Unlikely, but it’s worth a thought or two.
- Will Andrej Sekera be anywhere near his peak level of play by the playoffs?
– I don’t think so. He will be tossed into the annual category of “like a trade acquisition” though. We’ll have to wait until next year (if he’s here that long) to see the old ‘Rej. Will Sekera be another Andrei Markov or Sergei Gonchar?
- Will Connor McDavid shift up one final higher gear and score between 110 and 120 points this year?
– Unless he’s peaked at 20 years old or he gets hurt, he should be taking it out of turtle and into rabbit on the ol’ ride mower. The wonderkid is just getting started folks.
- Will Peter Chiarelli find a way to smartly bolster the team with all that extra cap space?
– The Oilers have a shade over $8M in projected cap space according to Cap Friendly and there are plenty of tasty players about to enter the free agent market next summer including Joe Thornton, Mike Green, Rick Nash, John Tavares, Evander Kane, James Neal, and Kyle Turris If you’re one to think big.If you think adding a depth player would be more beneficial then you might be able to pick from Tyler Bozak, David Perron, Cam Atkinson, Cam Ward, Jaro Halak, Leo Komarov or Dan Hamhuis or John Carlson.
- Will Oscar Klefbom find a way to play solid defence all year, the way he played in the final two months of the 2017 hockey season?
– Young dmen tend to perform in higher peaks and lower valleys, as Klefbom ages, those peaks and valleys will even out. So expect a little less volatility in that regard this season. Also, being paired with Adam Larsson will calm his game down too.
- Will Leon Draisaitl raise his two-way game at centre yet again, becoming an undisputed two-way force in the league?
– I’m halfway expecting a bit of a regression from Leon. Nothing major though. Maybe he’s not a top-10 scorer in the regular season this year and having a revolving door on the RW might have something to do with that or perhaps not getting as much 5×5 time with McDavid will be the cause.I do expect his performances in the playoffs (when made) to continue to be something we’ll be talking about as his calling card.
- Will Kris Russell be more assertive moving the puck?
– Or put another way, Will Kris Russell show more confidence in his zone exits instead of deferring to his d-partner or the glass?I hope so. I know he can do it. He’s got the skating ability and the passing ability but will he be more assertive? I think he’ll try to do what the coaches ask of him but as I said above that may be in a 3rd pairing role if Nurse and Benning do indeed take the next step.
- Will Cam Talbot start showing signs of wear-and-tear?
– No, I think he will continue to be the Talbot we all know and love. It’s not like he’s been playing 70 games a year since he was in his early 20’s. Goalies take later to develop and I think we’ve got him right in his prime. The next contract will be interesting though.
- Will Drake Caggiula and Anton Slepyshev establish themselves as Top 9 NHL forwards?
– Yes, I believe so. They may even establish themselves as top 6 NHL forwards if everything falls into place.I look at Caggiula and I see a young Chris Kunitz and I love that idea. He’s gritty, fast, goes to the dirty areas, and plays the game the right way.When I look at Slepyshev I still see a bit of a raw forward but the potential is there if he’s played with the right linemates who can make up for his shortcomings. When he was playing with Lucic and Draisaitl, I thought that those two were good partners for Anton in that they’re willing to play a more physical game to get their linemates the puck and with Slepy’s shot, all he needs is a chance to get that puck off.
- Will Jussi Jokinen bounce back from his 28 points season?
– I don’t think we should expect him to be putting up 60 points. I’m really fine with him putting up 30-40 pts because his role on the team is to help on the penalty kill and to see that Jesse Puljujarvi starts to realize his potential. You could probably add taking a bit of the defensive responsibility away from Nugent-Hopkins as another job of his.
- Will Yohann Auvitu demonstrate the defensive acumen to stick in the NHL?
– I wouldn’t expect him to but we’ve only seen him under the guidance of the NJ Devils coaching staff. Under Todd McLellan that might be a different story. What we have in Auvitu is possibly a PP specialist with the potential to grow into something more but I’m not expecting too much. This isn’t Torey Krug 2.0 coming into the team here for Chiarelli or Dan Boyle V2 for McLellan.
- Will Jujhar Khaira seize his NHL opportunity?
– I’ve always thought JJ as sort of a Jordan Nolan or Dwight King kind of player. He’s definitely got the size and the guile to take after those two but I wonder about his skating and hockey IQ.How will his skills be utilized on the Oilers? Is he going to get some PK time? He doesn’t fight all that often, so that won’t be his role and he can’t skate well enough to be a shutdown forward and I don’t believe he brings enough offense to the table to earn higher than 4th line minutes.To me, he’s a 13th forward and if not for his size, he wouldn’t even be that.
- Will Mark Letestu keep draining goals on the power play?
– While Todd McLellan likes to take out the McBlender to his forward lines on nearly a nightly basis, his special teams units tend to stay the same for extended periods of time. Letestu, McDavid, Lucic, Klefbom, and Draisaitl will probably continue to be the Oilers no.1 PP unit.The 2nd unit I’m guessing will be RNH, Maroon, Strome, Puljujarvi, and Benning or Auvitu.
- Will Patrick Maroon and Zack Kassian be able to consistently maintain the high level they set last year?
– This is a good question. Maroon is in a contract year so we should expect him to continue to deposit McDavid’s passes into the net for another season. Which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you feel about keeping him on the Oilers. Another thing Maroon has going for him is he’s changed his off-season training and he’s coming into camp in better and better shape each year.This worked well last season, let’s hope it compounds this upcoming season.As for Kass, he’s less of a risk given he only plays bottom 6 and PK and he’s a young lad at 24 years of age. I’d love to see him hit 10 goals and 20 assists in 2017/18. Will he, I think he might if he can avoid suspensions.
- Which of the three old Core of Four, Justin Schultz, Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle, will Edmonton fans miss the most this year?
– They didn’t skip a beat when Jultz was traded, nor did they when Hall was dealt, so the true question is, will they miss Eberle’s goals?No, they will continue to grow as a team and others will pick up where Eberle left off. I’m not saying Strome will get 30 this year or Jesse will put up 25 goals but the combination of each and every forward on the team taking the next step will cover Ebs absence.Not only that but they’ll be better defensively…
- How many regular season points will the Oilers get this year?
– Earlier in the summer, I’d said I thought that the Oilers would be in tough to beat the Ducks but I’d forgotten that they’re without Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm to start the year and isn’t Kesler out for some time too? those are some major pieces for the Ducks. So I’m going to amend my previous prediction and say, yes, the Oilers will win the Pacific with 107pts.