This morning as I was walking away from my morning teaching gig I threw on the latest Cult of Hockey podcast which is hosted my David Staples and Bruce McCurdy. The pod centred around rating the Oilers for the month and I had a few of my tweets read out by Mr.McCurdy. They went over the entire team and I thought that that would be a good idea for a blog!
I’m going to rate the players out of ten just as the Cult of Hockey fellas do it.
#97 Connor McDavid (C) – Each and every time that the NHL’s leading scorer is on the ice he has the crowd on the edge of their seats. I’ve heard his impact on the game is similar to that of when Bobby Orr entered the NHL and I have a hard time disagreeing. The rest of the league has no idea what to do with him apart from grabbing onto him and holding on for dear life. Whether that’s an end-to-ender or a massive backcheck, he’s one of the main reasons the team is sitting at 7-2-0. I give him a score of 9/10
#27 Milan Lucic (LW) – What you’re seeing from Lucic on a game-to-game basis is as advertised. He himself, just from being on the roster, has given every other player on the team the ability to grow a couple of inches taller on the ice and a few pounds heavier. Meaning, everyone else on the team plays with a big more courage because they know Milan has their back and he has already shown us how he can take over a game. Think back to how well he played versus the St.Louis Blues earlier this month… Now sure they had Pat Maroon, Matty Hendricks, and Zack Kassian, Darnell Nurse and Eric Gryba before but even last year you could see that maybe they felt their actions weren’t being appreciated in the manner they should be. To add to this, Lucic is on par with the guy he replaced on the first line LW. Taylor Hall has 7 pts and so does Lucic. I give him a score of 8/10.
#14 Jordan Eberle (RW) – Eberle started the year HAUT!! But has cooled off significantly as of late. He’s still dusting that puck off each time he gets that perfect set up from McDavid and I’m not sure he’s helping on the other end of the ice as much as he could be. 6 points in 9 games pretty bloody good but how many points would he have playing alongside Nuge or Leon? I give him a score of 6/10.
#29 Leon Draisaitl (C) – Leon has been a possession and two-way tank this season. He’s got 6 points in 9 games but is sporting a team worst -3, which I find quite odd as he’s the only regular player to be in the minus on the roster apart from Brandon Davidson. I’m loving that he looks to be coming into his own and possibly tracking past Nugent-Hopkins in his development but I get concerned when I watch him in the offensive zone and he’s slowing the game down to a crawl when the team is urgent to get a goal. I love that he can get into the corners and boss the puck though, that’s a definite need on this team. I give him a score of 6/10.
#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C) – The Nuge has been getting better and better as he gathers his legs. He’s starting to take that puck and blaze through the neutral zone with it and he’s tracking back on the backcheck just as fast. I didn’t like the start to his year one bit and I think he’s a better player than his 4 points are telling us but we also have to consider that he’s the Oilers’ premier shut-down centre right now and he’s doing an excellent job thus far. I give him a score of 6/10.
#67 Benoit Pouliot (LW) – Pou has stepped up his game since the start of the year when he was getting penalties left and right. He still leads the team in PIMs but he’s been a helluva lot smarter as of late. I believe that he’s a great compliment for RNH. Size, skill, and for the most part, smarts. I’m not sure if we should expect him to get more points as he’s on the de facto shut-down line but he gets his fair share of PP minutes, so maybe we should. It’s too bad his ticket is a tad large or he could be an excellent value contract. I give him a score of 5/10.
#44 Zack Kassian (RW) – I’ve really loved what Kassian has brought each game out. He’s hitting, he’s shooting, he’s getting responsibilities on the PK unit, and he’s finding a way to get open for the odd breakaway. He’s engaged in every way possible and his popularity has to be amongst the highest on the team right now. Not only that but he’s got such a great attitude! For what he brings to the game and how he’s performed so far, I give him a score of 7/10. I reckon he’s been the best player on that shut-down line.
#19 Pat Maroon (LW) – Big Rig has slowed right the F down but he’s still going on a nightly basis and making his presence known. He had a right proper shift during the Senators game when he found himself alongside McDavid and Lucic. Made me wonder if that trio would work… He’s not scoring enough, to be honest. 2 points in 9 games isn’t the kind of production a winger in the Oilers’ top six should be putting up. So for that, I give him a score of 3/10.
#98 Jesse Puljujarvi (RW) – The Grinning Finn has been absolutely snakebit so far this year but positionally, he’s been VERY sound. He gets his ass back when he needs to but sometimes I find that he’s not sure where to go in the offensive zone. I’m not sure if he’s as bad as Yakupov was but the bottom line is, he’s not finding the open ice. Does he need to play with Nuge or McDavid? I’m not sure if that would be good for the other players on those lines. Does he need some time in the AHL? Previously I would say yes but I’m not so sure that the chaotic nature of the AHL would be good for him. I give him a score of 5/10.
#55 Mark Letestu (C) – I’m satisfied with Letestu’s performance so far. He looks like he’s got a burr in his saddle and when you’ve got a guy who’s putting up points on the penalty kill, that’s a major plus. I do get concerned though when Todd McLellan starts to mix up the lines and tosses Letestu into the 3rd line role because that’s not for him and he suffers for it. I give him a score of 5/10.
#15 Tyler Pitlick (RW) – The often injured Pitlick started the year off on fire! He had three goals like it was nothing but then it’s been nothing. When called upon he’s gone out there and gotten in the other team’s face but the adrenaline looks to have worn off. At one point, I wondered if Matty Hendricks would have a spot on the team because Pitlick had been playing so well but I’m not so sure anymore. I give him a score of 4/10.
#51 Anton Lander (LW) – Who would’ve thought that we’d be seeing Anton Lander in an Oilers jersey come November. I was certain that he would be in Bakersfield because that was the word I was being told but boy has he found his niche with the team. Faceoffs and gritty 4th line mucker! I dig it but why did it take the team or him so long to figure this out? I give him a score of 5/10
#42 Anton Slepyshev (RW) – A goal in three games is pretty good and it’s a shame he’s not getting more ice time because he was looking fantastic. He wasn’t shy on the shot, he was getting his boots dirty in the corners, and overall he was looking like a great 3rd line winger. I’m hoping that he gets some more opportunities and I think he will this month given the Oilers are playing some 15 games I think. I give him a score of 5/10.
#6 Adam Larsson (RD) – A revelation! It has been far too long since the Oilers had a defenseman that could move the puck as calmly and cooly as he has been doing. Just when you think he’s skating himself into trouble, he makes a little pivot and a short pass and it’s out. He’s also been rocking guys every night. An attribute I didn’t know he had. It’s too bad we aren’t seeing his offensive side, so I give him a score of 8/10.
#77 Oscar Klefbom (LD) – The K-Bom is slowly getting his feet back after basically losing an entire season in 2015 but he’s coming along nicely. I can’t wait to see when he’s back to full strength. Him and Larsson and showing themselves to be a very capable shut-down pairing. I give him a score of 6/10.
#4 Kris Russell (RD) – A lot of things have been said about Kris Russell signing in Edmonton at the end of training camp but he’s proving to be a very astute signing by Peter Chiarelli. I think the only qualms I’ve got with him are that he tends to defer the puck moving to his defense partner. What I mean is that when it comes to moving the puck north, I find that he’s more likely to pass it across the ice to the other dman instead of trying to get it to a forward. That being said, he blocks a lot of shots eh? I give him a score of 6/10.
#2 Andrej Sekera (LD) – ‘Rej has been a quiet contributor so far but he’s tied for the lead in team scoring for defensemen with 3 points. He’s been fair to midland and I can’t say I’ve yelled at the TV once for something he’s done. I give him a score of 6/10.
#25 Darnell Nurse (LD) – The Nurse is arriving with ill will folks. Darnell Nurse is emerging as one of the Oilers best defenders. He’s much smarter this year with the puck and his decision making has been much quicker. He still loves the physical battle too. I love that McLellan is giving him the proper TOI 5×5 and some PK responsibility. I give him a score of 6/10.
#62 Eric Gryba (RD) – He comes as advertised eh? Slow boots, heavy hands. I find him to be a great partner and mentor for Darnell Nurse but if he’s caught defending a counter attack from the other team, he’s hard done by to come out on top. That being said, he’s rarely beaten in the kill zone (front of the net) and he wins a fair share of the board battles he’s in. I give him a score of 5/10.
#5 Mark Fayne (RD) – I’ll be honest, I can’t remember the game he played but apparently, he had an assist. I do know that he was training his ass off this summer to come into camp in the best shape of his life but I can’t give him a score if I can’t remember him playing.
#88 Brandon Davidson (LD) – If I recall correctly, the game he played wasn’t a great one for him but just as with Fayne, I’m hard pressed to give him a score.
#33 Cam Talbot (G) – Apart from the blips during Buffalo and a couple games at the start of the year, Cam Talbot has been All-Star worthy. He’s sporting a 2.04 GAA and a .936 sV%. When’s the last time you could say that about a goalie in Edmonton? He’s playing so well that McLellan refuses to give the Oilers’ backup a game so that Talbot can rest. I give him a score of 8/10.
#50 Jonas Gustavsson (G) – Gus hasn’t played enough to garner a critic/praise. NO SCORE FOR YOU!
So there you have it. It was a longer post than I thought but I’m glad you made it to the end! What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!