After a longer than expected delay we are back with the third installment of my point prediction series. Today we are going to make some guesses and see where the Oilers right wings finish the season. We know who the four guys are more than likely that will dress the majority of the 82 game schedule, barring injuries or trades of course, with three being locks to make the team in the fall and see some major minutes. The top three right wingers for the Edmonton Oilers is obviously going to be Jordan Eberle, Teddy Purcell, and Nail Yakupov. The final member of this quartet could be a toss-up between Rob Klinkhammer and the younger and cheaper Tyler Pitlick. Young Tyler has had a rough go as a professional hockey player with injury after injury constantly delaying him from taking the next step to become a full-time NHL player. After all the kid has been through I’m hopeful he can finally put together a full season of hockey and fight for the minutes that will be Klinkhammer’s f not challenged. For my purposes, since I need to choose one for this I am going to have to go with the more experienced option and assume that Rob Klinkhammer will fill the fourth line right wingers position.
Now that we have our list let’s look at where the Oilers finished the 2014/15 season to see roughly where we are at so far in our predictions. Last season the Edmonton Oilers scored a paltry 193 goals. While not the leagues lowest scoring franchise they were definitely a far cry from the league leading Tampa Bay Lightning with 259 goals or the western conference leading scorers, the Dallas Stars. So far to date I have a total of 135 goals from only eight players. It is fairly safe to assume that I am predicting a fairly big increase in production this coming season. A lot of that increase will be the result of a vastly improved power-play under the new coaching staff. Now that we have the introductions done let’s get down to business and make some guesses.
Jordan is by far the best player on the starboard side for the Edmonton Oilers and has been a very consistent producer since first joining the NHL with Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi in the fall of 2010. Since his first NHL goal where he brought fans to their feet with one of the nicest goals I have ever seen.
I’ve probably seen that goal a few thousand times by now and it still amazes me. The skill needed to pull off something like that are just astounding. I don’t care what anyone says, that is still the nicest goal that I have ever seen a Oilers player score. Back to the topic at hand though. Since that amazing first NHL goal Ebs has been a very consistent point scorer for the Edmonton Oilers. Other than his first season as a pro Jordan has proven to be an extremely durable player missing a grand total of seven games over four seasons of hockey. So we generally know that Eberle will play unless he absolutely can’t. Another thing that we know about Ebs is that he has excellent shooting skill. He will usually opt to pass the puck if he doesn’t get the perfect shot that he wants. That can be both a good and a bad thing as even the imperfect shots sometimes find the twine.
Last season Jordan led the team in scoring with 63 points. That included 24 goals and 39 assists. HIs third season of more than 20 goals in fact, and he did it while posting a below career average shooting percentage. His career average is 14.0% and last season he dipped slightly to 13.1%. Still a very solid number and a reason to be hopeful for slightly higher numbers next season.
The addition of Connor McDavid will affect everyone on the team as we all know. At home the Oilers can gift the McDavid line with easier competition, which would ensure the Nuge line would in effect be fed to the wolves, but on the road no such luxury exists and the opposition would likely run out their top players against Hall and McDavid. This is when the trio of Pouliot-RNH-Eberle will make them pay for it too. Their chemistry together last season was excellent and I think unless they are split up, which I don’t foresee happening, that they will continue right along putting pucks in the net. My prediction for Jordan is that his shooting percentage will take a slight bounce upwards but his even strength minutes will drop slightly. This will mean that his totals from last season are fairly close to where he will likely finish the season. 27 goals ad 41 assists. That is a pretty solid number, even more so after you see what the rest of the right side will bring to the table.
Teddy Purcell was acquired last summer for the overpaid and under-performing Sam Gagner. The trade was, in essence, a swap of bad contracts. Purcell had more experience but was thought to be heading toward a buy-out from Steve Yzerman and his Tampa Bay Lightning. Definitely not a ringing endorsement from his former club, but it isn’t like we didn’t know that he had warts to his game. Anytime you swap two bad players you know they are coming with some baggage. Teddy may not be the most physical or the fastest guy on the team but does bring things to the roster that few other forwards can say that they do. He is a real veteran forward, one with nearly five hundred games on his resume. He is a dependable two-way forward with a good defensive conscience. He is one of the few if not the only player that will play in the top six that can say that. He may not provide amazing numbers points wise but having him on a line with Taylor Hall and Connor McDavid gives the trio a defensively responsible forward that will be able to cover somewhat for the other two when the play beats them back up ice.
There is a veritable cornucopia of posts and tweets arguing the idea that Purcell should have been headed for a buy-out instead of to training camp this fall. My question to them is who takes his spot then? Yakupov? He isn’t ready for that yet. His game is still far too much chaos in his own end and other teams would quickly take advantage of that fact. Purcell is the best available option to play second line minutes to start the season. He is spending the summer training with the inhuman Gary Roberts. You know, the guy that broke his neck had surgery and still came back to be an effective pain in the ass in the toughest league in the world. Yeah that guy. Roberts will kick his ass all summer long, along with Connor McDavid, and Purcell is going to come to camp in 6 weeks in the best shape he has ever been in. Don’t be surprised to see a bigger but faster player than we did last September.
Last season Teddy had an atrocious shooting percentage, 8.2% to be exact, but not actually that far below his career average of 9.4%. That isn’t really any difference when you think about it. Over the season if he had been at his average it would have added two more goals to his total. Teddy did manage 12 goals and 22 assists last season. Not bad numbers but definitely not the offense I would expect from a guy making 4.5 million this year. One other thing to remember when we are projecting this player is that he is in a contract year. With the number of players that are being left unsigned year after year one has to think that is weighing heavily on the minds of players that are in the same position as Purcell.
I predict that Purcell comes into camp in better shape than he has ever been in and he takes the bull by the horns to earn the second line minutes that he is best suited for. My hypothesis for Purcell is that he will be on McDavid’s right side until roughly Christmas when Yakupov will take over the spot. In his time with the franchise player Purcell will definitely make the most of it and will capitalize on his quality linemates. After being shifted off this line I still see Teddy being an effective forward aiding Anton Lander in his development. This coming season I see 15 goals and 23 assists for Purcell. HIs slick hands will ensure that he still sees his share of power-play time.
Some have called him enigmatic. Some say he is a victim of the “Russian” factor. For myself I prefer not to jump to conclusions about this young potential star scorer. Nail has had a rough start to his career to this point. He started out under Ralph Kruger and his development seemed to be heading the right direction. He wasn’t asked to do what he wasn’t accustomed and he equated himself very well He had 17 goals and 14 assists for 31 points. Very solid numbers for a rookie, but keep in mind that Yak did that all in 48 games. His rookie year was the lock-out shortened season. After his freshman year Craig MacTavish was given the role of general manager after Steve Tambellini was released from his duties and he decided that the correct path of action was to remove the coach that finally seemed to be moving the team in the right direction in favour of the AHL flavour of the month. In what could have been the worst mistake of his career as GM, MacT decided to let Kruger go, via Skype no less, and hire Dallas Eakins. We all know how that worked out for this team. Right back into the sewer we went and we are just emerging now.
Yakupov had his minutes cut and seemed to lose all his confidence under Eakins. The pair never seemed to be able to mesh as a coach and player and as such it really hampered Yakupov’s development. Once Eakins was finally put out of our misery Nail seemed to flourish under the tutelage of Todd Nelson. After the coaching change Yakupov seemed to come alive and we got to see the free and easy smile return to this young mans face that has helped this fan base make him an icon!
Predicting Yakupov’s points is a little harder than most, just because there is so much chaos to his game that one never knows just how things will transpire when he is on the ice. That is precisely why I see him starting on the third line this fall. Adding that much defensive chaos to an already pressure filled season for McDavid to start just isn’t a smart thing to do. I do think that McDavid will rise to exceed expectations just like he has at every other stage in his career and will prove capable of handling a little additional chaos in his game. For his part I think that Nail will take a huge step forward in his development this season and while he won’t ever be the most reliable player in the defensive zone he will likely be more predictable in his habits and less of a liability.
His point totals should rebound this season as well. After such a promising start to his career it isn’t hard to envision future years of 30 plus goals for this sniper. And let’s be honest, there is no one on this team that likes to score more than Nail. Remember the greatest celly in Oilers history? Here it is.
How can you not cheer for a guy like that? His enthusiasm for the game is the best thing about this humble and kind-hearted young man. Well actually the best thing about him is that he can be an Oiler for the next 15 years still! Okay so we know that the start of last seasoning was really just a continuation of the season before under Eakins so point totals from last season are for the most part irrelevant but we will look at them anyways. Last season Nail played 81 out of the 82 games possible but still only managed to net 33 points, 14 goals and 19 assists. Not good numbers for a first overall pick but we have already established that there were extenuating circumstances involved that did nothing to help the situation. This season I think we will see a rebirth of Nail and that he will finally take steps forward under proper coaching and mentorship. Don’t get me wrong, Derek Roy seemed like a tremendous mentor to the young man and it helped make the second half of his season a lot better than the first half.
My prediction for Nail is that he will finally reach the 20-goal mark this season and that his point totals will exceed forty for the first time in his short career. I see 21 goals and 24 assists. Just think that has the potential for 21 more celebrations for the fans to adore and other teams to hate this season! Sounds like magic to me!
How can you not root for a guy with Klinkhammer for a last name? Colonel Klink joined the Oilers part way through last season as part of the David Perron to Pittsburgh and filled the role he was acquired to fill. He is a fourth line defensive minded player that will never pot a lot of points but brings intensity and dependability to the bottom half of the roster. In his 40 games with Edmonton last season he only managed 3 points, including his only goal in the blue and orange. He is not a goal scorer that is for sure. He had a grand total of 5 goals last year split between the three teams he suited up for. To be fair though his shooting percentage with Edmonton was abysmal for lack of a better word. While his career average is nothing to scream at with a mediocre 9.2% but in his 40 games with Edmonton he could only muster a pathetic 3.2%. That is really bad, I mean insanely bad! Obviously his percentage almost certainly will revert back to closer to his career average but he does have more than one season with a lower than average shooting percentage. So how much he will bounce back is up for debate.
He will likely be on the opening night roster but should he falter at any point through-out the season he will quickly see himself sitting in the press box or sent down to Bakersfield. My guess is that he will see roughly 50 games this season and will eventually be replaced with a younger and cheaper option. Not that Rob is that old but at 28 he definitely won’t be a part of the McDavid cluster in the future. It is hard for me to rip on the guy too much as I’ve watched him play since his days with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. I like Klinkhammer and I like what he can bring to the bottom six but unfortunately this isn’t a popularity contest and there will likely be better options available before the end of the year. That being said I will venture to guess that the Colonel will play admirably while he gets the chance and will contribute 5 goals and 6 assists to the cause. Solid numbers for a fourth line player.
With only 49 more days until the first pre-season game in the league, 50 for us Oilers fans that are interested in the split squad games against the abhorred Calgary Flames, there is going to be excitement building in the city of Edmonton and all of Oilers nation. How many people are actually going to stay indoors on what will likely be one of the last nice weekends of the year to get the chance to watch Connor play in a prospects tournament in Penticton? I know I sure will be. The Oilers first game will be on September 11th at 8:30 pm in case you were wondering. I was hoping to attend the tournament for my fourth time this year but alas it is not in the cards. Kids sports start earlier and earlier every year it seems.
In any case I will be back soon with the next in the series covering the starting six defensemen and the one or two others that will likely make the opening night 23-man list. Thanks for reading and I want to hear from all of you in the comments. I will try to get back to every comment that I see but sometimes that just isn’t possible. If I don’t respond on here feel free to tweet me, @cooke_rob. Thanks again for reading and be sure to visit the Beer League Heroes T-shirt shop. My own designs will available here soon, stay tuned for an official launch date and a couple small contests that I am going to run for you fine folks.