April 2018 – TheOilKnight.ca
 

Month: April 2018

 

Regardless of what happens in the next little while here regarding the assistant coaches for Edmonton, I’m ready to give EVERYONE including Todd McLellan & GM Peter Chiarelli a clean slate starting now. I’m erasing everything from my memory good & bad. All the previous trades mean nothing. All the poor coaching last year means nothing. I don’t care what happened previously everyone is being judged all over again as of now. Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda – IS FOR KIDS (or was that Trix?). There are so many other variables that refute that argument it is not worth it. Time to move on. I used to be a Pro-McLellan guy but that changed this year. I was not happy with how his managed this roster and his lineups at all but he gets one last chance from me to turn it around. I am still a Pro-Chiarelli guy but I’m starting over with him too. He’s had some good and bad moves but I’m judging him fresh from here on out. You can’t change the past all you can do is try to keep moving forward. Clean slate for everyone where they will be judged on what they do NOW as opposed to in the past. It’s almost a new NHL season so nothing else matters. 

 

 

What does matter is moving forward this team has a Championship core led by the best young player in the league in Connor McDavid. It doesn’t matter to me HOW we got here but we did. It also has excellent core pieces around him in Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson and Cam Talbot. Forget about your opinions on previous transactions, that is more than enough to start with and build upon. You can argue the opposite if you like but you would be wrong (IMO of course :). The organization has promising young players like Kailer Yamamoto & Jesse Puljujarvi knocking on the Top 6 door and a handful CHL standouts from this past year in F Tyler Benson, F Kirill Maksimov, F Ostap Safin, D Dmitri Samorukov & G Stuart Skinner progressing nicely. Bakersfield now has some legit prospects developing their game like Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, Ryan Mantha, Cooper Marody, Cameron Hebig, Benson and Nick Ellis who all have a chance of making it to the NHL within the next couple years. To me that’s an excellent foundation to build upon the key now will be filling in the gaps and complimenting the rosters at both the NHL and AHL levels. We could argue till we’re all blue in the face who we need to fill out the roster or who’s fault it was for last season but that will get us nowhere. I don’t care how it gets done but it needs to get done NOW. No more excuses, Edmonton fans want and deserve a winner. 

What we do know for sure is the Oilers now have the #10 pick in the draft. That should be a highly coveted pick if Peter Chiarelli were looking to move it for a more NHL ready player but he needs to make sure he makes the right deal this time as he’s out of mulligans. The draft is EXTREMELY deep so if he could acquire a Top 6 forward or a Top 4 RHD and an additional Top 50 pick that would be ideal. If not, he should have plenty of quality players to choose from at #10 with the likes of D Ty Smith at or near the top of the list. Whichever route he takes, he better get it right or his job will be on the line. 

 

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

 

As for McLellan, he needs to swallow his pride and re-evaluate everything he has done as a coach up to this point. Last season was nothing short of a disaster. He too often was a one-trick pony in terms of adjustments constantly throwing Draisaitl with McDavid whenever his team struggled. He gave unlimited rope to guys like Lucic who constantly turned over the puck but was quick to pull the plug on guys like Slepyshev and Puljujarvi whenever they made a mistake. That cannot happen if this team is going to continue to get better. This team and organization is going to have to lean heavily on guys on their ELC’s or cheap contracts to help compliment the roster. Chicago had to do it during the Championship years and Pittsburgh has done it with guys like Sheary, Guentzel and Rust contributing consistently. The coach needs to understand there will be growing pains along the way but he cannot kill a young player’s confidence or punish him for being inexperienced. It’s the coach’s job to manage his roster effectively and get the most out of everyone not one or two while the others sit and watch. McLellan’s stubbornness and unwillingness to adapt were his two biggest pitfalls last year. Hopefully, after that long look in the mirror he talked about he’s recognized those as weaknesses and intends on turning those into strengths. 

 

 

So with all that being said, I am done criticizing the Coaching staff and management in general. No more cries of firing the coach or GM from me this offseason. We’re going with what we got so I’m going to sit back and trust they take care of business. There will be changes to all the assistant coaches which I consider a positive. Jay Woodcroft will be taking over in Bakersfield I’m going to also consider that a plus. The organization now has re-focused and re-dedicated themselves in fixing this once and for all. They’ve never had as much depth at all levels than they do as of today. The key will be putting it altogether and finding the right mix of players to build a winner. If they don’t and we’re in the same position next year it will be a different conversation but I believe in the core of this team and am certainly not going to be negative all offseason with #firechiarelli or #fireMcLellan hashtags. Last season is over with, next year is a brand new season full of renewed optimism and new expectations. Some fans will continue to dwell on the past but I choose to look to the future. Everyone gets a fresh start and an opportunity to prove last year was just an anomaly. Hopefully all the adversity this team dealt with last year will make them stronger than ever next year. Us fans expect nothing less. 

 

The Championship run starts now.

 

 

 

To comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

 

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

 

One of the things that stood out for me in the Oiler’s presser with GM Peter Chiarelli was his admission that “there’s a whole cluster of ‘D’ that I like” in terms of this year’s draft eligible defence group. It comes as no surprise to me if you have been following my Prospects lists in preparation for this year’s draft I have a few d-men pegged for the Oilers. You can view my breakdown of all CHL eligible prospects and who I like for the Oilers here with the OHL Prospects, WHL Prospects & QMJHL Prospects

Now that we know the Oilers won’t be getting a Top 3 pick and are picking #10 it is unlikely they will get an NHL ready winger ready to step in next year so finding that puck moving Defenceman should be priority #1 even if he isn’t ready for 2-3 years down the road. Why? Well for one, they only have one Defensive prospect in the entire CHL currently (Dima Samorukov) with Ethan Bear & Caleb Jones now moving on to Bakersfield.  Second, that “cluster” he is referring to is EXTREMELY talented and at least one of them should be available when the Oilers draft at #10. Chiarelli clearly identified that as a pressing need so it’s almost a guarantee if they keep the pick that will be the route they go. So who exactly is he referring to when he says “cluster?” Take a look:

 

Name Height Weight GP G A P
RD Adam Boqvist 5’11 170 25 14 10 24
LD Quinn Hughes 5’10 174 37 5 24 29
RD Noah Dobson 6’3 180 67 17 52 69
LD Ty Smith 5’11 170 69 14 59 73
RD Evan Bouchard 6’2 193 67 25 62 87

All five of these defencemen have outstanding qualities and could potentially be a fit for the Oilers. I listed them in order of how I think the Oilers will have them ranked. All 5 are excellent puck movers and could go in the Top 10. What separates them from each other? It depends on who you talk to but here’s my quick breakdown:

 

RD Adam Boqvist – Very flashy player, highly skilled, tremendous puck mover, excellent skater. Incredible edge work. Can stickhandle in a phone booth. Will struggle a bit defensively ala Erik Karlsson but offensive upside is hard to ignore. Needs to get stronger & continue to work on defence but his ceiling is very high. Highlights. 

LD Quinn Hughes – Very similar to Boqvist he also needs to get a bit bigger and stronger. Will struggle at times defensively but has elite skating & puck moving ability. Loves to join the attack and has the speed to get back. Boqvist may be slightly ahead of him defensively and is a RD which is why he gets the nod. High risk high reward player similar to Kris Letang. Highlights.

RD Noah Dobson – Complete package. Big, smart, excellent skater, terrific passer & puck mover, can run PP and also play a shutdown role. Very mature player who played a year overseas as a 16 yr old. Not flashy but the best defensively of this cluster easily. Prototypical #1 Dman with similar size/skill combo to Alex Pietrangelo. A bit raw but tons of upside here. Highlights.

LD Ty Smith – Very close in terms of speed/skill combo with Boqvist or Hughes just not quite as dynamic. Bit better defensively though. Can run PP, excellent skater, terrific puck mover. Works hard defensively despite smaller frame. Probably will never be a #1 Dman but projects to be a very solid NHLer. Great leadership qualities too. Highlights.

RD Evan Bouchard – One of the safest picks of the group Bouchard doesn’t appear to have a lot of upside. Very mature for his age he is a solid dman who plays a steady game. Adept at getting his shot thru from the point on the PP. Smooth skater, excellent passer great vision. Struggles trying to do too much sometimes, can be a liability at times defensively. Looks a bit stiff. Overrated by many because of OHL point production has some nice tools but as far as NHL translatable skills go he is behind the other 4 in my opinion. Highlights. 

 

In his presser, Chiarelli also mentioned his preference and desire to have that perfect LD-RD combination. With that in mind and considering Boqvist and Hughes will likely be gone by the time the Oilers pick at #10, I would fully expect RD Noah Dobson to be the choice if he is on the board and if he’s gone LD Ty Smith will be the selection. Either would fill a big need in organization but both would require at least 2-3 years before they are NHL ready. If the Oilers were to trade down then look for Edmonton to target RD Calen Addison late in the 1st or early 2nd round. The silky smooth offensive defencemen highlights can be found here: Highlights.

Regardless, this team needs more defensive depth in the organization especially a few exceptional puck movers to compliment a nice group of young forwards that are progressing well in Kailer Yamamoto, Kirill Maksimov (full profile), Tyler Benson and Ostap Safin

 

To comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

 

With the 1st round of the OHL playoffs now complete and the Niagara Ice Dogs moving on it’s time to preview Round 2……

 

2nd Round Matchup

#4 Niagara (35-23-7) vs. #1 Hamilton (43-18-7)

 

Quick Notes:

Niagara Ice Dogs won the Season series 5 games to 1 outscoring their K9 Rivals 26-16. Kirill Maksimov in 5 GP vs. Hamilton this year (He was suspended during one matchup) had 4G, 5A, 9 Pts, +2 & 16 shots. Hamilton boasts two players with Edmonton Oiler bloodlines – Isaac Nurse (cousin of Darnell) & Matthew Strome (brother of Ryan). 

 

2017-18 Regular Season Rankings:

PP: Niagara 19.5% (12th), Hamilton 24.6% (4th)

PK: Niagara 80.1% (8th), Hamilton 77.1% (16th)

Goals for: Niagara 240 (6th), Hamilton 252 (3rd)

Goals against: Niagara 235 (4th), Hamilton 207 (2nd)

 

Hamilton Bulldogs

The Bulldogs are coming off a rather easy first round matchup vs. Ottawa where they won the series 4-1 scoring a whopping 27 goals in 5 games. They were the number one team in the Eastern Conference this year & despite losing the season series to Niagara – are still the favourites. 

Offensively, Hamilton is LOADED and deep. They have SEVEN forwards who scored 20 or more goals this year led by Matthew Strome who had 37 goals while guys like Ryan Moore & Isaac Nurse even chipped in with 18 & 17 goals respectively. Plus, they have a 16 yr old named Arthur Kaliyev who had 31 goals this year and looks like a future Top NHL pick. That’s a lot of firepower spread out over 3 lines. They’re a smaller team but are quick, move the puck around extremely well and love to crash the net and pounce on juicy rebounds. STL 1st rounder C Robert Thomas is the best of the group having come over from London at the deadline. His speed & vision are both elite and he creates so much havoc in the offensive zone it opens up gimme goals for his teammates. Just one example:

On the Powerplay, Hamilton is also deadly having the 4th best PP during the Regular season and went 10 for 21 (for a ridiculous 47.6%) in the opening round against the 67’s. They are adept at cross ice passes and are a high shot volume team. Niagara would be best served NOT to take unnecessary penalties or the Bulldogs will make them pay.

Defensively, the Bulldogs don’t generate a lot of offence from their defencemen. Instead, they rely on playing sound positional defence and don’t get caught running around too much. They’re a big group with 6 of the 7 guys being 6’1″ or more & they are experienced with four 19 yr olds & two 20 yr olds. Collectively, they do a good job of clearing guys in front and getting sticks in lanes especially. They can at times struggle with speedy teams and Niagara has beat them with their aggressive forecheck in the past creating numerous turnovers which will something to watch for. Their goalie 19 yr old Kaden Fulcher is solid but not unbeatable. Hamilton gave up the 2nd least goals in the OHL this year but he still had a .899 SV%. The Ottawa 67’s did manage to score 8 goals total in the 1st two games of the opening round which reinforces my point. Good group on the back end but not great.

 

16 yr old phenom Arthur Kaliyev. Courtesy of ontariohockeyleague.com

Top Players:

Robert Thomas – 24G, 51A, 75 pts in 49 games. 

Matthew Strome – 37G, 31A, 68 pts

Brandon Saigeon – 35G, 35A, 70 pts

Will Bitten – 20G, 44A, 64 pts

Kaden Fulcher – 32-17-3, 2.86 GAA, .899 SV%

 

Niagara Ice Dogs

Offensively, the Ice Dogs 1A line as I call it in Sam MileticAkil ThomasDanial Singer won them the series in the 1st round vs. Oshawa. They had 19 points combined and were frankly too much for Oshawa to contain. In Game 5, Coach Burke replace Singer with Maksimov for a lot of the game and they were even more dangerous. What really surprised me is how much offense they got from everyone else especially some unlikely sources.  D Drew Hunter had 4 goals all year but scored twice. D Liam Ham had 6 goals all year but he also had 2 goals. In fact, Niagara had goals from 13 different players in the 5 games. I didn’t see that coming and certainly wouldn’t expect that to continue moving forward. The line of Corneil-Jones-Maksimov did not have a real good series and needs to be MUCH better in the 2nd round. Their Top 6 and PP unit has the ability to match Hamilton in terms of production. 

 

Oilers Prospect #13 Kirill Maksimov

 

Defensively, it all starts with goalie Stephen Dhillon. Yes, there were defensive breakdowns but he bailed out his team by making some incredible saves. He had a .899 SV% in the Regular season but sports a .932% after Round 1. He will need to continue to be brilliant as the defensive group in front of him struggle at times with shot containment. They aren’t a very physical group either but are speedy and might actually match up better with the smaller, quicker Bulldogs. 4 Dmen chipping in with 6 goals total certainly was a pleasant surprise. They are an average to good group who typically bends but doesn’t break – as long as Dhillon is on his game. 

 

#30 Stephen Dhillon. Courtesy of OHL Images.

Top Players:

Sam Miletic – 36G, 56A, 92 pts

Akil Thomas – 22G, 59A, 81 pts

Kirill Maksimov – 34G, 46A, 80 pts

Stephen Dhillon – 27-16-4, 3.34 GAA, .899 SV%

 

Difference in Series:

Despite the success in the Regular Season vs. the Bulldogs, Niagara is going to be in tough in this matchup. Last round, they got away with being basically a one line offensive team (Miletic-Akil Thomas). In this round, if they are going to have any chance at pulling off the upset they need the line of Corneil-Jones-Maksimov to show up big time and take pressure of the first group. Maksimov in particular did not have a great series last round he took way too many penalties and got away from his game. He has however had a history of showing up on the scoresheet versus this team so he will need to continue to do so if the Ice Dogs are indeed going to move on. He is the key to Niagara winning this series. It was a very chippy opening round vs. Oshawa so Niagara needs to forget all that and prepare for a much faster Hamilton team. Simply put, if Niagara continues to put Hamilton on the Powerplay they will lose the series. Stephen Dhillon also needs to outperform Kaden Fulcher if the Ice Dogs are to have any chance. 

 

Prediction:

Niagara will be the underdog and is going to need their 3rd & 4th lines to outperform Hamilton’s which is a tall order to ask.  I think Maksimov has an excellent series but in the end the Ice Dogs still fall short. I’m hoping I’m wrong but I’m going with Hamilton in 6 games.

 

 

To Comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight. 

 

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