As is their custom, a large and ever-present group of Oilers fans has hit the repeat button and spent the off-season inserting various not-yet-ready-for-primetime players into their starting night lineup. It's not just newly-drafted ladies man Leon Draisaitl either. Of particular interest to me is their take on the defense, in my eyes still miles away from competitive, and the new/old willingness to insert yet more young players into the lineup.
The thought that 22-year-old Martin Marincin, 21-year-old Oscar Klefbom, and teenager Darnell Nurse might all start the season with the big club is...interesting. 8 years into the rebuild and the Oilers have three kids on defense to go with 24-year-old Justin Schultz...in the post-expansion NHL, has anything like that ever happened? It turns out yes, and no.
Since the league expanded to 30 teams in 2000-01, excluding the shortened 2012-13 season, just one team skated three defensemen under the age of 22* for more than 40 games - the 2013-14 Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks used Cam Fowler (70 games) and Sami Vatanen (48 games), both 22 years old and 22-year-old Hampus Lindholm (78 games), in winning the division title last season. While similar, the Ducks trio from last season was older than the three amigos the Oilers have at their disposal.
Why is it such a rarity that young defensemen play significant minutes? George Ays delved into this awhile ago. Look at the chart in the middle of the page - it's telling.
*I'm using the ages based on Hockey Reference's February 1st cutoff, not divining ages on my own. The hockey world really needs a GMT for birthdates, which can be implemented right after they fix the birthday bias in minor hockey.