Preseasons usually aren’t much fun. They’re too long, and you see prospects who won’t see the light of a regular season NHL game for most of it. I’m getting hives just talking about it. I’ll be right back.
For many years BC (Before Connor), Oiler preseasons were dominated by stories about which player would stick as the 13th forward. Not to besmirch Iiro Pakarinen or Anders Nilsson, but the 13th forward or the backup goalie position seemed to be the type of player situation that dominated the story. Aside it from not being too much of a big deal in the grand scheme of things for the Oilers, it’s not nearly as much fun. And while ‘fun’ is well behind ‘wins’ in what’s important to a hockey club, ‘fun’ goes a long way on our side of the rink.
There are a couple of prospects this preseason that aren’t only fun, they have the chance to step in and become impact players if all goes well. I’m talking about Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi. Both have shown well in limited time.
I had the pleasure of visiting with Kailer Yamamoto at the 2017 NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo this past June. He intrigued me because he didn’t seem like a prototypical Chiarelli type; he was 5’9 and 155 lbs. Chiarelli surprised me when he selected the Spokane Chief at 22nd overall, and here we are today. Yamamoto’s 99 point season with the Chiefs put him 23 points ahead of his closest teammate Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Speed with skill? Pinch me.
Scoring five points (4-1-5) in four preseason games, we’ve seen almost nothing but good things from the kid his Oiler teammates have started to call “Yammer”. His first preseason goal was scored when he picked off a pass from Calgary’s Mark Giordano only to render Dougie Hamilton useless less than seconds later. It was a preseason game against the Flames, but this goal looked like something that he had done for a few years in the big league. Eighteen years old and he’s reading Mark Giordano like a waiting room copy of Reader’s Digest.
The fourth overall selection in the 2016 NHL spent some quality time in the NHL before spending some quality time in the AHL. Puljujarvi clocked in with 28 points in Bakersfield, and every chance to make the team this year.
Yeah, calm down over there. I know, I know, it’s one game. Puljujarvi replaces Ryan Strome midway through a game. Puljujarvi ends up popping off for three points next to Connor McDavid against a Jets club that didn’t have their stars. It was a far cry from his game in Calgary that left scribes disappointed with his performance. In the post game, Coach McLellan suggested that he was sending a message to Strome by moving Puljujarvi up in the lineup.
It’s almost like...it’s almost like Strome’s a third line player who was traded for Jordan Eberle.
I’m not here to throw shade at Strome (although McLellan did call him ‘Dylan’), but Puljujarvi made it happen with a limited amount of time to work with. I can’t take it to the bank yet, but I can stuff a bunch of money in a deposit envelope. This was a good game from Jesse Puljujarvi, and we can only hope for more.
NEED VERSUS WANT
There’s reason to worry when it comes to chucking an 18 year old into the lineup immediately after he’s drafted. They’ve been very good at it since Taylor Hall. It burns up an ELC year immediately, and if an 18 year old rookie doesn’t catch on immediately, there’s always a chance that a player’s confidence can get rattled.
Maybe Nail Yakupov catches on in Colorado this year. For his sake, I hope he does.
If we get two more games in the preseason from Kailer Yamamoto like we’ve seen, the club will at least have to consider keeping him around for the 23 man roster. Or, they could sign Jaromir Jagr, whatever works.
THE STATE OF AFFAIRS
Let’s be real with each other, the right wing is no bueno right now. Currently, I’m not advocating sending an 18 and a 19 year old to blow things up on right wing, but let’s play some 2016-17 Oilers math right now.
Let’s assume Leon Draisaitl is going to play 2C to start 2017-18, which is where we’ve been seeing him in preseason so far. Other than Leon who had 29 goals, here’s a list of all the right wings who played in Edmonton in 2016-17 and their goal total. You ready?
Jordan Eberle - 20
Tyler Pitlick - 8
- Zack Kassian - 7 (though he should’ve had around 10)
- Anton Slepyshev - 4
Taylor Beck - 3
- Iiro Pakarinen - 2
- Jujhar Khaira - 1
- Jesse Puljujarvi - 1
That’s no good.
Ryan Strome had 13 goals with the Islanders last season, which would make him the top right wing goal-getter in 2016-17. You might see why I’m salivating over a prospective 19-97-98 top line after last night’s performance.
I’m excited. You should be excited too. I’m bullish on both of these players, and I realize that it’s a very, very small sample size from two players who have a combined age of 37. Deep breaths. But that right wing looks very bad, even with Ryan Strome on line three.
It’s still early. As far as Puljujarvi goes, it was one really good game, and we’ll need to see more of that. But right now, the Oilers look to have a couple of prospects that could potentially step in and make waves. That’s good, because if they’re ready, it’s not a moment too soon.