G44: Canadiens @ Oilers - Prospect Pool Paying Off
Before discussing today's game against the Montreal Canadiens I wanted to take some time to discuss the Oilers prospect pool as slowly but surely Edmonton is actually developing talent at all positions in leagues around the world. Yesterday it was announced that 21 year old centre/winger Ryan McLeod was called up from the AHL and to the Oilers taxi squad.
McLeod had a fine if unspectacular first AHL season last year, going 5-18-23 in 56 games but has broken out this year going 14-14-28 in 28GP. He sits 5th in the AHL in total points and 3rd in goals. The 6'2 207lb centre is an impressive skater who originally was expected to go in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft before slipping to the 2nd round where he was selected 40th overall. At the time of being drafted, McLeod's speed and playmaking ability were heralded but like many young players, consistency was a big concern. So far he has done an excellent job of bucking that trend.
It's unclear right now where McLeod will fit on this roster once his 7 day quarantine is finished. The bottom six in recent games have struggled to produce much and there is a lack of real skating prowess in the mix. At first glance it would seem obvious McLeod will be the third/fourth line centre, taking a healthy dose of offensive zone starts leaving the Khaira line to shoulder the tougher competition. That being said I wouldn't be shocked if McLeod ends up getting some reps in the top six on the wing.
Rookie centres typically struggle early adapting to the NHL and preparing for a playoff run may not be the best time for McLeod to start learning. The left side forward position remains weak for the Oilers and McLeod has the potential to step in similar to how Kailer Yamamoto did last season.
Moving on from McLeod here are a few other names that should start to be on your radar if you are outside of Oil Country.
Tyler Benson: 23 year old left winger with 29 points in 26 AHL games this season. Footspeed remains a bit of a concern but he has really worked on rounding himself out as a two way player. Currently looks like his path to an NHL career will be that of a bottom six winger.
Raphael Lavoie: Everywhere this kid has gone he has scored goals. He put up 106 goals in 217 games in the QMJHL, 23 goals at the start of this season playing in Sweden and after being held off the score sheet in his first two games, has 4 goals in his last 6 games in the AHL.
Dylan Holloway: A breakout college year with 11 goals and 35 points in 23 games. Was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award given to the best player in the NCAA.
Stuart Skinner: The 22 year old goaltender got one game in the NHL this season when Mike Smith was down and Koskinen needed a break and earned a win against a struggling Senators team. In the AHL he is 4th in SV% among all goalies who have played at least 10 games. He may never be a starter but he certainly has backup potential.
Cooper Marody: The 24 year old leads the AHL in goals with 17 and is second in points (having played four fewer games than the league leader). Unfortunately he just doesn't seem to have the speed to be a regular NHL player. Could see him as a depth option but would place him lower on the depth chart than Benson.
Add to that the defensive prospects right now such as Bouchard, Broberg, Samorukov, Kemp, and Kesselring and the Oilers will have a plethora of options to look at over the next few years. Not all of these will pan out of course but it should be looked at as a huge positive that Edmonton has so many young options who are tracking to NHL readiness on entry level deals.
Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid are locked up for the next 4 and 5 years respectively and are entering their prime. This off-season the Oilers will have roughly 28-30 million dollars of cap space to extend existing and add new players. Top those off with some of the players above on ELC deals and one thing is pretty apparent. The Edmonton Oilers window to win is just beginning now.
OILERS LINE COMBINATIONS
- It isn't official if RNH will return.
CANADIENS LINE COMBINATIONS
4 GAME THOUGHTS
1.) Do That Again: After a week off I'll admit I was worried how the Oilers would look against the Jets but Edmonton came out solid and only improved as the game progressed. That is the exact kind of energy the Oilers need to bring tonight against a Canadiens team they have struggled against this season.
2.) Use Last Line Change: The Canadiens don't have many weaknesses up front even with Gallagher out of the lineup with a hand injury. Ironically the one weak spot is the newest addition to the lineup Eric Staal. Staal has struggled since coming to the Canadiens and is currently taking 4th line minutes and still bleeding chances when he is on the ice. Tippett needs to get his top guys out there against Staal and score a couple.
3.) Shoot More Yammer: Kailer Yamamoto is a skilled young player and a great fit in this top six but he needs to shoot far more than he has. Puljujarvi sits 6th on the team in shots with 92 followed by Yamamoto with 56. While he is far more of a playmaker than a sniper he still has a quick release. Yammer needs to stop deferring so much to his line mates and help his line out more by generating more himself.
4.) Even the Scales: Edmonton only has one win in it's 5 games played against the Canadiens this season. The Jets are the only playoff team the Oilers have a winning record against. If things go the way they look Edmonton will play the Jets in the first round. Should they win that series they will play either Montreal or Toronto after. The Oil are a good team but they need to beat the other good teams in it's division to be taken as a serious threat.