Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Edmonton Oilers
For the last 12 years over at The Hockey News, I have reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them. Now that I am no longer with THN, my 13th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Incoming – Cam Talbot, Anders Nilsson, Mark Letestu, Andrej Sekera, Lauri Korpikoski, Eric Gryba, Griffin Reinhart, Peter Chiarelli (GM), Todd McLellan (coach). And some Connor guy, whose last name escapes me. McJesus?
Impact of changes – This section could probably be a six-part series of articles. This is a brand new team. And just like a year ago you had to change your mindset with the Nashville Predators, you'll have to change your thinking about the Oilers. Remember – our thinking about the Preds was so ingrained in our subconscious that even today I still balk when I'm offered a Predators player in trade talks. And this is after they've made it quite clear that they have several players who can get 70 points (instead of the usual group of 10 50-point guys).
Say it with me: Edmonton is not a sucky team destined to once again become the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.
A new coach changes everything. And if you think there will be influence from the management, well – that's new too. Philosophy? The analytics department is now fully ingrained in the culture of this head office. Development? Well, there's a new AHL head coach (J-F Houle). Hell, there's a new AHL affiliate (Bakersfield)! Scouting? They fired five of them, including the head amateur scout. You can't compare this team to years past, other than the fact that they play in the same arena. And I didn't even get to the on-ice product yet.
A proven coach at the helm of a young team will make that team better, especially if most of the key players in question are entering their mid-20s. Experience alone makes this team a little better. But the goalies are better, and so are the defensemen. Talbot and Nilsson will either (likely) beat out Ben Scrivens, or they will push him to be better. There is no option C. At worst – worst! – the goaltending SV% will increase from a shoddy 0.890 to a weak 0.900. That's if everything goes wrong. What if a few things go right?
And now the defense. Sekera was the best two-way defenseman on the market by a wide margin, and the Oilers got him. He can be a responsible 45-point offensive defenseman if they need that, or he can be a stay-at-home 30-point defenseman if they need that. Probably the latter, because he'll be the yin to Justin Schultz's yang. Sekera boasted a strong relative Corsi on a strong possession team (+7.70) while facing tough competition. He'll stabilize Schultz the way an inexperienced Oscar Klefbom never could. And what about Griffin Reinhart and Darnell Nurse? Are they stud prospects or aren't they? Between the two of them, can just one of them make an impact that way Justin Faulk or Jonas Brodin did as rookies? I would argue yes.
This is a brand new team. Make your projections based on the players and data that you see before you, not on the disappointments of the last five years from a team with a different coach, GM, scouting staff, minor-league team, and 75% of the players.
And then there is Connor McDavid…
Ready for full-time – I saved the McDavid talk for this area, because the above section was getting too bloated with all my
ranting exciting stuff to share. Billed as the next Crosby, and with the junior numbers (and moves) to back it up, McDavid is a lock to make the team. Will he get 102 points as a rookie the way Crosby did? Let's not get too excited. After all, last season the top scorer had 87. Even Crosby himself had just 84 points while playing the same amount of games that he played when he got 103. So if the new NHL has Crosby down by 20 points, where do we put McDavid? Well, McDavid's team boasts more skilled young players than Crosby did (Sid had an broken down Mario and an equally broken-down Ziggy Palffy and John LeClair on his team to kickstart his career). I think he's pretty safe for 70, and I'm willing to draft him in one-year leagues as if he'll get 78 or 79.
Nurse and Reinhart have waited long enough. Both are very capable defensemen who are developing extremely well and their teams have been patient with them (I say "teams" because Reinhart was with the Islanders until this summer when they traded him to Edmonton). Reinhart was drafted fourth overall in 2012 and Nurse was taken seventh overall in 2013. Both could make this team and make an impact. Or maybe just one makes the team. But I really don't foresee both players getting cut. At least one makes it (and in the Fantasy Guide I have both of them on the squad). Don't expect either one to get 30 points as rookies, but they'll still impress and help their team win.
Leon Draisaitl was last summer's third overall pick and he made the Oilers out of training camp. He played very well even if the points were there. His possession was sound, but he had some bad puck luck and by midseason the organization had mercy on him and sent him to junior. This time if he makes the team he'll be brought along nicely, sheltered on a depth line.
Fantasy Outlook – Say whatever you want about this team and their recent history. But as with Crosby and the Penguins, any team with McDavid almost gets an automatic A simply from the fact that so many of your players could feasibly play on the same line or PP unit as this guy. So many players will see inflated numbers if not this year, then very soon. And if they don't, well, the risk is worth it. He makes everybody's upside higher.
Fantasy Grade: A (last year was B-)