Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Edmonton Oilers
For the last 16 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
The 17th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Gone – Milan Lucic, Ty Rattie, Anthony Stolarz, Kevin Gravel, Andrej Sekera, Alex Petrovic, Al Montoya, Tobias Rieder, Coach Ken Hitchcock and possibly Jesse Puljujarvi (he has an out clause with his contract in Finland)
Impact of changes – On paper these look like upgrades, though nothing was earth shattering in terms of the on-ice moves. Off the ice is another matter, however. Tippett is a coach that can make a weak roster relatively competitive. With the NHL as more of a run-and-gun league versus a few years ago, coupled with the fact that the Oilers do not have strong goaltending or a great defense-minded core, he’ll have his work cut out for him. Holland is a proven GM with a long track record of playoff success, but he’s been under the gun in recent years as his former team the Red Wings have been out of the playoffs for quite some time. It’s Tippett’s job to buy Holland enough time to turn this roster around. Tippett needs to take this cobbled-together lineup and fit the right pieces into place around Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Between Smith and Tippett’s coaching style, the goaltending should be a little more stabilized around Mikko Koskinen. But the defense will have to rely on the same group, with the hope that Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom being one year closer to their prime is enough of an upgrade in itself. Up front, there are a lot of ‘ifs’. Can Neal regain his form after a horrible (in all respects) season? Playing alongside McDavid would certainly help, but I’m still putting my money on – no. Can newcomer Nygard make an impact? I think he will, and liken his potential first-year impact to that of Dominik Kahun and what Kahun did last season with Chicago.
Ready for full-time – Nygard and Joel Persson are the leading candidates to make this team, and to a lesser extent Haas. Nygard is a sniper from the SEL, capable of scoring 20 goals right off the hop on a team in desperate need of this type of player (I have him for 16). With so many center/wingers on this team it’s difficult to get a read on whether or not he gets to line up with one of their superstars. I would think that he at least gets looks with both McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins at different times. Persson was an undrafted free agent who was actually signed last year – and was signed knowing that he would remain in Sweden for one year before coming over. Well that time has arrived. Persson is an excellent puck-moving defenseman who reminds me of another Tobias Enstrom – and could have similar early impact. A right-shooting defenseman who can quarterback a power play and makes a good outlet pass? Boy do the Oilers hope he pans out. Both Nurse and Klefbom shoot left.
Kailer Yamamoto has been rushed. My guess is that this time he won’t be. The diminutive winger should get at least a half-season in the AHL before getting a long look in the NHL. Sure, the team desperately needs what he could bring, but they can’t risk ruining him with unfair pressure and expectations. Let him start dominating at the AHL level first. If the team can’t sign Puljujarvi, the pressure will be on to give Yamamoto a longer look and perhaps let him start the season on the roster. They have to resist that. I put it at 50-50 that he makes the team, but 90% certain he plays at least the last couple of months with the Oilers.
Caleb Jones looked pretty close to being NHL-ready during an impressive stint last season. I have him penciled in as the No.7 defenseman, but he’s behind Nurse, Klefbom and probably Persson in the pecking order for PP time.
Josh Currie took a few years to find a bit of an offensive touch. In October he turns 27 and it wasn’t until last season before he reached 0.75 points-per-game at the AHL level. He’s destined for a depth role for those stints where he’s recalled.
Cooper Marody is a player the Oilers are high on and they seem to be (so far) bringing him along properly. They aggressively acquired him from the Flyers last year, giving up a third-round pick for him after he secured a Hobey Baker nomination for his performance in the college ranks, and then quickly signed him. The team left him in the AHL even though he was dominating – 64 points and plus-31 in 58 games for Bakersfield. He’s still 22 and will probably be in the AHL again for at least the first couple of months as Tippett figures out what he has on his roster.
Haas is a 27-year-old Swiss native who posted 38 points in 50 games for Bern in the NLA. That was second on the team behind former Oiler Mark Arcobello. There is probably only one NHL team that Haas could make…and that’s this one. But he’s just one of a bunch of maybes battling for a depth spot.
Evan Bouchard will almost certainly play in the AHL in the season ahead. The Oilers have gone on record in saying as much. He turns 20 in late October and is AHL-eligible. The team has rushed enough of their prospects and are finally learning.
Edmonton Oilers prospect depth chart and fantasy upsides can be found here (not yet ready for mobile viewing, desktop only right now)
Fantasy Outlook – McDavid alone keeps getting this team A’s in fantasy hockey value, for the simple fact that anyone who plays with him gets a boost. But that notion doesn’t work if it’s the other star – Draisaitl – who plays with him. And the rest of the roster (other than Nugent-Hopkins) is so bad that any player traded to or acquired by the Oilers is not going to have linemates. The intrigue and aura of McDavid is starting to wear off because after four seasons we’re not seeing any sustained boost of another player. McDavid has not yet made a ‘mediocre’ into a ‘star’ the way Mario Lemieux made Rob Brown. Or the way Evgeni Malkin made James Neal. Or for half a season – Sidney Crosby making Conor Sheary into one. And fantasy owners are getting impatient.
Goaltending is below average, depth is terrible, and the prospect pipeline is finally starting to build up but it has a long ways to go. On defense things are promising but not guaranteed. Nurse ‘could’ become a fantasy star and so ‘could’ Klefbom. But they’re not there yet. But McDavid… I have to admit that I still would get a wave of hope and excitement that washes over me if one of the wingers on my fantasy squad were to get traded to Edmonton.
Fantasy Grade: B- (last year was A-)
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