The word from Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan is that Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula might well be in the team’s line up for Tuesday’s game against Pittsburgh.
“Leon and Drake both look good and they feel good but they have a number of hurdles they still need to cross before they get cleared to play in tomorrow’s game,” McLellan told reporters at practice on Monday. “We’re anticipating that that could happen, but for me to say they’re in or out, I don’t have enough information right now to tell you that.”
When the Edmonton Oilers were last a good team in the final games of the Anaheim Ducks series last May, Caggiula was Edmonton’s top line right wing and Draisaitl was Edmonton’s second line centre. This summer Draisaitl signed an eight year, 8.5 million per contract, so his value to the team is unequivocal.
But even with he and Caggiula coming back soon, perhaps as early as Tuesday, it’s hard to imagine the Edmonton Oilers not sticking with Kailer Yamamoto well past the nine game mark. For one thing Andrej Sekera Jersey, the 19 year old Yamamoto is earning the trust of his coach McLellan, who recently said “For a young player he’s playing big minutes against some really good players right now. He’s been tested and he’s passing the test.”
The main point in Yamamoto’s favour is that although he has just three assists in six games, and even though he’s had a few outright stinkers on defence where he got lost in coverage wandering in the Red Light Zone — not covering anyone and not blocking any passing or shooting lanes — the Oilers a both need a Top 6 right winger to replace Jordan Eberle and b he’s so far matched Eberle when it comes to creating scoring chances on the attack. He’s also been no worse than Eberle was on defence.
Eberle was good but https://www.edmoilersfans.com/eric-gryba-jersey-c-8.html not great on the attack last year. Replacing him is not some impossible order, though Ryan Strome isn’t coming close to that mark yet. Strome’s play has been far too passive, perhaps related to him settling into a new team. Other candidates to replace Eberle have also struggled.
Anton Slepyshev is coming back from an ankle injury and has flashed only glimpses of the speed and puck protection skills that elevated his status during the playoffs last year.
Caggiula has been out with an undisclosed injury, but even early in camp he never looked like the fast, aggressive and skilled player he was in the playoffs last year.
Jesse Puljujarvi was up and down in camp and is now in Bakersfield, where he belongs, a good place for him to hone his puck protection, forechecking and backchecking skills.
With Strome, Slepyshev, Caggiula and Puljujarvi all failing to step up on the right wing https://www.edmoilersfans.com/yohann-auvitu-jersey-c-10.html, Yamamoto is in the right place at the right time, especially with his heady and skilled plays on the attack.
Last year Eberle made a major contribution to 1.72 Grade A scoring chances per game. This year Yamamoto is at 2.0 per game. That level of contribution indicates a strong offensive player at the NHL level.
Of course, a winger who has zero goals in six games playing healthy minutes with Connor McDavid and on the second power play unit is no lock to remain on an NHL roster.
Unlike all the other right wing candidates, though https://www.edmoilersfans.com/matt-benning-jersey-c-9.html, at least Yamamoto is in the thick of creating dangerous scoring chances. If he can continue to attack in this manner the puck will bounce his way and he’ll start scoring. On an Oilers team averaging just two goals per game right now that’s not the kind of player you discard lightly.
Yes, the Oilers will burn a year off Yamamoto’s contract , and that burn year is coming one season too soon when it comes to Edmonton’s cap situation. And, yes, Yamamoto might well be better off with another year in major junior in terms of his hockey development, although that’s far more of an unknown.
But as McLellan keeps saying, hockey at the NHL is all about winning. If Yam can help the Oil win — and it looks like he might will be able to do so — he’ll be here.