Is McDavid Changing His Game?

Connor McDavid is the fastest player in the world with the puck on his stick and Oiler fans have become accustomed to seeing Connor get behind the defense to have a one on one chance against the goalie on a nightly basis.  It has been typical throughout McDavid’s career to see him beat defensemen wide and cut in on the goalie but when was the last time you seen him do that? 

I’ve noticed a change in McDavid’s games this season, instead of cutting in on the goalies he tends to hold on to the puck and go behind the net looking for other options (which he often finds) but it makes me wonder why he’s changed?  Obviously as players age they loose a step and can no longer beat the D wide but it doesn’t look to me like McDavid has lost anything and he’s only 24 years old so he should have 5 or 6 more seasons before he starts to slow.  Another possibility is that McDavid is running out of gas this season. He’s averaging 22:21 per game which is the 2nd highest TOI for forwards in the NHL but it isn’t much off his career average of 21:27 so I think he’s proven that he can play those minutes without getting fatigued.   

My theory is that McDavid is thinking long term,  perhaps the coaching staff convinced him or he came to the realization himself but if he gets injured this team is in major trouble.  The last time I recall McDavid going wide around a D was on February 6th vs Calgary where he was tripped up by Giordano and sent crashing into Markstrom.  It was very similar to the play that caused his horrific knee injury at the end of the 2019 season.  I think after that play McDavid realized that the risk of injury was too great, and that holding on to the puck and looking for other options was a safer play.

In the 6 games after this play McDavid had 0 goals and 6pts which although is still a pt/game pace is a considerably lower than his 2pts/game pace before that Calgary game. I believe that its during this stretch that McDavid made the decision that he would need to make adjustments in his game to remove those high risk plays. Since that 6 game stretch McDavid has 12g 20a 32pts in 19 games and that includes the 3 pointless games against the Leafs. Great players find a way and that’s exactly what McDavid has done, he’s adjusted his game to remove the high risk play and is still producing points at an exceptional pace. Unreal!

Oilers Get Their 3C – Sign Riley Sheahan

Word is that the Oilers have signed Riley Sheahan to team friendly contract.

Sheahan should be a good fit on the Oilers at 3C and just maybe fans can start thinking about the possibility of fighting for a playoff spot.  Here are Sheahans career numbers:

Are the Oilers about to sign Derick Brassard?

According to Big George the Oilers are about to sign Derick Brassard to a one year deal. 

I would be on board with a Brassard signing for 1 year, presumably at a low cap hit. He would fit right in at 3rd line center.

Milan Lucic Signing

Draft Week Thoughts and Predictions

One more sleep till the draft!!! Before I get to who I think the Oilers will pick with the 10th overall selection I wanted to talk about a few things that have happened lately:

Lucic Trade Talks

Word is that Lucic may have asked for a trade or at least has approached Chiarelli and has agreed to waive his no-trade clause if the destination fits.  This is perhaps the last chance that Chiarelli will have to move Lucic and his $6M cap hit without having to give up a major piece to ‘sweeten’ the deal.  Lucic is coming off of a horrid season, by far the worst of his career, and is very likely to bounce back next season so does still hold some value especially to a team that puts alot of stock into the ‘intangibles’ of hockey players.  Lucic is good in the room, a great leader, sticks up for his teammates and has won a Stanley Cup so there must be a team out there that feels adding a player like Lucic will give them that missing piece to make them a contender. If Lucic is not traded this off season I’ll be pretty disappointed and here are a few reasons why:

  1. Lucic is at the age where we can expect to see a decline in his performance and while next season is very likely to be better than the last season I don’t think he’ll ever have a season like he did in 2016-17 again.
  2. Lucic has a NMC which will really hurt the Oilers at the next expansion draft when Seattle becomes an NHL team. The team will be forced to protect players with NMC’s so will lose a better, younger player than Lucic if he’s still around.
  3. The Oilers NEED the cap space this season to be competitive.  Even with the salary cap increasing to $80M dollars for next season the Oilers will be tight against it just to bring back the same team.  Moving Lucic’s $6M cap hit would allow them to add a piece to improve the team.

So, basically moving Lucic is the right thing to do for the short term success and long term success of the Oilers. Make it happen right? Then we see things like this:

Cagguila and Benning Re-sign

The Oilers re-signed Cagguila for two years at a $1.5M cap hit and Benning for two years at a $1.9M cap hit.  It didn’t take long after either signing for fans to light up Peter Chiarelli for overpaying these players who many thought would come in a few hundred thousand dollars less.  Personally I don’t mind these deals too much, sure I would have liked the cap hit to be a bit lower but I really like Benning and think that the $1.9M cap hit could work out to be a value contract. Cagguila brings value because he’s so versatile in that he can play any forward position and can move up and down the lineup as needed.  At this point fans have turned on Chiarelli to the point that he’s going to get ripped in social media for every move he makes. I understand the hatred though, I think the Hall trade will be remembered for a really long time for how one sided it was but he is the GM and I think its important to analyze any trades or signings he makes without bringing the past into it.

Hall Wins The Hart

Taylor Hall won the Hart trophy last night and I don’t want to add on to all the Chiarelli hate, there’s enough of that already. I do feel good for Hall and I think he deserves it and would have loved to see him have success in Edmonton.

With the 10th overall selection the Oilers Select….

This is a tough one, after the first two picks it gets pretty difficult to forecast this years draft so its more a question of who will be available at 10th rather than who the Oilers like.  This is my list of who I think the Oilers are most likely to pick 10th overall. I strongly believe that the best approach to the draft is to take the best player available but I’m also fairly confident the Oilers would love to get a forward with the 10th pick if one is available. Their wish list probably looks something like this

  • 30% – Ty Smith – He’s likely to be there at 10th and is the safe pick in my opinion from the players available.
  • 25% – Barrett Hayton – Also likely to there at 10th and a safe pick. Two way center.
  • 15% – Adam Boqvist – Higher ceiling than Smith but a risky pick. May not be available.
  • 10% – Trade – Please don’t be another Reinhart trade!!
  • 10% – Adam Bouchard – I think the Oilers would love it if he’s there at 10th but its not likely.
  • 5% – Quinn Hughes – If he’s available at 10th a few teams will likely regret it.
  • 5% – Oliver Wahlstrom – The perfect fit for Mcdavids wing? We can dream.

The scariest scenario for me is if Chiarelli trades the pick… this guy really scares me.

2018 NHL Draft

4 Players To Watch At the NHL Draft

At this point there are so many draft lists and mock drafts I’m sure we all have a pretty firm grasp on where these guys will be picked right? There are a lot of players I think we can accurately predict but here are 5 that could surprise at the draft (In no particular order):

Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Kotkaniemi is a left shooting Center who has skyrocketed up most rankings over the past few weeks. I had Kotkaniemi ranked 12th in my rankings published on April 12th and at this point there seems to be a consensus that he is a top 10 talent. News from the NHL combine is that Montreal, Detroit and Edmonton each showed an interest in Kotkaniemi and while I would love to see Edmonton pick him 10th there is a chance he could go as high as 3rd overall.

Brady Tkachuk

Tkachuk has been in the top 5 of almost every ranking I’ve seen and I had him ranked 4th in my top 10 rankings in April. I’m not completely sold on his offense and I think there is a real possibility he could fall a bit in this years draft. I don’t think he’ll be around for the Oilers at 10th but its worth keeping an eye on.

Ryan Merkley

I have Merkley outside my top 20 and most lists agree that he won’t be picked higher but there are some that think Merkley could be the 2nd best defensman in the draft after Dahlin and he’s ranked so low due to off ice issues and attitude.  So will a team look past the off ice stuff and take a risk with Merkley? Honestly I don’t think the Oilers should take a gamble at 10th but wouldn’t be surprised if Merkley is gone by 15th or is still there for round 2.

Vitali Kravtsov

Kravtsov is outside my top 20 rankings as well and in most mid season rankings he was projected to go somewhere in the 2nd round.  After a strong playoffs to close out his season in the KHL he’s moved up quite a bit on most lists.  I think its fair to expect Kravtsov to go in the top 20 but is there a team that seen him good in those playoffs that takes him earlier?

Would it be worth it for the Oilers to trade down in this draft to pick up an extra asset and then pick either Merkley or Kravstov?  Could happen if Kotkaniemi who is the guy they seem to like isn’t there at 10th.

Value

Could Ty Rattie Be A Value Contract?

The Oilers are in desperate need for some value contracts in 2018/19 and they may have just signed one with Ty Rattie. According to cap friendly the deal is a one way, one year contract with a cap hit of $800k. In my post last week assessing the Oilers cap situation going into next season I mentioned that a multi year deal for Rattie with a cap hit close to $1M would be a win and while they only managed to lock him up for one season the cap hit is under the $1M mark.
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