As the season continues to move towards its close and the trade deadline has passed, the Oilers continue to evaluate their roster, along with the important position of head coach. Todd Nelson wears the interim tag right now, in an audition to have that label removed at the end of the year.
General Manager Craig MacTavish was asked how Nelson would be evaluated down the stretch and it comes down to a level of consistency in play and compete, as well as they continue to respond to adversity.
“I think just level of competitiveness,” MacTavish. “I’ve said enough about how I think we’re competing. I think the coach has to be on the dial. One thing for me that’s important is when the team has a poor game, a poor showing or a poor effort, that he’s able to grab them quickly and get their performance level to a much higher level. So there’s some response there and that’s optimistic. We’re not going to make any decisions coaches or the coaching or the head coach until the season is over. I’ve been clear about that from the outset, but we’re all seeing the types of things that we’re going to need to see on a continuing basis to get into a longer term agreement with Todd.”
The Oilers might be in the business of hosting auditions at the end of the season for a few prospects, currently down in Oklahoma City playing in the American Hockey League. General Manager Craig MacTavish listed a few of the players he’d like to see against NHL competition this season.
“The guys I’d like to give a chance to, we hope we can,” MacTavish said. “We hope we get an opportunity to see Brandon Davidson again. He played very well the last time he was up here in San Jose, so he’s got lots of promise. I’d like to see Andrew Miller come up here and see what he can do, he’s been a good player down there. Curtis Hamilton, I’d like to give an opportunity to. Bogdan Yakimov and all those guys. The goalie, Laurent Brossoit, has played very well and we’d like to see him come up and hopefully give him a game pretty soon. As disappointing as it is to be selling it this time of year, I’m looking forward to the end of the year where I couldn’t say that last year.”
Davidson has played 41 games for the Barons, scoring three goals and five assists. Miller has blown away his goal production from a year ago, scoring 21 and adding 26 assists in 51 AHL games this season. Yakimov has played better in recent months and has nine goals and 12 assists in 50 games for OKC. Brossoit is carrying the load with Richard Bachman up in Edmonton. Brossoit has a record of 18-11-2 in OKC, with a .920 save percentage and 2.46 GAA.
At the end of this season, Nail Yakupov’s three year entry level contract will be up and he’ll be a restricted free agent. Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish spoke about the young winger following the NHL’s trade deadline and the relationship between the club and player moving into the future.
“I see it to continue to evolve the way that it has,” MacTavish said. “We all see the promise now that we had when we drafted him. I had zero interest in trading Nail Yakupov. I think we’ve gone this far, we’ve got to see the end now. It has been some ups and downs, some sideways play and some head-scratching stuff and he’s on top of his game now. He shows all the assets that we saw when we drafted him: the speed, the physical power, the shot, he’s making good plays with the puck and who knows what unlatches all that for him, but he’s really figured it out. He’s playing with confidence, he’s a hardworking guy and we’ve got to see how it finishes. I’ve have no question that Yak is going to continue to develop and he’s got a reference point of what he needs to do now because he’s hit a new level. I’m as curious as anybody to see where that level goes because I think it’s sky high.”
Yakupov has eight points in his last nine games.
Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish spoke to the media after the trade deadline had passed, and one of the topics he touched on was the organization’s young defensive prospects. After trading Jeff Petry to the Montreal Canadiens, the Oilers will get a look at a couple of young blueliners the remainder of the season. But MacTavish is also excited about the future of the blueline in coming years.
“We’ll see what Jordan Oesterle has coming forward (this season), we’ll see what Brandon Davidson has coming forward. They’re both young players that have some optimism there that they can develop,” MacTavish said. “We’ve got Darnell Nurse coming forward. Who knows what we’ll get in the draft? We could help ourselves not only at centre but on defence, depending on how this team finishes and where the bingo balls fall.”
Oscar Klefbom is another young defenceman that MacTavish singled out at the press conference. The GM is thoroughly impressed with the 21-year-old Klefbom, who is 41 games into the season with the Oilers. MacTavish is hopeful that adding another player like Klefbom to the Oilers will help make the team more competitive a a whole.
“We’ve seen the benefit of Oscar coming in and playing those minutes,” MacTavish said. “He just gives you 20 minutes of flawless hockey, and he’s had a great effect on Justin. We bring in one more player who has that effect on our group and a couple other key pieces and all the sudden we’re not only competing with Boston and St. Louis and the better teams in the league, but we’re winning those games.”
The Oilers are on the ice for Monday's practice at Rexall Place.
The line combinations are as follows:
Nikitin, Pitlick and Lander are on the ice in non-contact yellow.
Keith Aulie, who cleared waivers, is on the ice.
A couple of Oilers players reflected after practice on Monday on Jeff Petry, who was traded to Montreal this morning, and how he handled the approaching deadline.
“Petey was good for us this year,” Boyd Gordon said. “He started to play very well. We’re losing one of our best defencemen. That’s just kind of the way it is with him going to unrestricted free agency in the summer. These things happen.”
Oilers Captain Andrew Ference was impressed at how Petry handled the questions from the media and the uncertainty of the deadline as a pending free agent.
“He handled it, I think, very professionally, very well. He never let it be a distraction,” Ference said to the media. “I’m sure you guys have dealt with him enough to know he’s a pretty great guy. I think for him a lot of that stuff was out of his control. He was playing the game and playing as well as he can and obviously playing at a level that made him very attractive to some teams who want to make a push here in the playoffs. It’s going to work great for him.”
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins knew Petry longer than Ference or Gordon, so not having him in the locker room or on the ice for practice was different.
“For me, it’s definitely pretty strange,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “He’s been here since I’ve been here and we were together my first year. It’s definitely tough to see a guy like that go but it was obviously expected. We prepared for it over the last couple of weeks and I think he’s going to have a good shot there and it’s obviously a great city to go to. We wish him all the best.”
Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson spoke to the media after practice on Monday and gave updates on a couple of injured players.
Two have a positive prognosis.
“(Nikita) Nikitin and (Anton) Lander, we’re hopeful that maybe sometime late in this trip coming up or right after the trip. That’s what we’re hopeful for. They’re both skating well, they’re both doing limited contact right now and that’s what we’re hopeful for.”
For Iiro Pakarinen however, who injured his knee against St. Louis on Saturday, the prognosis is not so positive. With Pakarinen out for an undetermined amount of time, the Oilers may discuss calling up a forward from Oklahoma City.
“I talked to Craig (MacTavish) before practice and he said, ‘Let’s touch base after the deadline is finished and we’ll go from there.’ Pakarinen is going for an MRI today and we’ll find out more with that, but we don’t expect him back anytime soon,” Nelson said.
Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson spoke after practice on Monday, hours after the team traded Jeff Petry to Montreal for a second and conditional fifth-round pick in 2015. In response to a question of how the Oilers will move on without Petry on the blueline, Nelson said it’s opportunity for some players to step up.
“We have seven healthy defencemen right now so we have options,” Nelson said. “Obviously, losing a guy like Petey that ate a lot of minutes and was playing some really good hockey for us, that’s a whole that we have to fill. It will give guys opportunities to step up for the rest of the year.”
The Oilers have returned Jordan Oesterle, Martin Marincin, Richard Bachman and Ryan Hamilton on loan to the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League. The transfer makes them eligible to participate in the AHL playoffs.
Here is an update on where the Oilers stand in the 2015 NHL Draft after the Jeff Petry trade.
The Oilers have two first-round picks in the 2015 draft. They have their own pick and the one acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins, in exchange for David Perron.
The Oilers also have two picks in the second round. They have their own second and the one acquired in the Petry trade this morning.
In the third, the Oilers own Ottawa’s pick from the Ales Hemsky trade last season. They also own the St. Louis Blues third-round selection from the original Perron trade in 2013. Their own was sent to Anaheim in the Viktor Fasth trade last season.
They do not own a fourth-round pick, having sent that to St. Louis in the original Perron trade.
Following the Petry trade, the Oilers have the Montreal Canadiens fifth-round pick in 2015, although it is conditional. They also have their own selection in that round.
The Oilers have their own picks in the sixth and seventh round.
BY THE NUMBERS
ROUND 1 - 2 picks
ROUND 2 - 2 picks
ROUND 3 - 2 picks
ROUND 4 - 0 picks
ROUND 5 - 2 picks (1 is conditional)
ROUND 6 - 1 pick
ROUND 7 - 1 pick