It didn’t seem that long ago the Oilers made the proud choice selecting Taylor Hall over Tyler Seguin with the first pick in the 2010 draft. That was supposed to be Edmonton’s first step forward after bottoming out in 2009-10. Hard to believe, then, that next season will be Hall’s sixth in the NHL, and the anchor is still caught among the seaweed. Selecting first overall for a fourth time in six years is bound to pay huge dividends this time. Have you heard of Connor McDavid?
Round 1, pick 1
Round 1, pick 16
Round 2, pick 33
Round 2, pick 57
Round 3, pick 79
Round 3, pick 86
Round 4, pick 117
Round 5, pick 124
Round 6, pick 154
Round 7, pick 184
In no particular order, the Oilers need more reliable goaltending, a good base of top-four defensemen and scoring depth in the middle six. But because few big-name players reach unrestricted free agency July 1, it’s improbable Edmonton can fill those needs in a single off-season. It’s a better bet the Oilers hire a coach who can push the right buttons and find a way to snap the losing culture.
In the world of teenage fiction, J.K. Rowling created the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and installed Harry Potter as The Chosen One. In the world of teenage on-ice wizardry, Neil Doctorow created the Hogwarts of Hockey and installed Connor McDavid as The Chosen One.
If you marvel at McDavid’s skill level and wonder where it was nurtured, a good part of it can be traced to an airport hangar on an abandoned Canadian Air Force base in Toronto. That’s where the PEAC School for Elite Athletes is located and where McDavid spent three years honing his skills. For upwards of $30,000 a year, parents can send their aspiring hockey stars to an institution such as PEAC, one of a growing number of private sports schools in Canada, and place them in a high-end cocoon with like-minded kids.
It was there McDavid spent Grade 7, 8 and 9, combining a rigorous youth hockey schedule with the Toronto Marlies AAA team with life at PEAC, which included 90 minutes a day on the ice, plus dryland training with a full school day jammed in between. PEAC produced two first-overall picks in the OHL draft in McDavid (2012) and Travis Konecny (2013) and will have three NHL first-rounders in 2015 with McDavid, Konecny and Lawson Crouse. McDavid was special, however.
If Devan Dubnyk gets something just north of $5 million a year on a long-term deal with the Minnesota Wild, he’ll be 19th in the NHL when it comes to salary cap hit among goalies. That doesn’t seem outrageous or unreasonable, considering his performance this season and the fact he’s 29 and this is the first time he hasn’t played behind a terrible team.
But if you’re Wild GM Chuck Fletcher, do you really want to offer a big-money, long-term deal to a player with such a checkered past when you’ve already got five contracts that have at least five more years remaining?
The Summer of Coaches continues, as former Edmonton Oilers interim coach Todd Nelson was expected to take over the bench in Grand Rapids with the AHL’s Griffins. Detroit’s top farm team had been run by Jeff Blashill, who graduated up to the NHL squad when Mike Babcock left for Toronto recently.
In Nelson, the Griffins get a coach who began his post-playing days in Grand Rapids – he was an assistant for one season before taking the head coaching job with the now-defunct United League’s Muskegon Fury, winning back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005.
The former journeyman defenseman, who had a cup of coffee with the Washington Capitals, has also been an NHL assistant with the Atlanta Thrashers and had a good run with the Oilers’ AHL squad in Oklahoma City, losing in the conference final two years in a row. Current Capitals coach Barry Trotz was a big influence on Nelson early on.
Nelson was part of Edmonton’s shaky transition after the mid-season firing of Dallas Eakins this season, taking over on an interim basis alongside GM Craig MacTavish. He was reportedly given an interview for the full-time position by new GM Peter Chiarelli, but the franchise went with the more experienced Todd McLellan in the end.
Landing in Grand Rapids is a nice situation for Nelson. The Griffins made it to the conference final this year before losing to Utica and many of the top players will be back. While leading scorer Teemu Pulkkinen may be a full-time NHLer, he will replaced by another sizzling prospect in center Dylan Larkin, who left the University of Michigan after an excellent freshman campaign and even won bronze at the World Championship with Team USA, holding his own against NHL competition.
Other notable names in Grand Rapids include Tyler Bertuzzi, Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul. Perhaps the most important player now under Nelson’s command however, is left winger Anthony Mantha.
The rookie pro, who was a gifted goal-scorer in junior, was called out by Detroit senior VP Jim Devellano for a lack of production, though Mantha was also coming off a broken leg that cost him valuable time at the beginning of the campaign.
In the aftermath of Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s claim last Saturday the Toronto Maple Leafs were getting trade inquiries for Phil Kessel, there’s growing speculation over where the 27-year-old scorer could be dealt.
If a Kessel trade happens, Friedman believes it will be a couple of weeks before it takes place. That’s likely because the NHL draft weekend (June 26-27), where many off-season trades generally take place, is fast approaching.
Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer who twice reached the 80-point mark, has value on the trade market. His contract, however, is a sticking point. He has seven years left at an annual cap hit of $8 million. Factor in the projected marginal increase in the cap ceiling for 2015-16 from $69 million to $71 million and it could prove difficult for the Leafs to find a suitable deal.
Friedman subsequently appeared on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central panel to discuss potential destinations for Kessel. He notes Predators GM David Poile had interest in the Leafs right winger, but doubts Nashville is a destination now, pointing out it has young stars like left winger Filip Forsberg and defenseman Seth Jones to re-sign the following season. Other destinations could include the St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames.
Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton is coming off an entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights, but that might not prevent him from getting a significant raise this summer. The Bruins limited cap space for 2015-16 and the lack of depth in this summer’s UFA pool could see the 21-year-old blueliner receiving a lucrative offer sheet from a rival club.
The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa speculates the Hamilton camp could use the threat of an offer sheet as leverage in contract discussions with the Bruins. He suggests a team like the Edmonton Oilers, who are deep in young talent but lacking skilled blueline depth, might be willing to sacrifice a compensation package of draft picks to successfully sign Hamilton away from the Bruins. Read more
53-year-old Chris Chelios may be getting back on the players bench next season with the Detroit Red Wings.
According to TSN’s Aaron Ward, when the Detroit Red Wings finalize their entire coaching staff for the upcoming season, expect to see Chelios named an assistant coach alongside newly minted bench boss Jeff Blashill.
While Ward reported the Chelios announcement could be expected today during Blashill’s introductory press conference, he and Red Wings GM Ken Holland were mum on who would join the coaching staff. Blashill did, however, note that he would like to have his entire coaching staff in place by the end of the week. Read more
No matter how well Derek Roy and Nail Yakupov were clicking, it appears it wasn’t enough to land the veteran center another season in Edmonton.
According to a report from the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson, the Oilers will not be bringing back the Roy for the 2015-16 campaign. With Edmonton’s current depth down the middle, which is set to include Connor McDavid following the June draft, there doesn’t appear to be any room left for Roy, Matheson reported, which means the pivot will likely head for unrestricted free agency on July 1. Read more