Edmonton Oilers Player Grades – Games 1-82


The Edmonton Oilers have completed the 2014-15 season. At each interval, I have assigned grades to each active Oilers player who had played at least 1 game. Now, I look forward to 2015-16, suggest where each individual need to improve, and use the following key to grade their 2014-14 performance:

A = Exceeded Expectations
B = Met Expectations
C = Fell Below Expectations
D = On The Bubble For Next Year
F = Should Not Back Next Year

GAMES 1-82


Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. A-. Few regulars improved this year, over last. But Ryan Nugent-Hopkins certainly did. To my eye, he is on the cusp of being a legitimate #1 center in this league. His increased strength & harder shot were noticeable, and his hockey IQ is among the very highest on the team. He was strong on the PK, too. Honestly, it would have been hard to ask much more of him. NEEDS: To maintain his current trajectory, as he is on his way to being elite-level NHL talent.

Benoit Pouliot. A. Benoit Pouliot has been a role player just about everywhere that he has been, but really hit his stride when elevated to 1st Line duty with Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, making the best use of his terrific straight-ahead speed. End up with 19 career goals, along with a reliable, physical defensive game. The General Manager rightly absorbed criticism this season, but it should not have been for this acquisition. NEEDS: To continue to play with skill, to be this productive. Not a “creator”.

Jordan Eberle. B+. Remember, Eberle was hurt early, and took a long time to find his groove. He eventually did, and started showing regular flashes of what we have come to expect from #14, and ultimately lead the team in scoring. People can criticize his game, but the fact remains: He is an elite-level NHL play-maker. We did not see a whole lot of that until after Mr. Eakins had departed. Turned a fire-tire of a season into something, at least. NEEDS: To be healthy, and playing like he did over the last 41 games of the season.

Nail Yakupov. B. Nail Yakupov played two seasons: Before Todd Nelson/Derek Roy and After Todd Nelson/Derek Roy. It’s easy to forget, watching Yakupov since Christmas, just how bad he was under Dallas Eakins. But his offence has returned, and he is far more responsible on Defence. Judging by the confidence Yak is playing with now, and assuming Todd Nelson (or someone like him) continues to believe in the kid, I can see Yakupov taking another step forward next season. NEEDS: A “real” NHL center, Derek Roy or better. Arrows UP.

Anton Lander. A. Anton Lander was waived (!) in TC, and went unclaimed. That is remarkable when we fast-forward to today, where Lander has a 2-year contract in his pocket and is penciled in to be the Oilers 3C in 2015-16. Lander has always played an intelligent defensive game. What changed was his confidence with the puck. And that seemed to co-enside with the arrival of Todd Nelson (beginning to spot a trend?). Who will be his wingers next year? NEEDS: to maintain that confidence.

Derek Roy. B+. All indications are that the Oilers will sign him to a short-term contract, and I have to say he has earned it. Perhaps more of a 2B center, I think what the club needs is a veteran placeholder until Leon Draisaitl is ready for regular duty, which I expect to be one more year. Roy competed hard, seemed to bring out the best in Yakupov, and from what I hear…was great in the room. If the dollars and term are reasonable, do it. NEEDS: Continue to play as if his career depends on it…which it does.

Rob Klinkhammer. B+. When the Edmonton Oilers traded David Perron, I looked at the draft pick they received in return and barely even noticed Klinkhammer. Then, he started bashing guys all around the rink and playing a very fast, responsible game. He is a 4th liner, no question, but an effective one. He is the kind of player most teams would like, in order be effective…but still stay beneath the cap. NEEDS: To not forget what earned him that new contract, and stay fast & furious.

Luke Gazdic. B+. Again, remember: These grades are given out based on expectations, lest you wonder how I can grade Luke Gazdic ahead of Taylor Hall. But in that light, it became clear as the year went on, that Gazdic had improved himself substantially as a hockey player. For an enforcer to survive, these days, that is essential. But has he arrived, in that respect. Hmmm. No. I need to see a bigger sample of this quality, first. But good on him for his work to date. NEEDS: To continue in his “hockey” curve”, but not at the expense of his “real” job.

Boyd Gordon. B. I’ve never been so sure of a grade in my life. To my eye, Boyd Gordon delivers exactly what is expected of him, night-in and night-out. He’s a gamer, terrific on face-offs, strong on the PK and in his own zone. His inability to put up consistent offensive numbers keeps him from getting an “A”, but the Edmonton Oilers will take his contribution at this level, as long as he can muster it up. NEEDS: A healthy back. As he gets older, those hard miles may take him out of the lineup for longer stretches.

Matt Hendricks. B. See “Boyd Gordon“. Matt Hendricks adds a greater physical element than Gordon, and his versatility to play either the wing or (when pressed) center provides additional value. But Hendricks showed up for every shift, and I don’t know about you, but seeing him, Gordon and Rob Klinkhammer on the ice in any tough defensive situation gives me peace of mind. I’m sure Todd Nelson felt the same way. NEEDS: To stay healthy. Like his partner on the Wagon Line, he ain’t getting any younger.

Taylor Hall. B-. Some would argue in this off-season for Taylor Hall, he deserves a “C”. Well, I struggle with that, as a large chunk of his season was eaten up by multiple injuries. Instead, I mark him on the games that he DID play. By that measure, he was still off his traditional pace, and clearly a little rusty at times. But there is no doubt in my mind that (when healthy) he is still the best player in this franchise. NEEDS: I know, I know…a common theme, but he needs his health. And he needs to win…soon.

Teddy Purcell. C+. Your opinion on this grade may differ as well, but I think that is largely based on what you expected, in return for Sam Gagner. Purcell mostly turned out to be the player I thought he would be: A complimentary player (12g, 34 pts in 82 games). He can play with skill and not look out of place and he turned out to be a surprisingly effective penalty killer. In other other words: He is what he is. NEEDS: To play with speed and grit, because he possesses neither in abundance.

Tyler Pitlick. C. I considered a B- for Pitlick, but while he has showed reasonably well, there is a reason why he was able to clear waivers earlier this year and clear. I see some upside: He skates reasonably well, has a physical element, is not a puck beater. All of that sounds like feint praise, though, which is fair. Most NHL’ers need to do at least one thing really well, to stick. For Pitlick, I don’t know what that is, or could be. NEEDS: A longer healthy stretch to prove me wrong.

Matt Fraser. D. Matt Fraser showed, in spurts, that he knows where the net is, and possesses a dangerous looking shot. Late in the season, he also started to show a more physical side of his game. But as none of that showed up with any real consistency, I think he is on the bubble this summer. NEEDS: A 2-way contract.

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    Oscar Klefbom. A-. I saw enough, consistent flashes of brilliance from this young man to imagine him as a 2D in the not-too-distant future. Oscar Klefbom did not look as good after Jeff Petry was traded, and he was exposed to tougher zone starts and match-ups. But that is to be expected of his age, experience, and the quality of his defensive partners. I don’t think the numbers tell the true story of this kid’s immense potential. He might be better, ultimately, than Darnell Nurse. NEEDS: His GM to add a veteran defenceman, so that his load is lighter.

    Mark Fayne. B. I know some who feel that Fayne was a real disappointment this season. But I think if most fans were really honest with you, they would admit that as soon as they heard of the signing, they had to GOOGLE him to figure out who the heck he was. Mark Fayne, according to me, is a younger, bigger, faster, better Nick Schultz. He is a “real” NHL defenceman, who was probably asked to do to much. But that is hardly his fault. NEEDS: Another veteran, to help shoulder the load.

    Brandon Davidson. B. Most of the time Davidson spent with the Oilers this season, I did not notice him at all. When you think about the state of the blue-line this season, that is a serious compliment. You don’t often get that much “calm” out of such a young player. What I’m unsure of is whether Davidson has the tools to eclipse that. I think not, but he is such an easy guy to cheer for, considering what he has overcome in his life. NEEDS: More AHL time, more reps, more ripening.

    David Musil. B. I am grading him this low because of a pretty small sample. But David Musil surprised me with his ability to adapt to the NHL. His foot-speed is a real issue, but he seems to have the smarts to compensate for his shortcomings. He is also a little better at moving the puck than I had anticipated. And I love how he arrives in the corners in a foul mood. The jury is out on whether his lack of of skating ability will allow him an NHL career, but he exceeded my expectations. NEEDS: To skip rope all bloody summer long.

    Andrew Ference. B-. Andrew Ference may be my Kryptonite, when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers. Ference plays a very mature, gritty game. He never takes a shift off, is great in the room, and I think…sets the bar just a little higher than some others do. Yes, the miles are piling up and Ference is not the defender he once was, but used appropriately next season, I still see him making an important contribution. NEEDS: See Mark Fayne, another vet D-man, so that Ference can primarily play 5-6D minutes.

    Justin Schultz. C. I think it is important to separate the offensive ability of Justin Schultz from his defensive ability. There is a gulf between those two things. At his best, this kid can create like a damn. That’s impossible to teach. But he is a long way from mastering things at the other end of the ice, and his decision-making has yet to mature, as well. But you don’t throw away talent like this if you can help it. I still think he can be a 3-4D and give you good PP minutes. NEEDS: A shot of intensity, and a chaser of another 10-15 pounds.

    Martin Marincin. C-. I know a lot of people that like Marty, and I understand why. But I also think that some people see Martin Marincin through rose-colored glasses. The kid skates quite well, and is learned how to effectively use that impressive wing-span of his. But relative to his size, he seriously lacks the physicality and compete level required to be an NHL-er. Can those things be learned? Yes, to an extent. But he would need a tremendous summer in the gym and a real adjustment in his approach. NEEDS: 20 pounds and a owly disposition.

    Nikita Nikitin. C-. This grade may seem charitable to some. I give the player the benefit of the doubt due to the numerous injuries that he suffered, in TC and through the season. But certainly, the results Nikitin delivered were by and large not what Craig MacTavish was paying him (handsomely) for. Despite some obvious tools, for a veteran, he just made too many rookie-like mistakes. NEEDS: A busy summer of conditioning, and a healthy start to the season…at the very least.

    Keith Aulie. D. I dislike piling on players at the NHL level, as it takes some doing to get there. But I honestly question the wisdom of giving Keith Aulie a job in the NHL. His foot-speed get him into defensive trouble repeatedly, and pucks absolutely die on his stick. I HAD though he might be a decent 7D for this club, but I was mistaken. With respect, Keith Aulie needs to move on and ply his trade elsewhere. NEEDS: An AHL contract.

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    Laurent Brossoit. A+. Difficult to grade him on 59+ minutes, but wow, what a 59+ minutes it was. Laurent Brossoit enjoyed a productive, if unspectacular, AHL season, then absolutely lit it up in his NHL debut. If that isn’t exceeding expectations, I don’t know what is. He may get a shot at a back-up role with the Edmonton Oilers next season. But really…he should start in the AHL and play so well that he forces Craig MacTavish‘s hand. That would be best for the player AND the franchise. NEEDS: More seasoning, but arrows up.

    Richard Bachman. B+. I leaned toward grading Richard Bachman Turning Overdrive an “A”, but really, the NHL sample was too small to do that. And he was sketchy to start out. But he surely came on strong at the end, and may have rescued his career in the process. I still think he is a very good AHL goalie. But I think that is exactly what the Oilers needs, to play behind Laurent Brossoit. And Bachman has shown that he can come up and give the team decent minutes if injuries hit. NEEDS: A new, 2-way contract.

    Ben Scrivens. C+. At times, Ben Scrivens looked like the player who had well-earned a new contract last Spring. The guy CAN play goal in the NHL. Normally, I like his battle level. But in all fairness, he got a legitimate shot at the #1 job (57 games) and delivered only a 3.16 GAA and a .890 SP. If he is back, Scrivens will be on a short leash, and surely competing with another 1 or 1A goaltender. NEEDS: To remember the mechanics and mind-set in L.A. that attracted the Oilers to him in the first place.

    Viktor Fasth. D. Between uneven performances too often, and a plague of injuries, Viktor Fasth never did live up to his billing potential, and at his age, is almost surely headed out of town. Too bad, as he seemed to have some tools, and sure had a better camp than Scrivens did. But life isn’t always fair. NEEDS: A contract offer in Europe.

    Tyler Bunz. F. With appropriate respect to Tyler Bunz, it was a particularly unusual situation that led to him playing the 20 minutes that he did. I can’t see him higher than the ECHL next season, based on performance. NEEDS: An opportunity to play at the AHL level next season. But I don’t see it in Bakersfield.

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