It was announced December 16, 2018, that the Edmonton Oilers’ #1 defender Oscar Klefbom would miss 6-8 weeks following successful hand surgery. This puts a massive hole in Edmonton’s defensive raft, and the question must be, how can they keep it afloat?
Unfortunately, the Edmonton Oilers depth on defense has been tested losing not only Oscar Klefbom but also Kris “Cowboy” Russell to injuries. While Russell’s is so far undisclosed, We do know the earliest he can return is Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues.
This is because players placed on IR must are not allowed by league rules to return to active duty for a minimum of 7 days following the injury. So, while we may get some help back in the coming days, Klefbom’s absence leaves a void in many in all three facets of the game.
How important is Oscar?
Well, number one defenders don’t grow on trees. unfortunately Oscar was on quite the heater before his injury scoring 7 points in 10 games (3G 4A) before getting injured. He also happens to lead the Edmonton Oilers in ice time at 25:24 per game which (and I can not emphasize this enough) is massive. Even more importantly he is vital to the Edmonton Oilers power play. No one else also scrapes the 3:52 minutes per game that he has.
The next highest defender outside of Evan Bouchard, who, with his seven-game cameo, has a too small sample size to count, is Jason Garrison with 1:07. That’s right, without Klefbom our most experienced power play specialist is Jason Garrison.
Darnell Nurse currently is replacing Klefbom on PP1 and is at 0:47 per game mostly on unit 2. Edmonton does not have anyone now which can realistically run a power play long-term at the NHL level. However, we might have someone in the organization who can run a power play in our farm system.
Options For the Edmonton Oilers in Bakersfield?
Edmonton has two interesting options in their organization who may be able to come up, play bottom pairing NHL minutes, and run our power play. The first and most obvious of these two is Ethan Bear.
Ethan Bear had an exciting cameo at the end of the 17-18 season. In 18 games he posted 4 points (1G 3A) and was 47.2% Corsi for and a 45.4 Fenwick for. I say interesting instead of impressive or exciting because, in all honesty, he looked shaky at times when he was defending.
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That is why when looking at this player you can not expect him to hold down a top 4 spot at this time. However, when looking at his body of work on the power play, I think there’s a case to be made that he can come in and he can produce.
First off Bear is no stranger to power play time at the NHL level, averaging 1:50 per game during his cameo last year. Secondly, he is a right shot, something that many fans and many bloggers and journalists have been clamoring for on the top unit, myself included.
Putting Bear on that unit would give it a new look and add a different element of danger than what exists right now. Giving McDavid an easier one-time option with Bear as opposed to having to pass the puck across Klefbom’s body would provide McDavid a more straightforward option on that right half wall. This, in turn, should affect the penalty killers as they now have to cover Bear and Draisaitl instead of overloading on McDavid and forcing him to make passes.
Also, it should lead to more goals behind coverage, something Klefbom can’t do as a left shot:
Option 2, Across the Pond?
Yes, Edmonton does have another option, one that has slipped many people’s minds. Joel Persson was signed to a one year deal over the summer and was loaned back to his European team the Vaxjo Lakers for this season. There is, interestingly enough a clause in his contract where the Oilers do have recall rights if they deem it necessary to bring him over.
So, what does Persson do well? Watching video of him, it becomes abundantly clear just how skilled he is on the power play. He’s exceptionally comfortable running a power play, and it ran it very effectively on the Elias Petterson ran Lakers in 17/18 posting 34 points (6G 28A) in 51 games.
To put that into perspective, Klefbom played three years in the same league as Persson and posted precisely 7 points in that span. To be fair Persson was 23 at the time and he’d stayed in Europe playing in different leagues since he was 17. Klefbom, on the other hand, was 17, 18, and 19 when he was playing in that league, so age and experience is a factor as 17-18 was Persson’s first SHL season. Here’s a highlight package of Persson from Edmonton future Watch:
While this is a long shot, as it would be much easier to send down Jones, recall Bear, and be done with it, Persson represents untapped potential. He represents a significant risk big reward situation that has the potential to pay big dividends if he is brought over the pond.
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As for now with the defense we have, we’ll have to make do with a power play and a defense led by Darnell Nurse, and hopefully, that will suffice.