Edmonton Oilers: Top 9 questions that need to be answered in 2019

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Edmonton Oilers

LONDON, ON – MARCH 09: Evan Bouchard #2 of the London Knights skates with the puck in the first period during OHL game action against the Saginaw Spirit at Budweiser Gardens on March 9, 2019 in London, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

4.  Will any of our prospects on defense actually make the team out of camp? 

Holland stood pat on his D corps this offseason, despite the problems of last season.  On first glance, that appears ballsy, but if you take a closer look it’s not.

The team’s best prospects on the farm right now are on D, all of whom are puck movers to varying degrees. I count 6 prospects on D all with a reasonable shot at making the team, but considering Holland’s well-known policy of spending three seasons in the minors before coming up to the big leagues, IMO we won’t see any prospects here – at least to start the regular season.

No question a callup may be in somebody’s future, but of course Holland wants all his guys to be overripe before they are regulars in the NHL. And of course D is the hardest position in the NHL to master, so that’s another reason not to rush these guys.

Of all the prospects on D, Caleb Jones has the most experience in the minors, but his rookie season in the AHL was a whopping 3 games so I don’t know about you but I don’t consider that to be a full season in the AHL.  It’s more likely Jones could be on the roster to start in 2020.

A lot of people are counting on Evan Bouchard as well, but that would be premature at this point considering how much he struggled in a seven-game audition last year, and that he has a whopping eight games of AHL experience.  Expect him to be sent back to Bakersfield as that is the best place for him right now.

On the big league roster, we don’t have a surefire elite talent, but the top four is full of solid players who, if unheralded, are at least capable of getting the job done.  Oscar Klefbom is the top dog puck mover, and he has chemistry with countryman Adam Larsson, the stay at home guy who can contribute some secondary offense as well.  Same story on the second pairing with Darnell Nurse who put up a career high 41 points last year and is looking to build on that this year, with Kris Russell a carbon copy of Larsson as a player as his partner.

We’ve made the playoffs already with that top four, and there’s a good chance we can do it again this year.  As long as they stay healthy, we should be OK and that insulation will help the boys on the farm until they’re ready to go and we can trade away the veteran guys.

5.  What will the goaltending look like?  

Koskinen’s season was written about ad nauseam, so I don’t need to say anything more about that because any true Oilers fan will know his story from last year.  Free agent signing Mike Smith is here on a short term contract coming off a bad season last year with Calgary.  He’s coming to a coach that’s familiar with him, so will he become the starter?  Hard to say.

At 37, is he capable of it?  We’ve seen this script play out before with the Bulin Sieve.  Coach Dave Tippett has said he’d like both players to split duties and play 41 games apiece, but both players are capable of being the starter and you can bet if one goalie gets hot Tippett will stick with the hot hand as all coaches do.

If Koskinen has solved his glove hand issue, then watch out as that was his weak spot last year, and now that he’s more used to the workload I could see him taking it.  But, Smith is no slouch either and he’s used to taking a team on his back.  He did it for years in Phoenix and he did it last year in the playoffs for the Flames.  Can he do it again?  Only time will tell.

It’s a coin flip in terms of goaltending this year.  Your guess is as good as mine.

6.  Will Tippett fix our disaster of a PK?  

Last year’s PK was 30th out of 31 teams.  That must improve if we are to have a shot at the playoffs.  Key additions like Markus Granlund will help, not just with the overall numbers, but also to take ice time away from the dynamic duo, freeing them up more to do what they do best – score, score, and score some more (giggity).

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