It’s too bad Klefbom got injured in the game last night against the Rangers because he was on his way to a career season for the Oilers.
Hopefully, his injury doesn’t change things too much. He’s currently 4-21-25 in 42 games, excellent for a d-man – good enough for top 20 in league scoring amongst d-men and tops on the team. He also leads the team in TOI and is #3 in the league in that stat. As the team’s D core improves, that will likely go down, but for now, the Oilers D core is what it is. Currently, he’s on pace for 8 goals and 49 points, which would be a new career-high for him.
He’s the best puck mover the Oilers have got right now. What makes this even more impressive is his shooting % is only 3.6%, slightly under a career average of 3.9%. Imagine the possibilities if he could push the envelope even more…..
He also leads the team and the league in blocked shots with 134.
The only thing that’s a bit of a damper on his season is his +/- is currently a career-worst of -22. Ouch. Hopefully, he can improve on that as the season goes on – and I would be willing to bet that part of that is due to having a rookie partner in Ethan Bear in which you have to clean up some rookies mistakes once in a while. Mind you, he plays a lot at a TOI of 25:35 per game, which is literally almost half the game.
Klefbom is definitely part of the solution moving forward, so let’s hope that he cleans up that +/- rating and isn’t out for too long. Otherwise, it could sink our playoff hopes right then and there.
Speaking of Bear, it seems like he will go through Oilers lore as the best Oilers draft pick in a long time – outside of the first round, of course.
This hidden jewel of a player was drafted in the 5th round of 2015 as an afterthought and has not only survived but thrived in his rookie season. He made the team out of training camp and hasn’t missed a beat, putting up 4-9-13 in 42 games with a -6 to go along with it. Those are phenomenal stats, especially for a raw rookie defenceman.
He has shown that he can play with the 2 best puck movers the Oilers have to offer in Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom – a hard thing to do for a rookie. Even more impressive is Bear has only improved with more ice time. He’s 5th on the team right now with 20:58, and most rookies can only dream of playing 20 minutes a night, especially in the D corps.
Bear had a cup of coffee here towards the end of last season, putting up 1-3-4 in 18 games, a great sneak preview of things to come. Unless he pours on the offense though – too much to expect from a rookie d-man – he probably won’t win the Calder trophy but he may get a vote or 2 – he’s currently 16th in scoring amongst rookies.
Regardless of whether he wins the Calder or not, though, Bear has had a phenomenal season, and I have a feeling the best is yet to come for this young man who only needed 89 games in the minors before he got a full-time NHL spot.
Not bad for a guy from the 5th round in 2015.
Although Klefbom eventually eclipsed him, Nurse is the other key puck mover in the D corps. He started out as the top pairing guy on the port side but Klefbom eventually took that spot back.
He’s currently at 2-17-19 in 42 games with a -6 to go along with it. That extrapolates out to 4 goals and 36 points – technically a bit of a dip in both categories but nothing to be concerned about, IMO. There’s still lots of time to improve upon his career year of last year, and even if he finishes with what he’s projected to, the Oilers could decrease the amount they pay him slightly which will be better for our cap space. Nurse is the one major player the Oilers need to re-up that will be due for a significant raise.
All this and the young man isn’t even in his PPY yet. I think we may see an improvement of his numbers in the 2nd half as his shooting % is only 2.1% which is 1.6% below his career average.
I like the 1-2 punch of him and Klefbom on the left side – and the corps will only get better once Ethan Bear develops and the cavalry arrives from the farm on the right side.