4 Oilers Looking to Bounce Back in 2022

Many Edmonton Oilers started the season very well, but others need to step up their game and contribute a lot more for the team to be successful. Whatever their role, some performances have not met expectations. The good news is they still have over 50 games remaining to right the ship.

Here’s a look at four Oilers who need to turn their game around before the 2021-22 season resumes, starting with a top-six forward, two bottom-six players, and a goalie.

Kailer Yamamoto

From what Kailer Yamamoto has shown in the past, what will it take for him to get going? New linemates, confidence, a reminder to shoot the puck? These are all possible solutions, but let’s start with new linemates.

Some have argued that Yamamoto is not a top-six forward right now, and I have to agree. Though he works hard and battles for pucks, he is reminding me more and more of Josh Archibald, who was effective in a bottom-six role but wasn’t expected to score a ton of points. Archibald could move up the lineup, but players in the top-six are expected to produce offensively, at least more than Yamamoto has this season (from ‘Promotion for the Bison King plus Kailer Yamamoto slips into new job that might suit him very well,’ Edmonton Journal, 12/3/21).

Kailer Yamamoto
Kailer Yamamoto (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

If the Oilers elect to go with a more balanced top-nine, with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all centering a line, then Yamamoto is bound to get another linemate. At the very least, he would be able to rack up more assists and build his confidence. With the recent elevated production from Warren Foegele on the first line, it seems likely that head coach Dave Tippett will try this option when the team is healthy next week.

Confidence is a funny thing; a player can lose it quickly, but it takes a lot to get it back, even if it means hanging around the net for a chance at rebounds. Yamamoto has a great example to help him improve in Zach Hyman and how he plays the game.

Derek Ryan

Derek Ryan has done very little for the Oilers after he was brought in on a two-year deal to shore up the third-line centre position. As the season has progressed, Ryan has been demoted to the fourth line or even been a healthy scratch. With just two goals and a minus-10 rating in 26 games, he’s seen a big drop-off since his four consecutive seasons with 10-plus goals and 29-plus points between 2016-20.

The signs were there for Oilers management, considering Ryan’s drop-off started last season when he had two goals and 13 points in 46 games.

Related: Ranking the Oilers 2021 Offseason Acquisitions

The two things Ryan has been effective at this season are the penalty kill and faceoffs. He is leading the forwards in shorthanded ice time per game and has a 54.9 faceoff percentage. Those two assets combined mean the Oilers start with the puck on the penalty kill more often than not and can clear it immediately.

If Ryan can keep up the two best things he brings to the table and somehow find a way to spark his offence, then he will be more of what the Oilers expected him to be when they signed him.

Mikko Koskinen

Mikko Koskinen’s play has also dropped off over the past few games, losing four straight and allowing 17 goals against. Backup and third-string goalie Stuart Skinner took over and started in back-to-back games, winning both. Maybe a step back and more rest will help Koskinen perform at a higher level, one that the team desperately needs from their netminder.

Koskinen now has a 3.16 goals-against average (GAA) and .902 save percentage (SV%), despite a 12-6 record this season. He has only had seven quality starts in 17 games, which accounts for those games where his SV% is above average. It is the lowest quality-start percentage of his career. Koskinen also has a minus-5.0 goals saved above average (GSAA), referring to how many goals he has prevented.

Mikko Koskinen Edmonton Oilers
Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Until starter Mike Smith returns, which should be very soon, Koskinen should remain in a backup role, limiting his starts and hopefully forcing him to prepare mentally and start games differently – not allowing an early goal or a goal on the first shot. After early lapses, Koskinen can generally settle in, and he has made timely saves to keep the Oilers in close games, even if his stats don’t show it.

Brendan Perlini

It’s too early to judge, but it seems as though Brendan Perlini has already made it his goal to have a better 2022 than this year. He returned from his short stint in the American Hockey League (AHL) with a different mentality and more confidence.

Perlini has spent time higher up in the Oilers’ lineup in the past two games, but that is because of injuries and COVID-19 protocol. Once everyone is back, we could see the top-nine put in a blender, as I suggested above. That way he will be able to stay in a key role and get more ice time, hopefully resulting in increased production. He had zero points and six shots in his first 13 games, which is not representative of his normal game. After his recall, he had a goal and an assist with nine shots on goal. If this keeps up, he is in for a much better time moving forward.

Not every player not listed here has had a good game every night, and all four Oilers listed above have had some good nights. The Oilers need to be better on a consistent basis, and a turnaround in performance from any of these players will help with that.

Sign up for our regular 'Oilers Newsletter' for all the latest.