It was an eventful week for the Edmonton Oilers as they swept their games. Head coach Dave Tippett has also gotten a clearer picture of how the bottom-6 will start to shape out with the regular season starting next week. He also discusses the growth of Evan Bouchard and how he will impact the team this season.
Bouchard Is Oilers’ X-Factor
The media and Tippett speak on Bouchard’s underrated ability to get shots through to the net. Not only does he have a powerful shot, but he brings playmaking to his game.
“… not just his shooting ability but his passing ability. He can find lanes, a smart, smart player. He looks like a mature player now, he’s not a kid anymore. He’s come in and we’ve played him in all situations, penalty kill, power play, and 5-on-5.”
– Dave Tippett
The maturity comes from the extra experience Bouchard has gained from taking a bit longer to develop in the American Hockey League (AHL) and overseas for Sodertalje SK in the Swedish 1st Division. The Oilers’ defence has been pretty stable and hasn’t given him much room to get playing time. So with a few offseason moves, he finally has his shot at the NHL full-time. The maturity in his game also brought along with his development in all areas of the ice and not just the offensive zone.
Earlier in training camp, Tippett said that he could be the potential x-factor on the Oilers’ defence group this season. He says that Bouchard has laid the groundwork very well. He reiterates and talks about how Bouchard is a more mature player, and that’s what the Oilers need (“Lowetide: Why Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard is poised to exceed expectations”, The Athletic, June 25, 2021).
He goes on to discuss that the defensive group has been a question mark for the team going in with all the changes. The Oilers really shored up their forward group, but with all the changes on the back end with Duncan Keith, Cody Ceci, and Bouchard stepping in, it’s looking very positive. With how much the Oilers changed on the blue line, there would have to be some work to get that up and going.
Tippett says that Bouchard has played in six or seven of the Oilers’ eight preseason games and has been solid all the way through for them.
Oilers Finish Preseason on Strong Note
The Oilers had themselves a very strong preseason. I know the games don’t technically count towards their record, but it’s better to finish positive and play well as opposed to needing to work on a lot of problems. The top players weren’t in every game either, so it speaks to the hard-working group of players who played as their jobs depended on it every night, because it did.
All three goaltenders played very well through the preseason. Stuart Skinner got the second half of the game on Saturday in the final preseason game vs. the Vancouver Canucks, stopping 15 of 17 shots. We now know how the goaltender situation will shape out since they just made final cuts, but it’s encouraging to see the steps forward Skinner has taken to possibly get games in this season and hopefully assume the backup role by next year.
The Oilers finished the last week of preseason action on a four-game win streak, with three of them coming this past week. They beat the Calgary Flames by a score of 4-3 while knocking off the Canucks twice, each time 3-2. The final games against the Canucks got the Oilers ready for their first game of the regular season on Oct. 13, which is also against the Canucks. They hope that they can keep up the level of play from the preseason that saw them finish with a record of 6-1-1.
Final Decisions on the Oilers’ Bottom-6
With no more preseason games left to judge players during games, Tippett said this of Colton Sceviour’s body of work in training camp.
“He’s been solid, and that’s what we expect from him. He’s played over 500 games in the league. He understands the league, he understands his role. With (Josh) Archibald being out, he’s a guy who’s come in and we’ve given some penalty kill time and he was solid all the way through camp.”
Archibald was a key contributor on the penalty kill for the Oilers last season, and Tippett seems to be in search of someone to be the guy to step in and perform just as well for the team this season. The penalty kill was excellent last season, finishing ninth in the league at 82.5 percent. If they want to stay in the top 10, they have to play the same way with the same intensity.
“You like that competition for sure … and I don’t think anyone’s played themselves off the team, but there are some guys who have played well. (Devin) Shore has played well at that centre position. (Brendan) Perlini has six goals in six games … those things speak for itself. Sceviour has played well, (Kyle) Turris has played well, (Ryan) McLeod and (Tyler) Benson are young guys who are pushing for jobs.”
What you can take from Tippett’s comments is the order of how he’s impressed by each player. They seem to be grouped in twos, the first being Shore and Perlini, who have set themselves ahead of the rest. Since Tippett mentioned more specific things from each of them, they must have stood out more in his mind.
The next four are a little more complicated. Sceviour is on a professional tryout (PTO), and Turris is on waivers. Sceviour is a veteran player, while Benson and McLeod are young guys trying to break in and find their place on the team. Theyl’ll have to make a decision soon, and with Archibald and Zack Zassian out, for now, spots have become available to start the season at least. This could see more of these players stick around and allow Tippett and his coaching staff to get an even longer look before having to make a decision.
With a few standout candidates on the Oilers team and a strong week behind them, they are fully set to ride the hot streak into the regular season and start this year off on the right foot.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. As a fantasy hockey veteran, he will be informing you on the best weekly options for your matchups to begin the week and mid-way. He will also keep you in the loop for weekly news and updates on the Oilers & Flyers.