As the 2020-21 season draws near, the Edmonton Oilers embark on another quest for a chance to hoist Lord Stanley. A new year brings a new aura of optimism, especially with some fresh faces. This season, there are notable additions that are locks to make the team, including— Zach Hyman, Warren Foegle, Cody Ceci, Duncan Keith and Derek Ryan.
On the other hand, there are players that will be battling from the start of camp in hopes of securing a job with the big club – Cooper Marody, Philip Broberg, Brendan Perlini, Colton Sceviour, and Tyler Benson, to name a few.
It’s important to note that one’s preseason success will not always flow into the regular season. Projecting a players’ success based on the preseason should be done with a cautious approach. We have to remember that it’s filled with a mix of players— prospects and American Hockey League (AHL) players trying to make the jump, to veterans working off rust and finding their legs.
With that said, every so often, there is an underdog that separates from the pack, and one could say, overachieves, in the exhibition round. Below are former Oilers who showed promise and hype in the preseason but failed to deliver in the regular season.
Tomas Jurco was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings 35th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft. Originally a pick of current Oilers’ general manager Ken Holland, Jurco spent four seasons within the Red Wings organization. He bounced between the NHL and the minor leagues, recording 15 goals, 24 assists in 159 games. He then spent time with the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers organizations.
With the Panthers’ minor-league team, the Charlotte Checkers, he found success— registering 17 points in 19 games in the regular season. That year, he helped the Checkers win the Calder Cup and put up an impressive 18 points in 18 games. Jurco’s AHL success was convincing enough for his former general manager to give him another shot.
On July 1, 2019, Jurco signed a one-year deal with the Oilers, worth $750,000. At first glance, it looked like he’d build off of his AHL success. Showcasing his skills that made him a second-round pick, he registered three goals, two assists in five preseason games. Yet, after only 12 games and registering a disappointing two points in the regular season, he was re-assigned to the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL.
While Rattie didn’t gain traction with the St. Louis Blues early in his career, the Oilers took a shot and signed him to a two-way deal on July 1, 2017. He had a productive stint in the AHL with the Condors, recording 21 goals, 22 assists in 53 games. Later that year, he was recalled to the main squad and was given an opportunity to play with Connor McDavid, putting up a modest nine points in 14 games.
Rattie had an innate scoring ability in his junior days, even setting an Alberta record, netting 75 goals in 33 games in Bantam AAA. The Oilers were hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, and they signed him to a one-year contract extension.
He was given an opportunity of a lifetime when the 2018-19 preseason started, as he found himself on a line with McDavid and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins. Rattie didn’t disappoint. He reclaimed his scoring touch, netting a hat trick against the Vancouver Canucks, and led the entire NHL in preseason points— producing seven goals, four assists in only four games.
Had the Oilers finally found their missing piece on the top line? “He knows offence and understands it. He gets the puck on his tape and it’s on and off it pretty quickly. That’s stuff you can’t teach, that killer instinct”, said McDavid of Rattie (from ‘Ty Gets It’: Oilers Captain Connor McDavid Loving the Chemistry With Nuge, Rattie,” Edmonton Sun, 9/21/18).
While his preseason point totals showed signs of a breakout season, things didn’t pan out for the one-time WHL Playoff MVP. While suffering an early-season injury, he was taken off Mcdavid’s line and found himself on the bottom six. He finished the year with four goals, seven assists in 50 games. Unfortunately for Rattie, he was placed on waivers, and he was on his way out to the KHL the following year.
On July 7, 2017, the Oilers signed Jussi Jokinen to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million. Throughout most of his career, he was well-known for being a shootout specialist, ranking number 13th all-time in the NHL with 37 shootout goals. Jokinen was 34 years old at the time, and he produced 546 points in 891 games prior to joining the club.
Putting up a respectable 60-points just two seasons prior, the Oilers were hoping he’d replicate similar numbers. Also known for his defensive game, the Oilers hoped he could be a “jack of all trades” type of player and play in all situations while also being a mentor for young Jesse Puljujarvi (from “Jussi Jokinen Fills Depth Position for Edmonton Oilers,” Edmonton Journal, 7/7/17).
In the preseason, Jokinen showed promise. In a game against the Winnipeg Jets, he had a three-point night, finishing with a goal and two assists. He wrapped up the exhibition round totaling five points in four games.
When the regular season started, he struggled out of the gate and he was unable to gain the trust of then-head coach, Todd McLellan. After registering only one assist in 14 games, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Mike Cammalleri (from “Oilers Snapshots: Jussi Jokinen Wants to Make Oilers Pay,” Edmonton Sun, 1/3/18).
The Oilers drafted Mike Comrie 91st overall in the 1999 NHL Draft. A hometown kid, he produced 133 points in 192 games from 2000-2003 with the Oilers. He was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers and bounced between organizations, later playing for the Phoenix Coyotes, Ottawa Senators, and New York Islanders.
On Sept.10, 2009, then Oilers general manager, Steve Tambellini, signed Comrie to a one-year deal to return to his hometown team. In an exhibition game, Comrie won over the crowd, registering four assists— he also got in a tussle with Florida Panther Eric Himelfarb.
That preseason, he led the entire league in points with 10 points in five games— even beating out a 24-year-old Anze Kopitar for the league-lead by two points.
Averaging over a point-per-game, Comrie had momentum heading into the regular season. Tambellini banked on a player overachieving on a value contract. Unfortunately for Comrie, after contracting mononucleosis, he finished the campaign with 21 points in 43 games— watching his points-per-game (P/G) drop from 2.0 in the preseason to 0.48. He would go on to play another year before retiring due to injuries.
While the preseason is an exciting time to check out the latest prospects, new additions, and returning players, a strong preseason performance from a player should be taken with a grain of salt. Oilers’ fans have been tricked one too many times from players who over-delivered in past preseasons.
First ever Ultimate MVP fan of the NHL as declared by Upperdeck – CBC Radio Oilers’ Fan Panel Analyst – Freelance Writer. Edmonton Oilers’ Sportswriter for the Hockey Writers.