Oilers’ William Lagesson Starting to Earn Coaching Staff’s Trust

Over the past couple of games, we’ve seen a lot more of William Lagesson in the Edmonton Oilers‘ lineup. As we’ve all seen, the team has used many defencemen this season, probably more than they would’ve liked. But looking at the positives, it has given management an opportunity to evaluate a number of their young defencemen in an NHL setting.

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Lagesson played the third-most minutes in a game this season vs. the Montreal Canadiens. It helps that the Oilers commanded the game and Dave Tippett was more inclined to roll the lines, but Lagesson topped 16 minutes in a sixth defenceman role. He has previously only played more a couple of times because the left side of the Oilers’ defence was riddled with injuries in late November to early December.

William Lagesson Edmonton Oilers-Oilers' William Lagesson Starting to Earn Coaching Staff's Trust
William Lagesson, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

His play has picked up significantly as he adjusts to the NHL, and it looks as though Tippett has realized that and is getting the most out of Lagesson in the right situations. He and Evan Bouchard didn’t make the best defensive pairing, but it seems as though Kris Russell really stabilizes his game and is a solid veteran presence to allow Lagesson the room and opportunity to play to his strengths. He has definitely earned himself a little more time in the NHL.

Opportunity With Barrie Out

Tyson Barrie has been sidelined for four games, lining up with the losing streak. I’m not suggesting that Lagesson is better than Barrie and should be in the lineup over him, but Barrie’s spot has been filled by Slater Koekkoek for the first two games and Lagesson for the previous two.

The largest issue with Lagesson not being able to get steady time in the NHL is that the Oilers have five defencemen who’s spots are secure when they are in the lineup. That has left Lagesson to compete with Russell, Koekkoek, and even Markus Niemelainen and Philip Broberg when they were with the Oilers.

Competition is good for the team, but sometimes not the players if one is constantly being outplayed by others. That’s when opportunity starts to pass them by. Once Barrie returns to the lineup — and he’s close — Lagesson will be back in the same boat and even possibly sent to the taxi squad once again.

Lagesson Outplaying Koekkoek

What may be to Lagesson’s advantage is that Koekkoek didn’t play very well in the two games he got into against the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. Koekkoek has also been in and out of the lineup this season. This gave Lagesson the opportunity to step in. He didn’t receive the most playing time vs. the Nashville Predators, but that was also a very highly contested game that saw the Oilers come from behind twice. In games like these, the top players will be playing more regardless.

As I mentioned, Lagesson played over 16 minutes against the Canadiens in a game where he wasn’t higher up in the lineup. The question remains, will he be able to stick with the team as the sixth or seventh defenceman once Barrie is ready to get back into the lineup? The decision will be between him and Koekkoek, but it now depends on who the team may be willing to lose if they send one through waivers and who fits in their plans for next season. (“Edmonton Oilers make a move, waiving defender William Lagesson”, Edmonton Journal, Jan. 19, 2022)

Slater Koekkoek Edmonton Oilers-Oilers' William Lagesson Starting to Earn Coaching Staff's Trust
Slater Koekkoek, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Seeing as Koekkoek is signed for next season, the team may lean towards him. However, Lagesson is a restricted free agent (RFA) after the season, so a deal could still be struck. The Oilers have a number of promising young defenders in the American Hockey League (AHL), so the best course of action should be to stick with and play whoever gives the team the best shot at success every night and worry about the fringe NHLers later.

Solid Offensive & Defensive Play From Lagesson

Lagesson has now played 39 career games in the NHL. Of his five assists, three of them have come in the past five games. (“Oilers’ William Lagesson: Provides helper in big win”, CBS Sports, Jan. 30, 2022) This is a sign that he may be getting more comfortable and is able to contribute offensively. Though his opportunities have been limited, he’s starting to take advantage when he does get a shot.

Most noticeably in the win over the Canadiens, Lagesson was aggressive against the offence when they came in on the rush as well as showed calm in the corners to be able to execute a clean breakout. This is just the second time in his past five outings that we’ve even seen Lagesson play over 10 minutes in a game, so there was a lot more time and chances at both ends of the ice to analyze his play.

Lagesson got a good look in his last game with a pretty uncontested shot from the off side. I’ve noticed he’s gotten a couple of these chances in recent games, and may be due for a goal sooner than later if it keeps up. He’s never been game-breaking offensively in any league, but he does have offensive capabilities and as he is getting more comfortable in the NHL, they are starting to show on the scoresheet.

May Be Too Late for Lagesson With the Oilers

This may be all for naught, as I mentioned Lagesson is an RFA after this season and the Oilers’ defence is still crowded. It may not only be Lagesson not wanting to return to the Oilers because he feels he will get more of a shot in another organization, but the Oilers may just cut ties with him based off of what he’s provided the team since being drafted.

I do believe Lagesson will be able to get a better shot on a team that has less defensive depth or prospects on the rise, possibly a rebuilding team. But unless the Oilers can move Koekkoek before next season, Lagesson won’t see much NHL time at all.

Lagesson has played significantly better and it has shown. I’ve noticed it and so has Tippett. As long as Lagesson gives the Oilers his best effort and continues to grow, the future is still up in the air and the team is better for it.

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