Ah, the start of September is synonymous with so many different things; school returning, pumpkin everything, and hockey season being right around the corner. In fact, this morning Jesse Puljujarvi crossed the street in front of me this morning to get to Rogers Place while I was on my way to work. He smiled and waved at me as he walked past to get to the arena for the Oilers first informal skate for the upcoming season.
This year’s training camp is going to be much different for the Oilers, for the first time in over ten years we will no longer have to ask, “Will we make the playoffs?” It will now be what can we do this season. It’s a nice feeling for sure, but there are still plenty of questions that come up.
Will the sophomore slump bite Caggiula?
Drake didn’t get a chance to suit up for the Oilers until November of last year due to injury, but he showed throughout the season why he was such a sought-after NCAA free agent. As the season went on McLellan trusted his young winger more and more, even playing him on the wing alongside childhood friend McDavid.
The thing I love about this guy is that he’s not that tallest player on the ice at just 5’10, but he’ll throw the body around. In 31 games including the playoffs, he managed at least 2 plus hits a game in all situations. His season-high last year was 6 in that heated game three 6-3 loss against the Ducks.
He has demonstrated that he can be trusted in the faceoff dot and that he can be a little ball of fire on both ends of the ice. Caggiula is poised to grow into a larger role this season, there will be no sophomore slump for this guy!
Can Jujhar make the jump full time?
Former third round pick Jujhar Khaira has filled out into his 6’4 frame nicely at 219 pounds. He worked his way into the big clubs line up for ten games last season where he showed flashes of that big mean nasty bottom six player we want him to be so bad. Unfortunately, Jujhar seemed to coast as the games went by and he was replaced in the lineup.
I can’t believe that Vegas selected Griffin Reinhart over this guy during the expansion, but that’s good for us! If Khaira has the drive and plays with it every minute he’s on the ice I can certainly see him taking over Matt Hendricks roll in the lineup.
Can the Big Rig keep up the production?
Without a doubt, I believe he can. During the 2013-2014 season the Big Rig put up 29 points (11G, 18A) in 62 games, the next season he played in more games, 71 where he improved those numbers with 34 points (11G, 18A). His points dipped a bit the next season, but that’s understandable when you’re traded, he picked up 13 points (4g, 9a) in 56 games with the Ducks and 14 points (8G, 6A) over 16 games with the Oilers. Last season was his coming out year for sure, he showed the Ducks that they made a big mistake by putting up career numbers across the board, over 81 games he posted 42 points (27g, 15a).
Yeah, yeah haters will bark, “What do you expect playing with McDavid?” But there’s not that big of a difference between his top two career years. In 10 more games, he was able to pile 8 more points onto his total. The Big Rig is the real deal whether or not he’s riding shotgun with Connor in my opinion. How could the Ducks let this guy go for peanuts? He plays with passion and can score!
If you haven’t noticed these are all positive thoughts, which I hope you share as well. I won’t necessarily have anything far too negative to add until these guys hit the ice and play some preseason games. The start of training camp is always such a fun time, a guy can hit reset and try to either rebound or continue to grow from the season before, unless you Mr. Benoit I was bought out Pouliot.
Do you agree with my thoughts on these three? Let me know by replying or shooting me a tweet!