The Edmonton Oilers failed to reach expectations in the 2019-20 NHL season. Heading into 2020-21, general manager Ken Holland must find ways to improve his hockey club for next season. There is the possibility of the Oilers exploring the trade market or going after free-agents during the frenzy. So, here we will introduce the Edmonton Oilers impact players.
Impact Players from Within
In addition to that, the Oilers might be looking to promote from within. As there is a chance that they give a few players that are currently on the roster a bigger role next year.
Here is a look at three players that could significantly impact and help improve the Oilers next season and beyond.
Ethan Bear’s Emergence as an Impact Player
The emergence of Ethan Bear was one of the biggest bright spots for the Oilers this season. He was an early surprise who made the team out of training camp. The 23-year-old seized the opportunity and solidified himself in a top-four role on the team’s blueline.
Bear averaged just shy of 22 minutes a night. He was able to score five goals and 16 assists for 21 points in 71 games. He was given limited minutes on the powerplay but still managed to help the Oilers generate offence on even strength.
Bear’s Role Could Expand
With plenty of untapped potential, the Oilers might look to further expand Bear’s role next year.
The Oilers currently have Adam Larsson and Matt Benning as the team’s other two defenders on the right-side. But over the past few seasons, neither of them have shown the puck-moving and offensive ability Bear has shown, which might be something that earns him more playing time in 2020-21.
Another area where the Oilers might explore with Bear, is to inject him onto the team’s top powerplay unit. Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse occupied that role last year, but many argue that Bear’s passing ability and offensive instincts could make him a more suitable quarterback on special teams, further improving the Oilers’ already potent powerplay.
Caleb Jones Finally Steps Into a Bigger Role
Caleb Jones is another name on the Oiler’s blueline that could surprise next year. The 23-year-old split time between the AHL and NHL last year and has been knocking on the door for a while.
Appearing in 43 games for the Oilers in 2019-20, Jones managed to score four goals, nine points and finished with a minus-one rating. Despite limited playing time, Jones did not look out of place. As the season progressed his confidence and composure began to grow.
Skill-wise, Jones has displayed flashes of his puck-moving abilities and offensive upside. Something the Oilers’ blueline could use more of this coming season.
Earlier this year, the Oilers committed to Jones for two more years, at an $850,000 cap-hit per season. Financial wise, this is a good bet for the Oilers as it will buy them time to see if they have something in Jones.
Making Room for Jones
Moving forward, it seems the only thing in Jones way of more ice-time is older players currently playing in front of him on the depth chart.
Perhaps a name like Kris Russell or Matt Benning may be moved to make room for Jones on the depth chart.
With the opportunity to play more meaningful minutes, the Oilers will have a tough time knowing if Jones can be an impact player for this team moving forward. With the expansion draft coming up, the Oilers might want to find out sooner than later.
So if given the opportunity, Jones might be another young defender that could significantly impact the Oilers next season and beyond.
Kailer Yamamoto had a bit of a rocky start to his professional career. A first-round draft pick of the Oilers back in 2017, the Washington native spent the better part of the last three seasons fine-tuning his game.
He saw brief stints with the Oilers both in 2017-18 and 2018-19. But, did not impress Oilers’ management enough to warrant himself a full-time roster spot.
2020 was a good year of progress for Yamamoto. Since getting called up in late December, he seized the opportunity and did not look back.
He is a much-improved player, with great hockey IQ, craftiness, and relentless attack on the puck. He found a home on the Oilers top-six forwards. His style of play gave the Oilers’ offence another dimension. He made a big impact spending significant time on Leon Draisaitl’s wing.
Expectations Will Increase for Yamamoto
Going into next season, many expect Yamamoto to continue to grow and have a bigger impact on the Oilers’ offence next season. Production-wise, it wouldn’t surprise many to see him become a 20-goal, 45-point player.
In the long run, he looks to be a key complementary player that can contribute in the Oilers’ top-nine forward group. In 2020-21, we should see the Oilers implement him more in their offensive scheme; and perhaps even some time on the team’s first powerplay unit.
All in all, Yamamoto seems to be just getting his feet wet and can be a significant impact player for Edmonton for years to come.
Right now, Philip Broberg is arguably the Oiler’s best prospect outside of the NHL. He was selected eighth overall back in the 2019 NHL Entry draft. Broberg had a strong year in developing his game in the Swedish Hockey League last season.
He impressed the Oilers brass at camp during the re-start of the NHL in July. At only 19 years-old, Broberg might need a little more time to develop before making the big leap. But, the opportunity might come sooner than expected. Especially, if trades or injuries free a roster spot for him next season.
Evan Bouchard is another high-end prospect in the Oilers’ system that could be a dark horse to impact the Oilers next year. The former 10th-overall pick had a solid rookie-pro-season in Bakersfield last year, scoring seven goals and 36 points in 54 games.
Like Broberg, many feel Bouchard is not far away from making a push for a roster spot on the Oilers’ defence. He has the potential to become a heavy-minute two-way defender with a very polished offensive game. Bouchard might be an injury or a trade away from making a big impact for the Oilers in 2020-21.