Lowetide: Is that this Oilers’ 12 months to discover a world-class agitator in NHL Draft?


Each profitable Edmonton Oilers playoff crew has featured an agitating ahead in a outstanding function. From Ken Linseman to Esa Tikkanen, from Ryan Smyth to Raffi Torres, the membership has somebody to drive opponents to distraction and diffuse any opposition makes an attempt at intimidation.

For the 2022 playoff run, winger Evander Kane served as each a distraction for gamers like Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames and an enforcer for individuals who tried to extend the temperature of the collection.

These are distinctive skills and are hardly ever accessible by way of free company, particularly in midseason.

Most arrive by way of the draft, with a few years spent growing earlier than NHL arrival. Edmonton has been in place to draft these participant varieties in latest seasons, passing over Ridly Greig and Zachary L’Heureux, amongst others. The membership handed on the chance every time, probably believing Zack Kassian might proceed within the function till the conclusion of his contract.

This season, there are a number of draft-eligible gamers who might match the outline and ultimately fill the function within the NHL.

Enforcers versus agitators

The NHL enforcer is usually a factor of the previous, though Kane might fill each roles if any opponent determined to battle him (Hockey Fights lists his final altercation as April 2020). Kassian had sufficient sport on this space to be each in his prime, however growing older mixed with ever-increasing accidents (hand, concussion, fractured jaw) recommend he ought to keep away from combating at this level in his profession.

Edmonton wants a solution to the Flames’ Tkachuk. He’s a world-class disturber, a rugged winger who hardly ever fights. Hockey Fights has him concerned in 14 over six seasons with the Flames; Kassian has been in 24 throughout the identical time interval.

The Oilers want an agitator, one other Tikkanen, who can take away the energy that Tkachuk good points when he’s working round unchecked. If that participant will also be a nuclear deterrent within the heavyweight enforcer division, even higher.

Kane is a uncommon participant.

This 12 months’s agitators

In contrast to one 12 months in the past, when L’Heureaux was simply the best choice (he went No. 27 to the Nashville Predators, the Oilers selecting Xavier Bourgault at No. 22), this 12 months’s listing has a number of in a gaggle. That might profit Edmonton, a crew with simply 4 picks in the whole draft (only one within the high 150), as a few of these names might slide.

Nathan Gaucher is a right-handed centre from the Quebec Remparts (QMJHL) who brings dimension (6-foot-3, 207 kilos) and sufficient ability to be thought of an influence ahead on this draft. He skates effectively, is prepared to have interaction and might intimidate. His draft resume is powerful, so the Oilers will solely get one shot at him (first-round choose).

Reid Schaefer of the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) is a growing story on this 12 months’s draft. A projected mid-round choice early within the 12 months, he has dimension (6-foot-3, 214 kilos) and sufficient ability to attain 32 objectives in 66 WHL video games. He good points net-front place simply and he hits laborious and infrequently. Like Gaucher, he’s extra of an influence ahead however does current an intriguing possibility as a giant disturber with goal-scoring capacity.

Kirill Dolchenkov is massive (6-foot-7, 234) and might be an agitator simply by going about his enterprise. In 33 MHL video games final season, he scored 14-14-28 and is an April 2004 birthdate. That means he could have sufficient ability to play on one of many high three strains on a crew. A venture to make sure, however he’s an attractive prospect. Pink Line Report calls him a freight prepare.

Maxim Barbashev performs for the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) and is a talented left winger. He engages opponents and wins battles, successfully turning over pucks and making life troublesome for defencemen.

These 4 males could not symbolize the traditional model of an agitator however are the closest the 2022 draft can present NHL groups.

The numbers

The massive requirement for a profitable participant of this kind is delivering sufficient offence to play on a ability line. How do these forwards price on this space?

Participant Age Oct. 1 League Factors-Recreation

Reid Schaefer

18 yrs



Nathan Gaucher

17 yrs, 11 mo



Kirill Dolzhenkov

17 yrs, 5 mo



Maxim Barbashev

17 yrs, 9 mo



The offensive totals for these gamers carry again an attention-grabbing group of comparable skills in latest seasons. Pre-draft totals for L’Heureux (1.18 factors per sport) are away from this 12 months’s crop and recommend a decrease draft place for them.

The nearer comps for Schaefer, Gaucher and Dolzhenkov supply some hope for every man sooner or later.

Lawson Crouse (No. 11 in 2015) posted 0.91 factors per sport in his draft 12 months whereas Max Jones (No. 24 in 2016) delivered 0.83 factors per sport in his draft 12 months.

Does that imply the three candidates from this 12 months’s draft are first-round skills?

That’s a tricky name. A scarcity of this participant sort could drive an earlier choice from a crew that doesn’t have a lot coming by means of the system. Crouse was a attain choose the place he was chosen, however has performed virtually 350 NHL video games and scored 20 objectives for the Arizona Coyotes in 2021-22. Would the Oilers take into account that type of participant as protecting the wager with the No. 29 choose?

Jones has been unable to seek out the identical type of traction, partly resulting from harm.

Backside line: After I checked out L’Heureux a 12 months in the past, it was clear he was a singular expertise. There is no such thing as a one like him on this 12 months’s draft. If Edmonton drafts Schaefer at No. 29, or offers right down to seize him within the second spherical, a part of the rationale will likely be with an eye fixed to discovering a participant able to driving opposition agitators to distraction.

Schaefer, Gaucher and Dolzhenkov are all worthy of consideration sooner or later within the 2022 draft.

Grit within the system

If Kane and Kassian go away the group this summer time, and it’s attainable, the NHL crew will likely be with out this participant sort. What’s extra, younger professional gamers who’ve parts of an agitating model on their resume (Dylan Holloway, Tyler Tullio) are simply getting began and gained’t be efficient within the function for a while, if ever.

The times of Linseman and Tikkanen are lengthy gone, however this participant sort nonetheless has worth if in addition they carry sufficient ability to hold on a function line.

Any query about that was requested and answered throughout the playoff collection in opposition to Calgary, when Kane neutralized Tkachuk after the younger Flames ahead lit it up within the first sport.

The 2022-23 Oilers, and the variations of the membership shifting ahead, can have loads of ability among the many 12 forwards. It will behoove administration so as to add some rugged males for the NHL crew after which draft one or two to develop.

Maybe Schaefer is the proper choose within the first spherical for Edmonton.

(Photograph of Reid Schaefer: Jeff Halstead / Icon Sportswire by way of AP Photographs)


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