Predicting Risers and Fallers On The Oilers Roster - Defense/Goal
Earlier, when we looked at the forward group for the Edmonton Oilers, there were some key players that likely will fall off from their production last season. Draisaitl, Chiasson, and Nugent Hopkins are all likely to fall off and could equal 30 fewer goals just from these three players.
Now we will take a look at the defensive group and the goal-tending to see what to expect from that group as well.
Oscar Klefbom - A healthy Klefbom is a top pairing defense-man in the NHL. Unfortunately for the Oilers he has played one healthy season so far in his career with the Oilers. All of his injuries have varied so it is not a consistent issue that has plagued the left shot defender, but regardless Edmonton's best player on the backend does not play a full 82 games. It's impossible to predict injuries so should Klefbom be healthy, he will certainly be better in 2019/2020.
Adam Larsson - A whole blog needs to be written to cover the atrocious season that Adam Larsson had. He missed assignments, was slow to engage in the play, and especially when Klefbom was out it was clear how lost Larsson was. The pairing must be better this season because it is almost impossible that they could be any worse.
Darnell Nurse - Nurse is a polarizing player in Edmonton but he is the most offensively gifted player on the back-end that the team currently employs. Last season with Oscar Klefbom out, Nurse had to step up and while he struggled at times against top competition, when given top PP time he certainly made the most of it. Darnell has steadily increased both his 5 on 5 numbers and PP numbers throughout his career thus far and I expect another step forward this season, albeit his PP totals may drop slightly.
Caleb Jones - It may be too early to say for certain, but it seems likely that Caleb Jones will start the year in the NHL. Last season, with a limited number of games Jones performed well, struggling when he was forced into logging bigger minutes as the injuries on the back-end piled up. In a third pairing role with controlled minutes, it shouldn't be asking much to see Jones continue to develop upwards.
Matt Benning - Some may be expecting Matt Benning to suddenly take off but I think that the 25 year old has shown what he is. A decent puck moving third pairing defense man who struggles against tougher competition. Benning can be useful when implemented properly but I would not want him playing more than 13 minutes a game.
Kris Russell - Kris Russell is Kris Russell. Whether you view that to be a good thing or a bad thing you can always count on him to be Kris Russell.\
Mikko Koskinen - Koskinen looked like an All Star at some points of the season and like a fringe backup at other times. Likely the netminder falls somewhere in the middle and we should expect a Sv% somewhere in the range of 0.910 for the former KHL player.
Mike Smith - One of the worst goaltenders last season at 5 on 5 is one year closer to being 40. It should surprise no one when Smith continues to struggle.
All in all things should look better on the Oilers back end amongst the D-core while the goalies are still a massive flip of the coin. Players like Evan Bouchard and Joel Persson could step in and become regular NHLers but there is not enough info on either player yet to make that kind of decision.
This season Ken Holland and the Edmonton Oilers really need to count that some of the above mentioned players do not drop off, and more importantly, that some of the prospects not mentioned on these lists are able to step in and be massive risers. Anything less will certainly mean another season without playoff hockey.