One sharp move Edmonton Oilers can make to copy Tampa Bay Lightning


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The one sharp move the Edmonton Oilers can make to emulate the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Have a little faith in the over ripe skill players they’ve developed in the American Hockey League.

Don’t block them with NHL veterans who might check OK but will never be 40 or 50 point scorers at the NHL level.

Give Tyler Benson, Ryan McLeod and Cooper Marody every opportunity to make the Edmonton Oilers in 2021-22, maybe even with the three of them on the same line.

In 2020-21, Benson, McLeod and Marody were likely the top-performing two-way line in the American Hockey League, which was all the more impressive given they are all under the age of 24 top start the season, still NHL prospects as opposed to older AHL vets.

If they were in the Tampa Bay system, I imagine the plan would be to integrate them into the line-up, just as numerous high-scoring AHL attackers have found their way onto the Tampa roster in recent years.


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The Tampa line-up that beat the New York Islanders 8-0 last night had six forwards who spent at least one season for Tampa’s farm team in the AHL: Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, Anthony Cirelli and Ross Colton.

Not one of them was a high-drafted prospect, but all of them did well in the AHL and all are now solid contributors on a Tampa team with a good shot at winning the Stanley Cup.

Not one of Benson, McLeod or Marody was taken in the first round of the NHL draft, but they have now all posted similar scoring seasons at similar ages to these former Tampa Bay AHLers.

McLeod, who started out this year as a 20-year-old in Bakersfield, scored a point per game and was an AHL-leading +23 in 28 games. He scored at a higher rate than Palat and Cirelli did as 20-year-olds, and also higher than Palat at age 21.

Benson, 22 to start the year, scored almost at the same rate as a 22-year-old Tyler Johnson, and outscored Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde and Colton at that same age.

Marody, now 24, is moving out of his prospect phase, but he outscored Goude at the same age in the AHL, 0.92 points per game for Marody in 2020-21 to 0.86 points per game for Gourde in 2016-17.

Is it too much for the Oilers to give all three a real shot in Edmonton? I hear McLeod will get that chance and maybe Benson, but I never hear anything these days about Marody. But he’s got a shot to be Edmonton’s Yanni Gourde. He just needs an Oilers management bold enough to give him that shot.


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The Tampa Bay model was said to have been put in place by Steve Yzerman, based on what he learned from Ken Holland in Detroit. If that’s the case, this kind of development and promotion of minor pro players should be old hat to Holland.

I hope that’s the case because Edmonton has three young skilled forwards perfectly positioned to make the jump from AHLers to NHLers this coming season. But that will only happen if it’s Plan A for the Oilers, not an afterthought, not something they’ll turn to if a new group of veteran checkers don’t work out.

How about this?

Goodbye: James Neal, Alex Chiasson, Gaetan Haas, Tyler Ennis, Kyle Turris, Patrick Russell, Joakim Nygard

Hello: Benson, McLeod, Marody, First Line left wing UFA, Third Line centre in trade or UFA.


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