One adage that has always been true in the NHL is teams need defensive depth to win.
The Edmonton Oilers are proving it. They are 9-2 in their past 11 games and they are winning despite many injuries to their blueline.
They have been without Oscar Klefbom all season. Ethan Bear has missed 10 games with a concussion. William Lagesson has missed two games with a wrist injury. Kris Russell sat out a few with a foot problem and now Slater Koekkoek is out for the rest of the regular season.
He broke his collarbone last night and is out for at least three months.
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) February 21, 2021
Despite those injuries, the Oilers will slot in Caleb Jones on Tuesday. Bear and Lagesson both skated today and are getting closer, and could be available this week. Despite four injuries, the Oilers are still able to dress Jones. That is excellent organizational depth, and Jones has played well in the past and will be hungry to prove he can still be a contributor on the blueline.
With all the injuries Darnell Nurse has stepped up and played incredibly well. Tyson Barrie, after a slow start, has been excellent the past three weeks. Adam Larsson has been a pillar in the defensive zone during the Oilers 9-2 run. Those three have led the way, while Evan Bouchard has filled a role nicely. Kris Russell has returned and been solid. The entire D corps has been good for weeks.
The Oilers will recall Theodor Lennstrom from the American League. They want nine D-men on the roster/taxi-squad in case of injuries. If this was a normal year and there wasn’t a two-week quarantine to get Lennstrom up and running they wouldn’t have recalled him, but because of the quarantine timeline they will recall him today so he is eligible in two weeks.
Lennstrom isn’t a young kid. He is 26 years of age with and has played eight seasons of pro hockey in Sweden. Ken Holland made it a priority to have defenceman with experience, and the signings of Tyson Barrie, Koekkoek and Lennstrom are paying off.
And the injuries aren’t just at the NHL level.
Dmitri Samorukov suffered a shoulder injury in practice a few weeks ago and his season is over. The Oilers medical staff, management and Samorukov’s team had a conference call to discuss his options. They will decide if surgery is needed. It seems likely. Samorukov was having a great year in the KHL, and the plan was for him to come and play in the American League when his KHL season was over.
It would have given him a great opportunity to get used to the North American game, at the pro level, but that will have to wait until next October. The Oilers are very high on him, and he, along with Philip Broberg, represent two more really good defensive prospects for the Oilers. Their pipeline for the future looks good.
The Oilers will enjoy a well-earned day off today, before preparing for two games in Vancouver, and Holland can rest a bit easier because his accumulation of NHL defenceman has allowed him the benefit of not having to scramble for options today, or recall and inexperienced young defender.
Depth is vital, and for the first time in over a decade the Oilers have a plethora of NHL caliber defencemen.