We have reached the halfway point!
This exercise has been quite a fun one to embark on this offseason. Not only has it given us a chance to look over some fan favourites, but it has been the perfect place to shine a light on some lesser-known players throughout the franchise’s history.
For every Grant Fuhr or Jari Kurri there has been a Jason Smith or Steve Staios to appreciate as well. With that said, today’s edition is following more in the direction of the latter. There aren’t any star players in today’s list, but there are a bunch of interesting names that fans of recent should definitely recognize.
Let’s dive into it!
#51 – Andrei Kovalenko
Andrei Kovalenko didn’t help the Russian hockey player stereotype during his time in Edmonton.
His arrival to the Oilers came through a trade with the Montreal Canadiens in 1996 that saw Scott Thornton moved out of town. A skilled player in his own right, Kovalenko actually had himself a decent 176-game tenure with the Oilers that saw him put up 109 points.
That included the best season of his career, where he scored 32 goals and 59 points in 1996–97. Though he looked very good at times on the ice, much of that was offset by periods where he looked invisible on the ice. A frustrating player, he earned the reputation of being inconsistent despite having evident skill.
This all culminated in a strange actual, off-ice disappearance during a night out in Los Angeles that caused him to miss a plane back to Edmonton. It was an incident that was enough to convince management to ship him off to Philadelphia.
An interesting player who just couldn’t quite keep up with his own skill.
#52 — Patrick Russell
I know a lot of people who thought there was more to Patrick Russell than what he showed.
Undrafted, Russell was signed by the Oilers in May of 2016. He played his first three pro seasons in North America with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL where was actually pretty decent. His final season with the Condors saw him put up a career-high 40 points in 2018–19. It earned him a brief six-game NHL stretch that season that saw him with zero points.
The following season he appeared in 45 games, and while his on-ice analytics were solid, he just could not score. This ultimately cost him a spot as his seven points in 59 points didn’t cut it as a bottom-six forward.
He has since moved to the Swedish league where has become a pretty decent goal-scorer.
#53 – Vacant
None. Zip. Nada.
According to my supreme source (to which I will never reveal) there has never been an Oiler to wear the number 53 in NHL games.
Perhaps this list could serve as motivation for an upcoming prospect to cement his legacy on the team. Only time will tell.
#54 – Jujhar Khaira
Jujhar Khaira was a warrior for this club.
I’ll fully admit there is some bias on my end just because I loved this player growing up. No, not the most skilled guy out there or the most exciting but he put in the work night in and night out.
A third-round selection in 2013 by the team, Khaira enjoyed six seasons with the club, four of which in a full-time role. Injuries prevented him from ever playing a complete season and he was never the highest scorer, with his career high being 21 points in 2017–18.
This didn’t stop him from giving his all on the ice, whether that be grinding along the boards or dropping the gloves.
Those injuries prevented him from keeping pace with an improving hockey team. As the Oilers got more competitive he was pushed down the depth chart until he was eventually let go by the team at the end of his contract. His last season saw a few fairly scary incidents involving multiple head injuries.
There will always be some love for Khaira in these parts.
#55 – Mark Letestu
Mark Letestu was a very cool story for a time in Edmonton.
He first arrived to the Oilers in July of 2015 as a free agent signing. His first season was on-par with his past production, scoring 25 points in a bottom-six role. His second season was where the story got interesting.
He found a niche on the team’s top power play unit and became a finisher with a patented one-timer from the right circle. Letestu only scored 16 goals in the regular season but it sure felt like a lot more. He added another five goals and 11 points in that year’s playoff run, good enough for second on the team ahead of Connor McDavid.
Letestu was a solid veteran presence on a team on the up and provided a great scoring touch in the playoffs. He spent a total of three seasons with Edmonton before being traded at the 2018 deadline.
The French test-tube definitely deserves the #55 spot.
#56 — Kailer Yamamoto
An Oilers no more, Kailer Yamamoto’s time with the Oilers was full of ups and downs.
Yamamoto was drafted 22nd overall by Edmonton in the 2017 draft and was billed as a hard-working offensive player who had a knack for finishing plays. For a time, that seemed true as his first extended look saw him go on a torrid run with 26 points in 27 games in 2019–20.
This was followed by disappointing 21-point campaign in 52 games in 2020–21 and then a career high year that saw Yamamoto hit the 20-goal mark in 2021–22. Alas, like clockwork, he then disappointed again in 2022–23.
This rollercoaster trajectory has been the ire of both fans and management. As unfortunate as it may be, it could just be an issue of size as Yamamoto is often pushed off the puck in offensive drives and unable to properly get to the right places to rack up points. Even then, that scoring touch we saw for a single year seemed to dry up as he whiffed on countless chances last season.
I still think there is a player there; he’s shown flashes of what he’s capable of, but as the team entered a cap-crunch this season, there was no more patience for Yamamoto to hopefully figure it out.
He signed on with his hometown Seattle Kraken this summer, joining a levy of other former Oilers that I have a soft spot for.
#57 – David Perron
Far and beyond the most skilled player on this today’s list is David Perron.
Arriving smack-dab in the middle of the decade of darkness, Perron provided an offensive spark to this team the moment he put on the Oilers jersey.
Though he only spent two seasons with the Oilers, from 2013 to 2015, Perron maybe his presence known with 76 points in 116 games with the club. He was among the team’s best players during that stretch and acted as a good veteran compliment to the young-stars of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
He was an exciting addition to the team in a dark time in history, perhaps one of the best trades in a long time for the team.
Also, he gave me free tickets on Twitter when I was around 13 to 14 years old and I’ll always remember that. I brought my hockey-loving grandmother to her first live game because of Perron. I’ll always remember him for that one.
#58 – Jeff Petry
A player that has been in headlines recently finds himself in on more on today’s list.
Long before Jeff Petry was being traded for Erik Karlsson, he was among the brightest blueliners for the Oilers.
Petry was a second-round draft choice of the Oilers back in 2006. He took his time developing, playing three full seasons with Michigan State before turning pro in 2009–10.
He spent a full season in the AHL before arriving as a full-time NHL player in 2011–12 where he quickly positioned himself as one of the team’s top right-handed defenders. Despite low point totals, he turned out ot be a pretty effective puck-mover on a fairly lousy teams.
Unfortunately, the Oilers would not experience the prime of his career, opting to trade him to Montreal at the 2015 trade deadline for pair of draft picks. It was move that, then GM, Craig MacTavish, says he now regrets the most.
Yet another bright spot during the decade of darkness.
#59 – Brad Hunt
I remember hearing that Brad Hunt had a helluva point shot when he was in Edmonton, but we didn’t get to see much of it.
Hunt was an undrafted player that signed with the Oilers in 2013 and enjoyed parts of three seasons with the big club. Unfortunately, he only managed to appear in 21 games with Edmonton and eventually bounced around before finding a more stable role in Vegas and Minnesota.
He’s actually carved out a decent career as a depth defender, but not much of note occurred in Edmonton.
Nowadays he’s one of those “Of course the former Oiler scored against us” type of players.
#60 – Markus Granlund
Markus Granlund was a short-lived experience for Oilers fans, and not a particularly exciting one.
Every summer has a few of those cheap, short-term signings to fill out the edge of the roster. Granlund was the epitome of that type of move. He was brought in to compete for a fourth line spot and he more or less did just that.
He played a single-season with the Oilers, scoring just four points in 34 games, and then jumped overseas to play in the KHL.
There really isn’t much more to his story than that.