Something about the 60s doesn’t quite compute with most Edmonton Oilers players.
This is the section of numbers with the largest number of vacancies in the entire series, which is honestly surprising. When I first started this series I automatically assumed that the area with the most vacancies would probably be somewhere in the 80s. There is something weird about #80 on the back of jersey. Yet, lo and behold, it’s the 60s that get that special honour.
It’s not all empty though, far from it. Today’s list will include a player who gave Edmonton it’s first playoff berth in over a decade, a first-overall selection, and a player who has been in the headlines as early as last week.
We go all over the place today, let’s check it out…
#61 – (Vacant)
We start today’s list with bang!
Yup, not one NHL player ever wore the #61 with the Edmonton Oilers. The team did have to deal with a particularly annoying player with this number in last year’s playoffs, however.
#62 – Eric Gryba
They don’t quite build them like Eric Gryba nowadays.
One of Peter Chiarelli’s first acquisitions as GM, Gryba came to Edmonton through a trade with the Ottawa Senators on day two of the 2015 NHL Draft. He wasn’t a sexy add by any means and was brought in purely for his shutdown style and hulking 6’4″ frame.
He more or less did exactly what he needed to do. He was a serviceable bottom-pair defender during his tenure with the Oilers and was eventually bought out of the last year of his deal in 2018.
A fun piece of trivia with Gryba was that he scored the game-winning goal in a 2017 win over L.A. that sent Edmonton to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
#63 – Tyler Ennis
There is a lot of love for Ennis in these parts, despite his rather short stay.
An Edmonton boy, Ennis spent the bulk of career playing with the Buffalo Sabres before bouncing around near the end of his NHL tenure. Edmonton was the shortest stop, playing in just 39 games, after coming over in a deadline trade from the Ottawa Senators in 2020. He was another victim of the pandemic pause that may have stunted his growth with the team.
In those games he looked good in a bottom-six role and allowed the team to have a skill player further down the lineup. The production left a bit more to be desired, with just 13 points, but he looked decent.
Unfortunately he couldn’t quite hold onto a regular spot with Dave Tippett at the helm. Ennis was left unsigned at the end of the 2020–21 season where he returned to Ottawa before heading overseas.
#64 – Nail Yakupov
What could have been.
Nail Yakupov was that first overall selection for the Oilers that just didn’t pan out at all. He looked good early on, leading all rookies in scoring during the lockout-shortened 201–-13 season with 39 points in 48 games.
By all accounts, Yakupov came as advertised. He was a dynamic and electric goalscorer who lacked much hockey sense without the puck. Things started to quickly fall off in his sophomore year, however, as his point totals tanked and his presence on the ice started to become less noticeable.
He eventually fell down the roster and, after a brief and somewhat encouraging stint along side a rookie Connor McDavid, the Oilers decided to cut their losses and traded Yakupov to the St. Louis Blues.
It wasn’t long after that until Yakupov left the league entirely to pursue a career in the KHL.
One wonders what the Oilers could have been if Yakupov lived up to his first-overall billing.
#65 – Mark Napier
Even the 80s Oilers needed a bit of help down the lineup, which is where Mark Napier came in handy.
Napier came to Edmonton in 1985 after spending some high-scoring seasons, including two 40-goal campaigns, with the Montreal Canadiens in the early 80s. He was never going to be able to crack a loaded top-six full of future Hall of Famers, but he ended being a perfect fit as a support.
His first season saw him notch 35 points in half a season with Edmonton, and an additional 10 in the playoffs en route to a Stanley Cup victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Napier appeared in 175 games as an Oilers and scored 112 points in the process which is more than respectable in a support role. Edmonton eventually traded him and Lee Fogolin to the Buffalo Sabres in 1987.
#66 – (Vacant)
Ah yes, unfortunately there have been no Mario Lemieux copycats in the history of the Edmonton Oilers.
The number has gained a bit of a pseudo-retirement across the league lately with no active player in the league wearing it. The last time it was worn was by Joshua Ho-Sang of the New York Islanders in 2018.
Don’t bet on an Oiler bucking this trend anytime soon.
#67 – Benoit Pouliot
Benoit Pouliot was a classic example of signing a pretty good player to a bad contract.
The Oilers decided in the summer of 2014 to target Pouliot to help add some depth scoring. With free agency being the pinnacle of the silly season, Craig MacTavish decided to posy up with a five-year deal worth an AAV of $4 million.
Pouliot was a decent player for the club and put up some of his best seasons as an Oiler. He scored 70 points over his first two seasons before he fell off a cliff in year three of the contract, putting up 14 points in 67 games.
With the team looking to shed cap, they decided to buyout the final two years of Pouliot’s contract in 2017. They targeted the right player but gave him the wrong contract.
#68 – Tyler Pitlick
Before Tyler Pitlick became one of the league’s many journeymen, he was drafted and developed by the Edmonton Oilers.
Drafted 31st overall by the club back in 2010, Pitlick spent six seasons with the organization bouncing between the AHL and NHL. He was able to appear in 58 games with the Oilers during that span, showing off a decent mix of speed and physical play. The production wasn’t there, however, with just 14 points during his entire time with Edmonton.
He eventually was left unsigned in 2017 and has gone on to play for the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, Arizona Coyotes, and St. Louis Blues.
#69 – (Vacant)
#70 – Ryan McLeod
A very popular man in Edmonton at the moment.
Though he may be more well-known for his current 71, Ryan McLeod wore 70 during the 2020–21 season.
A second-round draft choice from Edmonton in 2018, Mcleod has been developing into a very useful two-way centreman for the Edmonton Oilers. He spent two seasons in Bakersfield before finding a consistent spot on the club starting in 2021–22.
While he has yet to blow the socks off anyone with his point totals, 45 points in 138 games, there has been noticeable growth in how he impacts the game at both ends of the ice. He stepped into a third-line role last season and the hope is that he can continue to develop into the team’s longtime 3C between Warren Foegele and potentially Dylan Holloway.
There were some nerves around his contract for the upcoming season, but it was resolved with a two-year deal worth an AAV of $2.1 million.