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-4. Russell’s performance that year was enough to get him some cred in the Oilers organization. This past season in training camp, he earned a spot by showing himself to be a fully trustworthy defensive hockey players — and coach Dave Tippett likes that kind of player. Russell did nothing on defence all year to diminish the coach’s trust in him. He gave fanatical effort every shift, went up and down his wing in swift and aggressive fashion, stayed on the right side of his check at almost all times, and chipped in on the odd scoring chances. His underlying numbers on Grade A scoring chances were middle of the pack for Oilers wingers.
-5. Russell chipped on the lowest number of goals per game of any Oilers winger not named Markus Granlund, making a major contribution to just five goals in 476 even strength minutes. But he made a major mistake on just four goals against. That’s not a good ratio for a winger. You would like to see about a two plus-to-one minus ratio on even strength goals. But when it came to his plus-minus on Grade A scoring chances, a more significant underlying number, he was better. He made more contributions to 40 Grade A chances and mistakes on just 13 against. He, Joakim Nygard and the Alex Chiasson were the stingiest Oilers wingers on the defensive side, the least likely to make a major mistake leading to a scoring chance against. And that, more than anything else, is why Russell is back this year. He won’t hurt you, he’ll chip in with some grit and enthusiasm on the ice, and with any kind of luck, he’ll put up 7 or 8 goals and 15 or so points if he plays 60 games on the fourth line.
-6. Russell was used in his 45 games for 31 minutes on the penalty kill. I expect he’ll get much more time in that role this year, especially if one or two regular penalty killers are moved out.
-7. Russell is doing it a hard way, but he keeps chugging along. He signed a two-year ELC coming out of college, but has earned new one-year deals three years in a row from the Oilers. He’s forever got to keep earning his keep, proving his value. He’s forever on try-out. But aren’t we all in this life, if you know what I mean? He’s a workaday, every man player, so I find it hard not to pull for the guy.