After today’s trade of Sam Gagner, the Edmonton Oilers are down to two real, NHL centres. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the only sure thing at centre for the team right now, along with bottom six faceoff grinder Boyd Gordon. Sure, Anton Lander has played a whack of games at the NHL level, as has Mark Arcobello; those players are far from locks at centre in the bottom six, so expectations are high that Craig MacTavish is going to make a big push for an experienced centre.
Friday night saw the drafting of Leon Draisaitl, the Prince Albert Raider who scorched the score sheet with 105 points in his last season. There is much division as to whether he gets sent to the WHL for another year or whether he slots in right away. Only training camp can tell the tale to be told. On paper, he looks like the real deal and may very well be ready to take the leap to the big leagues.
The downside of sending Draisaitl back to Prince Albert is that he will be playing against weaker competition. Ideally, it would have been good to send him down to Oklahoma City, but, of course, his WHL contract and young age preclude that from happening. The point is that he just may not be ready, and if he isn’t the Oilers need depth down the middle to compensate for this eventuality.
With free agency dawning there are a few names that Craig MacTavish will be focusing on:
The above players are guys that MacT will be making calls about. All of them could feasibly play top 9 minutes without argument, especially Statsny, Grabovski and Legwand. Boyle is an interesting target, with a hulking 6’7 frame. Regardless, it would not be a surprise to see one of these players in an Oilers jersey come fall.
Below are a couple of scenarios for line combos for this season, based on a successful free agent signing or two on July 1.
Hall- RNH – Eberle
Perron- Statsny – Purcell
Morrow- Draisaitl – Yakupov
Hendricks – Gordon – Pinizzotto
Lander, Gazdic, Arcobello – EXTRA FORWARDS
Hall – RNH – Eberle
Perron – Draisaitl – Purcell
Kulemin – Grabovski – Yakupov
Hendricks – Gordon – Gazdic
Arcobello, Lander, Pitlick – EXTRA FORWARDS
It’s going to be interesting over the next couple of days. Oil on Whyte will be doing target profiles tomorrow, including Grabovski, Kulemin along with a couple of d-men that the team is after. The Oilers may make a big splash or they may just be a drop in the bucket. Let us know your ideal line up below! (For the record, I would love to see option 2 come to pass.)