So, I’m sitting on my deck in the 32 Degree heat, when it hits me:
There are, really, only two roster positions open on the Oilers this year. That whole thing about “finally, competition for Oilers roster spots”? That’s (mostly) a pile of crap:
The first line, now that the club actually has the resources to ice more than one scoring line, should be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, flanked by Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. This is Dallas Eakins’ “French Connection”, and he should resist screwing with it.
The second line should be Mark Arcobello, centering David Perron and Teddy Purcell. The Oilers will protect both Nail Yakupov and Leon Draisaitl. Arcobello is a responsible pivot who can distribute the puck. Perron is a possession winger who can score, and Purcell can find the back of the net, too.
Wait…isn’t Anton Lander a candidate for that job? In theory, sure, but Craig MacTavish and Dallas Eakins know what I know: Lander is a very good AHL player. Arcobello is a ½ cut above him. Should have the Oilers acquired a 2C? Yes. But they didn’t. This is what they have.
The “3rd Line”, receiving sheltered minutes and favorable zone starts, is Draisaitl centering Yakupov and Benoit Pouliot. I’m not only convinced that Draisaitl is a lock, my theory is that he and Yakupov are rooming together this summer not by accident: They will be line-mates.
The big, possession-geared Draisaitl has a reputation for seeing the ice remarkably well and deftly distributing the puck. Yakupov is a killer left-handed shot receiving Draisaitl’s dishes, on the half-wall or in the slot. You put them with Pouliot who is a responsible, veteran, possession-first forward.
Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks will patrol the “4th Line”, but receive 3rd line minutes, or more, depending on who they are playing and what the score is. Here, there’s competition. Don’t kid yourself, Luke Gazdic will make the team, and play on this line.
But the 13th forward will spell him off, be it Tyler Pitlick (if he’s healthy), Steve Pinizzotto (if he isn’t), or Mitch Moroz (long shot). In a tight game, Draisaitl-Yakupov will sit and Pouliot will skate with Gordon & Hendricks.
It’ll take a big upset, or an injury, for a set of players other than the ones listed above to start the season. With all due respect to those writing profiles of the guys signed to the OKC Barons, save yourself some time…they are not playing for the Oilers this season so long as the playoffs are in sight at all.
So the only other race is on the blue line. More on that in my next column.
Hmmm. Still hot. Beer fridge, you’re calling my name.