The Oilers now have a formidable top 6, minus the presence of a proven centre on the second line. Regardless, the team possesses one of the finest collections of wingers in the Western Conference. Let’s have a look at how the top 6 should fare this year, in my humble estimation.
Hall is a lock for 80 points should he stay healthy. The Oilers best producer since Doug Weight, he will embrace his hockey role as a two way forward in fullness this year. Some minor systems changes may occur by way of new coach Craig Ramsay, but he will get better, setting the bar for every other player on the team.
Eberle continues to be one of Edmonton’s strongest players. He can be counted on for at least 25 goals and remains the team’s most creative forward. Although his dekes and bobs on the ice can fool even the best goalie, he sometimes turns them into giveaways or broken plays. I expect a more engaged, careful defensive game. He will score fewer goals, but I see him being a playmaker more often.
The Nuge is now further removed injury, has more NHL seasoning, and is gaining strength over the summer. It’s tough to predict how much more he will produce, but he should see better numbers this year. He has a wicked pass that will be used to push the second line, as well. His improved sense will result in big seasons for David Perron and Nail Yakupov.
The crown jewel in Craig MacTavish‘s time so far as GM, the Perron acquisition has proven to be as brilliant as it gets. I don’t really miss Magnus Paajarvi, I must admit. He is snippy, tenacious, and can find hidden corners of the net the goalies are convinced they have covered.
He will find chemistry this year with Benoit Pouliot and Nail Yakupov. I expect the top nine to be quite fluid. He willl move up and down in the top 9 as needed.
Mark Arcobello can pass, he plays tough and he is fast. He is no one’s dream center, but he will thrive. The team will still require size, but he will make it tough for the Oilers to replace him.
The Oilers didn’t sign these big dudes to stare at the other bench between whistles. He will need to hit guys waaaaaay more (only 13 last year), but he is tough to lodge off the puck and scores.
If, and only if, the Oilers stay healthy will we see these numbers. Any injuries or mysterious drops in production could cause a drag on the group.