Last time, I profiled the top 6 and what I felt they would end up with given the ideal circumstances next season. Some may feel, I was a bit generous but there is no reason NOT to believe we should see increases throughout the top 6.
In the bottom six, it’s a new deal. The third line has been thoroughly refurbished and it looks fantastic. Instead of Boyd Gordon (even he would admit he is no offensive dynamo), Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth, the Oilers will likely roll Benoit Pouliot, Leon Draisaitl and Nail Yakupov. That is a major upgrade in size and scoring. Faceoffs will likely drop like a rock, mind you. That’s when Craig MacTavish will sign David Steckel to a bargain contract merely to take faceoffs.
I digress, though.
Here are your predictions for the top 6.
It is my belief Coach Dallas Eakins will slot Pouliot in on the third line. He has a lower average point total in his career, but has still been useful to NHL teams due to his large frame and great puck possession numbers. His linemates are still developing young players, so this season will likely see his point totals stay rather static, barring any breakouts or dramatic improvement in play from Draisaitl and Yakupov.
This one is a bit tougher. He hasn’t played a second in the NHL so there is little frame of reference. However, he wasn’t drafted to be a pylon out there. He is big, kinda physical and scores well. He will need to acclimate to the game, and so his totals will be low–but, only for goals. I think his vision will endure to the NHL level, leading to lots of hook ups for Nail Yakupov.
I have written much in the past about my feelings on Yakupov. He WILL be better this year. No doubt about it. He is working his hiney off to fill the voids in his game, and he will reap the benefits.
Okay, don’t be looking for offense from the fourth line. This is a “defensive specialty unit”. The Oilers are going against the usual formula, and treating this line as its defensively minded forward group. They aren’t and will never be known for huge boxcars, but they are for their faceoff acumen, tough defensive play and leadership. Hendricks will see a small uptick being on a more offensive team, but not too much.
Boyd Gordon ended up being one of the best signings last year. He was wicked on the dot, fought for the puck and helped draw play out of the defensive zone. He should defintely not look at his move to the fourth line as any kind of demotion. In fact, I think that we will see this line play 10 to 13 minutes a night, helping to shelter the rawer third line, and balancing ice time to keep players fresh.
Seeing as he was signed to a two year, 1.6 million dollar contract, he will be on the fourth line. He is likely to share time with a forward from the farm like Tyler Pitlick or Steve Pinizotto. He is there to scare the competition white as sheets, and be physical. If he gets better with the puck, that’s gravy.