Edmonton Oilers: Forward Line Up

With August almost over and September around the corner, there will finally be some hockey action. A recent hot topic has been projecting the Edmonton Oilers Line up, which is always good for a debate.

Today I am giving my opinion on what MY line up looks like and is just my personal opinion. With certain spots, there is some definite battles for positions. Today I will discuss the Forwards.

The Forwards

Line One: PouliotNugent-HopkinsEberle

This one is a really easy one for me to decide on. The first line was our best line in our abysmal season and I thought Pouliot really clicked with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle. Pouliot was on pace for a great season and played well enough to make David Perron expendable. Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle have always meshed well together and Pouliot is that big body that boosts possession. Pouliot was on pace for almost 50 points (just shy, with projection of 48 points over 82 games). If he stays healthy, I do not see why he could not hit at least 45 points. Nugent-Hopkins is becoming a two-way beast. Eberle is “only” a 60 point winger, which seems to be a point often overlooked.

Line Two: HallMcDavidPurcell

Hall and McDavid: No brainer. They’ve shown some chemistry during a hockey summer camp, granted is a small sample size, but those two make the most sense to play together. The sky is the limit with those two. However, the question becomes: who plays on the right side with two speedsters: Purcell or Yakupov? I give Purcell the slight edge.

Case for Purcell: My biggest concern: who is going to play defence on that line? Hall is not known for his two way game. McDavid, no matter how good he will be, is still only an 18 year old rookie. Purcell, even though he had a whopping 34 points last season, at least brings some defensive responsibility to the line. I’m not saying he’s Jere Lethenen 2.0, but he brings a different element compared to Yakupov.

Case Against Purcell: Speed. Purcell is not the fastest skater and I do fear that he will not be able to keep up with Hall and McDavid. Another factor against Purcell is his size, or how he does not seem to use it. He’s not a physical player. He’s big but does not use it to the fullest extent.

Case for Yakupov: Has there been a player who has toiled the most under former head coach Dallas Eakins? The numbers of pre and post Eakins are pretty damning and if there is one player that could be the true wildcard under Todd McLellen it’s Nail Yakupov. His play under Nelson resulted in slightly less possession numbers but better scoring. I’ll take the scoring. Enough with trying to make Yakupov into something he’s not. Let him fly!

Case Against Yakupov: The biggest reason about Yakupov not playing with Hall or McDavid is the chance that the puck will be stuck in our end more often than not. I love Yakupov, I love his intensity but someone needs to be defensively responsible on the line and I’m not sure if Yakupov is the strongest candidate.

Regardless of Purcell or Yakupov, I think that spot could be alternating. That said, I would not be surprised if it were Purcell starting over Yakupov.

Line Three: KorpikoskiLanderYakupov 

I actually really like this line. I think Lander had a breakout season last year where he showed he could play in the NHL. Korpikoski is a bit of an unknown, thanks to playing in Arizona, but he did not have a good season at all in 2014-15. When Korpikoski is on his game, he could be that flexible bottom six option that could play on either wing. He’s a bottom six speed demon that won’t cheat for offense and seems dedicated to get his game back on track . Yakupov can be the featured guy here playing with responsible two way forwards on offense.

Line Four: HendricksLetestuPakarinen 

The Wagon Line 2.0. Letestu replaces the departed Boyd Gordon and adds more of an offensive punch. I can see Letestu and Lander rotating spots in the bottom six. Hendricks is well known in Edmonton for his work ethic and scrappy play style. However, it’s Iiro Pakarinen who I think will get the RW spot on the fourth line. I thought he was solid during his time in Edmonton and it was unfortunate his time ended early due to injury.

The Extras: Gazdic, Klinkhammer, Pitlick, Draisaitl 

Despite Gazdic working hard on becoming lighter and faster, I’ve written previously that I think he’s the odd man out . Klinkhammer is the perfect 13th forward being able to fit in on the fourth line and Tyler Pitlick is interesting. A young player who has been battling injuries practically every year, that fourth line RW spot is between him and Pakarinen.

I did not even include Draisaitl as I think he starts in the AHL. However, if he does make the team (which is a probable chance) and with talk of him playing on the wing, I would not be shocked if he ended up on the third LW spot. I think that’s a good problem to have: competition and some depth.

Conclusion

Sure, there could be some more variety in the top six (IE wingers with size) but there are some pieces. The top two lines should be very exciting, especially with the arrival of McDavid (it still does not register of how special of a player we have here in Edmonton. Combined with Todd McLellen it should be some very interesting times in Edmonton. Just want to see some meaningful hockey in November.