The Edmonton Oilers signed defenceman Yohann Auvitu to a one-year contract earlier this offseason. Though this transaction was likely a depth signing, can Auvitu really add anything to the lineup?
Auvitu played his first NHL season this past year, suiting up for 25 games with the New Jersey Devils. He recorded two goals and four points, as well as 20 hits and nine blocks, and he was a plus-1.
However, his biggest asset came with his solid play on the backend. He surrendered just 13 giveaways and took great care of the puck with the Devils. His relative Corsi sits at a 7.0, which is sensational for a player of his calibre. When he is on the ice, his team is likely in control and surrender less shots.
With the puck, the 28-year-old has a lot of skill. He has a lot of puck-moving potential and is outstanding at taking care of the puck and stickhandling. His overall ability makes him an asset on special teams and in all three zones.
When it comes to his weaknesses, the 5-foot-11, 191-pound blueliner is a bit smaller and is not as physical as he can be. Not only that, he needs to work on his play without the puck.
Still, he shows great stickhandling ability and skill, and is a great asset for the Oilers to have. In fact, he could fit in well with their current blue line.
Where Auvitu Fits In
Looking at the Oilers defence corps, there may be a spot for Auvitu to draw into action this season. Andrej Sekera is expected to miss significant time with a leg injury, meaning that the Oilers need someone to fill his void on the top four. They will likely rely on Kris Russell to step up and ake on his role on the left side. Without Sekera, Edmonton’s defence will look something like this to start the year.
Oscar Klefbom-Adam Larsson
Kris Russell-Matthew Benning
There is one more spot left on the Oilers blue line if Kris Russell takes on Sekera’s top-four role. This is where Auvitu draws in. Though he is a left-handed blueliner, he is a versatile player who can play either side. Therefore, he could push to make the bottom-pairing on the right side but would have to compete with Eric Gryba for that spot.
Another possibility is that the Oilers keep Russell on the right side, and leave the second-pairing left-hand spot open. That could allow for Darnell Nurse to earn a promotion to the top four, or for Auvitu to make a run for this position.
If Nurse were to move up, due to his experience and time with Edmonton, Auvitu could fit well on the bottom pairing with Benning. First off, he could pair well with Benning, who is also a puck-moving defenceman and could help him further grow his offensive game. They would also have great chemistry, due to their ability when it comes to playing the puck.
However, it’s possible that Auvitu could better compliment Russell, who is more of a stay-at-home defenceman and needs an offensive blueliner on his pairing. Not only that, with Russell’s poor analytics, Auvitu could help pick up the slack when it comes to maintaining possession of the puck.
Overall, Auvitu is an all-around blueliner who would add a lot to the team and deserves consideration for an NHL gig while Sekera is out.