The Edmonton Oilers were fortunate enough to get their hands on Drake Caggiula, arguably one of the NCAA’s top free agents of 2016. Though he had a decent rookie campaign, he is ready for a breakout season as he enters his sophomore year with the team.
Due to injury, Caggiula only played in 60 games during the regular season, finishing with seven goals and 18 points, as well as 97 shots on goal.
In addition to putting up solid bottom-six numbers, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward also proved his worth as a solid two-way player. Caggiula racked up 97 hits and had 22 takeaways for just 25 giveaways this season, and played a strong 200-foot game.
As he entered the postseason, Caggiula stepped up and proved his worth. He had three goals through 13 playoff games, and he put a lot of effort in on the forecheck.
His hard work earned him time on the top six and with the first line, and Caggiula made the most of it to end the year. With a strong ending to his first NHL campaign, there are only good things to come for the 23-year-old moving forward.
Breakout Year for Caggiula?
Coming into this season, the Oilers will be expecting more from their young players, and keeping a close eye on Caggiula. And, given his versatility and skill-set, he has a lot to offer.
He is able to play the centre or wing, and not only does he have great speed and skating ability, but he makes smart plays and possesses a strong shot. In addition, he has good hockey sense and can communicate well with his linemates.
With Caggiula adapting more to the NHL scene and being more comfortable with the team this year, he will be able to add more to the lineup and do more on the forecheck. He knows his role on the ice and can adapt to be any player his team needs him to. Plus, it helps to know that there is a lot of flexibility when it comes to Caggiula’s role with the team.
For instance, with Leon Draisaitl possibly ready to centre the second line, and with Nugent-Hopkins’ production dipping, the Oilers have an open spot on the first line wing. Caggiula played well with Connor McDavid and Patrick Maroon in the playoffs, and it’s not far-fetched to consider him a candidate for that role.
The Ryan Nugent-Hopkins situation also provides more space for Caggiula to step up. With him struggling to put up top-six numbers and to live up to his role as a second-line centre, he could make a switch to the wing instead of facing a demotion to the third line. With this scenario, Caggiula could take over his role as the third-line centre, leading the charge on the bottom-six.
In addition, if the Oilers eventually had to trade Nugent-Hopkins to clear cap space, and give him a change in scenery, Caggiula would fill his void. So, in the end, the Oilers would clear cap space, but not lose too much depth.
Overall, there are many roles that Caggiula can fill and a lot for him to prove as he enters year two with Edmonton. Not to mention, there are many hats he can wear next year, too.