As the Edmonton Oilers get closer to training camp, many are curious as to how the lineup will change with the start of the 2017-18 campaign.
With the departure of Jordan Eberle this offseason, the Oilers will have to improvise when it comes to depth on the right wing. Considering Leon Draisaitl’s success on the top line playing alongside Connor McDavid, many believe that he should stay on the wing.
However, General Manager Peter Chiarelli told the media that the German forward may very well start the season down the middle.
“…I’ve told Todd [about praise for Draisaitl at centre] but he has license to play Leon where he sees fit,” Chiarelli told The Edmonton Journal. “My guess is he’ll start in the middle. Leon’s used to moving around. It gives a team a bump when needed.”
Splitting Connor and Leon
Draisaitl has shown a lot of ability with McDavid. The two were the NHL’s deadliest duo with a combined 177 points through 82 games. Not only that, both played a huge role in each other’s point shares, and seem to have great chemistry together.
Despite the fact that both of them benefit from being on the ice together, it may be wiser to keep them apart to start the year. First off, this will create more depth down the middle, and will also allow both of them to excel independently. This also gives Draisaitl a chance to prove his worth, especially after signing a long-term, multi-million dollar contract this offseason that will pay him around $8.5 million per year.
If the 21-year-old gets to centre his own line, he will show that he doesn’t need to rely on anyone to succeed and can carry his own line. Without McDavid in the playoffs, he posted an outstanding six goals and 16 points in 13 postseason games, and was by far the Oilers’ top player. He has shown the damage he can do on his own line, and he should be given that opportunity again this year.
Not only that, but with Draisaitl on his own line, players like Milan Lucic and even Jesse Puljujarvi could reap the benefits from playing with him. The production would not be limited to just the third line, and the Oilers would see more output on the top six.
In the end, though the McDavid-Draisaitl duo is the top combination in the NHL, it is more beneficial for the Oilers to let them carry their own respective lines.