The Edmonton Oilers are less than a week away from their regular season opener on Oct. 4 against the Calgary Flames. With that comes the looming question of what their opening night roster – as well as their lineup– will look like.
Some of the biggest storylines so far through camp revolve around Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi’s chances of winning roster spots this season. However, at Edmonton’s skate Friday, more questions emerged, including one surrounding Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, per Jack Michaels. And though head coach Todd McLellan told the media they were placed together to showcase other players on other lines without the stars, the question does ring: will they play together this year?
The duo, which led the NHL with a combined 177 points last season, was reunited on the top line Friday, alongside Patrick Maroon. Though this is the first line that proved successful last season, there is some uncertainty as to if McDavid and Drasaitl should be on the same line this season.
Where Draisaitl Fits
First off, it appeared that Draisaitl was ready to take on a second-line centre role this season. Though he managed 29 goals and 77 points alongside McDavid, he shows a lot of potential to carry his own line. Plus, given Jordan Eberle’s departure, the Oilers need to carry their scoring depth past solely the top trio, and having a top playmaker like Draisaitl there would help.
On the other hand, the Oilers have a lot of centre depth, and given their lack of proven scorers on the right side, it may be wise to start Draisaitl at the wing to start the year.
This would mean that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could remain a top-six centre, which would perhaps be less of a waste of his $6 million AAV. Not only that, Ryan Strome has shown ability at centre, and though he’s shown some chemistry with McDavid, his primary position is down the middle. Therefore, he could take on the third-line centre role. And with Mark Letestu on the fourth line, the Oilers appear set on centre to start the year.
In the end, while Draisaitl could add more depth down the middle, he could also fill the void left by Eberle on the right side, and stay in a spot where he’s proven to contribute. Edmonton also has time to experiment and move things around, and nothing is permanent. Still, he should get time to show that he is worth the long-term deal he earned this offseason, preferably without another star complimenting his game.