Who Will Provide The Toughness For The Oilers This Season?

Edmonton Oilers Evander Kane attempts to fight after whistle. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Edmonton Oilers Evander Kane attempts to fight after whistle. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

One thing I have heard ever since the Edmonton Oilers traded Zack Kassian is, who will bring the grit for this team?

As much as Kassian brought toughness he did not contribute much else on a regular basis. Yes he would bring some grit and toughness to the Oilers line up, but he played 4th line minutes so he couldn’t really effect the outcome of a game.

In Kassian’s contract year he was playing on the first line most of the time. When he was playing with skilled players he was able to get the minutes to change the game. In his las couple years here his skill declined and he didn’t get much ice time.

As the team got more skilled the need for toughness has remained, but it needs to now be a skilled player that brings the toughness. Also toughness in todays NHL isn’t the same as it once was. It’s not about dropping the gloves and fighting anymore.

The toughness teams look for now is tough to play against not just physically tough. If you have both that’s a bonus, but being strong on the puck is more important than being tough on the body. The Edmonton Oilers have several players who fit this role.

Evander Kane

Kane is prime example of a player who has skill and toughness. As soon as he signed with this team last season the whole demeanour changed. The team went from really struggling in December and January to building momentum to go on a long playoff run.

I believe the addition of Kane was a big part of how this team turned things around. His ability to play the body opened up room on the ice from Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, depending on whose line he was on.

The way he can change a game or even a series was the most noticeable for me in Calgary Flames series. In game the Calgary Flames first line lit the Edmonton Oilers up. After that game they put Kane on that line and after that the Flames first line barely produced.

Jesse Puljujarvi

Puljujarvi is an underrated player in the toughness aspect for me. Every year he comes in with a bigger and bigger chip on his shoulder with something to prove. This year may be the biggest yet since this offseason there were endless trade rumours around him.

For me Puljujarvi’s toughness on the puck is one of the main reasons that he seems to always be on one of the top two lines. He is great at taking the puck away on the forecheck and when he doesn’t he will at least usually disturb something.

These distributions usually lead to a turnover for the Oilers or a give away from the opposition. When Puljujarvi is on the ice he seems to run around with some sort of organized chaos. That chaos is one of the reasons why I think will add some toughness,

Zach Hyman

After playing only one season with the Edmonton Oilers, Zach Hyman has found himself a fan favourite. His ability to seemingly never give the puck away is a skill set that I didn’t even know existed.

Watching him battle on the boards in the offensive end against 3 opponents, get knocked down, then getting up and skating out with the puck is amazing to watch. Not to mention his relentlessness to bang in rebounds.

Of the players listed above I think that Hyman is the only player that has the ability to drive his own line. In the post season when Draisaitl and McDavid were on the same line Hyman was to me the main driver on the second line.

The way he plays has positive affect on his teammates as well. When you see your fellow teammate out there working that hard it should almost make you feel guilty. If Hyman is trying that hard maybe I should too type of attitude.

I don’t think the Edmonton Oilers toughness is an issue, but it could be improved.

While I don’t think that the Edmonton Oilers toughness is going to change how their season turns out, I wouldn’t be upset if they were to bring in another skilled tougher player.

The good news is that the Edmonton Oilers have shown interest in former Vancouver Canuck Jake Virtanen. The former 6th overall draft pick would be good look on this team and fit in with skilled yet tough player mould.

There is still some cap problems surrounding the Edmonton Oilers, but if they could bring in Virtanen that would be a nice piece to fill out the depth of this roster.

Next. Are the Oilers defense (already) better than last season?. dark