What is the Oilers’ current status at all positions? The finalization of Oklahoma’s roster gives us some clues as to where the various depth players stand. After the jump, my take on the Oilers’ depth chart in all positions.
Players are ranked by expected NHL ice-time per game.
1. Taylor Hall. Duh.
2. Ryan Smyth. Thanks to play in multiple situations, my expectation is that the veteran gets more minutes than the next guy on the list.
3. Nail Yakupov. Dynamic first overall pick is a natural right wing expected to start on the left side in Edmonton.
4. Ben Eager. Tough fourth-liner is a legitimate NHL player.
5. Magnus Paajarvi. Despite his fall from grace last season, Paajarvi’s the guy in this slot. He’s starting the year with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle in Oklahoma, and could easily find himself in the number two role on the NHL team if he plays well (with Smyth at 3 and Yakupov at right wing).
6. Lennart Petrell. Utility player can line up anywhere at forward and will likely be on the NHL roster despite modest skill level. Having a nice goal-scoring run in Finland, with five goals in six games.
7. Teemu Hartikainen. Slow start appears to be costing him again, as he may begin Oklahoma’s season on the third line.
8. Curtis Hamilton. He’s been usurped by Ryan Martindale in training camp but based on last year probably still deserves to be ranked here.
9. Antti Tyrvainen. Energy player was injured in the pre-season, and while unlikely to have an NHL career could probably move on to a fourth line immediately for at least a short stint.
10. Philippe Cornet. After a great goal-scoring outburst a year ago and an NHL recall, Cornet was cut out of training camp and is now in the ECHL. He’s in the final year of his entry-level deal and needs to make a splash right now if he’s to earn another NHL contract.
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Nugent-Hopkins averaged roughly 2:00 less than Edmonton’s top center last year (Shawn Horcoff) but with a reduction in Horcoff’s role and more time on the power play and at evens, Nugent-Hopkins should be Edmonton’s top center this season.
2. Shawn Horcoff. At even-strength, expect Horcoff to take on a third line role, but he will be killing penalties and unless he’s completely bumped off the power play this is probably where he slots in.
3. Sam Gagner. Gagner actually led Oilers centers in even-strength TOI last year, but due to a lack of penalty-killing work will probably fit third in total ice-time in 2012-13.
4. Eric Belanger. Belanger started last season on the second line (Gagner was hurt) but there’s little doubt of where he starts now.
5. Anton Lander. Made the team out of camp last year but wasn’t ready for it; he’s a good call-up option.
6. Chris VandeVelde. VandeVelde has 17 NHL games under his belt and is a minor-league defensive specialist; he’s good for a cup of coffee if needed.
7. Ryan Martindale. Left for dead in the ECHL a year ago, he’s had a great camp and should start the year on Oklahoma’s second line. Could revive his career prospects in a hurry with a good season. I originally listed Martindale on the left side; he’s actually playing center and Josh Green – on an AHL contract – has been moved out of the middle. Sorry for the error. JW
8. Tanner House. Defensive forward is unlikely to get an NHL call-up.
1. Jordan Eberle. Average one second per game less than Ales Hemsky last year and will almost certainly eclipse him in ice-time in 2012-13.
2. Ales Hemsky. Competent first line player will take a supporting role for the first time since his early NHL seasons – something that’s probably just as well, given his injury track record of the last few seasons.
3. Ryan Jones. He probably shouldn’t get another shot with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle, but barring a return of Yakupov to the right side he should start the year in the top-nine.
4. Darcy Hordichuk. Enforcer.
5. Tyler Pitlick. Pitlick’s getting a push from the OKC coaching staff, and his physical game means that he will likely get some NHL ice-time in 2012-13 – as long as he can stay on a scoring line in the minors.
6. Dane Byers. Veteran minor-leaguer adds physical punch and decent scoring; he has 14 NHL games on his career.
7. Mark Arcobello. Diminutive scorer can also play center. He probably won’t get an AHL call-up but he did lead the Barons in post-season scoring last year and finished second during the season.
8. Kristians Pelss. Surprised by getting an entry-level contract, and then again by winning a job on the AHL team in camp. Lacks offence but plays well in other areas.
9. Cameron Abney. Backup enforcer.
10. Toni Rajala. Another small scoring line forward; despite his skill level the bulk of his career is almost certainly going to be in Europe.
1. Ladislav Smid. Tough defenceman has established himself as a legitimate shutdown guy.
2. Nick Schultz. Veteran rearguard plays a safe, stay at home game.
3. Andy Sutton. Massive defenceman wasn’t an everyday player last year and probably won’t be this year, but he’s tough and has surprising puck skills.
4. Theo Peckham. Needs a bounce-back season.
5. Martin Marincin. 6’4” Slovakian is a first-year professional but might get a call-up.
6. Brandon Davidson. Davidson has decent size and has improved along the way; he’s still an NHL longshot but this season represents an opportunity to establish himself as a legitimate prospect before other prospects turn pro/come to North America.
7. David Musil. If Musil weren’t still in junior, I’d slot him in front of Marincin. The Oilers have the option to recall him when the lockout ends, but it’s more likely he won’t turn professional until next season. If that happens, he’s a possible emergency call-up (like Sebastien Bisaillon a few years back) but that’s an unlikely scenario.
8. Oscar Klefbom. If he were in North America this season and the NHL was in session, he might be as high as the #3 spot on the list. He’ll likely jump directly from the SEL to NHL next season. For this year, though, he’s out of the Oilers’ reach.
1. Jeff Petry. Found chemistry on the top-pairing late last season with Ladislav Smid.
2. Ryan Whitney. If he’s a fully armed and operational defenceman this year, he’s probably going to lead the Oilers’ D in total ice-time. For now, I’m only counting on him as a top-four, rather than top-pairing, defenceman.
3. Justin Schultz. One of the ways that the lockout is a blessing in disguise is for this young player. This way, he gets to start his professional career in the AHL rather than jumping directly to the majors.
4. Corey Potter. Utility defenceman seems like a stop-gap until the younger prospects can take over.
5. Colten Teubert. Tough, stay at home rearguard was out of his depth in 24 NHL games last season.
6. Alex Plante. Big defenceman isn’t anything particularly special, but he can play NHL minutes in a pinch if needed.
7. Taylor Fedun. Something of a wildcard. He had a great pre-season last year, with the possibility of making the Oilers, before he spent a year on the shelf. He could be ahead of Potter by the end of the season but for now caution is a good idea.
1. Devan Dubnyk. Much more secure in the starter’s role today than he was one year ago.
2. Nikolai Khabibulin. This might end up being his final NHL season.
3. Yann Danis. The AHL’s reigning goalie of the year compares favourably to any #3 in the league; perhaps even favourably to Khabibulin, depending on the observer.
4. Olivier Roy. He’ll split AHL minutes with Danis this season after a solid professional debut, but he needs to keep up his strong play.
5. Tyler Bunz. Bunz inherits Roy’s job in the ECHL; the next few years will tell us which if the two figures more prominently in the Oilers’ long-term plans.
Mileage may vary, but that’s how I see the depth chart at present.