The Oilers Forward Depth Chart


Over the last few days, we’ve looked at the Oilers forward corps, position-by-position, entering the summer. What happens when we put everything together?

The Proposed Roster


Line Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Power-vs.-power Taylor Hall Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
Second toughs David Perron
Sheltered scorers Nail Yakupov
Defensive zone Matt Hendricks Boyd Gordon Mark Arcobello
Spares Luke Gazdic Anton Lander  

We’ve made a series of assumptions to arrive at this suggested roster:

  • Sam Gagner is done as an Oiler. This is debatable – he is still under contract – but his deficiencies are a bad fit for the Oilers and his good points are more needed elsewhere (I keep coming back to Nashville, a team that’s needed more offence since Day 1). If he returns, he’ll likely be on a protected scoring line.
  • Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks are moved to a defensive zone line. This is a bigger assumption, but it’s one that just makes sense to me. A dedicated defensive zone line would ease the load on some of the other forwards, and these guys are built for this kind of work. As for their contracts: big whoop. The Oilers have the cap space to do this, and the ugliness of paying a No. 10 forward $3.0 million pales in comparison to the ugliness of another season of total irrelevance at the team level. Alternatively, the team could keep one (Gordon) or both on the third line.
  • Luke Gazdic will retain a spot in the top-14 forward group. The Oilers value his skillset.
  • I have Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander winning the last two spots on the roster. It doesn’t have to be those two; any of the group of Jesse Joensuu, Tyler Pitlick or Steve Pinizzotto could take those spots without surprising anyone.

Four spots on the list above need to be addressed, but that isn’t as daunting as it sounds.

The Obvious Moves


If Gagner stays, he takes one of those spots. If he goes, the Oilers may get back a lousy contract or a lesser player but the guy coming the other way needs to be a top-nine forward. Colin Wilson’s name has been mentioned since at least February and Josh Bailey since at least April:

Either one would be a decent fit on a second-toughs line with David Perron. It seems reasonable to think that there’s a deal to be made somewhere in the league that would see Gagner swap places with a player of that type; if the Oilers have to add a little or eat some salary on the transaction that’s not an impossible hurdle.

The second spot, in all likelihood, could go to the player the Oilers take third overall in the 2014 Draft. There are three centres available, and one very well might be ready to make the jump. If he isn’t, that’s what Mark Arcobello is for – he filled in very nicely early in 2013-14 and seemed to have nice chemistry with Yakupov. This setup leaves room for a rookie to push his way on to the roster but also allows for the coach to send him back if he isn’t ready.

Mr. Outside Hire

The above still leaves two vacant spots in the rotation – a top-six and top-nine winger (or one winger and one centre, if Gagner brings back a winger instead of a pivot). There are a few teams presumably looking to move salary that might be willing to dump a player for futures (Chris Kelly in Boston is an obvious candidate) but the Oilers could also choose the free agent route to fix those problems. Among the candidates:

  • Marty Havlat – Bound for a buyout thanks to an ugly contract, the Czech winger is a prime bounce-back candidate and shouldn’t come with too hefty a price tag. He has excellent size (6’2”, 210 pounds) and could play on either a sheltered scoring line or a tougher minutes unit.
  • Nikolai Kulemin – He probably won’t score 30 goals again, but he’s a terrific defensive player, he’s big (6’1”, 225 pounds) and before the arrival of Randy Carlyle he was a pretty good scorer too. He’d be a great fit for the Oilers.
  • David Moss – He’s 6’4”, 210 pounds, can score a little but beyond that he’s an exceptional two-way player who would add another (much-needed) defensive presence to Edmonton’s lineup. He could fit in on either of the lines above but might work best in a mentorship role on the Yakupov line.
  • Matt Moulson – He’d be pricey but would look great opposite Perron on the second line; he’s not big but he has okay size (6’1”, 200 pounds) and might not be a hot commodity after a poor playoff.
  • Dustin Penner – I know, I know. There’s no room for a 6’4”, 247 pound two-time Cup winner who scores and keeps his head above water even on terrible teams (he was plus-six on the 2009-10 Oilers). Yadda yadda lazy, yadda yadda unmotivated, yadda yadda MacT hates him, whatever. He’s going to be available dirt cheap and he’d be a bloody good fit for the Oilers’ middle-six. It would be nice if the team would accept that his skillset is a great fit for them and accept what he is rather than what he isn’t.
  • Devin Setoguchi – He might be an under-the-radar selection after a terrible scoring year. He’s not big but he isn’t small either (6’, 205 pounds) and he adds speed.
  • Daniel Winnik – A big, defensive left wing, he could fit as a defensive watchdog on the “third” line.

That’s seven potential fits, without looking at guys like Tomas Kopecky or R.J. Umberger or Viktor Stalberg – poor-ish contracts that their teams may well be looking to unload and who (under the right circumstances) might be decent in Edmonton, too. Every single one of the players above makes the Oilers bigger; more importantly every single one of them makes the Oilers better on the ice.

That has to be the focus this summer. If Edmonton comes out of free agency with Dustin Penner and Nikolai Kulemin or Marty Havlat and David Moss or even Matt Moulson and Daniel Winnik, the forward corps is going to reap the benefits next season in the form of three lines that can play and three lines that can be a threat to score. For the first time since 2006, the Oilers would have strong forward depth.

The Proposed Roster 2.0


Line Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Power-vs.-power Taylor Hall Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
Second toughs “Dustin Penner” “Colin Wilson” David Perron
Sheltered scorers “Nikolai Kulemin” “Leon Draisaitl” Nail Yakupov
Defensive zone Matt Hendricks Boyd Gordon Mark Arcobello
Spares Luke Gazdic Anton Lander  

Obviously, this still isn’t a perfect roster. But it’s a big step forward – in terms of defensive ability, in terms of size, in terms of capability period – and it has the advantage of being doable.

If I were setting a minimum line for the Oilers to meet up front for summer 2014 to be successful, I’d put it in this range. Edmonton needs a forward corps capable of handling things by-committee – that means a useful fourth line, three lines that can score and at least two that can handle tougher minutes respectably.

At least, that’s how I see it.


  • CaptainLander

    – Trade David Perron for Brandon Dubinsky (CBJ needs scoring, Perron was Kekäläinen’s draft pick, he addressess their need of scoring and he brings grit as well. Dubinsky is great 2nd line C who doesn’t bring scoring as much as Perron but he closes the gap with his great physicality. Trade Perron now that his value is high!)
    – Trade Sam Gagner for Josh Bailey (Two struggling players. Gagner is John Tavares’ best friend, Bailey is good friends with Taylor Hall. Bailey also brings depth scoring and he’s good defensively)
    – Sign David Moss (Boyd Gordon’s best friend, fits a great need as he’s good defensive player who is no louch offensively either)
    – Sign Nikolai Kulemin (Has been a good offensive player before Randy Carlyle. Hulking winger who has outstanding defensive abilities. Would help Yakupov)

    – Dubinsky
    – Kulemin
    – Bailey
    – Moss

    – Perron
    – Gagner

    Hall – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
    Kulemin – Dubinsky – Yakupov
    Bailey – Gordon – Moss
    Hendricks – Arcobello – Lander/Pitlick/Gazdic/Joensuu

    • Reg Dunlop

      I wish more people were saying this. Perron is a nice player, but he didn’t exactly transform the Oilers into a winning team and he takes way too many penalties.

      If Mac-T can trade him (chances are his value is higher now than it will ever be again) for a bigger player who is better defensively, then I’d make that trade in a second.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Trade perron after he had a 30 G season and showed some of the best compete from a player in years? The guy hates to lose and has sick hands in close with a bunch of grit. Exactly what they need more of. If you thought one player was going to get edm into the post season then that’s rediculas.

  • CMG30

    I’ve become increasingly worried about the Oilers tendency to play rookies fresh out of the draft. Now, I suspect that they will take a center with the 3rd but I hope they keep whoever that turns out to be in the minors for at least another year, (better two) and let them develop and work the bugs out of their game down there.

    Trade Gagner if you can then see what you can land in free agency. Worst comes to worst, Arcobello and Lander can keep the #2 spot warm next year. Obviously I don’t see this team as as contending for the playoffs next year, but I would like to think that eventually we will have a team with legit NHL players pushing those above them hard for roster spots.

  • CaptainLander

    Would rather put Wilson on the LW, ditch Penner, and try and get Grabovski here with Kulemin

    Hall Nuge Eberle

    Kulemin Grabovski Yakupov

    Wilson Draisaitl Perron

    Hendricks Gordon Arco

    Maybe put Arco in the 3c spot and let Leon develop

  • vetinari

    So, about 4 to 5 new forwards by the fall? That seems about right.

    My fear is that we’ll see Clarkson somehow make his way over to Edmonton from Toronto in a trade and then overpay a couple of other middle of the pack forwards on long term contracts to fill those spots.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I didn’t see the IIHF game, but Draisatl threw another wrench into my gears for this draft. I was set on Ekblad, Bennett if he’s gone. Now I think I’ll be ecstatic no matter who they get.

    I still think MacT should make a play for Florida’s first by dangling Yak+.

    EDIT: Fantastic article, by the way JW. Very concise and organized.

    • Serious Gord

      Draisatl would be a disaster pick in this city.
      We run players like him out of town….Big, but slow, lazy is how he will be perceived by Christmas if he doesn’t have 20 goals….see Penner,D; Arnott,J.

  • Benny Botts

    I dont understand why people are projecting Draisaitl into the line up next year! One of the biggest issues for this team is lack of experience and now we’re slotting in another 18 year old centre? Can’t happen. I don’t disagree with drafting him, but send the kid back to junior to dominate for another year. It can’t hurt..

  • camdog

    What is your opinion on Ott, Downie, and Boyle? This adds a much needed toughness element to this team, and players that can actually play.

    Or am I dreaming that they’d want to come here?

  • Spoils

    I have this gut feeling that Arco could fit nicely with Yakupov. Impress him with his off ice Ivy league smarts and help the kid learn the value of defense and hard work.

  • camdog

    I’m trying to remember if Penner ever planted himself in front of the net. I think that Oilers need guys that can drive the net and plant themselves there, yet complement the skill set of the top 6.

    I think we can all agree that the kids look exceptionally good 4-on-4. If you have a guy willing to stand in front of the opposition net and take all of the punishment that goes with it (cross checks, hacks from the goalie, getting nailed by the puck), that gives you the 4-on-4 matchup on the periphery.

    You really see the importance of the this element increase in the playoffs playing night after night against top goalies and defences. Gotta have a guy in there to throw these guys off.

    • Reg Dunlop

      As I recall parking himself in front of the net, especially on the pp was his specialty. I believe Staples recorded these things and Penner actually contributed significantly to many goals for without actually getting the boxcars to go along with it.

  • camdog

    Can Edmonton get past its denial phase?
    No player in their right mind wants to play here. Not one.
    Yesterday Craig Button stated that Oilers are ” 3 to 4 years away from making the playoffs”. Before that time I can see 2 of 4 kids asking for a trade. Can’t see Eberle, RNH or Hall staying here much longer as losers.
    Klown & Katz have in fact killed this franchise…

      • OilersDynasty

        Do not get me wrong JW but most posters here have high hopes for the likes of Spezza or Kulemin to come to Edm. Those better than avg players are the ones that (I believe) would prefer to not land here. It took much effort to get J. Schultz while Ference, Belov, Eager or Gordon are not very attractive players IMHO or other teams would have landed them first. If we ever convince a guy like Markov to become an Oiler… Just sayin’.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      On the other hand. With Katz controlling the profits 365 dpy, the Oilers will still be okay, even with a half full building every night. A similar deal with the Florida Panthers ownership group is the ONLY thing that keeps that franchise afloat. Daryl will just have to take profits from the non hockey night revenues to subsidize his FOK club.

  • camdog

    This an important off season for RNH. Because of his shoulder injury last season, he was unable to put on some muscle. For him to be able to withstand the pounding of an NHL regular season he needs to put on weight. Going to the World Championships isn’t good for RNH, not this off season. With Eberle I thought he was banged up for much of the last 2 seasons. I have no problem with the kids skipping out on the Championships this season, they need more work in the gym.

    • Spoils

      No one knows exactly what their going thru so you can’t criticize too much. But if they finished off the season playing you’d think they could have played another couple weeks. I think it’s strange but I’m not gonna chastise them for it.

    • Reg Dunlop

      I don’t mind that they’re not at the Worlds either. I think this is the first summer where one or two of them isn’t injured during the summer…and I’m kinda guessing that Yak has recovered from his season ending injury.

  • Spoils

    I’d lean toward the biggest and youngest. We need size obviously, but we need to put pieces in place that will peak as our defense comes online – i.e. Nurse, Kklefbom, Schultz, ?Ekblad?

    So someone with size in their early twenties (ie not older than 26).

    Unless you’d rather give up on Stanley to be just OK now. Or you think we can have our cake and eat it too – while employing a rookie coach and rookie GM.

  • OilersDynasty


    Whether you give fancy stats any merit or not, he has been BOTTOM 10 IN THE LEAGUE CF% 5v5 for the last 2 years at 41%. THAT IS TERRIBLE. With those numbers he is barely an NHL player. No matter how you slice it, that is atrocious. That is WORSE than Gagner by wide margin.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Man I’d hate to be called “barely an NHL player” if I had 195 points in 421 NHL games.

      What about quality of comp?

      What about zone starts?

      What about line mates, WOWY, etc?

    • That’s the problem with looking at Corsi in isolation.

      You need to consider those totals in context. In context, Kulemin was a slightly below average player on a terrible Leafs team while starting twice as many shifts in the defensive end of the rink as in the offensive end of the rink and while playing top QualComp.

      He’s a good player. Don’t let the raw Corsi numbers fool you.

      • OK.

        So he will be coming to an even worse Oilers team and face the same situation regarding zone starts and QualComp if he is relied on defensively. So his 5v5 CF% will likely get even worse.

        He has proven he is bottom 10 in the league when he plays a defensive role on a bad team. So sign him up to do that on the Oilers I guess??

        Makes no sense…

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Chris Kelly Center. Age 33. 6’0″. 193lbs

    Signed through 2015-16 with an average Cap Hit of $3 million.

    Was a 40 point player the first 5 years of his career. Has tailed off to a 30 point player in recent years.

    Assets: Can line up anywhere up front, and can play any role required. Works very hard every time he steps onto the ice. Doesn’t shy away from physical contact. Is sound at both ends of the ice.
    Flaws: A solid citizen, he doesn’t have enough high-end skill to play a top-six forward role consistently at the National Hockey League level. Can go into prolonged scoring droughts in the big league.
    Career Potential: Versatile checking forward.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Josh Bailey

    Age 24. Center. 6′ 0″ 188 Lbs. First Round 2008. 9th Overall.

    Salary and Cap Hit. 3.3 million signed through 2017-18

    Talent Analysis

    Consistently a 35 point player.

    Used in all situations, Bailey has an excellent work ethic and can play in both ends of the ice. He is a very good playmaker and can feed his teammates the puck and take face-offs very well. Bailey’s hockey sense and leadership skills are excellent.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Colin Wilson Age 24. Center. First round 2008. 7th overall. 6’1″ 215 lbs. Consistently 35 point player.

    Under contract through 2014-15. Salary 2.5 million. Cap Hit 2 million

    Talent Analysis

    Wilson is an instinctive player with a combination of size, power and skill. His greatest attribute is his tremendous hockey sense. His on-ice vision and awareness allows him to anticipate and make very good reads on developing plays.

    Wilson also possesses good hands. Wilson will shoot the puck as often as the opportunities present themselves. He possesses a very good, hard shot and can get shots to the net. Wilson is equally comfortable playing on both offense and defense.

    His tireless work ethic and unyielding commitment to his off-ice conditioning are evident in the areas of his strength and power. He is a difficult player to move off of the puck and has shown a willingness to play in the difficult areas of the ice.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Hi Jonathan,

    Which of Chris Kelly, Josh Bailey, or Colin Wilson would you prefer to see coming back in a trade for a Gagner?

    I don’t know enough about them to give a reasoned opinion but Colin Wilson looks like the best of the lot on paper to me.

    Also, I like your statement …..”Obviously, this still isn’t a perfect roster. But it’s a big step forward – in terms of defensive ability, in terms of size, in terms of capability period – and it has the advantage of being doable.”

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Button still has a hate on for the Oil anyway. I never pay any attention to his rantings, he’s is always trying to crap on the team for something. Right now it’s just easy and the norm so he’s all over it.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Fantastic article, by the way JW. Very concise and organized.

    This is probably the best article I’ve read all year.

    Mad respect.

    We need Kulemin and my ideal second pick up would be Moulsen. The perfect center for Yak would be Leon- Leon2Yak for the next ten years sounds good to me.

    Nurse Ekblad sounds pretty big, mean and fantastic to me as well- but thinking of waiting 4-5 more years to get better makes me want to puke.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Hall – Hopkins – Eberle
    Perron – Wilson – Moulsen
    Kulemin – Draisitl – Yakupov
    Hendricks – Gordan – Pitlick

    Moulsen Kulemin as the additions- swapping Moulsen for Moss might be a better balance- but either is good :).

  • When the season ended, Ebs needed a cortisone shot in his wrist and needed time for his knee to heal. Hall played most of the season with a knee brace thanks to a dirty it by Gryba when Oilers played the Sens.

    Just because they didn’t miss games doesn’t mean they weren’t injured. I recall near the end of the season that these players missed practices due to injury.