The first puck hasn’t yet dropped for the on-ice portion of 2014 training camp for the Edmonton Oilers, but I don’t see a lot of questions regarding what the team’s opening night roster will look like.
Despite impressive showings by the likes of Vladimir Tkachev, Bogdan Yakimov and Darnell Nurse during the rookie tournament in Penticton and the game against the Alberta Golden Bears, I don’t see many surprises.
At first glance, there’s a reasonable facsimile to be found on the camp rosters – Team Gretzky, Team Kurri and Team Messier – and the line combinations handed out to media at Rexall Place this morning while players were undergoing medical and fitness testing.
While I stand to be corrected – I’m sure you’ll be happy to do that – when camp and the pre-season schedule is done, my 23-man roster, divided into forwards, defensemen and goaltenders, looks like this:
Assuming the Oilers start with 14 forwards:
Taylor Hall-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot-Leon Draisaitl-David Perron
Nail Yakupov-Mark Arcobello-Teddy Purcell
Matt Hendricks-Boyd Gordon-Jesse Joensuu
13 and 14: Anton Lander and Steve Pinizzotto
MY TAKE: Like it or not, it seems obvious Draisaitl has a job to lose as camp begins and starting him between veterans like Pouliot and Perron makes sense. He’ll be somewhat protected and for a puck-mover like Draisaitl there’s a finisher there in Perron and a guy with good possession numbers in Pouliot. Looks like a line that could start the regular season.
It’s tempting to envision a puck distributor like Draisaitl with Yakupov, and Dallas Eakins might take a look at it during pre-season, but playing a rookie alongside Yakupov is rolling the dice defensively. I’m interested to see how Arcobello and Yakupov are as a tandem.
Gordon is a lock at centre on the fourth line and there’s insurance on the wing in the form of Pinizzotto, who brings a truculent approach. I’m tempted to throw young Greg Chase in the mix because he brings the same edge Pinizzotto does (and has way more offensive upside), but it makes no sense to have the kid sitting in the press box.
THE BLUE LINE
Assuming the Oilers start with seven defensemen:
Nikita Nikitin-Mark Fayne
Andrew Ference-Jeff Petry
Martin Marincin-Justin Schultz
MY TAKE: There could be a bit of movement in terms of partners here, but these are the seven names I come up with. Nikitin and Fayne start camp together and there’s a good chance they’ll be together when the season begins. Ference is starting camp alongside Dillon Simpson on Team Kurri, while Petry is paired with Darnell Nurse on Team Messier. Marincin and Schultz are paired on Team Messier.
Nurse, obviously, will get a long look starting beside Petry and it’s a look that could see him start the season here, at least for nine games. His play will dictate what happens after that, but he’ll have to be a clearly better option than Aulie to go beyond the nine-game threshold because, as with Chase up front, having him sit in the press box makes no sense.
No Oscar Klefbom? I know, I know. Might he take the spot I’ve got Marincin penciled in for? It’s possible. Other than that, I see Klefbom the same as I do Nurse – he needs to be a player, not a spectator.
MY TAKE: Duh! Scrivens and Fasth, Fasth and Scrivens. Whatever your order – Scrivens is the guy in just about everybody’s books – these are your stoppers to start the season.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.