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.


Assuming the Oilers start with seven defensemen:

Nikita Nikitin-Mark Fayne

Andrew Ference-Jeff Petry

Martin Marincin-Justin Schultz

Keith Aulie

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. 


Ben Scrivens

Viktor Fasth

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.

  • smith

    This roster had Yak on the left side. I prefer him on the right side, he seems to like to shoot, when the puck is in front of his body.

    While Arko and Lander are AHLers, they will be way ahead of LD in this role for the first 40/50 games. Play LD on the wing like the Avs did with McKinnon, that way he stays and develops in the NHL.

    Ference needs to play third pairing, he can’t break up the cycle in our end any more. By the end of the year is he the seventh defenseman?

    I am a tiny bit concerned on Nurse, I thought he was OK in Penticon and in the Bears games, but I thought Simpson looked more NHL ready than Nurse.

    • smith

      Well, Eakins prefers him on the left and that’s the way it’s going to start. He believes the puck is better protected with lefties on LW and righties on RW, if possible.

  • 916oiler

    “Nikita Nikitin-Mark Fayne

    Andrew Ference-Jeff Petry

    Martin Marincin-Justin Schultz”

    MacT was saying if any of Klefbom, Marincin, or Nurse make the team, it will be because they are one of the best 4 defending options i.e. they’re going to play top 4 minutes.

    Assuming that Marincin is still the best of the bunch, coupled with the fact he’s paired up with Schultz to start training camp, the only logical conclusion is that MM/JS is the second pairing. Plus Schultz played top 2 minutes last year, so although Fayne and Nikitin will help alleviate some tough minutes for him he’s not dropping below top 4.

    There’s just no way Ference is anything but a bottom pairing defender, and I keep seeing his name in the top 4 or even top 2. It hurts my brain.

    This seems to be the most likely for me:

    Nikita Nikitin-Mark Fayne

    Martin Marincin-Justin Schultz

    Andrew Ference-Jeff Petry