AT RANDOM: MIDDLEMEN

I don’t see the debate about how the Edmonton Oilers should fill the holes they have on their roster at centre in terms of black and white when it comes to how or if Leon Draisaitl fits into the equation next season. I find myself pulled between preference and practicality.

Call it sitting on the fence if you like, but as we sit here during the first week of July, I don’t think there’s a hard and fast answer as to whether Draisaitl should be in the mix when the puck drops on 2014-15. I weighed in on the issue in my last item here.

In terms of preference, there’s a reasonable case to be made Draisaitl should be returned to Prince Albert of the WHL next season, no matter what. Don’t rush the kid. Don’t burn a year of his entry level contract. Jason Strudwick of TSN 1260, for example, made the case on his show and on Twitter Wednesday. David Staples of The Cult of Hockey says the same.

I get where they’re coming from. I just can’t embrace the “no matter what” part of the argument on a day that Draisaitl took his first twirl on the ice as a member of the Oilers at a development camp in Jasper. I’m in the wait-and-see camp.

LET IT PLAY OUT

93-RNH-9

I can’t sit here today and tell you with a straight face Draisaitl is ready to play in the NHL next season. Likewise, I can’t say for certain he won’t be ready when the puck drops. I don’t know. Do you?

I don’t think Draisaitl should be handed a roster spot because he’s a third overall pick. I don’t care about the optics. I don’t think he should make the team by default because after first-liner Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and utility man Boyd Gordon, the Oilers are woefully thin down the middle.

As I wrote June 28, even if Draisaitl gives strong indications he’s not in over his head, I don’t want to see him force-fed into a second-line role. At the very least, GM Craig MacTavish has to find a proven NHL centre – easier said than done – who can provide a buffer and split the ice that’s up for grabs time between RNH and Gordon.

Whether Draisaitl sticks in Edmonton or is returned to Prince Albert, the bottom line for me is that the Oilers will be making a mistake if they don’t at least let him compete for a job before making a decision based on merit. Let this play out.

WHILE I’M AT IT

Berglund

  • Jonathan Willis took a thorough look at centre Patrik Berglund of the St. Louis Blues as a possible target for the Oilers recently and I concur with his take. I like Berglund and I think he slots in behind RNH as a second/third-line option. The question, as always, is the ask.
  • I got plenty of reaction on Twitter Wednesday when I said I’d be willing to trade anybody not named Taylor Hall, RNH, Jordan Eberle, David Perron, Ben Scrivens, or Justin Schultz for Berglund. A lot of it was along the lines of “You’d trade Nail Yakupov?” Yes, yes I would. I recognize there’s an element of risk, but I’m not as sold on Yakupov as many fans are. Not exactly trading him for a bag of pucks here.
  • A lot of people think Mark Fayne might be a pleasant surprise as an addition to Edmonton’s blue line. Numbers like him, too. Haven’t seen him enough to have a feel for him. As a low-cost depth player, I like the addition of Keith Aulie.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I wouldn’t even give up Yak for Couturier, and he’s a considerable upgrade over another Boyd Gordon clone in Berglund.

    I think we’re getting way ahead of ourselves worrying about a measly year on an entry level contract. Who in their right mind is more concerned about 3 years from now than they are about the impact of the coming season. Half these kids will probably take a cut in pay when they become UFA eligible. Not all these kids will be superstars to begin with. Some will be fortunate to become support players.