WWYDW: What should the addition of Connor McDavid do to the Oilers’ forward lines?

Draft Lottery

The Edmonton Oilers’ needs at forward seemed pretty clear-cut heading into the summer. The necessary additions to remedy those needs seemed obvious, too. Then came a lucky tumble of the lottery balls and the virtual certainty that Edmonton would be adding generational talent Connor McDavid to its stable of young talent.

In one night, everything changed.

Three Scoring Lines

64-Yakupov-5

As of right now, the Oilers currently have eight forwards that we can be reasonably confident will be deployed inside the top nine:

  • Centre: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid, Anton Lander
  • Wing: LW Taylor Hall, RW Jordan Eberle, LW Benoit Pouliot, RW Nail Yakupov, RW/LW Teddy Purcell

After those eight, we can also be fairly certain that Matt Hendricks and Boyd Gordon will anchor a defensive zone specialty line, with some combination of Rob Klinkhammer, Tyler Pitlick, Matt Fraser and Luke Gazdic rounding out the forward group.

8-Roy-4

There’s still one spot open in the top nine, though, and the Oilers have some options there:

  • Pending free agent Derek Roy. Roy has good chemistry with Yakupov and finished the season well; he could easily be bumped to left wing and perhaps played on a line with Yakupov and Lander. The downside is that he’s a) another small forward and b) another primarily offensive forward.
  • Top forward prospect Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl was the No. 3 overall pick and he’s almost certainly going to make a strong push for a roster spot in camp. He could be bumped to left wing, perhaps with Lander and Purcell, and would add size and centre depth to the mix. The downside is that the Oilers would once again be counting on an unproven player to address weakness, and no matter how mature he is for his age he’s still a young forward and comes with certain defensive deficiencies.
  • Promoting a depth forward, like Pitlick or Fraser. Pitlick had really solid chemistry with Lander in Oklahoma City and showed well in a brief cameo late in the year; stick him on a line with his old centre and Purcell and there’s a decent chance things turn out. The downside is that it weakens depth and Pitlick (and Fraser, for that matter) may not have the offensive ability to stick in the top-nine at this point.
  • An outside hire. This could be anyone. Want size, defensive responsibility and centre depth? Let me introduce you to 6’4”, 223-pound Shawn Matthias, a centre/left wing who scored 18 goals for Vancouver. Want a clever two-way player with postseason experience? How about Justin Williams, who picked up 25 points in 26 games in last year’s playoffs and won the Conn Smythe Trophy. Feel free to scroll the UFA list at NHLNumbers for other names. The upside is that there is no shortage of options. The downside is that the Oilers also need to address defence and goaltending this summer, too, and the perfect free agent just may not be interested in joining a team that hasn’t been competitive since 2006, McDavid notwithstanding.

What Would You Do?

Craig MacTavish7

In the G.M.’s shoes I’d be tempted to go the discount route. Pick off whichever useful two-way winger can be found for cheap later in free agency – maybe it’s Jiri Tlusty or Blake Comeau or Erik Condra or the wonderfully underrated Lee Stempniak. Maybe St. Louis doesn’t qualify Magnus Paajarvi, who had fantastic chemistry with Lander in OKC. Maybe there’s some European pro who we’ll briefly become the centre of attention as he decides to jump to the NHL. There’s always some useful wingers available late, looking for work, and the problem can be dealt with after the big priorities (defence, goaltending) are taken care of. Worst case scenario, the Oilers end up with Roy or Draisaitl or Pitlick in the role; that’s survivable though less than ideal.

I’m going to pick Jiri Tlusty for this example because he’s reasonably big, fast and young and can do a little bit of everything. Also, he was moved at the deadline for a third-round pick and change and seems a prime candidate to be undervalued this summer. Then I’d pencil in the lines like this:

Left
Wing
Centre Right Wing
Benoit Pouliot Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
Taylor Hall Connor McDavid Nail Yakupov
Jiri Tlusty Anton Lander Teddy Purcell
Matt Hendricks Boyd Gordon Tyler Pitlick
Luke Gazdic Rob Klinkhammer

It makes sense to me to stick with Pouliot, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle as a unit given how good they looked when Hall was hurt. That leaves Hall to play with McDavid on the other big line; the third member could be any of the other wingers but Yakupov has had good success in cameos with Hall and deserves the first shot. That leaves Tlusty with Lander and Purcell as a versatile third line with players who can move up as necessary.

That’s my solution, but it’s far from the only one possible, and What Would You Do Wednesday isn’t really about my solutions. What would you do with the forwards?

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Armchair_Gm

    Sign Todd mclellan. Trade this pick, schultz and lander with buffalo, for their pick, ristolainen zemgus girgensons and their pick next year and their other pick this year. Eichel will go back.to college and that gives the team another year to.continue to.build for eichel.rather than draft mcdavid and then dump all the teams problems on his shoulders.

    • O.C.

      You’re an idiot. You want to trade McDavid? You are an absolute idiot. I’m sorry but that is the worst idea in the world. Second is whatever is about to come out of your mouth next!

      • Armchair_Gm

        Imagine if we got the third pick in this draft and had à chance to get eichel. Oiler fans would be ecstatic and talking about him as the savior. Suggest it now and im an idiot. Hilarious. We can not only get him but other elite pieces, you rube. But i guess dumping the future.of.the team.on one 18 year sounds better

        • wiseguy

          We are at a point where we need 3 for 1 deals where we get the best player not the other way around. We’ve had enough “pieces” or magic beans when we were tearing up the team over the last decade. More picks and prospects for this management group means nothing.

  • bonks4eva

    pou Nuge ebs
    Hall mcjesus Jagr
    Lander Roy/Horcoff/someone with experience Yak
    Henricks Gordon Matthais

    in D Ference higher than #6 would be unacceptable. NN should be bought out. I would say on of Yak or Drai is traded for a Dman….you would trade Yak.

  • Rob...

    I got to thinking what it would take for the Oilers to trade away the number one pick. I don’t think a condition exists anymore where it could happen. However, if things went differently and the Kane/Myers trade didn’t happen, would a scenario have developed where Buffalo offered the 2nd and Myers for the 1st? Would that have been enough to sway a GM to give up a generational talent for another player thought to be a generational talent of slightly lesser potential?

  • Serious Gord

    The playoffs point out what is really missing on the three forward lines: size and physicality.

    Trade prospects and picks for two players who can provide it. And unload Roy and Purcell (buyout?) along the way. Yak is going to have to learn to play well with others…

    • AJ88

      Totally agree with you on this one. Unless we add some toughness, size, physical play the Oilers will have difficulty with many teams that are in the playoffs including Calgary. Times have changed since the 80’s where only speed could win you hockey games, even back then, you had to have Semenko riding shotgun with Gretzky. We need one or two Lucic type players to round out the forwards, which may require bumping softer players like Purcell and Roy.

  • bwar

    I would go with:

    Pouliot – Nuge -Eberle

    Hall – McDavid – Purcell

    Paajarvi/Mattais – Lander – Yakupov

    Hendricks – Gordon – Klinkhammer

    Extra fwd – Roy

    Yak and Purcell would flip during camp and the first ten games of the season To see where the chemistry was.

    I like both Paajarvi and Mathais and would look hard at both. If both could be landed, I would consider moving Hendricks out and saving a little cap space playing Matthais on the third line and Paajarvi on the fourth.

    Roy is Yak insurance and could be subbed in on the third line LW where his defensive responsibilities would be less but he could still be the Yak whisperer.

    • MGD

      I don’t know why everyone has a love-on for Paajarvi. Sure he’s got size and speed, but he’s soft! Hitchcock said he’d teach Magnus how to hit, but gave up on him 1/2 way thru the first season. We DO NOT need more softies on this team!

    • Rob...

      Purcell is not a #2 winger in the NHL. He is a plumber who is making big money. Probably a great guy but not a number 2 winger. Yes he has size, how many break always did he miss last season, he is just not a goal scorer, that’s why he was traded.

  • Jaxon

    I look at the 9.35M spent on Hendricks, Gordon and Purcell and can’t help but think they can do better via free agency. I think Comeau, Goc and Upshall could be signed for less than 4.35M. A savings of $5M! Trade them all for prospects and draft picks. The Oilers may need some cheap entry level contracts in the future if they want to hold onto their core. Then spend that on a goalie (Niemi, Neuvirth, Greiss?) and a Left D and a Right D (Ehrhoff & Franson maybe?).

    LW / C / RW

    Scoring Line 1A:
    Pouliot / Nugent-Hopkins / Eberle – done deal

    Scoring Line 1B:
    Hall / McDavid / Pakarinen or Fraser or maybe Chase (after some time in AHL). They all have a bit of a scoring touch, they can create some space for McDavid and Hall to do their thing, and create traffic in front)

    Scoring Line 3:
    Comeau / Draisaitl or Roy / Yakupov – Comeau played with Crosby and Malkin at times last season, so he can play up and down the lineup. He hits like crazy and is pretty fast and he’s from north-western Saskatchewan (Oilers would be his “hometown” team). Draisaitl would have to dethrone Roy to play here after starting in the AHL.

    D Zone Starts, Penalty Killers:
    Lander / Goc / Upshall – D Zone starts with 2 defensive players capable of winning a draw and a northern Alberta vet that plays hard.

    Extra Forwards: Klinkhammer & Roy if Draisaitl makes the team, & whoever loses the battle to be on the Hall/McDavid line (Pakarinen, Fraser, Chase)

  • Serious Gord

    What about Pouliot and Ebs with McDavid ,rah gets Hall and Leon, Lander Yak and Purcell plus Gordon’s line . Gives size on each line and Hopkins would still draw tougher assignments than McDavid . Obviously Leon must be ready but I’m expecting him to be with a max of 20 AHL games

  • shanetrain

    The first thing I would do is clean house of the management and hire men that have respect and experience in the league, then i’d start getting rid of the likes of Nikitin and Ference. The search would be on for a proven experienced goalie, (not Cam Ward), and of course there would be at least 2 defensemen added. An experienced coach with hopefully Nelson as his wingman would be in charge of the bench. It’s a tall order, but we need to have a horse in the race this year and a shake up all around is necessary

    • Lofty

      ‘The first thing I would do is clean house of the management and hire men that have respect and experience in the league….’

      Bob Nicholson will do that. I hope so

      ‘….then i’d start getting rid of the likes of Nikitin and Ference’

      I guess Todd McLellan will do that, as a new coach

      ‘The search would be on for a proven experienced goalie, (not Cam Ward), and of course there would be at least 2 defensemen added’

      Antti Niemi + couple ex-Sharks. If McL will take the team

      ‘An experienced coach with hopefully Nelson as his wingman would be in charge of the bench’

      McL again, maybe

  • Phuryous George

    Draisaitl and Nurse will both be on team next season and cost effective to help bring in new veteran additions . Broissoit may be default in goal if price to high for veteran goalie . Therefore on offence we have Pouliot , Hall, McDavid , Eberle , Hopkins , Draisaitl and possibly Yak on top 3 lines . 4th line could still use an upgrade although unlikely this year . Rest of forwards need upgrading – minimum 2 sized gritty players . McDavid would pair well with Pouliot and/ or Draisaitl -possession types with size and some physical side . Could Yak become defensively sound enough to fit on line with McDavid ? Lander moving to wing an option but he is not physical enough , although I prefer him to Klinkhammer on fourth line . Nurse should fill Petry’s old role well . Leaves us to get 2 sized gritty forwards and a top notch defenceman , Will there be enough left over for a better goalie ?

  • Phuryous George

    Pouliot Nuge Ebs
    Hall McDavid Lander
    Paajarvi Roy Yak
    Hendricks Gordon Klinkhammer
    Pitlick

    Go ahead and trash it if you want to. I have a framed 3 pic layout in my office from a few years ago with the “young guns” of Ebs, Paajarvi and Hall, and i’m tired of getting teased about it.

    Would Paaravi be an upgrade over Purcell, and compliment Roy-Yak by digging in the corners and play with their forecheck style?

    I am aware Paaravi is not the best we could do here

    anyway…..

  • Ever the Optimist

    I would retain half of Purcell’s salarie for the final year of his contract just to get Paajarvi back because I value Paajarvi’s defensive game more than Purcell’s moderate offence on nights when he actually decides to try. With so many young offensive minded forwards on the team, it would be refreshing to actually have a big fast forward like Paajarvi who actually back checks shift after shift. Paajarvi is young enough and cheap enough to actually be around for a while if you use him in a bottom 6 role. With so many forwards who have the potential to score… I wouldn’t care if Paajarvi got a measily 5 points on the year if it meant freeing up a guy like Yakupov to concentrate on what he does best… Which is score. Remember how many points Yakupov and Gagner put up Paajarvi’s last year on the team because they always relied on him to be the first forward back on the majority of shifts? …And people wondered why he never put up a lot of points. News flash… He was the only defensive conscience on that line… And when he wasn’t on that line, he was usually playing with scubs that aren’t even in the league anymore.

    If it was possible, my forward lines for next year would be:

    Pouliot, Hopkins, Eberle
    Hall, McDavid, Yakupov
    Paajarvi, Lander, Pitlick or Pakarinen
    Hendricks, Gordon, Klinkhammer

    – With Draisaitl developing in the minors until Gordon gets traded at the deadline.

    .

  • Randaman

    I move Eberle and a prospect for Lucic. Boston needs change and that’s a start. That fixes the grit and he can absolutely play. We have no need for Draisatl to be rushed now so he comes to camp and goes to the Ahl. Why? Because half a season in the WHL didn’t make him an NHL player. Let him go earn his stripes in the A. I sign Roy if he’ll take a one year contract. Between him and Lander they can battle for the 3rd center position.

    The lines don’t matter because no matter what the armchair GM says, the coach can change all of that come training camp. The one run by an experienced NHL coach that I hire this summer after interviewing everyone available and after deep and meaningful discussions with Bobby N..

  • Serious Gord

    I’d be much happier if they can get someone to replace Purcell. He’s way too soft and doesn’t score. Brings nothing but experience to the table. I wouldn’t replace him with a kid but if they can replace him with an NHL player it would be hard to find one more useless than him.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Could probably get Antoine Vermette for free this summer. Play him in the middle or on the wing. That would add some sort of resemblance of sandpaper. You can slot in almost anywhere in your bottom nine. Vermette is an upgrade on Purcell.

    Good luck to Connor though. Unless he can come in here and make others him work twice as hard and implement/play with some urgency. They’re very likely to be selecting top 3 again next summer.

    With gaping holes in that 1 and 2 spots on the blueline, and in goal, none of us will be surprised. Management is still the same gong show crew. Any progress in that forward group this summer will be hampered by all the kids playing defence.

    • Hemmercules

      I had this exact attitude before Saturday. I thought for sure they would be picking top 3 again next year but now I’m not so sure. I think landing McDavid will speed things up upstairs and now I wanna see what they can do at the draft and free agency even if its Mact making the moves.

      If they let Roy walk and don’t bother picking anyone up other than a mediocre goalie then its top 3’s for sure.

    • Tikkanese

      I agree. Top pairing D and a starting goalie are the 1a and 1b top priorities for the Oilers now.

      If McDavid is as good as they say he is, then I think anyone, even Nuge is tradeable now.

      • ubermiguel

        Totally agree about the defence. Totally discagree about the Nuge. “Oh no, we have too many elite centres!” is something I’ve never heard before. Granted, everyone is tradable for the right price.

  • A-Mc

    I would re-sign Roy. McDavid would play wing for his first season. The lines would be as follows for forwards:

    Pouliot – Nuge – Ebs
    Hall – Lander – McDavid
    Purcell – Roy – Yakupov
    Hendricks – Gordon – Gaz/Klink/Rookie

    Lander, in my eyes, is a perfect fit for those 2 guys. He is fully capable of being a skill guy but he’s also very responsible Defensively. He’s a horse of many colors and i think that’s going to be his primary value to the Oilers.

    After you re-sign Roy, your entire focus should be defense

      • A-Mc

        It doesnt matter how good you think he is, you don’t go into a season expecting him to perform well as one of your top 2 centermen. If he proves he has what it takes to cut it at Center then you can certainly move him there and shift the lines around but its fools gold to expect him to be a legit center in his first season.

        The Oilers need to move passed the gambles and start putting people in positions to succeed from game 1. no more “lets see how it goes, and hope for the best”.

        • Craig1981

          McDavid is not a “gamble” on the 2nd line. Its not “fools gold” to expect him to be a number 2 center. Crosby scored 39 goals and 102 points his rookie season, Lemieux 43 goals and 100 points, Lindros 41 goals and 75 point (61 games)……….these are the players he is being compared to.

          I feel you are a person that thinks “the #1 draft pick should always play wing” without accessing the player himself. McDavid is not Draisaitl or even Tavares or MacKinnon…..he is far above them.

          • A-Mc

            Read this: http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2015/04/22/edmonton-oilers-shouldnt-expect-connor-mcdavid-to-match-sidney-crosbys-rookie-scoring/

            Those people broke into the league at a different time. The west is big, strong and fast. McDavid will be an excellent player but throwing an 18 year old into a top 2, center position, with out other options isn’t wise. Centers have the most responsibility of all forwards. Going into a season you want to be sure your center positions are covered with people you KNOW will be atleast adequate. If McDavid comes in and out performs them at the center position, then great! But if you go into the season with no other options, you’re accepting a certain level of risk.

            He will need to grow. He will need to learn. He will be excellent, but putting all your eggs in 1 basket isn’t smart.

            I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

          • Craig1981

            I think you are miss reading either that article or my point of view. Even is scoring is down a few percentages, he is still going to put up points far above the average 2nd line center…….hell he can put up half Crosby’s points and be an OK 2nd line center

            “He will need to grow”?!?!

            You do realize he is 6’2″ and 187lbs, we will put on a little weight this summer…he will get bigger and be a beast, but if he didn’t he still would be force.

            I do think we can a agree there does need to be extra centers playing wing, for options and injuries, but IMP not McDavid

        • freelancer

          This. Now if we don’t end up finding another top 6 centre and our top 6 centre depth is Nuge-McDavid… well there are worse things. Last season management expected Drasaitl to anchor the second line… that failed. That’s another reason I like the idea of signing Roy on a one year deal. He would be a cheap option that would look good as a third line winger and could slide into a top 6 role if needed. Bring on the likes of a Williams, Matthias for the other third line winger spot and you have a versatile forward group.

  • crackerjack14

    Justin Williams. Sign him! Roy. Keep him. Lander. Slide him to the left.

    Pouliot-Nuge-Ebs

    Hall-McDavid-Williams

    Lander-Roy-Yak

    Hendricks-Gordon-Klink

    The first line works. We know this. The second line has a lot of potential, and with Williams, experience. Roy-Yak works. 4th line works. Williams and Lander bring awareness, effort and leadership.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      This looks like a real MG put this together. Defense now, and a number one goalie like Talbot or something, also keep nelson if you can but bring in Mclellan.

  • shanetrain

    I value experience, and Roy proved he still has value as well as chemistry with Yak…plus he’d be a relatively cheap signing. And you can never have enough center depth. I resign him and use him as the 3rd line center sliding Lander to the wing.

  • Rdubb

    In my opinion, I think that since the Oilers seem to have far more forward depth then defensive depth and that it is always easier to pick-up a forward FA, i’d like to see MacT make a deal for both goaltending help and for defensive help.
    Since the Oiler won the lottery (literally and figuratively), I feel that MacT should try and bundle Leon with PIT’s pick (16th right now I do believe) and go grab a top pairing D-man or goalie. Let’s not forget that there is going to be a fair amount of teams that will be in trouble trying to come in under the cap, and perhaps MacT can swindle himself a goalie for a late 1st round or 2nd round pick, say a tender from CHI, maybe Darling or Rannata (even with Crawford on the bench I cannot see CHI trading him), or grab Jones out of LA. Or, maybe a Talbot becomes available from our former GM and pal of MacT, Glen Sather. This could be his last act of “goodwill” towards the team he won 5 cups with (or was it 4?)?
    All-in-all. i think that this could be perhaps the most exciting off season we fans have had in decades…
    And if MacT can somehow deal Scrivens away too, then we’d get a real good look Brossiot. Has he not shown that he has the ability to become this teams top tender come a yr or two? Perhaps he even pulls a price and steps up sooner rather then later?

  • bleedingoil

    I don’t know what “bad words” were in my prior attempt to post (maybe there is a filter on the word “trade” anywhere near the word “Eberle”?), but here’s a revised version:
    1. Trade Eberle for a #1 D
    2. Buy out or trade Purcell
    3. Sign Steve Downie and Matt Beleskey (combos of grit and skill we don’t currently have).
    4. Sign Derek Roy

    Hall – Nuge – Pouliot
    McD/Roy – Roy/McD – Yak
    Beleskey – Lander – Downie

    The RWs can be mixed and matched as need or chemistry dictate. Dr. Drai is first call-up and next year pushes somebody out.

    Back end:
    #1D – Martin (FA signing)
    Klefbom – Schultz
    Marincin – Ference
    Nikitin
    Schultz and Nikitin would be gone in my ideal world, but that seems unlikely.