The Edmonton Oilers have Connor McDavid under contract and now attention turns to things like how to handle his development, identifying ideal linemates and his deployment. Perhaps we can get some insight into McDavid’s future by looking at Todd McLellan’s past.
Todd McLellan has a habit of handling rookie forwards in a specific way. The veteran coach will likely have Connor McDavid playing with veterans and top end players in his rookie year, as he has in the past with other rookies. He’s done it in the past, with lesser players:
- In 2014-15, Melker Karlsson’s EV minutes (720 minutes, 57 seconds) found him playing with Joe Pavelski (497 minutes) and Joe Thornton (459 minutes, 17 seconds). That’s exceptional coverage for a rookie forward.
- In 2013-14, Tomas Hertl’s EV minutes (472 minutes) included 380 with Joe Thornton and 237 with (then forward) Brent Burns.
- In 2013-14, Matt Nieto’s 812 EV minutes saw him play with Patrick Marleau (353) and Tommy Wingels (278) as a freshman.
The last time the Oilers drafted a center No. 1 overall, they gave him the best available linemates—Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Source
In one way, that makes sense—just like McLellan with Hertl and Karlsson—an NHL coach is going to put skill with skill. However, the other part of the equation is experience, and Hall/Eberle had one year each when RNH arrived. They did a helluva job considering their lack of experience and the players opponents were throwing out against them.
EXPERIENCED, SKILLED LINEMATES
Todd McLellan has some outstanding options for rookie Connor McDavid this fall. It’s actually a stunning list of talent, and the coach will have a strong line with Nuge no matter the decision on McDavid’s linemates:
- Taylor Hall 299 NHL games (per 82GP: 29G, 43A, 72P)
- Jordan Eberle 356 NHL games (per 82GP: 28G, 37A, 65P)
- Teddy Purcell 483 NHL games (per 82GP: 15G, 29A, 44P)
- Nail Yakupov 192 NHL games (per 82GP: 18G, 20A, 38P)
- Benoit Pouliot 429 NHL games (per 82GP: 18G, 19A, 37P)
- Lauri Korpikoski 469 NHL games (per 82GP: 12G, 16A, 28P)
This is the list of possible wingers for Nuge and McDavid. I’m not going to suggest Korpikoski is a perfect fit for McDavid, but included him on this list for one reason: There may be games on the road where his speed and experience come in handy. The McDavid line struggles, McLellan moves Nuge up with Hall and Eberle, and the rookie gets a re-set with Pouliot and Korpikoski. That’s some nice veteran cover.
If you ask me, I’d like to see the following lines to start the season: