Start a conversation online or at work these days about the Oilers and the conversation (after the McDavid fist bump) quickly turns to who gets what job. Will Leon play the wing? HOW can they send down Nurse? Peter Chiarelli said Griffin Reinhart would be on the Oilers this fall—book it! For Oilers fans this century, it (for the most part) comes down to contracts.
This is the logical roster based on ‘next contract up’ and Oilers fans will recognize this kind of roster setting from the Steve Tambellini era. There ARE players who aren’t among the 23 above who may have a chance to make the big team—or be considered for early call up in case of injury. There are seven who we can reasonably bet on seeing during the season, even if they can’t push out a veteran in training camp and pre-season.
- D Griffin Reinhart: A full year in the AHL and you’d have to think he’s close to NHL-ready. By any stretch of the imagination, a top five overall selection who has a year in the minors should be ready. Edmonton has some contract issues, but that aside we should see him in Edmonton early and for a long time.
- D Darnell Nurse: The one guy who could impact Reinhart’s NHL time is Nurse. Although Peter Chiarelli’s Bruins would often keep players on the farm for an extended period (David Krejci spent a year in the AHL and then a little more), Nurse is so dynamic it’s difficult to imagine too much time in Bakersfield.
- C Leon Draisaitl: He played half of last season in the NHL and the big man is absolutely going to have a long and productive career. The question is: Will it be this year? I’d guess that Todd McLellan takes one look at him and begins finding ways to keep him. I don’t think he’s going to be in the AHL long.
- G Anders Nilsson: The Oilers are unlikely to go with three goalies, so Nilsson will have to make an early impression. It’s possible he clears waivers and pushes Laurent Brossoit in the AHL, but the Oilers may want their top G prospect to get the Bakersfield starts. I think Nilsson may be a more substantial story than it appears at this time.
- R Iiro Pakarinen: The Pitlick and Klinkhammer positions on the NHL team are (imo) razor thin. Pakarinen looks like a very good match for what we might call a ‘McLellan type’—fast, aggressive and a forechecking demon.
- R Andrew Miller: It may seem like a long shot but Miller has good speed and that’s an area Edmonton was sadly lacking a year ago. Plodding feet are not useful on the forecheck and that could give Miller a longer look. He does have skill too, meaning a spot as a complementary player on a skill line is an area he could fill short term.
- D Brandon Davidson: If he shows well enough the Oilers may look to find an NHL home for one of their fading vets. It’s also possible Edmonton goes with 8D at the beginning of the year, as Davidson is waiver eligible and exactly the kind of value contract they’ll need in the next few years.
Bogdan Yakimov, Jujhar Khaira, Jordan Oesterle, Greg Chase, Anton Slepyshev and Laurent Brossoit may hang around longer than expected, but they’re probably starting from too far back.
IS THERE COMPETITION?
Oh yes. Edmonton has three goalies, 10 defensemen and a plethora of wingers pushing for employment. The only area I think that we can safely write in stone is center (Nuge, McDavid, Lander and Letestu) although Leon Draisaitl is applying for a job at both C and W.
Most of this century has been a complete yawn for Oilers training camps. In most seasons you can grab the veterans, add in the waiver eligibles and if there’s any room tack on someone like Toby Petersen or Liam Reddox (still suspect some of those bottom of the roster adds were Edmonton’s way of telling their first-round picks to work harder).
Will we see the same at this year’s TC? Maybe. I’m hopeful Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli gift Oilers fans with the best 23 men available.