LAST SPOT ON THE MAGIC BUS

yakupov capture 3

No matter how we look at the Oilers power lines, there’s only one real opening (2 RW) as the team enters camp. Portside Taylor Hall and Benoit Pouliot, pivots Nuge and McDavid are RW houses Jordan Eberle. That last spot will probably see several candidates in pre-season and during the regular year but there’s one obvious candidate who could solve the problem for the next decade. Or is it two?

THE CANDIDATES….

  1. Teddy Purcell—He is both the most likely to win the opening night assignment AND most likely to be traded by the deadline. The veteran has exceptional hands and can play with skill, so will probably have impressive boxcars as the deadline approaches.
  2. Nail Yakupov—The first and most obvious of the 10-year solutions, Nail has played two and (close to) a half seasons in the NHL and is 18-19-37 per 82GP thus far. Taking away the back story and with the understanding he has raw edges to his talent, Yak remains the best bet to grab the job long term.
  3. Leon Draisaitl—Early in the offseason the big man said he’d be willing to play wing and more recently (with Bob Stauffer and Gene Principe) coach Todd McLellan seemed open to the idea. The option of Leon is the only one that could see Yakupov lose out long term.
  4. Lauri Korpikoski—Todd McLellan often marries two offensive players to a younger winger or a veteran depending on the chemistry. Korpikoski is capable of posting offense and would offer some of these gifted forwards a quality defensive cover.
  5. Mark Letestu—It’s extremely likely the veteran center plays in
    the middle (possibly on a veteran checking line) but there’s also a
    chance he steps up as needed with the skill group. I interviewed him on
    TSN 1260 during our Free Agent coverage July 1 and he expressed the
    idea, so it’s something Letestu himself is anticipating. Not all the
    time, but it’s a nice option for nights when nothing rhymes.
  6. Matt Hendricks—Although the veteran forward is miles from his offensive peak, Hendricks’ rugged style of play might benefit during road games or at points where the Canucks are getting pissy again.
  7. Andrew Miller—AHL winger showed good speed during a short period with Taylor Hall last season, he seemed able to keep up and may possess the aptitude to think with these brilliant offensive players.
  8. Tyler Pitlick—Oilers ran him a little last season with high-end skill, Pitick has some jam and may be able to help in a support role. His offense didn’t come with him from junior so he’s not a likely long-term solution.
  9. Anton Slepyshev—Extremely likely to spend at least one season in Bakersfield (and he’s a LW) but I’m including him because there’s an air of mystery about him. I well remember a time in Oilers history when The Hockey News stated emphatically that Raimo Summanen was going to be Gretzky’s Finnish winger. Someone forget to tell Jari Kurri. A stretch for sure, but you never know.
  • Cowbell_Feva

    I think Purcell starts on McDavids right flank at least to start the season. Veteran presence that doesn’t get much credit for his sick hands. Yes, he is sooooo soft, but he has put up points with good players before.

    Eventually, if Yakupov can learn to play a consistent NHL game, that’s his position to lose. I can’t see Purcell being an Oiler after the trade deadline so that spot would then be up for grabs.

    This is all assuming Hall and McDavid are the duo that sticks together. They may not work out… both are used to lugging the puck up ice. I hope they light the world on fire, but sometimes guys just don’t mesh. Too many offensive weaponry in the top 6 to not break it up if it doesn’t pan out. The pre-season will give some answers.

  • Jaxon

    On the right side, McDavid cannot be saddled with Yakupov and Purcell is too slow to keep up. That leaves Eberle or one of the prospects (Pakarinen, Platzer, Pitlick, Chase or Bukarts?), so I think it has to be Eberle. He will help McDavid put up some numbers and isn’t a total liability defensively. Eberle can help maintain possession and score. That means Purcell or Yakupov with Nugent-Hopkins. I’d go with giving Yakupov a chance with Nugent-Hopkins who is uber responsible. Maybe he can make up for Yakupov’s deficiencies or mentor him in the finer points of a two-way game. If Yakupov can score like he did towards the end of last season when he had lesser linemates, then he might really take off.

    On the left side, I like the idea of Hall and McDavid in the future, but I think McDavid would be better served by having Hall draw top competition away from him in his first year. Having Hall and Nuge play together will certainly draw the top competition. I don’t think Korpikoski or Hendricks have the offence to play with McDavid, so that leaves Pouliot, who is a perfect fit for the rookie phenom. He is big with a bit of an edge; he has good speed; he has a decent scoring touch; and he is very much a responsible two-way player.

    Top 6:

    Hall / Nugent-Hopkins / Yakupov

    Pouliot / McDavid / Eberle

    Bottom 6:

    Korpikoski / Lander / Purcell

    Hendricks / Letestu / Pakarinen

    A 3rd line of Korpikoski, Lander and Purcell would probably do okay against 3rd competition.

    Purcell is almost a sure thing to be moved out, and it may make sense to try to deal Hendricks sooner rather than later as his value will never be higher than it is right now after a decent year offensively last season and captaining the US at the Worlds. You might be able to get real value back.

    If Draisaitl and Slepyshev start the year in Bakersfield they could disrupt this top 6 or 9 before the end of the season. Slepyshev might be the darkhorse LW to come in and play in a top 9 role. If that’s the case, having a 3rd line of Slepyshev / Draisaitl / Purcell isn’t a bad option, at least until the trade deadline, when Purcell is shipped out. That line and the post-deadline version could feast on the opposition’s 3rd line competition.

    That makes room for Slepyshev and Draisaitl. The bottom 6 could then become:

    Slepyshev / Draisaitl / Pakarinen

    Korpikoski / Lander / Letestu

    That is getting dangerously close to the unicorn that is 3 scoring lines. Move right shooting Letestu over to RW and that 4th line is very solid with two players that can take the draw (left hander and right hander) allowing them to cheat on the draw a bit more with a back up who can come in if they get kicked out of the circle in those very important DZ starts.

    • Jaxon

      Tarasenko never played a single game in the AHL. Straight from KHL to NHL and this season was his third NHL season. But Tarasenko was a point per game player in the KHL when he left, so they’re not quite comparable. Slepyshev turned 21 during the summer and Tarasenko was bit younger, turning 21 in December part way through his first season. I do think Slepyshev hasn’t been given a great chance to showcase his talents yet. He was starting to figure things out in the KHL last season. He got 16 pts in his final 25 games. I think at least a few months in the AHL would be helpful for Slepyshev. I’d like to see him get a chance with the Oilers anytime after Christmas.