WWYDW: The Edmonton Oilers’ Centre Depth Chart

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Confirmation came Wednesday morning of Oilers’ fans worst fears. Connor McDavid, who has so spectacularly lived up to incredible hype in the early part of his NHL career, is going to miss months after breaking his collarbone.

In this week’s edition of What Would You Do Wednesday, we ask how Todd McLellan should proceed from here.

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The Options at Centre

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McLellan has some options down the middle, though the loss of McDavid ends Edmonton’s 1-2 punch and leaves the depth chart significantly weaker. Here’s who might plausibly be asked to fill the four spots down the middle:

  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. No. 1 with a bullet now, Nugent-Hopkins will have to carry an even heavier load. One wonders whether—particularly with Jordan Eberle on the verge of returning—consideration is given to splitting up Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall. On the one hand it would help spread out the scoring; on the other Hall and Nugent-Hopkins have been excellent together.

  • Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl has seven points in three games as the right wing on Edmonton’s top line. It’s awfully hard to split that trio up, but in many ways Draisaitl is the logical fit for the No. 2 centre spot right now.
  • Mark Letestu. Letestu has just three points in 13 games as he’s bounced around in a utility role, but he has some history on a scoring line and could be promoted. He, Matt Hendricks and Teddy Purcell gave the Oilers a quality third line for perhaps the first time this season on Tuesday, though, so there may be some hesitation to split those three up.
  • Matt Hendricks. He’s fresh off injury, but he has played centre before. Again, it’s worth noting that the third line played well last night and breaking them up may not be ideal.
  • Anton Lander. Pointless in 13 games, despite often getting a push from the coach, Lander has been one of the team’s big disappointments this year. It’s obvious from last season that he’s capable of more, but it’s unclear if he’ll deliver it.
  • Andrew Miller. Small, speedy AHL’er is a plausible call-up, though the Oilers sent him down after just one game last time around. He has six points in eight games in the AHL.
  • Jujhar Khaira. With four points in eight AHL games, the massive Khaira is finally scoring at a rate that may warrant an NHL recall.
  • Bogdan Yakimov. Yakimov has three points in eight AHL games and would give the Oilers some big-time size down the middle. He did get into an NHL game last season after a spectacular training camp but was quieter this time around.

Solutions

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Personally, in the short-term (the next game or two) I’d be tempted to plug Lander into the gap at centre. He’s not an ideal fit, but the first line has been excellent and the third line delivered against Philadelphia, so a promotion for Lander and perhaps a short-term call-up on the fourth line make sense to me.

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In the slightly longer term, Eberle coming back should allow Draisaitl to slide into the second-line centre role. It’s a shame to bump a player out of a position in which he’s been playing so well, but Eberle has to play somewhere in the top-six and Yakupov has earned his spot there, so bumping Draisaitl back to the middle makes sense. That would leave the Oilers with the following top-nine:

  • Hall—Nugent-Hopkins—Eberle
  • Pouliot—Draisaitl—Yakupov
  • Hendricks—Letestu—Purcell

Is that the way to go, or should McLellan pursue a different approach?


  • Jordan88

    I’d move Drai to center as well but I’d structure my top 2 lines a bit differently:

    Hall – Nuge – Yak
    Pou – Drasitil – Ebs

    1) Keeping Hall / Nuge together and adding a trigger man in Yak. Yak isn’t great at carrying the puck while Hallsy likes carry. Nuge adds the defensive responsibility plus playmaking.

    2) Drasitil / Ebs combo puts a strong passer with a strong finisher; Pou adds the gritty board play plus some defensive responsibility. He’s a finisher as well.

    • CaptainLander

      Hall and Nuge were pretty quiet before Drai joined. Of the top 6 I like Hall and Nuge to be the primary puck carrier and maybe the real success is coming from Drai and Hall

      Pou-Nuge-Ebs (reunited)
      Hall- Drai -Yak

      Yak seems to have learned his best chance to scoring to to not handle the puck, and get open. I think this would work well as a strategy for playing with Hall and Drai.

      Or we could invent a time machine and make sure McDavid misses that shift. Stupid hockey gods, first they givith then they taketh away.

    • Shit bitch cunt fuck

      With Ebs back I would go with:
      1. Pouliot – RNH – Eberle
      2. Hall – Drai – Yakupov
      3. Hendricks – Letestu – Purcell

      I think that Drai and Yak needs Hall if they are to be competetive. If Ebs doesn’t return though, I would atleast try Hall – Lander – Yak as a second line. Lander hasn’t started the season as we had hoped, and to some extent that might have to do with linemates that also aren’t putting up points. These could be his chance to get out of this slump and build some confidence.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    My vote is: Hall – Dr.Dri. – Yak

    Pouliot – Nuges – Eberle

    Also Yak stays after school for shooting drills. 30 shots and only 6.70 shooting %. Tells me he is off the mark often. Could score a lot more goals with accuracy.

    • Jaxon

      I would agree with this. Poo-RNH-Ebs was great last year, and I do think Hall and Dr. Drai have something going with one another. Lets see if it is enough to carry a line.

      Yak has improved this year, and is making far less dumb plays, and his fore checking and cycling is much improved too.

    • TRAIN#97

      I don’t know if you know what a good Sh% is but 6.7% is about league average. Some of the top scorers in the NHL shoot higher but most don’t even score at that rate. Can Yakapov shooting percentage be higher? Absolutely and it could go up 2X (12%). I wouldn’t worry about that much but he needs to continue to shoot.
      As far as the line combos go. In today’s NHL, depth & balance are paramount to long term success just as possession is. If you’re not putting pressure on the opposition with the top three lines, longevity is very difficult. You can win games but there’s going to be games when one area of the team or another isn’t working and others need to step up.
      The point is that it’s most important with a player like McSavior out to spread out the scoring among the top nine.
      Benoit Pouliot is an above average third line forward and average top six forward. If you want to spread scoring out, putting him on the third line would be a good start. Switch Pouliot with Lander and you have a decent top 9 and a good checking line.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    How do they proceed?

    1st) Considering that Smyth, Hemsky, Whitney, Hall, Eberle, and now McDavid have all sustained injuries due to catching a rut in the ice.. I’d say fix the damn Ice!

    2ndly) Get rid of that crappy MIC commercial on the Oilers website. It’s annoying the crap out of everyone and it’s obviously bad JUJU. MIC “Go where the pros go”

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    Sigh. None of the options are ideal. This is exactly why you need to back up your McDavids people! Seriously, how long would it have taken for the Oilers to run to Best Buy, purchase an external hard drive, and back up their McDavids? If they had, we wouldn’t be in this situation.

  • Dino

    I would do

    Pouliot RNH Eberle/

    Hall Draisaitl Yak

    The first line has experience and chemistry playing together in the past. And the second line has Hall and Drai who developed chemistry together so far and Yak who would be the shooter on that line.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    As a Cancuks fan, my condolences.
    But there is a high first round draft pick (once again) in your future. And that future is always bright, At least much brighrer than the current situation.

    The Oilers weren’t robbed of his play. The whole league was. I really enjoyed watching him play. That Calgary Edmonton game on Saturday was something to behold.

    Anyway, back to my own team… 🙂

    • Craig1981

      Amen to this. I understand the need for D but all those saying the Oilers had an abundance of forwards are delusional from the lack of talent on the team for the past decade. What the Oilers have is enough players at F, when all healthy, to ice a legitimate playoff caliber NHL team. Having enough does not mean having too many.

  • Mooseroni

    Reforming last year’s top line / top line from ore season makes the most sense for a few reasons:

    – That line has good chemistry already so there will be zero adjustment period.

    – Nuge has shown he’s capable of being the play driver when Hall is not on his line.

    – Hall can drive the play from the second line, taking off the pressure from Draisatil and Yak.

    – It keeps the chemistry built up between Hall and Draisatil together.

    – Yak gets to maintain his role of trigger man, without being asked to alter his game which has been very effective so far.

    – It maintain Edmonton’s strong top six that will keep opposing coaches guessing, and likely will give at least one of the two lines a chance to play against weaker competition.

    – It doesn’t require someone like Lander, or Letestu to go and play above themselves.

    – It really only asks the player who is on the biggest PPG to move into a position he’s already a natural in, and has better face off and posession stats then the guy he’s replacing.

    – Finally even though Draisaitl will be asked to do more, he has Hall on his wing to take off a lot of the pressure. And Hall is playing his best hockey right now.

  • D

    Hall – Nuge – Eberle.

    Pouliot – Drai – Yak.

    This would likely have been the two lines leading the Oilers if Edmonton had not won the McDavid lottery. If the Oilers can fire on all cylinders with these two lines, McDavid’s return will just be an added bonus.

      • Jaxon

        You are right. They needed a GM so they hired MacT (cause why not?) , they needed a coach so they hired Eakins, they needed a centre, so they told Hall, “play there”. So you are saying…. They should try it again? Stupid is as stupid does, that was a stupid experiment, but more stupid to defend it. Take a look at the Oilers stats with hall playing centre..,, there were at least 3 more options: promote, trade or go after a free agent, they might as well have played Scrivens at centre…,

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    It’s a bloody shame for young McDavid.

    First, I’d like to point out that any talk of trading the Oilers first round pick should be considered an act of lunacy unless that player is a first pairing defensmen.

    Second, it’s a bloody shame for young Draisaitl and Yakupov

    I don’t see how you can keep Hall and Draisaitl together long term, unless you go
    Hall – Drai – Yakupov

    Poo – RNH – Eberle

    The thing about this is now you’ve taken Yakupov’s line mates away and given him two players he’s failed at building chemistry with.

    On a positive note Hall will get really easier minutes and should produce, pushing Drai and Yak along.

    Time will tell, but what a kick in the nuts.

    • Johnnydapunk

      Actually Dan Craig (ice maker ) hasn’t been with the Oil since 2005 at least and the ice was still ranked as the best for years after so I really wouldn’t lay much blame on the ice as its still very good. The keys to good ice is temperature and humidity (among other things ) luckily Edmonton is cool and weirdly dry so it’s a very good climate for ice, it definitely plays a part in the ice quality.

      If it was bad there would have been far more injuries on it and I can’t think of one that has happened there before this one, Even Eberle, Hall and Fedun’s broken leg were not in Edmonton. There have been injuries of course, but I can’t think of any that were like a result of an ice issue per se.

      The injury happened near the end of the second period, the ice would be at its worst and there would naturally be ruts.

      The only issue that I think of but its not Rexall specific but NHL specific is the board have no give to them, think they used to, but now they seem to be solid.

      Though he hit the boards quite low so even if there was a suspension system in the boards, they would give at a higher point.

      • Johnnydapunk

        Other teams protect their stars. A sideways glance is enough to bring out the goombas. In Edmonton you can trip up their star player, injure him and get no response. WTF is Gazdic good for then. Oilers.

      • chickenStew

        “Actually Dan Craig (ice maker ) hasn’t been with the Oil since 2005 at least and the ice was still ranked as the best for years after so I really wouldn’t lay much blame on the ice as its still very good.”

        The ice has been brutal for at least 10 years. The ice plant is old and outdated.
        Watch the puck bounce 2 feet in the air when it’s passed along the ice from about midway through the first period. Have you seen how much snow they now shovel off at each break?
        It’s an embarrassment to have this ice surface in Edmonton. I’m surprised there haven’t been more injuries.

        All this ‘best ice in the league’ talk was true decades ago.

  • Mooseroni

    when you have so many top picks playing how do protect them? The oilers are small and big teams will take liberties with them because there is no consequence. Great on them for winning the game but if McDavid is going to be the center piece of this team then someone should have dropped the gloves. Even if he did catch an edge sometimes the message sent is more important than the why it happened.

    • The question is, “Why did he catch an edge?”. The Philly defenceman had a handful of McDavid’s jersey because he was beat. When he pulled on it, it spun Connor around.
      Regardless of what happened there should have been a response. This kid is touted to be the best player in the world in the next couple of years and there wasn’t even a glove wash for breaking his collar bone.
      Against Calgary, Nuge got mugged in front of the net and had his helmet kicked across the ice and nobody responded.
      I think it is disgraceful! Nobody wants to see retaliatory penalties but without a response teams are going to continue to come into our barn and bust up our best players. This has been going on since we got rid of George Laraque.
      Todd MacClellan said that this is one of the changes he was going to make with this team. I have just not seen it. But I have seen the consequences.
      BRUTAL!

      • PB1976

        BAM, Manning was beat and he grabbed and spun mcDavid off balance and Gadzic should have talked to Manning after the 4 minute he took after he sub-marined someone and then took out Hall. That kid was looking for attention all night and Luke should have gave him some.

  • Action Jackson

    You have to feel for Yak. Finds something with Roy then loses him. Magic with Connor then loses him. Now he is likely back with Lander who he has struggled with.

  • D

    I would make the lines like this

    1st – Pouliot – Nuge – Eberle
    2nd – Hall – Draisaitl – Yakupov
    3rd – Hendricks – Lander – Purcell
    4th – Gazdic – Letestu – Pakarinin

    I would replace the 4th line wingers with Korpikoski and Klinkhammer when they get healthy and send Slepyshev down to play more. Also the six D that played last night should keep playing until there is a reason to take one of them out!

  • Craig1981

    You must be a genius because your solution was exactly what I would do.

    I think Draisaitl’s increased confidence should mean he shows a lot better now.

  • Shit bitch cunt fuck

    I would audition 6’5′ 230lb Yakimov, then run 3 scoring lines:

    POULIOT—RNH—EBERLE

    HALL—DRAISAITL—PURCELL

    SLEPYSHEV—YAKIMOV—YAKUPOV

    HENDRICKS—LETESTU—LANDER

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      Yes! Red Army line assemble!!!!

      I get that Yakiimov is a rookie, but on a third line, all Russian, sheltered minutes with a zone push. If nothing else that line would be big, and hungry to prove themselves.

  • Ready to Win

    Right now, today, I am putting Drai into the 2C slot, but if I am PC I am also looking to trade for someone who can cover that position in case Drai cools off or the Oil lose another C.

    I don’t follow enough teams closely enough to know who might be willing to send us a depth centre in return for an asset we would be willing to give up.

    But after last night it seems to me that one obvious partner would be Philly. Their defense sucks worse than ours and they are carrying a whack of centres.

    Could we maybe pull off Fayne for Gagner?

  • BDH

    Lander has had a small sampling of games last year where he played well but other than that has never shown the ability to be anything other than a role player. I thought he’d be a perfect fit for the third line this year but he’s been absolutely horrible defensively and a boat anchor on all line mates offensively. People try to claim that he hasn’t been given very good line mates to work with but he’s seen time with lots of players who are doing much better offensively than he is, and has seen plenty of power play time. He’s closer to the press box than he is to being the second line center.

    Once Eberle comes back, Draisaitl should move to center. Yes, the lines been on fire, but Hall, Nuge and Eberle have had great chemistry in the past as well.

    We need two strong offensive lines. Yak and Pouliot have worked well. Plugging a hole with Lander or Letestu or Hendricks isn’t going to help Pouliot and Eberle, and moving Yak to make room for Eberle doesn’t help him either.

  • Leaking5w-30

    As common sense as putting the Nuge, Eb, Poulliot line is, here’s a more wacky scenario.

    Hall – Nuge – Draisaitl (keep one of the best lines going)

    Pouliot – Lander – Eberle (Ebs and Pouliot have chemistry, maybe this gets Lander going, if not at least he’s responsible two way)

    Shlepyshev – Yakimov – Yakupov (The red army Russian line I’ve been waiting to see all year. Being a third line it would not have a ton of pressure to play 20 min a night, could be the best thing to come out of the McDavid injury and the key to 3 scoring lines. Let’s just admit, this is where the team is heading anyway.)

    Hendricks – Letestu – Purcell. (Fourth line is gonna be the fourth line.)

    That gives the team one insanely hot line, one line that could easily give as good as it gets, an awesome forechecking and enigmatic third line (with two giants on it), and a highly skilled energy fourth line.

  • Ready to Win

    In the short-term, I would plug Lander into the middle of Pou and Yak. When Eberle gets back, I would be tempted to reunite last year’s top line and try:

    Pouliot – RNH – Eberle
    Hall – Drai – Yakupov

    I think Drai and Hall have shown some good chemistry so far so maybe that would work.

    • It’s been night and day for the Flyers without Cooter. Play competitively and win some games this year with him; losing streak without him. Broadstreet Hockey noted that last night could easily have been 8-2, except for their stellar goaltending. They really value him, and they won’t trade him. And they don’t need young defencemen. They already have a lot.

  • I think one of the biggest things we can take away from the first 10 games of the season is that Yak is much more effective when he doesn’t have to carry the puck.

    He has to be treated like a big man in basketball. Give him the ball often but NEVER let him dribble.

    Yak has a rocket shot and he’s a very good quick touch passer but he’s a liability if he carries the puck for more than a couple strides.

    Keep him with a puck carrier like Hall or Nuge or he won’t be effective.