WWYDW: The Edmonton Oilers’ Centre Depth Chart


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


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.



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?

  • 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?

  • Shit bitch cunt fuck

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





    • 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.

  • 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… 🙂

  • 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.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    I think Lander gets the job for now. If he isn’t getting the job done maybe just play RNH more. Double shift with both top sets of wingers.

  • 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.

      • 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.

  • 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.

  • Spoils

    Plan A:
    send McDavid to Bakersfield when he returns and leave him there until March 12. That way he is under the Calder eligibility for games played and be guaranteed Calder in 16/17

    • Randaman

      Individual awards mean NOTHING unless of course you are talking about the Conn Smythe.

      We are building a team here and trying to get away from individualism, no??

      • 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…,

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Jaxon

    I would like to see one of these two scenarios when everyone is healthy:

    Poo – McD – Yak

    Slepy – Nuge – Ebs

    Hall – Drai – Pak

    Hendricks – Lander – Letestu


    Poo – McD – Yak

    Hall – Nuge – Pak

    Slepy – Drai – Ebs

    Hendricks – Lander – Letestu

    THEREFORE until then

    Replace McD with someone outside those scenarios with Bogdan Yakimov, Andrew Miller or maybe a Mike Richards or James Sheppard. That way, all 4 lines maintain their chemistry until McDavid gets back and can hit the ground running in January or February. Either that, or move Lander into that spot until McDavid gets back.

    PS I know Purcell probably gets the Pak spot, but I’d like to see Pakarinen get a better chance at playing with some skilled linemates for awhile. I’d like to see Purcell traded sometime soon.

  • 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.

  • Ready to Win

    I like the idea of trying Yak up at the top line and keeping Ebs and pouliot with Drai, but I wouldn’t touch that top line until some of the magic cools off and Ebs is showing top form. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

    I would love to see a Lander/Hendricks Ebs Yak combo and shuffle Pouliot back to the the third line. If Lander can get some offense back into his game this team will be extremely well of once McDavid gets back.

    With Yak playing better this season his strong off wing shot might start hitting the target.

    Don’t forget about Slepy.

  • TartanArmy

    Seriously though, I think Lander gets a chance. We know he is capable offensively, just needs to find consistency, and is good on the faceoffs. If it’s not working out after a few games, put Draisaitl back at center. Faceoffs are so important, wish Nuge was more adept. I think he would average 10 more points a season if he could win a draw more regularly.

    • 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.

  • 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”

  • 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.

  • Interesting query from Ray Ferraro on Gregors show. Has Yak really improved or has he been hanging on McDavids coat tails.

    In the words of the venerable Lowetide

    we wait

    Its a given that his new centre will not be nearly as dynamic as McDavid and thus regression is to be expected…… but how much regression.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!