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?

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • brian_d


    For the following reasons:
    1) We already know Hall-Huge-Ebs works
    2) The third line wasn’t totally incompetent for the first time all season on Tuesday–why mess with that? They’re trending upwards.
    3) Drai has a better chance of finding chemistry with those wingers than any other possibility, I believe–though, admittedly, this is the biggest wildcard for this scenario.

    This all hinges on that second line finding chemistry, and the bottom two lines actually doing something.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • TKB2677

    Once Eberle comes back. I would put Draisaitl between Hall and Eberle and move Nuge between Yakupov and Pouliot.

    Hall and Draisaitl have a ton of chemistry between them so I would want to keep them together. Eberle needs to be in the top 6. Plus even though McDavid is the main reason for the resurgence of Yakupov in my opinion, keeping the continuity of Yakupov and Pouliot should hopefully help. I also think putting a rookie in Draisaitl with Yakupov could be a bad idea given they may struggle in their own zone and Yakupov though better, still needs someone to help cover up the dumb things he still does on a game by game basis. So Nuge can do that. In addition, Pouliot and Yakupov need a driver on that line. Nuge is a driver and I think asking Draisaitl to be on the main driver on that line is too much.

  • Ready to Win

    When ebs is back;



    Ours best line from last year should take the top defenders

    Hall and draisytl have lightning together and draisytl and yak had some chemistry.

    Then when mcD gets back put yak back with him and we have 3 pairs to our mythical 3 headed scoring lined monster.

  • 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.

  • Jay (not J)

    I think that the top 3 lines as Willis outlines is a pretty good starting point for McLellan. I’m not even sure that the Oilers are in that different a position Friday night than they were yesterday afternoon. The defence is the thing that is going to determine the ceiling for this team this season and that hasn’t changed. Eberle is not McDavid, but he’s no slouch either. As long as our back end continues to improve the Oilers can weather this without reverting to the broken half team they were for most of the last 5 years.

  • 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.

  • Shit bitch cunt fuck

    Would like to know what the waiver wire has available for centers at the moment. If not, I’d try:

    Hall nuge yak
    Poo drai ebs

    Might as well get a look at drai playing center.

  • 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.

  • Leaking5w-30

    This one seems to me to be an easy one (when Eberle returns)

    Drai-Yak- Pouliot

    I’m disappointed in Lander’s start to the season.

    And as for Slepyshev, I’m just not seeing it so far. Seems there’s always that guy who unexpectedly makes the team, and the top six out of camp, and then leaves you scratching your head.

    Which reminds me, where’s JF Jacques?