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.
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.
As long as there no setbacks, EDM’s Jordan Eberle is tentatively scheduled to return to the Oiler lineup sometime this week.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) November 4, 2015
- 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.
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:
Is that the way to go, or should McLellan pursue a different approach?