As of right now, Jordan Eberle is far-and-away the most
established right wing on the Edmonton Oilers’ roster. The team has some interesting
options behind him, but not a lot of proven NHL talent. In this week’s edition
of What Would You Do Wednesday, we ask whether the current depth chart is good
enough, and if not what options our readers would look at.
The Status Quo
Jordan Eberle. Eberle
has scored between 24 and 28 goals in each of the last three seasons, including 25 last year in only 69 games played. He generally finishes in the mid-60’s in
terms of points and is a capable first-line NHL right wing.
Jesse Puljujarvi. The
Oilers’ most recent first–round selection was somewhat surprisingly available
with the No. 4 pick. He’s a 6’3”, 200-pound forward with a varied skillset, and
he’s coming off a 13-goal, 28-point performance over 50 games in Finland’s top
league. He’s only 18 and has never spent a season on North American ice.
Nail Yakupov. The
2012 first overall pick scored eight goals and 23 points last season. Offensive
development has been slow and his on-ice shot metrics have improved with time
but haven’t been particularly good at any point. He turns 23 in October.
Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl
excelled on his off-hand in some right wing cameos last season, but it remains
to be seen how he’ll adjust to playing without Taylor Hall. Perhaps more
importantly, moving Draisaitl to right wing would bump Mark Letestu into the
third-line centre position.
Zack Kassian. Now
25 years old, Kassian is big and plays a rambunctious physical game, but his
offence was intermittent and underwhelming last year and the shot metrics weren’t
particularly good, either. Is he more than a depth piece?
Iiro Pakarinen. Pakarinen
turns 25 next month and appears to have established himself as an NHL roster
player. He has good size and speed, plays aggressively and has a two-way
conscience. Offence is still a question mark; he had five goals and 13 points
in 60-odd games last season as a depth piece.
Mark Letestu. Letestu
is worth mentioning because he does have some offensive skill (10 goals last
year) and is a right shot. I expect he’ll be the Oilers’ fourth-line centre
next year, but using him as a winger on a line with one of Edmonton’s young
pivots might provide some defensive insurance and a fill-in faceoff man.
Although we’re now through the initial rush of free agency,
there are still a bunch of players out there who would be plausible fits in a
middle-six role for an NHL team. The following is not a comprehensive list, but
rather an overview of six of those options.
Brad Boyes. Boyes
was mostly stuck in a depth role in Toronto, but even so he put up 24 points in
just 60 games on a cheap one-year deal. He posted 38 points for Florida in
2014-15 and scored 20 goals the year before that.
Sam Gagner. Since
leaving Edmonton, Gagner has mostly been bumped to the wing rather than staying
at centre. He had just 16 points for the Flyers last season over 53 contests,
but just one year earlier scored 15 goals and 41 points in Arizona.
Jiri Hudler. A
left-shooting veteran who can play any forward position, Hudler is undersized
but undeniably skilled. He had 31 goals and 76 points for Calgary in 2014-15,
and last year scored 16 times and recorded 46 points.
Brandon Pirri. Another
left shot, Pirri is attractive not only as a scorer (14 goals, 29 points in 61
games last season) but because of his age. He just turned 25 in April and could
potentially be a long-term fit wherever he lands.
Kris Versteeg. The
well-travelled Versteeg won a Cup in Chicago in 2010 and returned to win
another in 2015. He’s coming off a 15-goal, 38-point campaign split between Los
Angeles and Carolina and just turned 30.
Radim Vrbata. Vrbata
had an awful year with the disappointing Canucks, scoring 13 goals and
collecting 27 points. He just turned 35, so it’s possible that we’ve seen the
end of him as a high-end offensive player, but it’s worth remembering that he
had 31 goals and 63 points as recently as 2014-15.
What Would You Do?
Is the status quo good enough, and if so how would you
deploy the Oilers’ current collection of potential right wings? Should Edmonton
bank on Puljujarvi being NHL-ready, on a Yakupov recovery, or on some other
internal piece in a key role? Or is it best to look at trade and/or free agency
as a means of upgrading the position?
Let us know what you think in the comments below.