The Oilers have three preseason games remaining, and those vying for a roster spot will likely have two, maybe three, games left to secure a roster spot.
Who is on the bubble?
Iiro Pakarinen was in a battle to make the final 23-man roster, but a knee injury will have him starting the season on the IR. Todd McLellan said this about Pakarinen’s injury, “Call it a a month and see what happens after that.”
The final three games will make or break it for some guys.
The forward locks on the 23-man roster are:
Connor McDavid, Milan Lucic, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, Benoit Pouliot, Patrick Maroon, Matt Hendricks, Mark Letestu and Zack Kassian.
The only reason Yakupov isn’t a lock is because there is a chance he gets dealt. If not, I’d guess he’s here to start the season, but I could see him starting in pressbox instead of on the ice. This leaves two or three forward slots depending if they carry 13 or 14 forwards.
Drake Caggiula, Kris Versteeg and Jesse Puljujarvi are at the top of the list to earn a spot. It would be a surprise if both Caggiula and Puljujarvi start the season in Edmonton, but it’s not impossible.
I think Versteeg will earn a contract and a roster spot. McLellan likes his experience and versatility to play both wings and on any line.
Caggiula grabbed the coaching staff’s attention early in camp, but the final three games carry more weight. Puljujarvi has slowly gotten better, and scoring a goal will help his confidence. It was a well-placed shot, but if it was scored against an Edmonton goalie Oilersnation would have been livid.
If Caggiula plays well, then Draisaitl will play RW with RNH. I don’t see McLellan running two rookies on his third line, so Versteeg could play there. Yakupov starts in pressbox while Puljujarvi is in AHL. These three games will have a big impact on how the look of the 2nd and 3rd lines to start the season.
Both rookies will get at least two games, and maybe all three to make one final impression.
Anton Lander hasn’t done much this preseason. They aren’t expecting him to score, but when you are one of the main penalty killers and you are on the ice for three PP goals against, it doesn’t bode well. The Oilers would not be concerned about losing him on waivers, and he’ll need an outstanding week to avoid being demoted to start the season.
Tyler Pitlick and Anton Slepyshev are the other forwards still in camp. Jere Sallinen was assigned to the AHL earlier today, while 2015 draft pick Tyler Benson is heading to Vancouver in the WHL.
Slepyshev and Pitlick have had decent camps. Pitlick started great, but hasn’t been as noticeable since, while Slepyshev hasn’t made a major statement, but he’s been involved in every game. The Oilers like him. A strong week will at least have him in the conversation about the 23-man roster.
Adam Larsson, Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Mark Fayne, Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson are the top six. Davidson left last night’s game after Tanner Pearson hit him in the head. McLellan said he was “day-to-day until they get home.” The Oilers have today off, so we won’t know until tomorrow if Davidson has any lingering effects from the head shot.
Jordan Oesterle, Griffin Reinhart, Eric Gryba, Matt Benning, and Dillon Simpson are still in camp. Mark Fraser was placed on waivers today and when he clears at 10 a.m. tomorrow he’ll be heading to Bakersfield. Simpson will also be heading to the AHL, but he is developing nicely. Benning has been decent in his first pro camp, but he could use some pro seasoning in the AHL.
Reinhart hasn’t had a great camp. He doesn’t require waivers so I suspect he’ll start the year in the AHL. He needs to be more assertive.
Gryba, like Versteeg, will need to sign a contract. Oesterle has more offence and puck moving skills in his game than Gryba, but Gryba has experience and the coaches liked him last year. The Oilers have very little right-shooting depth in the organization, and signing Gryba to a one-year deal makes sense.
Oesterle has quietly had a solid camp. He makes smart decisions with the puck and I won’t be surprised if he’s on the roster next Tuesday. Oesterle does not require waivers, so keep that in mind when the final roster is announced.
Davidson’s health could play a factor as well, and if he is out longer than 10 days then both Oesterle and Gryba could start the season in Edmonton.
Also, the Oilers must have Andrew Ference on the roster for one day, and then he’ll be moved to the LTIR. The Oilers will have a paper shuffle when the final cuts are announced. One player will be assigned to Bakersfield, but he’ll be recalled as soon as they move Ference to the LTIR for the season.
Cam Talbot is the starter. He’ll be between the pipes on opening night and unless he soils the sheets in a few games, I’d start him in all nine games in October. The Oilers have no back-to-back games and a very favourable schedule before Halloween. They play six games at home and their three road games are in Calgary, Vanouver and Winnipeg. Easy travel and they even have a few two day breaks between games.
This team desperately needs a good start and I’d ride Talbot all month. With this strategy in mind I’d send Brossoit to the AHL and have Gustavsson sit on the bench and open the door. I’d rather have Brossoit playing games in the AHL than sitting on the bench.
If Talbot struggles, the OIlers could easily recall Brossoit.
Who do you see in trouble or on the bubble to crack the 23-man roster?
- I highly recommend reading this great piece by Penguins GM Jim Rutherford. There is much more to being a GM, and the story of Trevor Daley will make you feel both glad and sad.
- The Oilers have the day off today, but I suspect we will see them spend some time on special teams this week. Their PK got lit up for four goals in Winnipeg on Friday, and last night the PP didn’t register one measly shot on a five minute powerplay. I realize neither game had the Oilers full roster, but Larsson/Klefbom were on the PK on Friday, and McDavid and RNH’s lines were dressed last night.
I’d be more concerned if the Oilers were getting dominated at EV, which they haven’t been thus far, so that is a good sign. Their 5×5 play must improve this year, and I’m confident their PP will be decent. This week during practice they will have more of an emphasis on special teams.
- Maroon is feeling good and will be on the ice for practice tomorrow. Klefbom also has no lingering symptoms from the Dustin Byfuglien hit on Friday.
- Expect Leon Draisaitl and Andrej Sekera to be on the ice tomorrow morning, but I doubt Sekera plays until Thursday. I’d think Draisaitl would not play either, but they might put him in. I’m curious where Draisaitl will play, either on the RW with RNH or down the middle on the third line. Where he plays could give us an indication which way the Oilers are leaning regarding Caggiula and Puljujarvi.
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