The Oilers have 30 players — 18 forwards, ten defencemen and two goalies — remaining in camp and Todd McLellan has two games to determine his opening night 23-man roster. However, he won’t have to make seven cuts in the next five days.
Andrew Ference will start the season on the long-term injured reserve. He’ll be on the roster for one day and then moved to LTIR. Matt Hendricks and Iiro Pakarinen will start the season on the injured reserve. Kris Versteeg has a groin injury and is out at least a week. McLellan and his staff will monitor these final two games to determine who stays and who starts the season in Bakersfield, but the evaluation won’t end when the initial 23-man roster is named.
The opening night roster will look much different than the roster in December, March and April, so we shouldn’t make too much of an issue over who is here and who isn’t when the season begins. A lot will change during the season.
Last year four players who finished the season top-ten in GP among the Oilers weren’t on the original 23-man roster.
Jordan Eberle was injured and missed the first 13 games.
Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse and Iiro Pakarinen started the season in the AHL, but were recalled and ended up playing 72, 69 and 63 games respectively.
The Oilers leaders in GP last season:
82: Taylor Hall and Mark Letestu
81: Andrej Sekera
71: Lauri Korpikoski
69: Eberle, Nurse and Mark Fayne (he also spent some time in the AHL).
These final two preseason games will decide who begins the season in Edmonton, but you will likely see all these players, excluding Ference, play a few games with the Oilers this season.
It doesn’t mean the final cuts don’t matter. Far from it. It means everything to the players involved and it will also give us some insight into the plans of the organization.
Considering Nurse and Draisaitl started the season in the AHL last year, I won’t be surprised at all to see Jesse Puljujarvi get some AHL seasoning this year. He hasn’t dominated in the preseason and he’s only 18. I sense from conversations with both Peter Chiarelli and McLellan that they’d rather let prospects develop than play them right away. However, if McLellan wants to see Draisaitl on the RW, then Puljujarvi might start in the pressbox.
If the Oilers weren’t ravaged by injuries early last season, I doubt we would have seen Draisaitl and Nurse as early as we did. Every team has a plan until the games begin, and then the plan can change drastically if the injury bug bites as hard as it has in Edmonton the past few seasons.
Health is already playing a role this year. Hendricks and Pakarinen’s injury have opened the door for Tyler Pitlick or Anton Slepyshev to grab a spot. Versteeg won’t be ready to start the season and that will will give Puljujarvi or Yakupov more time to earn icetime.
Ideally the Oilers roster won’t change as much as previous seasons, especially early on, because they will be healthy and winning. If those two things don’t happen then we can expect to see constant movement on the roster.
RNH is sick again. He can’t seem to shake the flu/cold bug and it has hit him hard. The good news is this is still preseason, but his illness won’t allow McLellan to try Draisaitl on RNH’s wing. He wants to see them together, but will have to wait until Saturday, and one game isn’t enough time to get a good evaluation of any player or combination.
Benning, Reinhart and Gryba are battling for the #7 spot. I see Gryba as the front runner, but Benning has really impressed the coaches thus far.
- I will be watching the PK closely tonight for a variety for reasons. The Oilers will need some new penalty killers with injuries to Hendricks and Pakarinen, Korpikoski being bought out and Anton Lander destined for the AHL. Kassian will get an opportunity tonight as will Drake Caggiula who has killed penalties the last three seasons at North Dakota.
- The Jets have won four straight preseason games and they’ve outscored their opponents 17-4. They are winning because their PP is on fire. They’ve are 9 for 21 (42.9%) in those four games. They defeated the Oilers 5-1 last Friday despite Edmonton outshooting them 34-21. The Jets scored four PP goals. Tonight will be a good test for the Oilers PK, and McLellan told me he is looking for some guys to step up since someone has to play there. We know RNH and McDavid will kill some penalties, but McLellan doesn’t want them blocking shots regularly.
- A few people asked if Versteeg could kill penalties with injuries to Hendricks and Pakarinen. In the last three years, two in Chicago and last year in Carolina and LA, Versteeg has played a total of 9:50 on the PK. He averaged three minutes a season. They could try him there, but he hasn’t done much penalty killing recently.
- Speaking of Versteeg, his injury muddies the waters a bit. He tweaked his groin and is out a week. I spoke to Peter Chiarelli this morning about options for Versteeg. The Oilers and him could have a verbal agreement that he practices with the team without having a contract. He wouldn’t be able to play until he signs a contract, so the Oilers could announce a 23-man roster that doesn’t include Versteeg on it or on the IR. They might want to wait until they know for certain he is healthy to sign him. It is something to monitor. Versteeg had played well, and it sounds like the groin shouldn’t be a lingering issue. I expect him to sign a contract at some point.
- Lander isn’t playing tonight and unless the Oilers suffer some more injuries, expect him to be put on waivers and sent to the AHL before Tuesday. He will need to get quicker if he wants to get another shot in the NHL.
- A reminder to enter our free fantasy pool and you can win cash. You sign up at draftkings.com/gregor1260. Winner takes home $100. This is for the NFL, but if the contest goes well DraftKings will do something awesome with my show and on here for the NHL season. If you want an NHL pool then sign up for this NFL one. Good luck.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers don’t allow four PP goals and end the Jets’ winning streak with a 4-3 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In his first game wearing the “C” McDavid scores a goal, which is also his first unofficial goal at the new rink.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Maroon scores again and as the season opener gets close he will be pushing Pouliot for icetime and a spot on the second line.
NAPA GOLD FILTER EVENT SALE
Attention all fleet owners and DIY go-getters! It is time to stock up on the NAPA Gold Filter SALE! From October 3rd through to October 9th our good friends at NAPA Auto Parts are running their NAPA Gold Filter Event for all of your AIR, FUEL, & OIL needs. Blowout pricing on Regular and Synthetic Oils as well! NAPA Auto Parts is keeping money in your pockets and your vehicles running smooth.
Visit one of these three fantastic locations or visit www.napacanada.com and find out how much you can save with pricing that needs to be seen to be believed!
The Nation Discount
Use the discount code “OILERSNATION” when you visit one of these three NAPA locations from October 3rd to October 9th and receive 10% OFF any regular priced items in the store.
Recently by Jason Gregor: