Since the Edmonton Oilers last took to the ice, GM Peter Chiarelli and his staff have authored a significant trade, signed seven new players from NHL free agency, and made decisions to retain or release a score of the team’s own players. In the aftermath of a busy, if low-key July 1, what does that team’s depth chart look like?
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
|Patrick Maroon||Connor McDavid||Leon Draisaitl (RFA)|
|Milan Lucic||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Anton Slepyshev|
|Drake Caggiula||Ryan Strome||Zack Kassian|
|Jujhar Khaira||Mark Letestu||Iiro Pakarinen|
|Joey Laleggia (RFA)||Joe Gambardella||Jesse Puljujarvi|
|Braden Christoffer||Grayson Downing||Mitch Callahan|
|Kyle Platzer||Ty Rattie|
|Greg Chase||Brian Ferlin|
Four of Edmonton’s seven July 1 contracts were forwards, and all of them were aimed at adding some much-needed depth to a system almost entirely bereft of pro-level prospects.
The NHL roster projects to be largely status quo. Chiarelli strongly hinted today that Strome would play centre, which will mean the Oilers finally have a competent player in that position after spending most of last season without one. Jujhar Khaira, who spent most of last year in the AHL, should be close to a lock for the roster since he’d need waivers to be sent down.
There are 1-2 spots open on the NHL roster, and probably four players with a realistic shot at claiming them:
- RW Jesse Puljujarvi, who given draft pedigree and the need for offensive players on right wing should probably be regarded as the favourite for one of them.
- C Joe Gambardella, the latest high-profile college free agent signed by Edmonton. He enters the organization after a better than point-per-game season and has a reputation as a strong two-way player.
- RW Mitch Callahan, a strong AHL player who could potentially be this season’s Tyler Pitlick. He’s fast, physical, a capable penalty killer, and has shown enough offence in the minors that he might be able to play bottom-six minutes in the NHL
- RW Ty Rattie, a famous prospect who once scored 121 points in the WHL. Now 24, speed and size have been issues forever. He’s also coming off an absolute trainwreck of a season, but has been better in the past and can’t be concretely ruled out.
The other players on the depth chart are going to really need to make an impression if they want NHL minutes.
Grayson Downing and Brian Ferlin are both 25 and coming off unremarkable AHL campaigns; in some respects it’s a little surprising they commanded NHL contracts rather than AHL-only deals. Patrick Russell, Kyle Platzer, Greg Chase and Braden Christoffer are not scoring nearly enough to be regarded as real prospects at this time. Converted defenceman Joey Laleggia scored 20 goals last year and might be the best of this lot, but his age (25) makes him a longshot to have a substantive NHL career.
Defence & Goaltending
|Left Defence||Right Defence||Goal|
|Oscar Klefbom||Adam Larsson||Cam Talbot|
|Kris Russell||Matt Benning||Laurent Brossoit|
|Darnell Nurse||Eric Gryba|
|Andrej Sekera (inj.)|
|Ryan Stanton||Mark Fayne||Nick Ellis|
|Keegan Lowe||Dillon Simpson* (RFA)||Edward Pasquale|
|Ziyat Paigin||Ethan Bear||Shane Starrett|
|Caleb Jones||Ryan Mantha|
Once again, the NHL roster is set for status quo from a year ago, except that Andrej Sekera is injured and Brandon Davidson (along with depth pieces Griffin Reinhart and Jordan Oesterle) is gone. There is going to be little debate about the starting six, leaving one or at the most two jobs open for the other defencemen in the organization.
Edmonton has four experienced players who should all be in the call-up mix:
- RD Mark Fayne needs no introduction. He played well and earned top marks for professionalism after his AHL demotion last year. He’s probably the frontrunner for the No. 7 job right now.
- LD Dillon Simpson (who has spent time on the right side) is a longtime prospect who got into three games last year. He’s a two-way defender who might surprise with a strong camp showing, and will need to clear waivers to be demoted.
- LD Ryan Stanton should be familiar to Oilers fans from his two seasons on the Canucks blue line, mostly on a pairing with Kevin Bieksa. He was really good in 2013-14, then crashed in 2014-15. He’s a physical defender with speed limitations and modest puckmoving ability, and a realistic call-up option, though at 28 he isn’t likely to win a full-time job again.
- LD Keegan Lowe will also be familiar. Kevin’s son spent four years with the Oil Kings. On any other team he’d be useful organizational depth. In Edmonton, his junior history and father are likely to make him a lightning rod for criticism if he’s recalled and struggles.
After that come the prospects, and the Oilers actually have a pretty good collection of pro options, which makes it a little odd that they signed two older left-shot guys on July 1. Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear are rookie pros and should thus be viewed with suspicion (at least in terms of planning the NHL roster) but either could adapt quickly to pro and work his way into a major-league call-up. Ziyat Paigin has a tough year in the KHL but knows pro hockey, while big right-shot rearguard Ryan Mantha was an astute signing out of the OHL. 2013 pick Ben Betker rounds out the group and may have trouble getting minutes.
In net, the top three positions all belong to incumbents. Edward Pasquale (aged 26) has been a good AHL goalie forever and will push Nick Ellis for minutes in the AHL, while Shane Starrett is the logical candidate to play a ton as Edmonton’s ECHL starter.
Across the board, there really hasn’t been a lot of change from the team that left the ice last season, with the exception of the Jordan Eberle-for-Ryan Strome deal and of course the Andrej Sekera injury news. Although Edmonton’s management group had a busy Canada day, it was one where the actions focused entirely on organizational depth, increasing the stock of potential call-ups without introducing a lot of players who are likely to compete for jobs in training camp.