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Photo Credit: Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

How has the Edmonton Oilers depth chart changed so far this summer?

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?

Forwards

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
Patrick Russell

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
Ben Betker

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.

    • KPUZ

      Would not go trusting PC too much. Anyone would look like a genius with McDavid + Draisaitl on their team. This team is worse today than it was going into playoffs last season. Maybe ask Boston what they think of PC’s mismanagement of the salary cap and assets (i.e.. Seguin) that has left that team devastated.

      • Dwayne Roloson 35

        With the internal growth, i’d say we’re better. Also, do you not remember that it was his acquisitions that got us into the playoffs last year?

  • madjam

    Looks like last year Chia worked on main club , and this season revamping the Condors while still gutting some of the underperforming main club . Chia has done little to help main club this year so far , which is puzzling .

  • Hemmertime83

    I would rather add Jagr today than a rental player for a pick at the deadline. 1×3.5 or 2×2.25 . Give the second year to intice him but no NMC. 2.25 can be put on 4th line or not kill a team as 13th fw. And even if he gets 30 pts you retain 1 mil and tradeable for a pick

    • Hemmertime83

      And I’m sure if he’s done he will have some LTIR reason. He can collect his money if “retires” after this season. And that cash is more than made up in Katz pocket by 68 memoribila sales

  • madjam

    We have maybe the worst team from the 4th-12th forwards in the Pacific division , as Willis has laid out – not even as good as Vegas is likely to have . Secondary scoring looks real sparse . Our defence is not overwhelming either with Sekara out . Better temper expectations this year by the looks of it so far . Leon and Connor can only do so much .

    • bazmagoo

      Disagree entirely. From what I saw in the playoffs Slepyshev and Cagguila are likely to take steps forward. Plus Puljujarvi has a chance to make the team and add a different dynamic. Connor and Leon will be better this year, as will Nuge who no longer has to cheat on defence because his right winger never back checks.

  • Mr.Snrub

    It’s only July 2nd now but i’m a little worried. To me there’s almost zero depth past our starting 23 (Jesse P & Mark Fayne) making the leap up in the above columns and that includes Andrej Sekera on LTIR! What happens when the injury bug hits? Or when some of these young wingers go into a month long scoring slump?

    Looks like Chia and the gang are saying “During the season, we’ll hide under some coats, and hope that somehow everything will work out.”

    This Oilers team IS good and could legitimately be on the cusp of greatness but don’t tell me a 103 point team can’t run into injury problems and become a 93 point team and garbage bag day is taking place in early April again.

  • Ryan68

    Gotta think this might be it for RNH. getting a qualified third line centre in Strome has to be the signal that RNH is being shopped. I think Chia surprises and pulls the trigger on that deal before the season starts.

    • I completely agree. It was always a lot to pay $6 million to the third line center, but now it’s just not possible. The Oilers need a RD with a hard shot more than they need an over-qualified third line center. Just like the Hall-Larsson trade, it will make the team more competitive.

      • Rock11

        They have no room for a RD. Which D are you trading along with Nuge. Signing Russell meant that Chiarelli was gonna run with this group. Nurse and Benning are the kind of low cost options you need and eventually Sekera is back. No room at the inn to improve the D without trading a young cheap promising player. This is why many of us hated the Russell signing. It isn’t the player so much as the inability to improve the roster in that spot.

  • madjam

    With present lineup , hard to imagine Oilers can match/replicate the dominance they showed in Pacific division games last season (20-5-3) . That was a whopping 43 of our points .

    • Present lineup is not the starting lineup. The Oilers are missing a top 9 LW, a top 6 RW, and a 2nd pairing RD. After Draisaitl and McDavid are signed, Chiarelli can fill in the missing pieces. The team will be better even next year.

      • madjam

        First off , we do not know if Chia can fill those holes you say he might or needs to adequately . Thus , hard to believe as yet we will be any better next season – hope infused so far . Having said that , it might be possible for Oilers to fill two of your forwards adequately or better with three possibilities (although young and inexperienced ) in Puljujarvi , Yamamoto and /or Benson . A combination of them might help lack of depth scoring ? I am just not impressed with the Willis lineup as shown .

        • RJ

          I think they’re counting on the fact McDavid won the scoring title at 20 so we don’t know how much better he’s going to get.

          If you look at Rob Brown’s stats he scored 49 goals one year playing alongside Mario and never really came close to that again. Elite players make everyone better.

          How many more points will McDavid score next season?

    • GK1980

      What’s with all the nay Sayers here. Yesh. Most of the guys know and play mclellens system. The SYSTEM got the Oilers 103 points. Players will always come and go but keep a solid core together and play the system correctly and I have no worries going into this season. Another +100 point season is my prediction.

      • MrBung

        Not naysayers but being realistic. I think one good season went to everyones heads. Need to take an objective second look at this roster and other western conference teams.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I really wish we would have re-signed Jordan Oesterle. Not retaining him makes no sense to me…unless it was done to open up a spot, or a reason to sign Keegan Lowe.

    I think he could have filled our #7 depth spot on defence quite well, maybe even #6 if need be quite nicely. Now instead we let him leave and signed Kevin Lowe’s son.

    When will we let Kevin Lowe and Craig McTavish go, finally?! (I keep telling myself it doesn’t matter and they’re not going to repeat the stupid mistakes of the past anymore…and then these things keep happening, even with Chiarelli at the helm. I think he is getting bad information from inside the organization, and it won’t stop until those men are fired.)

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      and Scott Howson? i thought he’d been fired and low and behold, who’s sitting at this year’s draft table….Scott Howson ! i guess he’s still involved with the scouting area or some such thing? i guess we all know what happens to Daryl Katz’s friends when they get fired….it really means re-assigned to another position within the organisation !

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Why do people act like we’ve lost a lot of players?

    The only change is Ebs for Strome and dealing with the Sekera injury for a bit.

    Strome will probably rebound because he dealt with injuries and was thrown in the dog house for the islanders.

    As for the Sekera injury, just play Klefbom and Larsson more minutes and give Nurse or Benning more minutes.

    I expect bounce back season for Nuge and Lucic.

    I also expect growth from our young guys. McDavid, Draisaitl, Slepy, Strome, Khaira, Pak, Caggiula and even Kassian can get better.

    On D, Klefbom Larsson, Benning and Nurse can get better too.

    acoring depth wasn’t an issue last year and it shouldn’t be this year. It should be better actually.

    • Rock11

      That is an awful lot of ifs and buts. Strome would need to bounce back just to replicate Eberle’s worst season and all of those improvements or bounce backs could conceivably go the other way. What if Mcdavid puts up “only” 85 points? Maybe this is who Nuge is. I hope you are right but a lot of other western conference rosters have improved and the Oil have taken some backwards steps. I have playoff concerns. As in not making them.

    • the reasonable person

      Well said. As fun as this site, the doom and gloom comments are puzzling. We lost Eberle and Pouliot and I respect that the new regime does that, guys that don’t fit their style, which is basically guys that can help win in the western conference playoffs, get the boot. So like you said, Strome is in for Eberle, we have to contend with Sekera out for awhile but should be able to weather that storm, and lots of guys we are hoping will step and grow (and it’s not a stretch to think many of them will).

      It’s borderline hilarious that so many of you want big name free agents signed and more “proven players” when literally the entire plan now is to find young/ cheap guys to help Connor and Leon win for the next decade, a la Chicago and Pittsburgh (3 cups each and another finals appearance for the Pens).

      It’s almost like Chiarelli knows what he’s doing, minus the Reinhart trade, and many of you commenters do not have a clue.

    • MrBung

      I expect more Lucic fall off and the same from nuge. I also expect Maroon to fall off. Strome is still a question mark and is unproven. Teams will also being playing Edmonton differently. Backup is unproven and for Talbot to carry the same load. Can’t see it working out well.

      • nuge2drai

        So what do you suggest.

        We trade Lucic, Nuge, Maroon and Strome… because we have no secondary scoring?

        This makes no sense. These are great secondary scoring players. These players will be given a chance to perform or they will be gone.

        It’s not rocket science. Everybody needs to chill out.

        • MrBung

          No. I am saying expectations need to be realistic. This team will go through a correction before settling in for future season. Lots of holes and unprovens yet. More work and time needed.

      • Dwayne Roloson 35

        You expect the Nuge to start going downhill at age 24? His last 3 years, he’s been at a 50+ point pace. He missed time because of his broken hand last year but was still on pace for 50.

        He had a down year with 43 points but took the most shots of his career. His shooting percentage dipped a little last year but he should be able to get back to what he’s done in his career.

        I could see Maroon falling off a bit for sure. He should be good for 20G though.

        I wouldn’t throw Lucic under the bus just yet. He just turned 29 last month and had a weird season. Most productive PP season and least productive 5 on 5 season. He should be able to get back to his career average.

        • MrBung

          Not throwing them under the bus. I don’t expect anything majorily different from them for the most part. My guess would be more of the same with minor drop off from Lucic and drop off for Maroon. Nuge will be the same.

  • jultz=2cups!😂😂

    Holy doom and gloom around here on July 2. Not sure why people seem to be under the impression that pc was gonna sign all the big name free agents. PC has clearly stated that his prime objective this offseason is getting Mcdavid and Leon signed. Not jagr or vrbata o We all know Mcdavid will be signed for sure but I think this summer will be a huge success once Leon is signed and the threat of an offer sheet is eliminated. I like the moves and signings he’s made so far.

    • MrBung

      Didn’t expect big free agent signings. Just looking at the lineup and being realistic. I think they will do well but not as good as last season given the current lineup.

  • Spydyr

    They moved out Eberle and Pouliot. Two players that hurt the team more defensively than they helped the team offensively. The move out two soft players. T A young defence will be a year older. McDavid and Draisaitl are a year older. The team has playoff experience now and understand better what it takes to win.

    The team is already a better team than lasts years addition through subtraction and maturity alone. Never mind the players such as Strome they have added.

  • madjam

    Will Talbot walk out on an illegal strike for more pay , seeing as he has twins to support , and C.Price getting a 10.5M/year for an 8 year extention from Montreal ?

  • Cowbell_Feva

    As many have pointed out, 14 and 67 are gone. So as of today, the Oilers are short 2 top 9 wingers that have any semblance of NHL experience.
    Couple that with an injured top 4 defenseman and (today) the Oilers are not the same team. It seems San Jose is largely left in tact (unsure if Marleau will be back). Anaheim is just as good. Calgary has improved. Technically so has Vancouver.

    So to my mind, unless Chiarelli has something going on for a top 6 RW and/or Dman to replace Sekera until January, I can’t see the Oilers being a better team at all. Not doom and gloom. Just how I see things as of today.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I’d love to see Jagr come play on a one year value contract. The guy still has the instincts and the offensive ability. Can you imagine Hamonic and Sluggie Hamilton trying to take the puck off a Draisaitl-Jagr cycle?? Good luck with that.

  • nuge2drai

    Maroon McDavid Draisaitl
    This will be the most dominant line in the NHL.

    Lucic Nuge Puljujarvi
    15 Million dollars worth of Secondary Scoring.

    Cagguila Strome Kassian
    Third line has potential for 45 goals, solid mix of players.

    Khaira Letestu Slepyshev
    One of the best 4th lines in hockey imo.

    As much as I would like to see an Iginla or Jagr signing, chia may decide to give this group a chance to see what he has before using the remaining cap space(est. 10 mil after Drais extension).

    Being in a position with minimal holes, a full roster and plenty of cap space should be celebrated. Not sure why there is so much doom and gloom.

  • MotoDave118

    Unproven players are unproven until…they prove themselves! Trading Nuge now for a proven top 4 dman would be great but it then means that one of Benning or Nurse gets demoted to #7. Unless you think having Russell or Sekera in the press box is better. (I know Matt, Russell should be in the press box because he brings nothing to the ice, probably kicks puppies and hates babies too). Nuge could have a good year if he starts to work on what got him drafted #1 instead of on defense only. This will allow us to have quality centers on the wing and allow more options on every line. I think we need to let the young D men play and see what they can do. Shelter them a bit behind our 2 work horses and see what happens.

    • MrBung

      Vast majority of time unproven players take time to learn and adjust. Results in more losses and more time and patience for things to come together. A good thing but sacrificing for longer term success instead of short term.

  • Bagged Almond Milk

    Just as I’m starting to get over the decade of darkness, the Oilers sign keegan Lowe. Excuse me while I go puke. That’s an absolute embarrassment .