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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Left Wing Locked

In a summer that gives us all kinds of opportunities to disagree, a universal positive is the signing of free agent Jussi Jokinen. Added to veterans Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic, the LW position has encouraging experience and depth. I think Drake Cagguila and Anton Slepyshev may also get some playing time on the left side, possibly Jujhar Khaira too. Unlike the right wing (we looked at that position here), the Oilers have some established and proven options on LW, many of whom are interchangeable.

  1. Patrick Maroon. Based on last season, Maroon can go one of several ways with the Oilers and be effective. However, the overwhelming success he enjoyed with Connor McDavid has to be a strong consideration. Maroon was 2.88 points-per-60 minutes scoring at 5×5 and had a Corsi for 5×5 of 52.9 with Connor McDavid. Without McDavid? He was 1.13 and 54.1.
  2. Milan Lucic. I’ve watched his entire career and 2016-17 was a real surprise on several levels. Lucic was fantastic on the power play, scoring 7.04 points-per-60 minutes on 5×4 powerplays. That was good for No. 6 among all NHL regular forwards. This is not a traditionally strong area for him, so the uptick was surprising and welcome. On the other side, he scored just 1.22 points-per-60 minutes at 5×5 even strength, including a disappointing 1.46/60 with Connor McDavid. I’m tempted to suggest the Oilers might try Lucic-McDavid again, but with Maroon already available it seems an unnecessary second look.
  3. Jussi Jokinen. An astute signing by Peter Chiarelli despite a season that was in some ways disappointing. His boxcars (69gp, 11-17-28) were well off his previous season (81gp, 18-42-60) but I think it’s reasonable to expect recovery. Jokinen is an excellent possession player, and through the brilliant site Puck IQ, we are able to drill down on exactly what Jokinen was up to last year in Florida. According to Puck IQ, he was 46 percent against elites (38 percent of 5×5 TOI), 50 percent against middle (40 percent of 5×5 TOI) and 51 percent against the gritensity (22 percent TOI). The important number here is 38 percent against elites, meaning he played in the heart of the game.
  4. Drake Caggiula. He closed well at the end of the regular season (3-3-6 in his last nine games) and he was injured early, so Caggiula’s year-end stats may not reflect the actual player. His 5×5/60 (1.04) ranked No. 299 among 354 NHL forwards who played 500 or more minutes. He was scoring at about the same rate as Tommy Wingels, Torrey Mitchell and Chris VandeVelde. I think we need to see him for a healthy season to know what the Oilers have in Caggiula.
  5. Anton Slepyshev. I’m not sure which side he’ll play, so will list him here. Anton Slepyshev scored just 1.34/60 5×5 last season, but scored 2.20/60 at 5×5 away from Drake Caggiula. He was also fantastic on a playoff line with Leon Draisaitl and Milan Lucic, we may see it again in the fall.
  6. Jujhar Khaira. Matt Hendricks wasn’t signed and that means there is a spot open for a player with similar skills. Khaira can handle the physical aspects and has worked on the PK, we’ll have to wait and see if he can fit into that role this fall. Khaira is waiver eligible.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

This estimates Leon Draisaitl signing at $8 million and represents an educated guess as to depth charts, overages, buried contracts, et cetera. I think we’re going to see Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Strome swap positions a lot and the LW position is going to be the steady slot among the forward group. Maroon-McDavid, Lucic-Leon and Jokinen-Nuge make sense from here, with the RW’s moving up and down as required.

  • Ko-D

    Really going to miss Pitlick when he is healthy. Thought his upside compared to our other depth options would be worth the health gamble.

    Hall for Lucic straight across anyone?

  • Mitch92

    The Oilers might have the strongest left side in the league but there is little depth. Jokinen is a wildcard at this point when I look at his decline over the past two years. Most notably the -40 decline in the plus/minus column. Will he be able to stick on the third line or will Cagguila take a step up?

  • OriginalPouzar

    Drake was set up to fail starting the year – he is a winger but was asked to play center, as a rookie pro, in the NHL coming off a 6-week injury. To me that was the most baffling decision Coach Todd made all year.

    His end of the year numbers were zoomed a bit with Connor but he showed he knows where to go and what to do. I look for him to be a bit more consistent this year and get more PK time.

  • Stack Pad Save

    I have zero worries about the Oilers left side. It is the right side that concerns me. The RW depth chart is scary and full of maybes. Maybe Puljujarvi can handle the NHL this year (I hope he can), maybe Ryan Strome can play top line RW, and maybe Slepyshev is really the one we saw in the playoffs (or maybe that was a one off).

    If any of those maybes don’t find success who do they get replaced by? Ty Rattie, I have zero confidence in him based on what happened to him in St. Louis. The other possibility is Kailer Yamamoto, who based on the lack of depth might actually be able to push for a spot; I had hoped that those days were done.

    This all makes me wonder if Peter Chiarelli might add another experienced RW to the Oilers depth chart after the Draistle signs his contract before training camp starts. Their are some really decent RW still available in Chiasson, Jagr, Stafford and Iginla. I think it might be a safe bet that PC takes a flyer on one of them.

  • toprightcorner

    I think the Oilers will and should start Draisaitl at center and Strome with McDavid. Draisaitle will play some shifts with McDavid and should only go there if Strome or the team is struggling.

    Oilers need to confirm this year id Draisaitl is the #2C and pushes Nuge to #3C or potentially out the door. This should be the most important question the Oilers need to answer this season.

  • bazmagoo

    I’d like to see McLellan try a Lucic – McDavid – Maroon line with the Big Rig playing RW. I was surpised he didn’t try it once last season. Who knows maybe I’m way off but I think that could be a decent line combination.