Photo Credit: NHL.COM

WWYDW: The open roster spot left by Anton Slepyshev’s injury

Last week, I asked about the Edmonton Oilers’ blueline heading into the 2017-18 season. Specifically, I asked if the Oilers should sign Cody Franson to fill in while Andrej Sekera recovers from injury. He ended up signing a PTO with the Chicago Blackhawks, so the Oilers will end up rolling with what they have.

That brings us to this week’s question, which, in a similar vein, I ask what the Oilers should do with their forwards. Anton Slepyshev will miss training camp and is iffy for the season opener on Oct. 4. Slepyshev, a versatile winger who can play on the left and right side, likely not being ready for the beginning of the season will open a spot for another forward to have an opportunity with the club right out of the gate.

Should the Oilers sign veteran forward Chris Kelly, who’s coming to camp on a PTO? Should they give 2017 first rounder Kailer Yamamoto a cup of coffee? Or will a dark horse like Ty Rattie crack the roster?

Here’s what the Oilers were rolling with at their first team practice this week…

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I quite like this lineup. Jokinen and Puljujarvi make sense on the same line because of language concerns. Nugent-Hopkins can likely excel with more sheltered offensive minutes. Draisaitl needs to be carrying his own line if he’s making $8.5 million. Strome adds another big body that can drive the net with McDavid and Maroon.

There are a few question marks here, though.

The biggest in Jesse Puljujarvi. The Oilers are banking a fair amount on Pulju taking a step forward this season and replacing some of Jordan Eberle’s production. Is he an NHL player? Should he be playing in the AHL? What if he struggles and has to go down again this season? Who jumps up and fills that spot?

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Same goes with Drake Caggiula. He’s older and more well-rounded and will likely be better this season than last in his natural wing role, but what if Caggiula can’t contribute much offensively? If him and Pulju struggle, the Oilers suddenly look very thin on the wings.

Another is Iiro Pakarinen, who seems to have the inside edge in filling Slepyshev’s spot on the fourth line. Is Kelly a better fit here?

So that brings us back to the main question, which is who should crack the roster in place on Anton Slepyshev? And the follow-up question, how should Edmonton arrange their forwards? Who plays where and in what situations? 

Chris Kelly is an interesting option because he’s had a 14-season career and can play as both a centre and a winger. But he’s old, slow, and worn down, and wasn’t particularly effective last year in Ottawa.

Kailer Yamamoto is a big part of this team’s future and the Oilers could use some skill on the wings. But he’s got the body of a 14-year-old and the Oilers are finally in a position where they don’t have to rush their prospects into the big leagues.

Ty Rattie was a prolific scorer in junior and has been solid in the AHL. He’s bounced around the league and hasn’t had a consistent chance to play at the NHL level.

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Are there any players floating around free agency — other than Jaromir Jagr — that could be good fits?

  • OriginalPouzar

    After Spector’s initial tweet he made a follow up tweet indicating that Slepy’s injury is not serious.

    Chiarelli also addressed it in his interview with McKenzie last weekend and stated its not serious and that he may miss part of camp.

    While he still may miss part of camp its been reported that he’s skating with the guys pre camp.

    Bottom line, he’s likely ready for opening night – depending on how much camp is missed, he may need to slot on to the fourth line with Letestu and Kass until he gets up to speed (and he might be there regardless depending on where they want Drake).

  • Florescent Oil Orange

    So here is what I don’t get about Kelly PTO. Matt Hendrickswhy go with Kelly when we could have kept Hendricks to fill the same role but has history with the team and players

    • Spydyr

      Yamamoto was like the third or fourth best player in Penticton. He better pull up his socks if he wants to play in more than a few preseason games. The big boys camp and games with actual NHL players will be much tougher.

      • 99CupsofCoffey

        I didn’t really see anyone “excel” in Penticton. Butcher finally played up to his potential, but he’s an assist man at heart. Gambardella wasn’t too bad. Maksimov has a shot to be reckoned with. Yamamoto didn’t score the goals, but he looked more at home on the ice with the puck than the rest. I’d give all of them a tie. So we’ll wait for camp and see if anyone stands out – whoever that is should get the spot. I’m still betting on Yamamoto.

  • Mahaloeh

    First of all, it doesn’t look like Slepyshev is going to be out of the line up that long! The Oilers signed players like Malone & Rattie to help with depth with these types of situations. I personally don’t foresee Kelly getting a contract unless other long term injuries jump up.

  • madjam

    I am going to go with a dark horse candidate with a chance to stick if he shows well in exhibition , Evan Polei has the size , truculence and scoring ability to make a run . Although Pakarinen seems most likely .

    • OriginalPouzar

      Evan Polei had a fantastic tournament and was likely the best forward tonight against Nait/McKewan.

      He is also only signed to an AHL deal and will 100% not be on the Edmonton Oilers this year.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Yamamoto had an awful game tonight against Nait/McKewan. Yup, he made a couple skilled plays but overall he had a poor game – 2 offensive zone penalties, a horrible offside on a 3 on 1 and various turnovers.

    He should not be playing any NHL games this year – we knew this before but how is that not a full certainty to all fans that watched the last 5 days of games?

  • D'oh-ilers

    Whoever earns the spot in training camp/pre-season should be given the first crack at filling Slepyshev’s role. I’ll leave the question about the arrangement of forwards to McLellan and the rest of the coaching staff. There’s a reason why they’re getting paid the big bucks and I’m just a schlub watching the games on TV and talking about it on the internet.

  • I’m straight up guessing but I’m going to say that Chris Kelly gets a one-year deal and plays a utility role/extra forward on the fourth line. Letestu with an early season bump to 3C and and Draisaitl starts on the wing.

  • I’m straight up guessing but I’m going to say that Chris Kelly gets a one-year deal and plays a utility role/extra forward on the fourth line. Letestu with an early season bump to 3C and Draisaitl starts on the wing.

  • Cowboy Bill

    Chiarelli likes his character players and that is exactly what Chris Kelly is . He a veteran that plays LW/c . Could there be a better temporary fit ? So I could definitely see him filling in for Slepyshev on the fouth line while Caggiula fills in with Lucic & Draisaitl on the second line . If not , then one of Khaira , Pakarinen & Malone beat him out . They don’t have to be in a rush to get Slepy back into the line up . But Kelly should have a leg up on the competition with his character & experience alone . Either Kelly performs , or Khaira , Pakarinen or Malone out play him in camp . Competition is a wonderful thing . Not to mention what the competition and the team can learn from Kelly .

  • deferoiler

    Is it crazy to think gamberdela can make the team out of camp. Older veteran college free agent who obviosly has the size and skill to play in the big leauge. I can see him on a 4th RW with JJ and Letestu. Bump Kass up to the 3rd line where he did well last year

  • Wiggleswag

    You could say ‘If winger ‘B’ and winger ‘C’ struggle they will look very thin on the wing’ about any team except the ones that don’t even have a competent winger ‘B’ or ‘C’ and are thin already.

  • Space Pants

    This will be the year to see what Khaira and Pakarinen are all about now that they are both waiver eligible. I have those guys above anyone else anyway.

    Fun Fact: Was just looking at NHLnumbers and Draisaitl’s base salary is 10x what McDavid’s is this season.