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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Countdown to the season question #15: Who makes 23-man roster?

All 31 NHL teams have to submit their 23-man roster to the NHL on Tuesday.

Who will be on the Oilers roster for opening night?

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There are some obvious choices.

Cam Talbot and Laurent Brossoit will be the goalies.

Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Kris Russell, Matt Benning, Darnell Nurse and Eric Gryba will be the starting six defencemen. Yohann Auvitu will be the 7th D-man. Andrej Sekera and Ryan Stanton will start the season on injured reserve.

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisialt, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Mark Letestu, Jussi Jokinen, Zack Kassian, Jujhar Khaira, Ryan Strome and Drake Caggiula are locks as forwards.

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The Oilers have placed Mark Fayne on waivers, so I’d expect them to have 14 forwards on the opening 23-man roster.

That leaves five forwards battling for three spots: Kailer Yamamoto, Iiro Pakarinen, Jesse Puljujarvi, Chris Kelly and Anton Slepyshev

Saturday morning many reported Slepyshev would make his preseason debut in Vancouver, but he wasn’t in the lineup. If healthy he is for sure on the roster.

It would shock me if the Oilers exposed Pakarinen to waivers. He is a decent depth forward, and I have him on the roster.

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Kelly hasn’t done enough for me to earn a contract. If the Oilers signed him he’d be their 50th contract, which would drop to 49 once Yamamoto is returned to Spokane of the WHL.

I felt Brad Malone did more than Kelly in preseason, and I wouldn’t offer him a contract.

Which leaves one forward spot, if they elect to start with 14, up for grabs between Yamamoto and Puljujarvi.

Puljujarvi is eligible to go to the AHL, while Yamamoto must be returned to the WHL. Once he reassigned he wouldn’t be eligible to play for the Oilers until after Spokane’s WHL season is over, or if the Oilers are in an emergency recall situation.

Yamamoto has had a better preseason, and I’d send Puljujarvi to Bakersfield. Both are 19 and neither looks like they’ll be an impact player this season; which is fine. No one should be frustrated Puljujarvi hasn’t dominated thus. He’s very young. He had to adjust to life in North America and a smaller ice surface all the while trying to compete against the best players in the world. I don’t understand why some are concerned about Puljujarvi’s play.

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I suspect he will be recalled at some point this season, but right now he isn’t NHL ready. He only played 9:19 yesterday with all his TOI coming at even strength. He isn’t on either PP unit and he won’t kill penalties, so getting him regular ice time will be difficult. I’d send him to Bakersfield.

Yamamoto has impressed at camp, but if he cracks the opening roster it will be a short stay. I see no reason to have him in Edmonton all season. I’d rather him continue to develop and get stronger in the WHL.

If Slepyshev is healthy and ready to play Wednesday vs. the Calgary Flames, will Yamamoto be in the lineup?

Kassian didn’t play on Saturday, but he’ll take Puljujarvi’s spot on a line with Letestu and Khaira.

Would McLellan dress Yamamoto instead of Strome or Caggiula? It is possible, but I’d be surprised. Caggiula played on both special teams units on Saturday, and despite what some have suggested, I didn’t see Caggiula struggling in preseason. I’d have him on my opening night roster.

Strome was acquired this summer for Jordan Eberle. He scored three times in the preseason and played both right wing and centre. McLellan likes his versatility.

If Slepyshev is deemed healthy and ready to play, I believe he takes Yamamoto’s spot in the lineup.

Yamamoto and Puljujarvi will have an opportunity in the future to help the Oilers, but I don’t see it happening right away.

From where I sit, the most intriguing question is when will the Oilers send Yamamoto back to junior?

I understand the rationale to reward him for a good camp and be on the 23-man roster, and possibly play a few games, but will they? Is it necessary?

Who is on your 23-man roster, and if Yamamoto is on it, how long does he stick with the Oilers?

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  • Dan 1919

    I had Yamamoto going back to the WHL right away. With a camp as strong as he’s had, I’d play him 9 games and let him see first hand what he’ll be up against to help him prepare better in the WHL, then hopefully make the team next year. And who knows, at this point with his skill set, maybe he continues to prove us wrong and ends up sticking.

    He’s earned 9 games though, why not.

    • Craig1981

      Yamamoto is only 4 months younger than Puljujarvi (granted way smaller), so I think the age advantage isn’t a great factor. I find it shocking that some are disappointed if Puljujarvi doesn’t start in the NHL and feel Yam is too young.

      Every player responds differently, but giving Yamamoto a few games to see what he is lacking. Have him go back with the confidence he tore up the preseason, but that chip on his shoulder he couldn’t produce at the NHL level…….(unless he does and that is OK too)

      • Dan 1919

        Yeah I am not worried about Puljujarvi. He needs to get to a point where he is sick of the AHL and is going to force his way into the NHL with his size and skill. He’s just a bit to tentative right now, similar to Draisaitl at first.

  • Harry2

    If Slepy is healthy send Yamamoto down now. If not keep him on the roster and let him earn a couple paychecks maybe even play a couple games. But under no circumstances sould Yamamoto pass the 9 game mark.

  • Billy Charlebois

    Would it be possible to send Slepyshev to Bakersfield for 3 or 4 games to rehab and get in shape, without exposing him to waivers? During that time you could give Yamamoto his 4 or 5 games without burning a year of his entry level contract.

  • madjam

    It should be Yamamoto stays for entire season or close , and if anyone goes down it will be Jesse ? Why ? We simply have little high skilled offence in the AHL to cover well for 2 injuries on offense , and RW a possible problem . Keeping both makes sense even if one is down on farm ( meaning Jesse ) . We are not an offensive power beyond about our top 5 , and Kailer certainly seems like the most offensive threat we have the beyond the top 5 , and maybe better than 1 or 2 in that group . If we hope to continue to move forward this year it might be best to keep Kailer here . The others beyond Kailer have not shown enough offense to justify sending him back to junior . That is not going to change even when Slepychev is healthy to go . On current course I believe he will be here up to game 39 , where another decision will be made , to do like we did with Draisaitl , but only if he is not producing which I am doubting at this stage . Forward progression seems plausible with a productive Kailer in lineup , but rather meek , if not regressive , if he is not . Doubt they would bother holding him around for a 9 game probation if they did not feel he would be on team . If he failed to produce in that stint , which looks highly unlikely , they then might revisit sending him back .

  • Hemmertime83

    Even if he doesn’t play I’d keep Yamamoto up until his first nhl paycheck. Put some cash in his pocket as his juniors salary is only 70K. He’s earned that and maybe a game or two before going back. Almost doubling his yearly income without touching a year of his elc contract should put a bounce in his step at least

  • camdog

    I don’t understand the thinking process behind sending players down regardless of their performance. Here’s a concept, let’s dress the roster that allows the team to win the most games possible. I don’t agree with keeping underperforming players/employees on the team/job if their are younger people available that are more qualified.