Right wing is the biggest area of concern for the Edmonton Oilers. Todd McLellan was running a centre in Leon Draisaitl and a 19-year old Kailer Yamamoto as his top-two right wingers for much of the season, showing just how dire the situation is. With Yamamoto sent back to junior hockey Monday, McLellan will have to find new candidates to play the right wing.
Yamamoto played nine games and that’s a huge win in itself — 22nd overall draft picks usually don’t make it right after they’ve been drafted, and he didn’t look out of place. The Oilers could have kept him and have him score 30 points in a lesser role, but sending him back to dominate the WHL is a good decision and pushes his contract back another year. They’ll need those three cheap years of Kailer Yamamoto in a salary-cap world, especially when he’s more productive.
Yamamoto is gone, and he played almost exclusively with either Connor McDavid or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, so who could McLellan look to play minutes on right wing?
Leon Draisaitl: Peter Chiarelli said he sees Draisaitl as a centre, but he played more than half of 2016-17 and the majority of this season on McDavid’s wing. McLellan clearly favours the McDavid-Draisaitl combination, even as the team struggles out of the gate. Maybe Draisaitl doesn’t have to play centre, but could he form an effective duo with Nugent-Hopkins? That would allow someone else to play on McDavid’s right side, and McDavid has shown the ability to turn good players into great scorers. Do you really need Leon Draisaitl finishing passes from McDavid? Maroon went from a 30-point player to a 27-goal scorer, and I’m willing to bet something similar could occur with another winger.
Ryan Strome: At one point in time, Strome was an up-and-coming 21-year old scoring 50 points playing with the likes of Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Frans Nielsen. Strome’s currently centering a third-line between Jussi Jokinen and Drake Caggiula, but he might need some higher quality teammates and time on right wing if he’s going to score like he once did.
Drake Caggiula: The Oilers are clearly fans of Caggiula. They’ve fit him into the lineup whether it’s at centre or wing. He got some extended time on RW with McDavid last year, as well as top power play line recently. What’s working against Caggiula is his handedness and health. Edmonton’s wealth of left shots mean another one in the top six isn’t ideal, but Caggiula has speed and a lack of options in his favour.
Anton Slepyshev: Slepyshev’s an interesting option for a bigger role on the right side. At age 20 he had success in the KHL, a league that isn’t generous with minutes to its young players, and has been decent in the American Hockey League. He’s right-handed and, like Caggiula, had time with skilled players in the playoffs last season.
Zack Kassian: The rambunctious winger was one of the more effective 5-on-5 scorers for Edmonton last year. Kassian has speed and a right-shot, but he only has one point in 13 games this season and is probably better suited for a third or fourth-line role.
Jesse Puljujarvi: The Oilers’ fourth-overall pick in 2016 isn’t exactly setting the world on fire in Bakersfield. With 5 points in 10 games, it’s probably best to leave him in the AHL until he can consistently score there before counting on him to score at the NHL.
Ty Rattie: Rattie was once a promising prospect. He’s off to a hot start with six goals in 10 games for the Condors, has a history of scoring the AHL. He might be worth a recall with skilled minutes currently up for grab.
Otherwise, it’d be a trade. Elliotte Friedman talked about the Oilers in his weekly 31 Thoughts article and thinks they could be the next team to try something. Of course, the Duchene trade shows how difficult it is to acquire NHL players at this point in the season. Ottawa and Colorado needed Nashville to make a deal, and Duchene had wanted out since the middle of last season.
Edmonton won’t be looking to acquire a Duchene or Turris, though. Could they get a solid middle-six right winger? For example, Josh Leivo is a solid player stuck behind a glut of good wingers in Toronto. That seems obtainable and would allow McLellan to split up McDavid and Draisaitl, even if that means moving Draisaitl to Nugent-Hopkins’ line. Then the rest of the pack can fight it out for the third-line spot, which is preferable to having both spots occupied by young, unproven players.
Who would you promote on RW? Would you consider a trade and look outside for options?