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Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

McDavid, Nuge and Who?

Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are who we thought they were and it’s terrific.  It seems like a no-brainer to leave the newly formed dynamic duo together for the rest of this season and the beginning of next.  Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan has made it clear though, on multiple occasions, that he really likes Draisaitl on McDavid’s wing so there is a still chance that duo is reunited in October.

I’m going to pretend for a second that McLellan fights the McDavid-Draisaitl urge and has 97 with 93 to start next season. If he does, right wing on the Oilers top line will be one of the most coveted spots in the entire NHL next season, so here are ten names that could be in the mix.

I thought about ranking them from most to least likely but I haven’t had enough to drinks tonight to spend five hours trying to accurately predict the likeliness of McLellan’s line combinations.

Ty Rattie:

His play over the past two weeks has certainly put him in the mix, but I still wouldn’t say that he’s a true front-runner for the spot next fall. People are falling in love with the production that Rattie has brought to the table in March but it would be a mistake if management thought the same way heading into the off-season.

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A similar deal to the one he is on right now plus another look with McDavid and Nuge in the pre-season has probably been earned by Rattie at this point.

Pontus Aberg:

Aberg is the only player not named Rattie to have actually had a shot with McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins. Aberg, before he missed practice, didn’t really impress me but since he’s been back in the lineup I think he’s been outstanding. I’d like to see the newly inspired Aberg get another look with McDavid and Nuge at some point. He has speed, I like his playmaking ability and he doesn’t hesitate to fire the puck when put in positions to shoot.

Jesse Puljujarvi:

If you were in a laboratory creating the perfect winger for the top line you’d likely come up with a 22-year old Jesse Puljujarvi. The young Finn has size, speed and a willingness to shoot. Is he ready, though? My answer would be that he’s damn close, but the coaches answer would likely be no chance.

In two years, a Nuge-McDavid-Puljujarvi trio could be one of the most dominant lines in the NHL, but when the puck drops on the 18-19 season, I’d be surprised if Puljujarvi isn’t with Strome on the third line.

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Drake Caggiula:

Since the moment Caggiula signed with the Oilers he has been handed more opportunity than almost anyone on the club. We have seen Caggiula get time with McDavid in the past and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it again as a second or third option, depending on how the team starts next season.

Kailer Yamamoto:

He started this season on McDavid’s wing, why not next year as well? Let it be known that I didn’t like the decision to keep Yamamoto in Edmonton to start the season.

The pint-sized Spokane Chiefs forward has regained his dominant form in Junior and will most certainly be in the mix for a top six spot next season. If he produces in the pre-season again I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets a look.

Michael Grabner:

He’ll be a UFA coming off of back-to-back to 25 goal seasons so I’m not sure his price tag will fit in the Oilers right budget, but if it does he would be a nice fit.

Patrick Maroon:

Patrick Maroon seems pretty open to the possibility of returning to the Oilers this off-season. Could they bring Maroon back and have him or Nuge play on the right side all season?

Ilya Kovalchuk:

You can file this name under highly unlikely but intriguing as hell. Kovalchuk was Ovechkin before Ovechkin arrived but that was a long, long time ago.

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He has scored at a 44 goal pace over the past two seasons in the KHL and still has a wicked one-timer. I’d bet that the former Thrasher ends up in Florida in the offseason, but it’s fun to dream if you can call it that.

Rick Nash:

I’ve never loved Rick Nash, but I’ve never hated Rick Nash either. Once again, the price tag will likely end up being too high for the Oilers but if you could somehow make it work I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

Nash is coming off an 8-year deal from which he earned over $62,000,000 so maybe you convince him to take a “McDavid discount”.

Mike Hoffman:

After his glaring lack of effort against the Oilers last week I really wanted to leave Hoffman off this list but I just couldn’t do it. Not only is trading Nugent-Hopkins for Hoffman a complete non-starter for me, it would obviously defeat the entire purpose of this article.

The Senators have been a train wreck this season and I’m not really expecting that to change in the offseason. I’m starting to think you might be able to get Hoffman for something other than Nuge.

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THE WRAP

So there you have it, ten options to play with Nuge and McDavid. Remember this piece when Todd McLellan defies all odds and plays Draisaitl with McNuge because, you know, how are you going to stop three centres on the same line?

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I couldn’t figure out how to rank them but feel free to do so in the comments so I can rip your rankings apart!

Recently by Dustin Nielson


  • OilBlood

    I really hope we see McNuge to start next year.

    I’d hope they try and bring someone from outside the current internal prospects if possible to at least force Rattie/Yammer/Poolparty to really earn it.

    Side note, any thought on comments Laraque made over the weekend about Hall? Article link below. Did laraque actually say that? If so anyone hear anything about that? Not that great a look on Laraque to air this if true but it’s something…

    https://thehockeywriters.com/george-laraque-blasts-taylor-hall/

    • Facts

      Caggiula is serviceable as a fourth line energy type player or even just a 13th forward. Wasn’t he playing 3rd C last year? Where did that guy go? Completely agree about the coaches though, the special teams are enough of a reason but add on the fact he almost cost Connor the Art Ross and he should be fired yesterday.

    • cmandev77

      The Oilers seem to have fixed their PK and have looked good on the PK the past 15 or so games. The PP…I can’t figure out WTH is going on there though. Almost glad the refs don’t give us more PP’s.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I agree with the McLellan comment. I have said this since last year.
      I would like to say that Pullijarvi is a much better player than McLellan has allowed him to be.
      He needs to be playing REGULARLY, on a familiar line, in high intensity situations.
      His development curve has regressed since he has been played in lesser roles.
      His scouting was on a similar level with Laine. With half a season on the Oilers organization he couldn’t make the Finnish Jr. team, remember? We have all seen glimpses of brilliance with Pully. I think he has the talent to really excell & become an elite goal scorer. He just needs to play on a regular line & develop some chemistry. No way Aberg & Rattie should be ahead of him. What kind of message does that send? We have to recognize talent and boost skill & confidence. Not put them in their place all the time. This explains the constant excelling of players that leave the organization that regularly kick butt.

  • GreasyOilChef

    I really hope McLellen doesn’t go back to Draisaitl on the wing. Centres have the most impact on a game of the 5 skating positions on the ice. They’re the 3rd forward but also the 3rd defensemen and it’s a position you would like to have your 2 best players on separate lines. I’ve always saw Draisaitl as a Kopitar/Thornton type of player so having him on the wing would lessen his impact on the game and compromise our teams depth. Imagine a Anaheim with Getzlaf playing on Keslers wing or a Kopitar playing on Carters wing or a Malkin Crosby Kessel line in Pittsburgh…It’s no coincidence San Jose made the cup final after Todd left. The new coaching staff saw what their strengths were and utilized them. It’s borderline lazy and shows a lack of coaching aptitude when instead of changing a game plan on the fly, the coach just goes back to ol trusty “load up those top lines”… It makes sense when we’re chasing a game but at any other time it weakens the teams depth…Maybe by this time next year we’ll see Puljujarvi playing on Draisaitls wing finally…I hope a coaching change is made or at the very least McLellen stops being so stubborn and comes back next year with new tactics. I have a feeling McNuge will dominate at the World Championships and that success should continue next season. Also with a healthy D-Corp for next year and the old Cam Talbot returning to form, the best thing this team is to is next to nothing…I just hope Chiarelli doesn’t give up a Nuge or a Klefbom to acquire some skill on the wing or another d-man….

    • Dan 1919

      That’s his problem is his stubbornness, regarding everything from PP to Nuge. He wouldn’t put Nuge on the wing because he was in love with his skill set as a centre… so he’d sooner watch the team tank out of playoff contention than try Nuge on the wing earlier in the season. RNH is a great all around player, but he’s not Crosby for crying out loud, throw him on the wing when the season was circling the drain and see how it goes. Just like it took him so long to put Nuge on the 1st unit. He’s too old school and has to be able to adapt better in this new NHL. I wouldn’t doubt if he was told he can either play Nuge on the wing or Nuge will be traded for a winger, and that’s prob the only reason he’s on the wing.
      At the end of the day the only reason the team is doing well lately is because McDavid is on fire, partly thanks to Nuge’s help. What if Mclellan got McDavid going at this ludicrous rate earlier in the year, would the Oilers be in a dog fight for the playoffs right now?

          • Facts

            No by no means, I meant if Todd had figured out to get Lucic off Connor’s hip and give him some speedy wingers that maybe McDavid would have been playing like this all season, not having to drag Milan Luseless around. Although Connor getting sick wasn’t Todd’s plan either. Just saying if he wasn’t sick and if he had better wingers, he would’ve played this way all year and the Oilers might make the playoffs. Hope it didn’t come off as a diss against McDavid, he is the only reason most of us watch anymore.

          • inverno76

            1000% McDavid can’t stop pucks. Having Talbot look like the bad Dubnyk during his last season with us is what hurt us. That and the PP. That and the PK.

            We had 97 problems this year. McDavid wasn’t one.

  • Ryan Jones Is Still My Hero

    So I’m going to assume that Maroon is re-signed to a reasonable contract, and that Slepyshev flees to the Motherland (RIP, wish Todd would have given you a shot…) but I think that these might be decent line combos, with Puljujarvi potentially moving up the lineup later in the season based on his performance:

    Nuge-McDavid-Rattie
    Maroon-Draisaitl-Aberg
    Lucic-Strome-Puljujarvi
    Caggiula-Khaira-Kassian (Pak as the 13th man)

    I think that Rattie has earned a shot on the top line, it would really be nice to see the organization start rewarding players based on performance. Yamamoto can start in the minors and develop until it is clear that he is ready to play in the NHL. Puljujarvi can play against easier competition, and hopefully force his way into the top 6 by the end of the year.

    • Dan 1919

      The team is noticeably faster as of late with adding Rattie and Aberg, and also from subtracting Maroon. Not to say that Maroon isn’t a good player, but with the Oilers married to Lucic, I don’t know if Maroon is a fit anymore on this team. The NHL will only be slightly faster next year just as it was this year.
      I think Draisaitl’s wingers especially need to be fast as Drai can move when he wants to, but his general style is to slow down and pull the play towards him, then make a pass to a player he just generated space for.

      (I do realize Maroon is better than the current Caggiula option on 2-LW but I’d prefer a speedy skilled winger over both)

      • Glencontrolurstik

        I don’t see Kassian’s speed used much? He is sneaky fast. He is also one of the only wingers willing to “crash the net” but somehow he is never used that way? He is fast on the wing, but we don’t see it, because he’s not utilized that way with this team.

    • Ryan Jones Is Still My Hero

      Agree with the speed factor, but I think Draisaitl also plays better on a line that gets the puck in deep and cycles it anyway, which Maroon excels at. I also don’t think they will be bale to sign him back if another team makes a crazy offer, but the deadline showed that we may have overestimated how highly he is valued around the league, and with the cap going up I think the Oilers may be able to make an attractive offer. It would be a discount for sure, but who knows what he decides to do based on his history here.

      • oilerjed

        With Pat being lucky to surpass 40 points this season and only 2 goals in 11 games with the Devil’s, I cant see anyone lining up to throw money at him. He just may be that guy left over in August that can be got for cheap.

  • Hemmercules

    Rattie is doing alright but I hope to the hockey gods they haven’t slotted him into the top 6 for next season already based off a few games with McD. Same with JP. Great guys to have in the system but Chia needs to aim little higher for the top two lines. Hoffman would be alright but way too pricy, Ottawa will ask for the moon in a trade. No thanks to Nash or Kovie. I’m thinking UFA overpay or nothing unless of course they actually trade Nuge.

    • Dan 1919

      I agree, the Oilers have put together a small stretch of solid hockey when the games mean absolutely nothing, I would not assume this extrapolates into an 82game competitive season. When you look at this team from a sober view, they have average to below-average defence, with the best 1C in the league, and two more strong forwards in Nuge & Draisaitl. Other than that they are filled with trivial players, not to say that guys like Khaira/Strome/Pulj/Rattie aren’t looking promising, but when you’re evaluating a team that missed the playoffs by a mile, they’re not lights out.

      It sounds slightly depressing, but for me the Oilers are really only NHL best in one area, which is FWs (McDavid, Draisaitl & Nuge). If that’s the best they’ve got for next season, then I completely agree with you, they’ll have to do whatever it takes to find more NHL proven wingers. Although my preference would still be to secure to top Defenceman at which point you could probably go into the season with Rattie/Aberg/Puljujarvi/Yamamoto as your wingers.
      But if they don’t add wingers or a top talent dman, the team is still pretty underwhelming for me and I wouldn’t bank on them making the playoffs next year (not to say they couldn’t do it as it appears anyone can make it in this NHL )

      • Hemmercules

        I think the existing D will be better next year. Klef and Sekera will be healthy again, Larson wont miss time due to tragedy, Nurse will be a year older and ready to play again. That said, I still think Chia will really be looking for a another Dman. Hard to say what he will have to give up though?? Rather not go into the season having to rely on Gryba and Bear to fill out the D corps but trading Nuge or high draft picks is counterproductive too.
        Like to see a list of available Dmen at this summers free agency, not the best idea overpaying a guy on July 1st but they may not have many options otherwise.

    • QuitForRealThisTime

      They absolutely should fire Pete…..and give the job to an Oiler fan. Why not Spydyr for example clearly believes he can do a better job. I say give him the job. Heck give all the positions to Oil blog posters. So sick of the whining from so many non-contributing zeros. (Which is clearly one of the reasons many UFAs don’t sign hear. Not unless they are overpaid) Give the jobs to all you hind sight geniuses. How about we just cheer for the team instead of making this a city a cesspool of negativity.

      • Hemmercules

        Im not so sure a casual fan wouldn’t have done a better job over the last 12 years and I’m not even joking. I have dumped countless dollars and time into this team over the last 12 years to watch 13 playoff games. I think we all have a right to be frustrated looking at another spring out of the show. What better place to air your grievances than with a bunch of people with the same concerns/frustrations?? Head over to Facebook and join an Oilers kool-aid drinkers fan page, might fit your needs better.

      • Spydyr

        I’m pretty sure just following McKenzie’s list to a T would have done a better job drafting than the Oilers have done. What the Oilers need is fresh eyes from outside the organization and a dismantling and obviation of the old boys club.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Whoah,… here is a person that clearly hasn’t lived in other hockey markets, that care about their team?
        I will tell you this. When I went to last years playoff game in Anaheim, hardly anyone down their (LA included) knew that the NHL playoffs were even on. They saw the Oiler hat & said stuff like: “Oiler’s”, is that minor league baseball?
        We walked up to the arena an hour before a playoff game & got tickets for $25.00 US…
        I’d rather play in a city like Edmonton, thank you very much for the offer. With passionate fans to support me when I’m good & call me out when I suck.

  • E-Mac

    I would rather the Oilers went after Mark Stone over Hoffman. I know he’s a RFA so I’m not sure on the logistics but given Ottawa’s train wreck situation perhaps it may be possible. Stone is a right shot RWer. But I wouldn’t give up Nuge.

  • acesaaron

    I hope that TMac uses this time to sort out his lineup a bit. We know that Nuge-McDavid-Rattie seems to be working well but figuring out Drai and Strome are the keys to the lineup. After trying to force Strome at wing, he seems to be doing well at centre and I would keep him there. We all want Drai to be a centre but he seems more comfortable on the wing. Why not try him with Strome and Puljujarvi?

    Another possibility would be to put Drai with Khaira at centre and another winger (Slepyshev, Aberg, Cagguila). I would try that together for a bit and see what happens. This allows you to make a decision on those wingers and give them a real opportunity to contribute. Sleppy and Drai were good in the playoffs last year but the play of Lucic needs to be replaced.

    Better to use this time and figure out a few things internally before heading into the off season. If Drai cannot be on Connor’s line (and I agree with that), why not try out a few different combinations to see what might click? Rattie has never been a top 6 player in the NHL until placed on the top line. I feel that a lot of coaches and fans pigeon hole players into top 6 and bottom 6 players but it really boils down to production and results. I hope there are enough options to try with Drai and find what might work but having him as a dangerous threat on a nightly basis would make the Oil a nightmare to defend against, especially as Puljujarvi improves on a potentially different line.

  • rivid

    Sorry but if drake is in the top 6 or even 9 next year, management did not do the due diligence over the summer. He may one day be a top 9 player but at this time his is not. Some time in the AHL would have been good for his development. I say no to Hoffman due to cost to acquire. Nash, kovalchuk, Grabner will all be too pricey and Maroon was great but he is too slow for today’s NHL. So unless they can get a steal of a deal then in my opinion they will have to fill the spot internally or by trade.

  • toprightcorner

    With Ottawa in an obvious rebuild and having to make a decision on which pick to give Colorado for the Duchene trade, If the Oilers pick outside the top 6, They could probably make that a key component in a trade for Hoffman. Benson, Jones and 1st could do the trick.

  • toprightcorner

    I love the Big Rig, but since trading him and adding speed with Aberg and Rattie, they Oilers have been playing at a much higher tempo and have taken advantage of their speed. I wouldn’t look to sign him at all. Even if he came at a deal, his lack of speed will negatively affect the team more and more each year. Speed of a player needs to be considered for any additions.

  • toprightcorner

    Caggulia should not be considered for anything other than the 4th line. He is a very streaky player that will put up 5-7 pts in 5 games and then do nothing for 20 games. He is quick and plays aggressively. Speed and quickness with aggression now trumps size with aggression on the 4th line. Caggullia is a hit machine and good on the forecheck and that is what you need. If you watch when the other team causes the Oilers to turn the puck over, it is with speed and tenacity, not size. Khaira is the size on the 4th line and also has the speed. Caggulia can also move up the lineup in case of injury.

  • toprightcorner

    In regards to the McDavid Draisaitl line, that should be a non starter unless the Oilers are down by a goal or 2 with 10 min left in the 3rd and they both get double shifted.

    Chairelli needs to talk with McLellan and make sure they are on the same page. PC signed and paid Draisaitl to be 2C and he has more than proven he can drive his own line. If McLellan can get on the same page as PC, then things will work better. I have confidence in McLellan and his coaching skills moving forward with the Oilers under 2 conditions

    1) He listens to PC and leaves Draisaitl on his own line
    2) Show his loyalty to his team and not his long time assistants and fire them.

    I do understand McLellan running Draisaitl and McDavid so much to start the season as the season was quickly slipping away and it is hard to move away from the only line that was clicking, especially when you had Nuge who can play 2C and was playing well out of the gate.

    • Beer

      Agreed. McCancer is underminding the GM. I for one would like to see how this team performs with the player’s deployed in a way that shows there strength’s, not exposing them to their weakness.

  • toprightcorner

    Rattie has earned a chance to play with McDavid in the preseason and Aberg is a perfect low cost winger that has the speed and the smarts to play in the top 6. Chairelli cannot make the same mistake as last year and assume they will both continue on this path or even take a step forward. He NEEDS to bring in another capable top 6 RW. they don’t need to be of elite talent, just capable and have some experience in the top 6. The best case scenario is having Rattie, Aberg, JP and new addition all fighting and trying to be in the top 6. It is likely at the top 2 will emerge and 1 will be disappointing.

    I leave out Yamamoto only because I believe it will be much better for his development if he starts next year in the AHL and gets used to playing against men there instead of the NHL.

    • Beer

      Rattie hasn’t earned anything, neither has Benning, Caggiaula, but they keep getting thrown over the boards pretending to be NHL player’s. By your analogy, I would be a good player. I can skate without falling through the ice.

  • toprightcorner

    I like Grabner he has speed, can shoot and kills penalties. Problem is that he is will be, by far, the most coveted RW UFA on the market and at 30, he is likely looking for a 3-4 year contract at over $4.5 mill a year. I would pay $4.5 for 1 or 2 years but with Yamamoto and Puljujarvi coming up, that is too much time to invest that much for an older player.

    I would be fine with adding a veteran on a 1 year deal that can score 15 goals or more to bridge the gap for some of the young guys. A player that scores 15 goals on another team will likely score 20 goals with McDavid or Draisaitl.

    I like Vanek or Comeau on a 1 year deal. Vanek would be my preference as a top 6 shooter and a right shot on the PP. He can also play both wings. Comeau can also play both wings and kill penalties and is a consistent 15 goal scorer while not playing on a prominent line. If nobody else grabs the top 6 RW job, he is capable of doing it well for a year. Vanek would be looking at the smame $2 mill he made last year and Comeau could probably be had for under $1.5 mill.

    The other option is to look to trade for an under performing RFA that has speed and sees the ice well. If they have shown offence in the past, even junior, they can likely see the ice well enough to tag along with Draisaitl or McDavid. Jenner, Duclair or Aaltonen would be they type of player to target.

  • Gravis82

    Nuge McDavid and Drai is the quickest way to fix this team. Put all the money playing the most minutes. This way, we only need to find second line player to round out the team rather than first line players.

    Oh and I get that this is unbalanced, but the point is to add 2nd line players. Stacking the first line means the players we need to add are cheaper.

  • 50-39

    keep 93 and 97 together, a lot of cheap options should be able to work with them. We need to find someone to play with Leon the make that line dangerous as well. Maybe its JP, I just don’t think he is ready for that next year – maybe the second half.

  • Bills Bills

    Not one natural right shooting right winger on that list from outside the organization. Makes outside options limited. Ideally you have a right handed right winger that can one time and take a faceoff. Long term I am thinking JP is the only option on that list fitting the bill. They better make sure his off season training is tailored to specific needs in getting quicker in his reads.

  • Arfguy

    Can we please, please let the Pat Maroon era die?

    I do not get what everyone saw this year, but I saw another slow floater. Yes, Maroon has achieved more playing with McDavid than Milan Lucic or Jordan Eberle ever did, but this team is already slow as it is.

    If Maroon wants to come back to the Oilers, I say give him an entry-level contract. That is not an insult meant towards Maroon, but this team needs value contract that can be dumped easily if it doesn’t work out, not contracts that will sink us further.