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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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?
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!