If Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are a destined to start together next year who or what does that leave for Leon Draisaitl?
Let’s take Ty Rattie off the list of options as I assume, even though I don’t agree with it, he will get the first crack with McNuge.
Here is the major issue with a Draisaitl line, you aren’t just looking for one winger, you’re looking for two. Let’s start by taking a look at who’s still around from last season.
THE EXPERIENCE FACTOR
Leon Draisaitl’s most common linemates last season were Connor McDavid and Patrick Maroon. If we’re assuming that McDavid is with Nuge than both of last years best buddies are off the list of options for Draisaitl in 18-19.
The next five most common line-mates for Draisaitl last season were as follows:
Milan Lucic 278 minutes
Ryan Strome 193 minutes
Drake Caggiula 183 minutes
Mike Cammalleri 173 minutes
Jujhar Khaira 168 minutes
The major issue I have here, which won’t surprise you, is the lack of ice-time with Puljujarvi last year. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that Draisaitl and Puljujarvi could use their size to be a dominant duo and I’m disappointed they haven’t had more opportunity to develop chemistry.
If you look at those names you have the following options.
A slow winger coming off an awful season.
A winger who now plays centre but not overly well.
A 24-year old who has done very little with ample opportunity
A UFA who very likely won’t be around
A promising player who’s become valuable as a centre elsewhere in the lineup.
That doesn’t look very enticing, does it?
WORKING IN DUOS
Todd McLellan has made it quite obvious that he likes to work in duos. If that’s the case then this task has just been made easier for us because even though we’d like to find two wingers for Draisaitl we really only need to find one.
When you look at the explanation of the options I laid out above I think the first choice is obvious.
I’m pretty sure that McLellan has JP pencilled in on the third line with Ryan Strome and while that may make sense to some of you I’m not seeing many other in-house options to start with Leon. Draisaitl is a terrific passer and could likely make the most of Puljujarvi ‘s shoot first mentality.
I understand that this option will drive the majority of you nuts but I’m here to tell you it’s definitely something that will have to be considered. Is there any way Lucic has a repeat of last season or dare I say it even worse? I doubt it. If Lucic has a strong start to the regular season this could continue to be something they run with.
In a perfect world, Drake Caggiula is now where near your top six, unfortunately for the Oilers their world is no-where near perfect. Could this be the year that Caggiula hits 20 goals if he actually lands on the second line alongside Draisaitl? I doubt it but one can dream.
Khaira is only an option if the team decides to leave Strome in the middle and adds another player who can centre the fourth line. In the very small glimpses, we’ve had of Khaira and Draisaitl last year I didn’t hate what I saw. In the same mold of a Puljujarvi-Draisaitl duo, this pair could dominate physically.
I’m stubborn, I’d still like to see Strome as a right-winger in the top six. I know I’m delusional, McLellan won’t go that way again but it should still be an option here.
From a production perspective, Aberg had his best stretch of the season on Draisaitl’s wing. As soon as he struggled he was moved off the second line and never got another look. I’m not sure what the Oilers plan is for Aberg but if a small amount of success is good enough to keep Rattie on the top line why not Aberg on the second.
The Oilers love the way Yamamoto thinks the game, that’s why he started this season in Edmonton and that’s why he will get a very, very, very long look again next season. The pint-sized junior scoring sensation could very well be a long term fit on Draisaitl’s line but if he’s the answer in a season you are looking to make the playoffs I feel you will be left asking even more questions.
A year too late, am I right? The Oilers could have fit Vanek on the payroll this season but opted to keep their powder dry (shout out to Lowetide). I still believe Vanek could make a positive impact as a 2nd line and 2nd PP guy for the Oilers next year.
He’s 27-years old, would come super cheap and has actually scored 60 goals in 228 games in his NHL career. If you do the math on that he has scored at a 21 goal pace in the NHL. Better than Ty Rattie, much better than Ty Rattie. I’d give him a shot, if he doesn’t pan out it’s on to the next one.
Poor Leon Draisaitl.
Which two wingers would you like to see on Draisaitl’s line next season? Please comment so I can argue with you.