Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: Who plays with who?

At this point, it looks like the Oilers’ roster is largely set heading into the 2018-19 season. The team made a few low-key additions over free agency, but, as expected, nothing major. Edmonton has about $8 million in cap room left to play with, but Ryan Strome and Darnell Nurse still don’t have contracts, so that’ll eat up the rest of their free room.

We have all summer to obsess over line combinations and pairings, so let’s get started early. That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. Who should play with who? How should Todd McLellan organize his forward lines and his defensive pairings? To me, there are a few interesting questions to ask in regards to this lineup…

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Mar 27, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates a first period goal assisted by forward Connor McDavid (97), his 100th point of the season at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Connor McDavid’s wingers

Towards the end of the season, we saw the formation of McNuge. Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were dynamite together. While many players have a difficult time keeping up with McDavid, RNH and his elite on-ice vision complimented the former MVP perfectly. Many have pencilled RNH as the top left winger alongside McDavid already, which is fair given the pair’s success last season. I have a bit of an issue with this that I’ll address in a minute.

The other winger who seems to have the inside track to play alongside McDavid is Ty Rattie. Rattie was called up from the AHL during garbage time in 2017-18 and found instant chemistry with McDavid. He scored five goals in 14 games and earned himself a one-year contract extension because of it. Rattie has been a prolific scorer in the WHL and AHL, so there’s some reason to believe he can score at the NHL level if put in the right situation.

As of right now, it seems like RNH-McDavid-Rattie will be the team’s top line heading into the season.

Leon and the second line

One issue with last season was Leon Draisaitl’s inability to carry a good second line on his own. He did score 70 points, which is great, but a lot of his success came on McDavid’s wing. When he wasn’t playing with McDavid, Draisaitl had a negative even strength goal differential. Of course, some of that blame can be put on the fact the team’s wingers were largely very bad.

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Personally, I’m not extremely into the idea of pasting RNH with McDavid. McDavid is good enough to carry a line with pretty much anybody. Rather than loading his wings with the team’s other good forward options, why not stack a second line? We haven’t seen much of Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins together and I wonder if that could be the solution to giving the Oilers a formidable attack when McDavid isn’t on the ice.

I’d like to see Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, and Tobias Rieder form a second line. I’d also be interested to see what JJ Khaira could do on McDavid’s left wing.

London Knights defenceman and Edmonton Oilers prospect Evan Bouchard. Photo Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

The blueline and Evan Bouchard’s nine games

I kind of just expect Evan Bouchard to get a nine-game cup of coffee at the NHL level this fall. He’s the perfect example of why the CHL/AHL thing of keeping U-20 players out of the AHL is really bad. Bouchard has played three years with the London Knights. He put up 87 points in 67 games last year and he would learn a lot more playing professional hockey. That said, he shouldn’t be rushed into a full NHL season. He’s just stuck in limbo, which is really unfortunate.

Regardless, I figure Bouchard will get nine games with the Oilers over the first month of play, and then he’ll get sent back to London knowing specifically what he has to work on.

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Elsewhere on the blueline? Darnell Nurse and Adam Larsson played together a lot last year when things were out of flux due to injuries to Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera. With everyone healthy, I’d go back to the 2016-17 pairings of Klefbom and Larsson, Sekera and Russell, and Nurse and Benning.

Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto

Jesse Puljujarvi has been a focus of conversation around here the past couple days. Puljujarvi has had a difficult time adjusting to the NHL game and the Oilers have put him on a bit of a developmental roller coaster. At this point, we really don’t know what to expect from Puljujarvi heading into next season. He’s going into the final year of his entry-level deal and has 13 career goals in 93 games.

Will the Oilers have both Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto on the roster next season? Both are eligible to be sent to the AHL and neither require waivers so I doubt both start the season with the team.

Where does Milan Lucic fit?

This is a really big enigma. Where does Lucic fit on the roster? A few weeks ago, it seemed his time with the Oilers was over. He could still be dealt, but, as of right now, Lucic is still a member of the organization. I think he thrives best in a third line role alongside Ryan Strome largely because he’s never been able to find chemistry with either McDavid or Draisaitl. I don’t know. He’s a tough one to predict.

What say you, Nation? How do you think the team should shape up next year? Who should be on McDavid’s wing? How do you stack a non-McDavid line? How do Puljujarvi and Yamamoto fit on the team? Does Evan Bouchard get a nine-game look? 

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  • OilCan2

    There’s a lot of summer out there to enjoy. By the time camp and exhibition start most of the line up questions will be answered by our great new coaching staff. My discussion starting opinion is that Bouchard will stick for the season in Edmonton. Benson is also going to get a good look and most likely be on the roster for our crazy long road trip to start the year.

  • TKB2677

    When it comes to all these articles about who is going to play with who and then people complain about not having enough around McDavid, what gets me is people don’t take into account McDavid’s salary. McDavid makes what 2-3 really good NHLers make. Don’t get me wrong, he’s worth it but that is a fact. Then you go look at the Pens and all their “depth”. Crosby signed his long term deal years ago and makes 8.7 mill. How underpaid is he compared to today’s dollars? 4 mill? Malkin makes 9.5 mill. If Tavares makes 11, Malkin is easily 2 mill underpaid. That’s 6 mill right there.

    Go look at Tampa. Kucherov was over 100 pts this past season. He is on his bridge deal making 4.766 mill. His contract is up after this season. He’s probably getting 11 at least.

    Washington. Ovie makes 9.5 mill. Today he should be making over 11. Backstrom makes 6.7 mill. Today he’s probably over 9.

    How’s Chicago’s depth? It sucks. WHY, because they are paying Kane and Toews 10.5 mill each. That’s today’s money.

    Toronto is a power house because why? Matthews and Marner are on their ELC’s making basically nothing. They just signed Tavarese to 11 mill. What will Matthews get? 11, 12? What will Marner get 8 or 9? They haven’t even signed Nylander yet who needs a deal. As soon as the Leafs have to pay Matthews and Marner when they have Tavares at 11, watch all their depth disappear.

    • ROILYDoGG$

      Exactly this is the new nhl. Big money for the top less for everyone else.
      Toronto’s screwed sooner than later. And he’s pretty much on par with Leon for points except Leon is way younger and should improve while JT is gonna decline in 1-3 years.
      McDavid and the other elite players also move the dial more and can change games in a big way, producing like 2-3 players combined. So you have a few of the elite and the rest are fillers.

  • WillyWonka

    this has been Chiareli’s best off season yet as the Oilers GM – he hasn’t giving anyone away for dirt, hasn’t traded any stars for magic beans, ans hasn’t overpaid anyone by double! the man is on a roll!!! total win for the Chia-pet!

      • ROILYDoGG$

        What’s the evidence for overpay ? A 2nd year playing , learning from mistakes comparable to other like players in league making the same amount? Hopefully they take a step forward for the 3rd year but they are 23-24 years old. $ 100,000-300-000is not a big deal when it comes to cap

        • Both received about $500 K above what the qualifying offers needed to be. The evidence is strictly my opinion. Both are in my opinion spare parts IE 7th man up. Add all the small and large overpays together , it comes to quite a sum. Enough that we cant even look at Maroon or add some type of impact player which I don’t believe either of them are.

    • Rockinghockey

      Well he over paid for a back up goalie by 1 mil, over paid Caggiula .25 mil, Benning .4mil.that could be the money right there to sign Nurse long term. Sign him for 8 years will take him into his 30s

  • El Connor mcdaddy

    Nuge – McDavid – Yamamoto/Rattie
    Reider – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
    Lucic – Strome – Caggulia
    Aberg – Kharia – Brodziak.

    Klefbom – Larsson
    Nurse – Sekera
    Russel – Benning


    I do not think we give Lucic a shot at the top 6 until he earns it back. We gave him all year beside Connor or Leon and he couldn’t produce. Caggulia also doesn’t get a sniff of top 6 minutes because he is not a top 6 player. And Jesse needs to be on the second line with some talent or else he is never going to develop. We want him to be this elite scorer yet we stick him on the third line. I think this is the most optimized Oilers line up with the roster we currently have.

  • BobbyCanuck

    Nuge – McDavid – Yamamoto/Rattie

    That would be like a smurf parade, fully expect McD to suffer a season ending injury…why is no one else bothered by the lack of muscle on McD’s line?

  • Opi

    Maroon … McGreedy … German Dude
    Hall … Hyphen … Tkachuk
    Cammy … Barzol … Ebs14
    Sleepyshev … Letestu … Caggs



  • Oilerproud

    Assuming PC could sign Karlsson I would assume the trade would look something like Nuge, Bouchard, Yamo and Picks for Karlsson



    Karlsson would bring offense to all 4 lines. Would be an instant upgrade to the whole team and PC should move mountains for the guy. Trash away

    • ROILYDoGG$

      Or keep them and have
      Nuge – solid 2way centre.
      Yamo- elite skater , compareable to Johnny hockey
      Bouchard – future PP specialtist , bigger than Drew Doughty and likely putting same points as Ellis From Nashville
      We have these players and the depth they bring for the next 5-10 years not worth 1 guy sorry I take the 2nd choice

  • Does any of this discussion matter when we know full well the McBlender is gonna make some weird-ass tasting milkshakes like this?

    Khaira – McDavid – Draisaitl
    Caggiula – Nuge – Kassian
    Aberg – Reider – Strome
    Lucic – Brodziak – Puljujarvi

    • Kr55

      Can McDavid and Drai on their own lines survive pre-season. That’s the question I’m still wondering about.

      McLellan can rarely resist the crutch of loading up 1 coach-proof line of elite guys that need no input to produce. Hopes they can win the game for him while everyone else plays a lousy system, and just hopes to not get scored on.