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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

High/Low: The Centres

Barring a shocking trade or a minor free agent signing, the Oilers roster we see now will be the same one we see come September. With minimal changes to the roster, it’s clear that the organization is banking on some best-case scenarios from multiple players this year in order to return to the playoffs.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll see me go through every player who should have an impact in the Oilers organization and try to guess what that players “ceiling” is, and also what their “floor” would be performance wise.

In doing this, I’ll be making a few assumptions. The first being that the player stays healthy for the entire season. Obviously, the worst case scenario for any player would be to miss a significant amount of time with injury. The other is that the player will spend the entire season with the Oilers. It would be easy to say that the best case scenario for some names is that they’re traded away from Edmonton.

For the high end of things, I tried to be realistic yet optimistic. Of course, it’s POSSIBLE for someone like Kyle Brodziak to score 25 goals this year… but c’mon.

Now that I’ve explained my thought process, here is part one of my “Highs & Lows” for the 2018 Oilers: The Centres.

CONNOR McDAVID

THE CEILING: Trying to establish what Connor McDavid’s ceiling could be proved to be very difficult. He scored 41 goals last year on a bottom ten team, with a dismal power play and no consistent linemates. He also fought off a nasty illness halfway through the season.

A boost in powerplay numbers alone could get him close to 50 goals in my opinion. If he continues to click with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ty Rattie, and the Oilers start winning more games (which could mean more empty net points), McDavid could have a historic season.

My ceiling for Connor McDavid is 50-75-125, with a Hart Trophy and some playoff games to go with it all.

THE FLOOR: Well, what if he doesn’t click with RNH or Rattie? The Oilers are so thin on the wings, it could be tough to find a linemate who can truly help McDavid.

There’s no guarantee that the powerplay bounces back either. Still, it’s Connor McDavid, so I’ll set his floor for this coming season at 30-60-90. It would be tough for the situation around him to get much worse than it was this past season, but you never want to say never.

LEON DRAISAITL

Mar 31, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) controls the puck against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

THE CEILING: Similar to McDavid, Draisaitl’s numbers could get a significant boost just from the powerplay returning to form. In 2016/17, he scored 27 powerplay points while this past season, he only had 11. An added 16 points this season likely would have taken away much of the criticism Leon faced this year.

There’s also the issue of who his wingers will be. But if he clicks with either Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto, it could turn into a dangerous duo and give the Oilers a second line that can produce an elite amount of offence. Even if everything goes well, it’s important to remember that Leon likely won’t get as much 5v5 time with Connor McDavid compared to last year. That will no doubt hurt his production.

With some help from his wingers and some added powerplay productivity, I think 82 points over an 82 game season is the ceiling for Leon Draisaitl.

THE FLOOR: Again, with RNH being pencilled in on McDavid’s wing, it’s unlikely that Drai will see close to 500 minutes with #97 like he did this past season.

The power play struggled, but the bottom line is that Draisaitl spent a significant amount of time with Connor McDavid at 5v5 and likely won’t have that luxury this season. The team also doesn’t have a proven goal scorer to put on his line, so if he’s going to produce offence, he’s going to have to drive the play all on his own.

There’s a chance we could see Leon’s point total drop as low at the 55-60 point range, but I can’t see it going any lower than that. So that’s what I’ll make his floor.

RYAN STROME

Feb 25, 2018; Anaheim, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Strome (18) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Anaheim Ducks the third period of an NHL hockey game at Honda Center. The Oilers defeated the Ducks 6-5 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

THE CEILING: By the end of last season, Ryan Strome sat fourth on the Oilers in primary points produced. When I look at his first season in Edmonton, Strome found most of his success, both offensively and defensively, when he was playing as a centre. I expect that next year he will get 82 games as the Oilers 3C.

Strome didn’t contribute much on the powerplay, but that could change this year. The Oilers need a right shot to play on the top unit opposite to Connor McDavid, and Strome could fill that spot. If he does, expect a spike in his production.

If everything lines up for Strome, and he ups his shooting percentage from the 8.8% he had last year, I could see him become a 20-30-50 player.

THE FLOOR: This is another scenario where the Oilers lack of depth on the wings could hurt the production of their centres. If Strome is simply stuck with the remains of a weak group of wingers, it might be tough for him to produce consistent offence.

When it comes to the powerplay, he wasn’t exactly a fit on the top unit last year, so I doubt he’ll all of the sudden click in that spot this year. There’s also a chance that Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto get prime PP time ahead of him.

Strome was up-and-down in his opening season in Edmonton, so I don’t think he can get much worse. I’ll set his floor at 10-20-30 for 2018-19.

KYLE BRODZIAK

Feb 8, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues center Kyle Brodziak (28) celebrates after scoring during the second period against the Colorado Avalanche at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

THE CEILING: Last year with the Blues, he scored 8 even strength goals, didn’t play at all on the powerplay but took on a large amount of their penalty killing duties (140 mins at 4v5).

If he can give the Oilers the same amount of offensive support, I’m sure they’ll be absolutely thrilled with it, especially considering he’s only costing them $1 million. But perhaps even more importantly, he needs to come in and help their penalty kill.

My ceiling for Kyle Brodziak is 12 goals and 20 assists, with an added 150 minutes of time on the penalty kill, which he’ll help finish in the top half of the league.

THE FLOOR: This is pretty straight forward actually. As long as Brodziak can stay in the lineup and be a semi-competent NHL centre, the Oilers will have no problems with him.

The problem will be if the 34-year-old loses a step and struggles to keep up in a league that’s only getting younger and faster. If this happens, he could struggle to stay in the lineup, which would obviously be a problem for the Oilers given their lack of depth.

Less than 10 points, and less than 70 games played is the floor for Kyle Brodziak. 

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  • Spydyr

    This should be the year we see if Draisaitl can carry a line and he is worth his salary. Draisaitl may be in for tough sledding as his available wingers look to be on the weak end of NHL caliber top six players. Many feel he was overpaid by at least a million and I agree with them.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I’m not sure about the over-pay. He has the ability to be twice the player Tavares is in 5 years. Making him close to equal in value now for the remainder of his contract. There is a 3 million $ savings right there…

    • OffTheNever

      Leon an overpay?
      Leon has to carry a line?
      When is the last time Jonathan Toews had a 70 point season? Yeah he won the cup a few times but it wasn’t without have really good wingers. Was Toews carrying a line ? I don’t think so but he was effective with skilled wingers.
      Where does this notion come from that a hockey player who makes bank has to carry a line with bottom 6 or cheap players?
      Leon needs skilled players to be effective.
      Do you Leon expected to skate around the whole ice surface and do everything himself? Is hockey not a team sport?
      Leon is worth every penny. A strong power forward that can play C and RW that doesn’t get injured.

    • OffTheNever

      According to your logic, now that Nikita kucherov makes $9.5mil/yr he should be able to carry his own line so the Oilers should definitely trade Strome to Tampa Bay where he can center nikita kucherov.

    • E-Mac

      Leon is going HAM this season. He will definitely be scoring at a ppg pace. I’d put his ceiling at 90 points. Talbot is bouncing back. Oilers are making the playoffs.

    • Teeeb

      We get Leon for prime years at 8.5. Wait for two years and look at the caliber of player 8.5 will get you. Furthermore, let’s see what Leon’s putting up as he enters his prime in two years. Then we can talk about if he earns his salary.

    • Spydyr

      It is possible ,stranger things have happened but I agree with you it is not looking so good. It would take almost a perfect storm of bounce back years for some and career years for others. It could happen but it all hinges on goaltending.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Last season was Talbot’s worst with a .908 save percentage. The previous seasons were .919. .917, .926 and an astounding .941. I can see your negativity is based on last year. But let’s not forget that Talbot’s defensive help was banged up and a fragment of their true capacity. This year they are presumably healthy, with new proven defensive coaching to boot…
        I think goaltending should surprise you this year.

        • TKB2677

          People need to remember that Talbot was hovering around .900 for over half the year. He took of in late January and is numbers in the last 1/3 of the season where excellent which helped to raise is season average big time. If Talbot was .908 the whole year, the Oilers would have been right there for playoffs.

      • Nellzo

        Last year almost everything that could have gone wrong did. I expect things to regress to the norm which puts the Oilers around the cutoff line. With McDavids little speech at the NHL awards as well as a few other highly motivated players I think they will push for a top 4 spot in the west.

  • Big Nuggets

    10 to 15 less points 5 on 5 and 10 to 15 more points on the PP should mean similar totals to last season for Drai. But I see him throwing down a dominant season soon, potentially this year. He’s only 22 and already has better offensive abilities than most. He also has some sort of German determination to be great. His combination of size, skill and determination tells me we have yet to see his best.

  • daryl

    Leon will have to drive his own line forget Conner he needs to earn his 8.5 mil Peter should have been able to sign him for 7.5 mil and used the extra mil for Nurse.

    • LAKID

      I am still waiting for an NHL team to offer sheet Nurse 5M because Chia doesn’t have it and still has to fill out a roster. I wonder if that is what Nurses camp is waiting for, one heck of a bargaining chip. The big trade looms………..

  • Glencontrolurstik

    Brodziak also has the advantage of being an above average face-off man, adding to his value. Let’s hope he helps there, as the Oilers were abysmal in that area last year. I hope he is a mixture of Letestu & Hendricks. I like this pick-up, he’ll definitely be a fan favourite if everything works out as planned.

  • Bond

    To have all star wingers would be a nice luxury but unaffordable, that’s why teams develop their own. We do have 2 elite centers and enough young wingers lets just give them a chance. On the contract front a couple of do overs would be helpful, Sekera and Lucic namely. I’m optimistic about our young guys be it Jesse Yammy or someone else that steps up, it’ll happen.

  • toprightcorner

    McDavid – if McDavid plays 75 or more games, he will always score more than 100 pts.

    Ceiling – 55-78- 133 pts
    Floor – 36-64- 100 pts

    Draisaitl

    Ceiling – 36-53- 89 pts
    Floor – 22 – 39 – 61 pts

    Strome

    Ceiling – 23-40 – 63 pts
    Floor – 13-21- 34 pts

    Brodziak

    Ceiling – 12-22 – 34 pts
    Floor – 6-13- 21pts

  • TKB2677

    The Oilers PP in 16-17 was 22.9% good for 5th.
    The Oilers PP in 17-18 with the same guys was 14.8% good for dead last.

    What are the odds the Oilers PP will be as bad as it was? I would say ZERO. How many more wins would a even middle of the pack PP give you? Hard to say but probably 4 or 5?

    The Oilers PK in 16-17 was 80.7% good for 17th.
    The Oilers PK in 17-18 was 76.7 good for 25th.
    It has been reported multiple times by Stauffer who works for the team that McLellan took over the PK some time after xmas. He changed the system and changed the guys on it and in the last 3rd of the season it was really, really good. Before McLellan took over, it was near the top of the league on the road and setting records for being bad at home. How many games does even a middle of the pack PK give them? Probably 4 or 5. I say that because there were games at home where the Oilers gave up 2 or 3 PP goals.

    The Avs made the playoffs with 95 pts. The Oilers had 78 pts. I have just identified between 10-20 potential points just by literally changed the systems the Oilers were running for the special teams. Except for McLellan, they have brought in an entire new coaching staff. Yawney’s calling card is developing Dmen and being a excellent PK coach. Viveiros though having only some pro coaching is known as a PP Guru and Gulutzan has been a head coach in the NHL twice. I believe he was wrongfully fired as the Flames missed the playoffs because of goaltending and placing their trust in 35, now 36 yr old Smith who gets hurt every time. Plus he has lots of assistant coaching in the NHL, so he will also have a good handle on PP and PK in the NHL. So with just better special teams systems, the Oilers are going to instantly be much better.

    • TKB2677

      I assume most people say his speech after he won the Lindsay trophy thanking the fans for being patient and saying they will be back. I think he took it personal that he didn’t even get nominated for the Hart. A motivated McDavid is trouble for the league.

  • chezzychez

    These floors and ceilings seem pretty fair. Not too sure if you can really put a ceiling on Mcdad though. I also think Drai’s ceiling is more around 90-95pts

  • OffTheNever

    Just don’t put Leon and Lucic on the same line. They got crushed last year big time. I don’t know where this notion is that Lucic has to play with Leon but the stats don’t back it up.