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Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

High/Low: The Top Six Wingers

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 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.

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For the high end of things, I tried to be realistic yet optimistic. Of course, it’s POSSIBLE for someone like Tobias Rieder to score 50 goals this year… but c’mon.

Also, if you missed part one of this series, here is “The Centres”.

Now that I’ve explained my thought process, here is part two of my “Highs & Lows” for the 2018 Oilers: The Top Six Wingers:

RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS

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

THE CEILING: I’m putting Nuge in as a winger because that’s where I expect him to begin next season, but no one knows where he’ll finish the year.

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There’s no doubt that best case scenario for Nuge and the Oilers would involve him spending all year on Connor McDavid’s wing. Last season, he spent 225 even strength minutes with McDavid and was on his line for the last 13 games of the regular season.

In that brief trial, he posted 7 goals and 8 assists, a pace that works out to 94 points an 82 game season.

If 93 & 97 spend next season together and continue to click at the rate they did last year, I would say Nugent-Hopkins ceiling is 37-58-95 over an 82 game season. He could also bring some added value to the team as a PK option and on their second powerplay unit. Some will say it’s insane to think Nuge could get close to 100 points, but if he’s riding shotgun next to McDavid, I think the sky’s the limit. Also, please remember, this is me trying to project an absolute best case scenario for RNH.

THE FLOOR: It’s far from a guarantee that he clicks with McDavid like he did last season, and if the two don’t show chemistry off the hop I could see Todd McLellan move RNH back to centre.

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If that happens, he could be paired with linemates that limit his offensive production since the Oilers wing depth is so weak. His career points/82 pace is 56 points. I would set his floor a little bit lower than that and say that the worst case scenario for Nuge over an 82 game season is 20-30-50. If he can’t help on the PK or PP, then the lack of offense would sting even more.

MILAN LUCIC

Nov 24, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Milan Lucic (27) against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Buffalo beats Edmonton 3 to 1. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

THE CEILING: I’m not going to dissect this, because it’s been beaten to death. Lucic battled horrible puck luck and a lack of confidence last season. That along with an apparent lack of effort and what appears to be a dwindling skill set resulted in a stunningly awful season.

He shot 6.8% on 147 shots in 2017-18, if he would have shot his career average of 13.8% it would have resulted in close to 20 goals. If he’s worked to change his game this summer and if he gets some puck luck, I could see him scoring 20-25 goals this year. Again, it may sound insane, but with better puck luck and an improved Oilers powerplay, it’s possible.

I put him in the top six part of my feature because that’s where he needs to be to have a successful season and stapled next to Leon Draisaitl might be the best spot for him to succeed.

He also needs to be better on the powerplay. Last year, I saw him back away from the front of the net too much, he needs to be better when it comes to wreaking havoc in front of the oppositions net.

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I believe the ceiling, with all the stars aligning for Lucic, for next season is 25-30-55.

THE FLOOR: I’ll start this by asking a question: can it really get any worse than last season? He was a $6 million winger who only posted 10 goals and 24 assists. The fanbase and the media wanted him healthy scratched at multiple points. I like to think last year was rock bottom.

It is possible things get worse this year for Lucic, but I don’t think it’s likely. A competitive guy, coming off a very tough year for plenty of reasons will be highly motivated.

For that reason, I will set his floor at exactly what he did this year. It would be a colossal failure once again, and will only add to the pressure mounting on him and management. But I can’t see Lucic doing any worse than 10-24-34.

TY RATTIE

Ty Rattie recalled from the AHL Bakersfield Condors

THE CEILING: It seems like a given that Rattie will get a very good look on Connor McDavid’s wing to start the season. After all, he spent the end of last season there and posted 9 points in 14 games.

He has the offensive instincts to succeed in a complementary role and he loves to shoot the puck. Those are massive factors to consider when trying to find a linemate for Connor McDavid.

He might not get a lot of powerplay time, but if he’s on 97’s wing for close to 82 games, I think Ratties production could hit 25-22-47, which is slightly better than what Patrick Maroon did during his breakout year in 2016-17.

THE FLOOR: This is actually an easy one. If Rattie doesn’t stick on McDavid’s wing, there might not even be a spot for him on the Oilers.

We saw it last year, but he isn’t very effective in a bottom six role. It’s just not the type of player he is. That’s a big reason why he’s now on his third organization in four years.

I’m not going to set a statistical floor for Rattie because the worst case scenario for him and the Oilers involves a lot of trips to Bakersfield and back.

TOBIAS RIEDER

Mar 22, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Tobias Rieder (10) during the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

THE CEILING: Fellow Nation writer Christian Pagnani took a more in-depth look at Rieder HERE. But here’s my quick take:

His career high for points came in 2015-16 with the Arizona Coyotes when he posted 14-23-37 alongside Martin Hanzal. Leon Draisaitl has much more offensive upside than Hanzal, so if he clicks alongside Draisaitl, this could be a career year for the 25-year-old.

I’m not sure how much he’ll help on the powerplay, but he could be a good penalty killer, and the Oilers need that. That should be considered when we look back on Rieder’s season and try to judge if he was worth the $2 million Peter Chiarelli has given him.

In terms of production, 82 games with Leon Draisaitl could result in 25 goals for Rieder, and that’s his ceiling IMO.

THE FLOOR: If Rieder doesn’t get a look in the top six, it could be tough for him to produce a lot of offense, especially considering that he’s really just a complementary guy.

He’s never hit the 20 goal mark in his career, and I don’t think he’d do it saddled next to Ryan Strome or Kyle Brodziak. If he ends up just being a bottom six/penalty kill guy, I’d set his floor at 10-15-25, which is about average for Rieder offensively. Of course, he could not score goals and still bring value to the penalty kill. This is one of those cases where his success isn’t neccesarily tied to his numbers.

NOTE: I did not include Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto in the top six portion of my piece. I did not forget about them, I simply have them under different categories. They both certainly could make impacts in the top six, but as of today, I don’t have them slotted there.



  • Jimmer

    If the PP is not in the Top 10 vs. the league next year there is no ceiling for anyone other than McDavid. A healthy Sekera is not enough to fix this and neither is “hoping” that Klefbom has a better year. The first 30 games are critical for the fragile Oilers to make the playoffs and my worry is we will not have a “real fix” until it is far too late.

  • camdog

    RnH’s key to the season will be health and I’m not talking about just those injuries that keep him out of the line up. The previous few years his offensive game has taken a hit because he’s been playing a 2 way role. As nice as it would be for a teenager to break out, we’ve all been waiting for RnH to break 60 points for years now, he has the tools to do it.

    As to Strome, I think there’s another level to his offensive game. Given they’ll get the better offensive matchups the wingers on this team shouldn’t feel burdened by being “saddled” with Strome. He isn’t the Belanger triangle as some bloggers/fans pretend he is.

    • crabman

      @The Future Never Comes,

      a little of both. There was a good article a few weeks ago over at the journal that broke down Lucic’s season. The first half his shooting percentage was on par with career norms although his scoring chances per game were slightly down.
      The second half when his scoring fell off a cliff it was more to do with his shooting percentage/puck luck than lack of opportunities. His grade A scoring chances were still down compared to career norms for him but he still had 25 grade a scoring chances. Over his career he has converted on 25% of those. The 2nd half of this season he scored on only 4%. He potentially should have scored another 5-6 goals the 2nd half of the season. He did hit a lot of posts and missed some open nets. He should have finished with 15-16 goals and around 40 pts. Still a far cry from what you would expect from a $6M top 6 winger but better than he ended up with. Being that snake bitten can be a real confidence killer and I hope that is what caused such a melt down in his game.
      I’m less worried about him putting the puck in the net, if he keeps getting chances it will start going in again. I’m more concerened with the fact he looked uninterested on so many nights, seemed totally out of sync and couldn’t make or take a pass on many nights. I hope that was a mental thing that he deals with in the offseason otherwise it could be another long season for Lucic and anyone on the ice with him.

  • Dapper Dan 3099

    Regardless who is having a good bounce back in terms of goals/assists, and who doesn’t…the most important thing is going to be the this team does not come out of the gate stumbling like last year…if they start hot, I think many guys will get their confidence back….if they go something like 7-12-1 in their first 20….then heads will roll, buyouts will be likely, “forensic audits” to follow, and my head will likely explode…

  • TKB2677

    Nuge: I would say anything less that 30 goals has to be a bit of a disappointing season. He had 24 goals in 62 games with more than half of those games being not with McDavid.

    Rattie: For the Oilers to have success and for McDavid to be who he should be he has to be the shooting threat he was in the half 1/3 of the season. McDavid should score at least 40 goals. If Nuge is getting 30+ and McDavid is getting 40, 15-20 goals for Rattie or who ever is on the right side is fine.
    Lucic: Before last season, it was pretty much automatic he scored around 20 goals and 50 pts. Lucic will want to have a “shove it up everyone’s asses” season. I would be pretty surprised if he didn’t return to his usual scoring of 20-50. Before xmas, he was on pace to surpass that easily.
    Rieder: If he plays with Leon like he should, I see 20 goals easily Rieder. He had 16 goals-34 points in 16-17 playing with literally nobody in Arizona. He should be able to easily surpass that if he is with Leon.

  • OriginalPouzar

    One player that should receive a shot in the top 6 on the wing (based on last year) is Ryan Strome. I like Strome as the 3C (as he really settled in to that role and was a plus on the PK) and I think the organization is looking for him to continue to establish himself in that role, however, the numbers show that he was a very good right winger for both McDavid and Drai. That McDavid sample was only about 55 minutes so really too small but he played almost 200 minutes with Drai and they had great possession/shot metrics and, more importantly, a 60% goal share.

    Its important to note that Leon/Strome had a 60% goal share but Leon without Strome was below 50% (and that includes his time with McDavid).

    For some reason, Strome really never got a real shot in the top 6 last year despite the Oilers winning the battle when he was up there.

    I don’t really see it happening but I would like the coaching staff to explore Strome as 1/2RW a bit more.

  • OriginalPouzar

    I like the Rieder signing and that has the potential to be a true value contract, however, I don’t like all the talk about him being a winger on the 2nd line. From his career, its fairly apparent that he’s more of a third line/middle six type player.

    Of course, we lack depth of winger for the top 6 so, yes, it makes sense that Tobias is in the conversation, however, in a “perfect world”, it would be nice if some other wingers “stepped” up (or in the case of Lucic, “bounced back”) allowing Rieder to play on the third line.

  • OriginalPouzar

    One wild card winger in the top 6 is Pontus Aberg. I don’t think there is a doubt that he has some top 6 skill, however consistency has been (and continues to be) his main issue.

    Going by memory here, however, he scored right at 2P/60 at evens after the acquisition which is firmly top 6 rates.

    I see him as a much better option than Caggulia in the top 6 (although the coach seems to see it differently) – to me, he’s a more skilled and faster Caggulia (and his defensive game isn’t the worst on the team like Drake’s was last year).

    • The problem was that 3 of his 8pts were from one game. Maybe chemistry is the key for him? I think McLellan kinda gave him a raw deal by shuffling him up and down and in and out of the lines every few games.

  • I don’t have any worries about McDavid’s line. Anybody but Caggiula could succeed with McNuge, worst case scenario is that we put Rattie with them and he played very well and didn’t hold them back. Im worried about Leon’s line, we’ll need Lucic to bounceback and one of Jesse/Yam/Rieder to break out this year, we could go 0/2 for Leon’s wingers but we could also go 2/2.

    • OriginalPouzar

      There is a bit of a concern with Rattie as 1RW – although the goal share was fantastic, the underlining possession metrics were not – they were below 50% in those areas and its not reasonable to expect to continue to outscore the opposition when the puck is going the other way more often than not.

      The issue, of course, is that Ty Rattie is, at this point, a poor defensive player – his defensive game is rivaled only by Caggulia in that regard.

      If Rattie is able to focus on this and become serviceable as a 200 foot player then, yes, the line has a chance for success (and Rattie a huge value contract at $800K).

      • Wiggleswag

        I’ll take a higher shooting % or goal share over possession numbers any day. I’m starting to believe good possession numbers without good goal share is like a 3 dressed up as a 9.

        • OriginalPouzar

          Of course goal share is more important that shot share, however, its not reasonable to think that the goal share will remain a strong positive if the possession and shot metrics remain negative.

          • crabman

            @OriginalPouzar,

            I don’t suppose you know off hand what the scoring chance splits were do you? It’s one thing to lose the corsi battle but if the scoring chances are more even that’s what really matters with shooting stats. High volume shoting teams aren’t always high scoring chance teams.
            Not saying they weren’t out chanced, they may have, I don’t have this data and am not sure where to find it.

    • crabman

      @OriginalPouzar,

      McDavid/Rattie scoring chances +/-
      They got caved in shot attempts but dominated in goals for. I’m wondering how they faired in the scoring chances for compaired to what they were giving up. If scoring chances against was in line with the shots against it is something to be concerned about. If it was closer to the goals for split I wouldn’t be worried.

  • chickenStew

    If anyone thinks Lucic is going to “bounce back” to being a top six winger, they are setting themselves up for a huge disappointment.
    Every time I read someone say he had one half of a bad season, was on pace for such and such, etc., it makes me wonder how short people’s memories are.
    Think back and remember HOW he has played for the majority of his time with the Oilers.
    Now add in his latest slide, his age, the pressure, his lack of basic hockey skills (pass the puck man!), not to mention that he is outta here the second the right deal can be made.
    There is no bounce back coming…

  • omahalloyd

    I think its reasonable to suggest every defenceman except Sekera and Russel can and will improve some this year simply because of age so in my opinion the only thing stopping us from the play-offs is goaltending,the centers will take care of the wingers but what will Talbot do?