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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.