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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

20 in 20: A Line Combination Extravaganza

So when you hop online looking for your Oilers fix in late July what are you hoping to find? Don’t worry, I know what you need. I have what you need.

Over the next 20 days, I will dish out 20 possible line combinations for the Oilers when they drop the puck at the beginning of the 18-19 season. I feel like I’m taking a risk here because if I can’t nail the Oilers opening night lineup with 20 different attempts I will be known as a loser for the rest of my days. I will be breaking this series up into four different pieces over the next 20 days featuring five different combinations per article.

In his last availability, Peter Chiarelli told us what we saw at the end of last year isn’t necessarily what we will see to start this season, so what will we see? Here we go.

SCENARIO ONE: In Which Ty Rattie Makes The Team

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

I don’t see Ty Rattie making the Oilers out of camp unless it’s on the top line with McDavid and Nuge. Outside of his stint on the big line at the end of the season, Rattie has never really contributed anything at the NHL level.

Even with Rattie making the team the right side is still very much lacking other legitimate options.

Sexiness: 4/10

Likeliness: 8/10

SCENARIO TWO: In Which The Oilers Go Big/Young On Their Second Line

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

The Oilers missed out on a major opportunity down the stretch last year. For the final ten games of the season, I would have had Draisaitl locked in between Khaira and Puljujarvi. If this trio actually had an opportunity to develop chemistry they could become a load to handle in the offensive zone. All three forwards actually move very well for big men and have each proven, while not consistently yet, to be a menace on the forecheck.

Sexiness: 7.5/10

Likeliness: 4/10

SCENARIO THREE: In Which Tobias Rieder Plays RW

Nuge – McDavid – Rattie
Lucic – Draisaitl – Rieder
Caggiula – Strome – Puljujarvi
Khaira – Brodziak – Kassian

Aberg

The majority of this 20 in 20 Line Combo’s Series will be spitballing but I do actually think Tobias Rieder will start the season on the right-side with Draisaitl.

A couple of things will need to happen for this scenario to actually play itself out. First of all, the coaching staff will need to play Drake Caggiula where he actually belongs, or at least not in the top six. This plan also requires Milan Lucic to get another look in the top six to start the year.

In a perfect world, I’d flip Caggiula and Khaira but I’d be shocked if McLellan starts Khaira higher up in the lineup than Caggiula. Hell, I may even flip Aberg and Caggiula.

Sexiness: 6.5/10

Likeliness: 7/10

Mar 20, 2018; Raleigh, NC, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan looks up from behind the players bench against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 7-3. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

SCENARIO FOUR: In Which Yamamoto Makes The Team Out Of Camp

Nuge – McDavid – Rattie
Rieder – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Lucic – Strome – Puljujarvi
Khaira – Brodziak – Kassian
Caggiula, Aberg

I know for a fact that the Oilers absolutely love the way Yamamoto both thinks the game and competes. He will very likely get an extended look with a trip overseas to start the year.

The trickle-down effect is what I probably like the most about this option. The Khaira-Brodziak-Kassian combination has the potential to be an above average fourth line in this league. This would mean the Oilers would have to scratch Caggiula, which isn’t something they’ve done very often over his first two years so I’m not sure they will start now.

Sexiness: 6/10

Likeliness: 2/10

SCENARIO FIVE: In Which Aberg Doesn’t Party Too Hard

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

I like the idea of Pontus Aberg but he left me wanting more a little too often last year. I still would like to see Aberg get a decent look in some solid offensive situations in the pre-season.

He has produced much better than Ty Rattie in their respective American Hockey League careers and clearly gets around the ice much better than him as well. Aberg’s best stretch last season saw him pick up seven points over four games while playing with Leon Draisaitl. It’s a small sample size but Aberg actually finished with 1.99 points per 60 (5on5) last season, which was good enough for fourth on the Oilers, one spot ahead of Nugent-Hopkins.

If Aberg is focused and realizes this may be his last crack at a regular NHL job I still believe he could be a nice little surprise for the Oilers this season. This would be big for the Oil because it would allow Yamamoto to develop in the AHL.

Sexiness: 7/10

Likeliness: 3/10

RANK ‘EM

Like I mentioned at the beginning this is part one of four so if you don’t see a line combination you can fall madly in love with or at least stalk from affair on Instagram please just be patient.

As for the options I’ve laid out so far I think I’d rank them like this.

  1. Scenario Three: In Which Tobias Rieder Plays RW
  2. Scenario Two: In Which The Oilers Go Big
  3. Scenario Five: In Which Aberg Doesn’t Party Too Hard
  4. Scenario Four: In Which Yamamoto Makes The Team Out Of Camp
  5. Scenario One: In Which Rattie Makes The Team Out Of Camp

Which one is your favourite? Which one is your least favourite? I really don’t care, but I am curious!

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • 18% body fat

    doesnt matter the order, so long as the ones with caggulia on the bench are at the top. That is all this team needs to do to make the playoffs, is dont put together a roster that brings down the top player in the world. That roster mean caggulia isnt on it.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    What does it matter? The lines will be whipped up anyway, we’ll probably see all these combinations in one period?
    I really hope that Todd doesn’t do that so often this season. But I would have picked the order you did.
    I think you are right, If Auberg can get his stuff together he’ll be a great plus for this team. He’s so far been a small piece to this team. But, from the small sampling we have seen, him getting on track could certainly have the biggest impact… I’m routing for him to bear down & get it done… 2.3 months… and counting…

  • Hemmercules

    I would say #3. After Nuge, McD and Drai that group of 12 doesn’t look much like a playoff team. I hope Im wrong but without some overachieving from a few guys this team will be reaching for points. Hopefully the Defence and goaltending hold up and maybe they can just rely on those 3 guys to carry the forward group. You know Mcd will do his part and then some and hopefully Nuge can have an amazing season next to him. Drai has to carry a line in a pretty big way in all those scenarios. It would be nice one of these years to go into season with confidence rather than just a hope and a prayer. I’m almost more interested to see how thing play out in Cowtown. They made some big moves but will it all work out? Seems like Treveling gets better deals on contracts than Chia does. They are almost the same situation there with the back end though. Lose a starting dman or Smith and its probably curtains.

    • Have to agree on the Flames. GM seems to get value deals with the exception of Brouwer . Not sure if the moves will work, but we may have our hands full. Meanwhile we overpay pretty much everybody, run out of cap room and could not even make an offer to Maroon. I am sure he wants to be close to his son, but probably could have been had with some extra $ and term. Another failure from this management team, but nothing surprises me anymore.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Try to think of the positives… Take the “NOT” out of your name for gord’s sake… It’s the off-season.
        Let’s dream of great things to come?

        • I did when the new management team was brought in, but did not know at the time they were keeping all the failed ones. Re inserted about 20 games into the season last year , when we could already tell they would make the playoffs. When Lowe , Mac-T, and Howson are all actually let go ,I may remove it, but not until I know for sure they have not just been re assigned, or given promotions and raises yet again.

          • Glencontrolurstik

            Fair enough, I do enjoy your comments, for the most part…
            In my mind Lowe & MacT are just figureheads, kind of like “Queens”.
            When I think of MacT I have 2 visions. #1 him trying to sell us Pouliot after he signed him from the Rangers as a UFA & him pulling out “Howdey’s (i think that’s his name?) tongue. I still chuckle at that last one & actually pull up the you-tube video every so often when I’m needing a pick-me-up.
            Lowe, well all he means to me is that he married Karen Percy, other than that his ego makes him comical to me.

  • Tonya Harding Compete Level

    If Rattle doesn’t make the team or play on the top line, I wonder why/if Lucic can’t just play RW with McDavid and Nuge.

    They would have the speed and possession while he could theoretically create space, crash the net and help defensively. I also think he has a bit of an underrated shot (despite the second half of last season) and some players have gotten a boost shooting wise when they play on their off wing because their release is just that little bit quicker being closer to the net (Players tribune James Neal).

    • TruthHurts98

      Lucic is a bottom 6 winger at best now. At some point we all need to except that reality. Not the worse thing in the world if Yammamoto and Puljujarvi can step in and be steady to good wingers. Maybe a tall order but if we don’t have a few players overachieving I can’t see any scenario where this team is better than last year’s team. Injuries always happen, I hope our stars can stay healthy this season.

      • Hemmercules

        I dont know if a 3/4 bad season automatically makes Lucic a bottom line player now but we will see. I have a feeling he comes back with a chip on his shoulder and plays they way he can and should. Im personally expecting somewhat of a rebound there.

        The rest is true though. Sadly they probably have to count on JP and Yammer to taking a significant jump. Injuries will happen, thats a given. I just hope they can overcome it and still at least be in the hunt after christmas.

    • hammer313

      Lucic, can’t even play his bloody wing! Why do we always want to waste our time with this guy in the top six? Every line he played on was the worst line on the ice, why reward THAT playing on the top line?

      • Leichs

        Agree lol. People seem to still want to dream that he will put up 50-60 points again with Connor on the top line. You guys wanna waste another season hoping and experimenting?? You didn’t get enough of that last year? Definateion of insanity: repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. You guys wanna bring Letestu back and keep him top line PP was well? Not me, put him on the third where he fits in nice with Strome and lets go.

    • Leichs

      Stop… Havent you guys seen enough of Luc killing our first line production?? Seriously I thought you would have learned after last year. But yeah, lets throw him out with Connor again because… reasons. People need to accept the fact that hes diminishing. I have no issue with him on the third line or even the second if he earns it but please cut the top line crap out. Hes not going to magically get faster and learn to give and receive a pass.. There are some things you can work on and improve but the speed of todays game has passed him. He cannot get that back with the way he is built at his age. People want him to play on the first line for what? To hope that he starts playing good again like we did almost for the entire last half of the year? He definitely does not have the IQ, hands or speed to play with Nuge and Connor. Would much rather see Yam Jesse or Rattie up there.

  • I like scenario 4, but I’m not convinced Rattie is going to last. How about bumping the kids up on the right side?
    Nuge – McDavid – Yamamoto
    Rieder – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
    Lucic – Strome – Aberg
    Khaira – Brodziak – Kassian
    Caggiula, Rattie

    • daryl

      Like your line up the best hated Todd’s reliance on veterans and shuffling our young players to the side especially JP. He also got out coached a lot last year like putting Lucic out on the overtime game not sure what he was thinking there. Really feel if he does not use his talent better he needs to be gone!

    • TruthHurts98

      Khaira is a beast and one of my favorite Oilers. I think he’s better at LW and probably can be plenty effective on the 2nd line. If not the 3rd line at worst since he had pretty good chemistry with Strome. I hope he keeps the trajectory arrows pushing upward so he’s never back on the 4th line.

  • TKB2677

    I didn’t see a line combination which has these lines and are the lines I would go with. These lines are based on the Oilers doing what they did with Leon and sending Yamo to the AHL no matter what. Based on the interviews I saw during the development camp, Yamo is of the mindset he is making this team for sure which is what you want as an organization. I think he could use a little time in the AHL but I don’t think he will need long. Even if he beats out say a Rattie, I would send him down for a shirt stint. First to give him some AHL time to adjust, second to make sure there is a fire under his ass like Leon had. With Leon making the team for half a season in his draft year, he came into his next camp thinking it was automatic. I think he actually beat out a vet or 2 but due to contracts, got cut in my opinion. When Leon got cut, he was PISSED. When he came back, he played like a guy that never wanted to go back to the AHL again. My opinion is with the 9 games Yamo got last year and how he talks, he thinks its a bit of a given he’s on the team. So my lines to start are:

    Nuge – McD- Rattie – showed success when together. Worth starting off to see what they can do.
    Lucic – Drai – Rieder – If a person actually looks objectively at Lucic and takes out the Lucic contract hate, he needs to start in the top 6. The team needs him to be a top 6 player. If you as a person want Lucic to be traded, playing him on the 3rd line only further makes it harder to trade him. You have to count on a bounce back and it won’t happen if he’s on the 3rd line. Rieder brings speed to the line, gets to play with his countryman which they both want and he is playing for a new contract. Good chance he lights it up.
    Khaira – Strome – JP – Khaira is a player to watch in my opinion. This line has size, speed, skill, physical play and should get soft minutes. This give JP time to get comfy, get himself going for a future bump up the lines.

    Caggulia – Brodziak – Kassian – This could be a very good line. Speed, skill, physical play.

    • daryl

      Sorry if Lucic starts on the 2nd line we will miss the playoffs he is at best a 3rd line player if he can play his way up great if not that is where he stays as far as I am concerned.

      • TKB2677

        Are you saying that objectively based on fact? He was a top 6 winger for his entire career including the first half of last season. I am not her to stick up for Lucic because I am not a fan of his contract but it’s baffling/sad to me that supposedly “informed” hockey fans can with so much certainty determine that a player is DONE after half a season. You’d think that based on how Oilers fans who supposedly know the game really well talk about Lucic, he’s the only player in NHL history to have a slump or a bad season.

  • Mahaloeh

    Nuge – McDavid – (Rattie, Yamamoto, Marody, Aberg)
    Lucic – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
    Khaira – Strome – Rieder
    Caggiula – Brodziak – Kassian
    Currie is an excellent signing, seen him play, wouldn’t be surprised to see him make a statement for spot on team. Khaira will take another step this year, he’s got talent, size & needs a bigger role!

  • ScottyPrime

    Your Scenario 2 has Khaira as the LW on both the 2nd and 4th line. I assume you mean to have Caggiula or Aberg(who isn’t mentioned at all) in one of those spots?

    Also in Scenario 1 you have Caggiula playing RW and Rieder playing LW on Draisaitl’s line, I assume they are meant to be switched?

  • Die Hard Oiler Fan

    Interesting article Dustin……one which I’m sure will receive lots of feedback and different views.

    There are quite a few players with things to prove heading into 2018-19, so I’d hope that these guys view training camp as the time where they are fighting for whatever line/position they are aiming for, or for that matter a job period.

    That said, “on paper” I am in agreement with you and would go with option #3, with one change (which you also suggest) – Khaira as LW3, and Aberg and Cagguila fight to see who watches from above.

    A couple of other thoughts …..
    1) I hope the coaching staff actually gives some lines a chance to develop chemistry this year. Not sure I saw a line combination last through an entire game last year.

    2) I’m a strong believer that JP should have been afforded at least some time on the powerplay last year (same for this year), and would like to see him have a greater opportunity in the top 6 this year. That said I fear that he might not get much of a chance at either. Why ? Two reasons, both related to poor cap management by Chia..A breakout season could trigger bonuses for JP, pushing the Oilers over the cap. Secondly, higher offensive production by JP would most certainly improve his bargaining power next summer (I believe his entry level contract ends at the end of this coming season). It makes me sick to think that this thought process could be something even considered by Oilers coaching/management, however consider Darnell Nurse (currently in contract negotiations). I’m sure Darnell would have loved at least some opportunity on the PP last year, and some more offensive zone starts. This would almost certainly led to at least modestly higher point totals, which in turn would portray him as developing quicker, and shedding the label he currently has – that of more of a shut-down dman. How about Ryan Strome ? Forget about all of the Eberle comparisons. Based on the articles I’ve read and information therein, Strome was initially slotted on RW with McDavid very early last year, but that was abandoned after just a few games, and he saw next to no top six time nor PP time thereafter. As you’re likely aware, Strome’s contract also expired following last season…..I’m sure he would have loved extra top six/PP time last year as well for the same reason – more money. Please do not interpret the above as my suggesting that anyone who is in the last year of their contract, should get preferential treatment. Every player needs to earn their ice time, including time likely to produce more points. That said, it makes you wonder where we’d be at if the team had greater success early last season (to the point where we were actually in a playoff race heading into Feb/Mar), and these three players had been afforded more of the opportunities outlined above………guessing our salary cap situation would be even worse.

    3) In terms of other line combinations…..almost all suggestions I’ve seen (including my own musings) always have Kassian as RW4. I know there will be some who hate this idea, but since there is currently no proven RW1, what about Kassian being given a chance to play with Nuge and McDavid. Hear me out for a minute. He skates very well, can get in on the forecheck, and create turnovers, has some finishing ability and/or net front presence, and would provide some toughness on the top line. I know fighting is deminishing in the game, but if I’m the opposition, I’m much less inclined to give Nuge or McDavid a cheap shot if he is one the ice. I’m showing my age a bit here, but the line of Gretzky, Kurri and Semenko worked o.k. That said, Kassian’s intensity level/consistency would need to return to where it was in 2016/17 to support this suggestion.

    Sorry for the length of this post everyone…..I get carried away sometimes. How many more days until training camp starts ?

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Geez, I don’t think Kassian takes or makes a pass well enough to play on the 1st line? Having a slow skater (Kassian is not slow) or someone who does not give and go very well, takes the flow away from the 1st line. Glass 2/3 full?

  • Spydyr

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

    Let Yamamoto get some experience in the AHL and bring him up if he performs when the inevitable injury happens in the top six. Do not bring him up unless it is for a top six role.

    Of course this does not take into account how the players perform in camp and the pre-season. This is a today list.

    • hummanahummana

      I like Khaira on the third line much better then the 4th and I like Caggiula nowhere near the ice haha. sadly I think Mclellans love affair with Cags will keep him in the lineup. Only thing I would change in your lines here would be keep Puljujarvi off of any line that Lucic is on. They are awful together.

      Nuge-Mcdavid-Rattie
      Lucic-Draisaital-Reider
      Khaira-Strome-Puljujarvi
      Caggiula-Brodziak-Kassian
      Aberg

      • Spydyr

        I’m doing it to start the season in the hopes that Lucic does bounce back. The team is paying Lucic six million a year and if he does not perform as a top six player it will hurt the team substantially. Putting him in the bottom six to start will hurt his chances to regain his confidence and come back to career level production. Do I think this will happen, well I’m not holding my breath but you have to give him every opportunity to bounce back.

        • TKB2677

          I 100% agree with you. Every time I see someone say Lucic is a 3rd liner or he should be benched, I question if they either know anything about hockey or they are making that comment with any kind of thought in their mind other than blind hatred for Lucic. If you want him to succeed, he has to be given a chance. If you give him the shot and it doesn’t work out, then you move him down. I am not a Lucic lover but like it or not he’s an Oiler, he makes 6 mill, his contract is extremely difficult to move so I can recognize that they need to get something out of him. If they ever want to trade him, his value has to go up by playing well. IF and that is a big if, some team were to want to trade for him, they are trading for him because they think he is a top 6 guy. No one is going to trade for him to put him on their 3rd line. So there is ZERO value in the Oilers starting him on the 3rd line. It’s stupidity to do that.

          • Bills Bills

            I am sure there is more than one post were Spydyr says Lucic is a third line player and a total boat anchor. However, he is in the top 4 of proven NHL forwards on this team if we like it or not. Personally I see Lucic as a smart enough player to play on any line on this team. But if we want the 50 points out of him they are expecting, he needs to play on the 2nd line with first unit PP minutes. He is not an off the rush player which is why he has a hard time playing with McDavid. But get him cycling below the hash marks and he is an above average NHL player. He can pass very well when his head is in the game. He has proven that and anyone who argues different is just bitter or has never actually watched him play.

            They need Lucic to be the guy they signed. Even if half his points come on the PP I am fine with it. It means they have a very good first unit again.

        • Spydyr

          @ Bills Bills Yes, I do believe Lucic is at this point in time a third line player who does not bring much to the table offensively. I also mentioned numerous times when he was signed the term was too long. The thing is the Oilers are paying him as a top six player and unless he produces as such it hurts the team. That is why I said give him every opportunity to produce and prove me wrong about his abilities. It is what is best for the team.

  • Jason Gregor

    Nelly, I can understand why you are a big fan of JP, but now Aberg…interesting…

    Let’s be real. He was not more successful in AHL than Rattie.

    Aberg has 76-56-132 in 203 AHL game. 0.65 PPG.

    Rattie had 92-92-184 in 268 games. 0.68 PPG. And that is skewed a bit cause in 2016/2017 he was hurt when he played 22 games and produced only five points. In his other 246 games he produced 90-89-179 in 246 games for a 0.73 PPG.

    I agree Aberg skates better, no question, but I’d question if he thinks the game as well as Rattie. I’m not sure either is the answer, but today I’ll take Rattie in a top-six role ahead of Aberg. (which I admit still isn’t a very comforting answer for OIlers fans) The main thing for me is Rattie needs to be in better shape. He isn’t in bad shape, but he wasn’t in top-six NHL forward shape. Similar to Maroon when he came over. Rattie should have a picture of him skating beside McDavid in his room, and look at it every day before he goes to the gym. If he comes to camp stronger and in better NHL shape (he wasn’t in bad shape, just not good enough) I think he could be a surprisingly productive player. Maybe produce 40 points.

    Interesting series, and I applaud your self-control for not putting JP on the top line yet. I know it killed you a bit inside. My curiosity is will we see it in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th installment of the series….

    • Leichs

      Rattie put up 9 points in 14 games and the tail end of last year. That translates to what, roughly 52 points in 82 games or something like that? Small sample size I know but I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to hit at least 40 points over a full season with McD and Nuge at the very least if they can stay healthy.. People seem to want to count this guy out pretty quick for no reason other than the fact that hes a late bloomer when it comes to his pro career and not a sexy name?

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Jason, I think Ty Rattie thinks the game very well, he has a nose for the net and seems to know where to go (in offensive zone) to find open spots to get a shot off. I agree with you, would be nice to see him in A-1 shape.

  • Redbird62

    In looking at the full slate of players the Oilers now have, I think is encouraging that the farm seems to have way more younger and waiver exempt players that can be brought up and down during the year without fear of losing them. On the Oilers roster as it stands now, Puljujarvi is the only waiver exempt player, so I am a little unclear how the Oilers manage the roster if Yamamoto and Bouchard both started up in the NHL, since they don’t have room for both unless someone else starts down in Bakersfield like Gravel. It is clear to me that if any non-waiver exempt player is sent down after the season starts, they have to clear waivers, but am I correct in assuming that players such as Gravel can be assigned to the minors at the start of the year without having to clear waivers? Clearly a team should be trying to put the best players on the big club, but if the decision between player A and B is close to a toss up, waiver eligibility is a factor. For example if Yamamoto only slightly outperforms Rattie, maybe he still gets sent down anyway.

  • DARYL G

    Lucic needs to play himself back into top 6 he should start on the third line that gives us a chance not to be out of the playoffs by Thanksgiving. JP needs to play with Leon and Tobias on the second line to start otherwise Todd will continue what he does best play veterans at the expense of our youth. There is no sense it having young players and not playing them.

  • ROILYDoGG$

    I hope Aberg and Rattie become our castaway type players like Vegas got. Both mid twenties and ready to take off.
    Rieder is in that realm also.

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

    • Stack Pad Save

      But I would like to see Puljujarvi in the top line:

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

  • Kneedroptalbot

    I like scenario #5, I could see Puljujarvi and Aberg flip/flopping.
    Please keep Lucic off the 1st 2 lines, he can’t take of make a pass, nor keep up with the top 6. Power Play specialist in front of the net (Like ole Phil Esposito).