20 in 20: A Line Combination Extravaganza (PART 2)

The off-season line combination extravaganza continues!

If you missed part one of the extravaganza I highly recommend you go back and check out the first five line combos I suggested last week. After going through the first five formations I’ve come to the conclusion that outside of Connor McDavid you can pretty much toss anyone anywhere and make a case for it, just like Todd McLellan.

Here are five more combinations, which feature crazy things like the coaching staff actually believing in Jesse Puljujarvi and Ryan Strome getting another shot on the wing.

SCENARIO ONE: In Which Jesse Puljujarvi Wins Over The Coaching Staff

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

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You knew at some point I was going to find a way to have Jesse Puljujarvi on the top line. We can debate until we are blue in the face if he’s ready now but I think we can all agree he has the tools to potentially be the perfect winger for McDavid long term. Big, strong, fast with a hard shot.

If Puljujarvi does earn a spot on the top line does that mean Rattie doesn’t make the team at all? Not necessarily. Ty Rattie will begin the season in Edmonton, unless Yamamoto lights the world on fire.

Sexiness: 8/10

Likeliness: 2/10

SCENARIO TWO: In Which Nuge Moves To Center, Draisaitl To The Wing

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

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I, like many of you, would love to see Ryan Nugent-Hopkins get an extended look on McDavid’s left side, but in a Todd McLellan world that’s not likely to happen. The Oilers Head Coach has made it clear multiple times that he likes the way McDavid and Draisaitl play together so at the first sign of a struggle I could see him going back to that duo.

Moving Draisaitl to the wing would certainly help the depth chart on the right side. In fact, having the big German on the right wing likely gives them their most balanced look due to the left side being deeper than the right. Nuge is familiar with Rattie so that duo could anchor the second line, likely with Lucic.

Sexiness: 7/10

Likeliness: 6/10

SCENARIO THREE: In Which Ryan Strome Moves To The Wing

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


I’m sure most of you immediately thought, if Strome plays the wing than Nuge has to move back to center, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Khaira provides the Oilers with some very nice versatility in the bottom six and they would be taking advantage of that in this alignment.

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This may end up being the least likely of all 20 line combinations I’m going to present to you but I still needed to have it in the mix. Last season McDavid had more five-by-five shots per 60 with Strome on the ice than any other teammate.

Sexiness: 5/10

Likeliness: 1/10

Oct 24, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matthew Murray (30) makes a save against Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (56) during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

SCENARIO FOUR: In Which Yamamoto Sticks And Rattie Doesn’t

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


This is the first combination I have where Rattie doesn’t make the team out of camp. As I stated in Part One of the extravaganza the Oilers absolutely love what Yamamoto brings to the table, possibly to the point of slotting him in with Nuge and McDavid.

In a perfect world Nuge and McDavid can drive a line with Yamamoto while Draisaitl and Rieder push the second line with Puljujarvi on the right side.

Sexiness: 9/10

Likeliness: 4/10

SCENARIO FIVE: In Which Rieder Gets A Look On The Top Line

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

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The Oilers might as well give Rieder a look in as many different pre-season situations as possible. The new German can play either wing and his speed may be a good fit alongside McDavid.

With this configuration you’ll notice I have Rattie on the outside looking in. I don’t see Rattie being a fit anywhere in the bottom six and if Rieder is on the top line I’d like to see a beefy second line with Draisaitl between Puljujarvi and one of Lucic or Khaira. Aberg gets around the ice better and could be more effective than Rattie on a third line.

Sexiness: 6/10

Likeliness: 5/10



Once again, if you didn’t see anything in Part Two that tickles your fancy just hang tight as I’ve got ten more combo’s coming up over the final two extravaganza entries.

As for the five options I’ve laid out today, here’s how I’d rank them.

  1. Scenario Five: In Which Tobias Rieder Gets A Look On The Top Line
  2. Scenario One: In Which Jesse Puljujarvi Wins Over the Coaching Staff
  3. Scenario Two: In Which Nuge Moves To The Middle, Draisaitl To The Wing
  4. Scenario Three: In Which Ryan Strome Moves To The Wing
  5. Scenario Four: In Which Yamamoto Sticks Out Of Camp And Rattie Doesn’t

In Part Three we’ll take a look at what things would look like if McLellan wants to go with McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins down the middle. What a time to be alive!

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • IUsedToBleedOilBlueButIBledOut

    You know…..we have a lot of guys on the team who have played centre…..has anyone ever considered putting our top 3 centres together on the top line? I know, I know the other lines would suck, but we have enough centres to do it and then the wings aren’t as bare further down the lineup

    Nuge – McDavid – Drai
    Rieder – Strome – Puljujarvi/Yamamoto
    Lucic – Khaira – Yam/Pul
    Caggiula – Brodziak – Kassian

  • Quoteright

    I’ve been trumpeting this for awhile
    Nuge and drai together would work
    They could pass it into the net
    McDavid can then play with whoever cause really he doesn’t need anything other then people playing hard north south, puck retreavel, defensive help and hitting. Being on his wing can be a reward in game for whoever is working hardest. It’s a number boost which escalates salary so spread it out so it doesn’t over inflate any one player too much (like Drai)

    • Gravis82

      This is terrible way to think about it. Put your best players with McDavid as much as possible. If they are scoring so much they require more money, that means you are likely winning? Pay them.

      Stop overpaying for name recognition and for qualities that have little to do with winning.

  • OriginalPouzar

    1) Strome getting another shot on the wing is not crazy (if the 3C hole can be filled adequately). The team had strong posession and goal share metrics when he played with both Drai and McDavid last year. In fact, both Drai and McDavid had an uptick in their metrics when they played with Strome (although for McDavid, the sample size was extremely small).

    2) After the trade deadline last year, Brodziak was moved up the lineup to play with Steen and Berglund and, in 16 games, scored at a massive rate of 2.74P/60 (at 5 on 5). 11 points in 16 games with 8 of the points being primary.

    Now, for the most part, of course, Brodziak should be the 4C on this team, however, there could be situations where McLellan needs to shorten the bench and may want to move Strome to wing in the top 6 – Brodziak should be able to cover 3C and potentially flourish.

    • Natejax97

      Haha…the truest of true statements I’ve read all summer. The problem is he will try them all again in November…again in December etc…and finally stick to combos in late March. I am a Mac supporter but do not like the Macblender.

    • Redbird62

      Yes, McClellan has to try and stop that. Corsica.hockey has reams of data on this, but just looking at the other top scoring centers last season, most got to play 500 minutes plus 5 on 5 with the same two wingers. McDavid maxed out at 289 minutes with Maroon/Draisaitl. And Nugent-Hopkins never played more than 100 minutes with any 2 wingers (his most common trio all season was when he was playing wing with McDavid/Rattie at 128 minutes. In 2016-2017 the Oilers stayed with more consistent lines, some of which is a function of success, health and less in season trades/player movements, but the level of line mixing in 2017-2018 truly was excessive.

  • Abagofpucks

    Im hoping the addition of Trent Yawny will temper the trigger happy bring out the blender Todd Mclellan. And the coaching staff will give whatever lineups they put together for the regular season a real chance to suceed.

  • Gravis82

    Sceneario 3 is perfect, except the Khaira is a better winger than a centre and I’d rather Caggiula not be on the team. Move kharia to 4th wing and find a temp 3c. That would have been perfect for this season. Too late now. I think Strome is a better winger than a centre, just like nuge.

  • TKB2677

    Any person who suggest that Leon should be on McDavid’s wing and Nuge at second line center should be publicly humiliated and potentially beaten.

    Leon is your second best center on the team. It’s not my opinion, it’s a proven fact. He’s the best faceoff guy on the team, way better than Nuge. He is easily one of the best passers on the team, better than Nuge. At center, he scores more than Nuge. Nuge has a career high 56 pts as a center. Leon had 70 in a “down” year. He scores more in the playoffs than Nuge playing center. Plop Leon on most teams in the league and he is their #1 center. I love Nuge but Leon is just flat out BETTER as an NHL center. So people need to STOP putting Leon on the wing. You make your team worse if you play Nuge over Leon at center. That’s freaking reality.

    • Redbird62

      A fair number of Leon’s 70 points came while playing with McDavid 5 on 5 or on the PP. When Draisaitl played without McDavid this year, the team scored at a slightly better rate than it did when Hopkins played without McDavid, but the team gave up goals at a way higher when Draisaitl was centering his own line compared to Hopkins centering his own line. Hopkins w/o McDavid had a plus/minus of zero, but Draisaitl was -9. Draisaitl’s possession stats away from McDavid are also lower than Hopkins as well. I realize a lot goes into that including which wingers each had w/o McDavid, which defensive pairing and the strength of competition as well but Hopkins plays a more balanced game. I really like Draisaitl and I still think going forward, the team is probably better off with Hopkins on McDavid’s wing allowing Draisaitl to grow as a center sooner rather than later but the assertion of Draisaitl being definitively superior to Hopkins already is not supported by the actual evidence. By the way, 9 of Draisaitl’s 16 points in the playoffs came in only 2 games and he scored more than half his total points with McDavid on the ice so the sample size of his dominance without McDavid is limited. Last, but not least, there were 22 centers in the NHL who scored more points per game than Leon, none of whom got half their ice time with McDavid. So while some teams would have him be first line center, he is not ready yet to be the first line center on most teams.

      • TKB2677

        Nuge has a career high 56 pts as a center. That’s it. Nuge did that flanked by the current NHL MVP and #1 overall draft pick Hall and at the time a consistent 25 goal man in Eberle. Nuge never lead the team in scoring EVER, he got all the premium offensive starts, all the premium PP time and had to very good wingers and all he could muster was 56 pts and be terrible at faceoffs. I don’t care what stat you put up, Nuge is not a better center than Leon. If you want to list defensive numbers, then go ahead. Nuge has 457 NHL games, Leon has 269. Experience in the NHL is everything especially when it comes to anything defensive. Nuge has almost 2.5 more seasons of experience than Leon and if Nuge wasn’t such a band aid, he’d had double the NHL games under his belt. The fact that Nuge is better defensively than Leon isn’t something to praise, it’s a “well duh” moment. If Nuge wasn’t better defensively give how much longer he’s been in the NHL and how many more NHL games he has over Leon, then the Oilers would have a serious problem.

        • Redbird62

          I never said that Draisaitl would not become a better overall center than Hopkins. That remains to be seen. In the here and now, you even concede that Hopkins is better defensively. And if Hopkins is centering a line w/o McDavid that plays the other team evenly, and Draisailtl centers a line w/o McDavid and badly gets outscored, it is not a no-brainer who is performing better as a center. Maybe that’s why McClellan trusted Hopkins much more to center a line over Draisaitl to this point in his career. And injuries are a factor in Hopkins totals, which clearly you noted with your derogatory comment. His rookie season, he scored as many points playing with Hall as Draisaitl did playing with Hall in Draisaitl’s first full season in the NHL and Hopkins played 10 less games. No question, Hopkins development curve took a tumble, but so did several other players subjected to the Dallas Eakins era. Hopefully, Draisaitl’s game will get well rounded enough this season that his line will out perform whoever they are matched up against, so that McClellan can keep Hopkins with McDavid, which kicked ass down the stretch.

  • If they play to their potential, ideally, we would want:
    Draisaitl as 2nd line centre
    Puljujarvi on the 1st or 2nd line
    Lucic on the 2nd line
    Khaira on the 3rd line
    Yamamoto in the top 6 eventually.

    Rieder is not a top line guy. He’d be a difference maker on the 3rd line and a better option than Caggiula.

    When you watch where McDavid actually likes to skate and take the puck to the net, he’s really a right winger. Having another centreman on his line, i.e. Nuge, is smart as this he can cover for McD.

  • McJeetz

    If we don’t get 1 more impact player, we are not serious about winning this season. ‘Wait and see’ doesn’t get it done. Lucic out and Pacioretty in. 2 separate trades

    RNH McD Rattie
    Pacioretty Drai Rieder
    Khaira Strome Puljujarvi
    Cags Brodziak Kassian


    Aberg could go in Kharia’s spot
    Khaira in Cags spot
    Cags as 13th FWD

  • BrandieBear

    I’d like to see a few different things happen this year but to start the year I’d like to see.


  • Poolparty9

    You guys are over looking poolparty he’s had 1 bad season , look at draisitl he was not the most fast player his first full year with the oilers just like pool party and he worked on it I bet u all he has over a 40 point season I would have

    Nuge mcdavid rattie
    Rieder draisitl yamo
    Khaira Strome pool party
    Lucic brodziak kassian

    Kelfbom larsson
    Nurse bouchard
    Sekera benning

    The oilers have to add more speed on there power play and have a couple more pre planned plays other then set up klefbom for a one timer , hit draisitl for the high slot re-direct or give it to stone hands (lucic) and let him jam it into the goalies pad , have a solid second unit PP with a whole different set up and they have to have a way tighter d zone