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Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

How many jobs are up for grabs?

As proven by Dustin Nielson’s 20 line combinations in 20 days, the Oilers lineup is far from set in stone and there are plenty of possibilities when it comes to who could make the team out of camp. By my count, there are 17 players who are competing for 13-14 NHL jobs this fall.

We know who the players are, but exactly which jobs will be up for grabs when training camp opens? Well here is my best guess:

Below, I’ve placed the players who I think are locked in at certain spots and which positions in the lineup are up for grabs:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Connor McDavid OPEN
OPEN Leon Draisaitl OPEN
OPEN Ryan Strome OPEN
OPEN Kyle Brodziak Zack Kassian
Extra: OPEN

The centres are in stone, Nuge will start with McDavid and the Kassian/Brodziak duo will be stapled to the fourth line. After that? It’s all wide open.

TOP LINE RIGHT WINGER

Ty Rattie recalled from the AHL Bakersfield Condors

FRONT RUNNER: Ty Rattie. In 14 games on the 97/93 line last season, he produced nine points. That’s fairly solid production, but we know Rattie is still an unproven NHLer so I’d be surprised if he manages to continue playing an effective role on the teams top line for a long stretch.

Still, he’s their best option and he’ll likely start the year there.

DARK HORSE: Kailer Yamamoto. He won the job last year out of camp, but his youth started to show more in the regular season. Another season of junior and another summer of training could propel him into the spot this year.

His ceiling is much higher than Ratties, if he comes close to reaching it this fall, he could grab the job.

SECOND LINE LEFT WINGER

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

FRONT RUNNER: Milan Lucic. He was horrendous last season, we don’t need to dissect it any further. If he comes to camp with better foot speed and a little more motivation, then a spot in the top six is his to lose. If he can simply get some better puck luck, and be more of a disturbance in front of the net on the powerplay, we should see his numbers bump up as well.

We’ve seen him have success with Draisaitl before, and the two of them could really punish opposition with their strong cycle game.

DARK HORSE: Jujhar Khaira. I really hope the coaching staff gives Jujhar a look with Leon. He’s strong, goes to the net and when he gets there, he knows how to finish off plays.

He played 168 minutes with Draisaitl last season had a GF% of 53% and a SCF% of 55%. They made things happen in the offensive zone together and controlled possession. I think they could be a really solid combo if given the chance.

SECOND LINE RIGHT WINGER

April 5, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Tobias Rieder (10) reacts after scoring a goal against the Minnesota Wild during the second period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

FRONT RUNNER: Tobias Rieder. They’re only paying him $2 million, but I think the team wants Rieder to be their safety net if none of the young kids can grab spots.

He’s never been a go-to offensive guy, but he’s spent lots of time on skill lines. Last year, his most common centre in Arizona was Derek Stepan and in LA it was Jeff Carter. No reason to suggest he couldn’t come into camp and click with fellow German Leon Draisaitl.

DARK HORSE: Jesse Puljujarvi. The dream scenario would be for the 2016 4th overall pick to step in and show he’s figured it out at the NHL level. The coaching staff has shown that they’re going to make him earn all the ice time he gets, but there’s a long list of European prospects who find success in their 20- year-old seasons (Rantanen and Ehlers to name a pair).

We’ve seen flashes, and now it’s time to see consistency. If that happens, he could snag the job.

THIRD LINE LEFT WINGER

Mar 31, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Mark Jankowski (77) and Edmonton Oilers left wing Drake Caggiula (91) fight during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

FRONT RUNNER: Drake Caggiula. Most of his even strength time last season was spent with Ryan Strome as his centre, and one would imagine that this is his spot to lose once again this year.

Both players possession numbers got much better when they were together, but their goal shares dropped. That’s probably because they started 61% of their shifts in the offensive zone. They did a good job holding onto possession, but couldn’t capitalize on their chances.

Still, Caggiula is a safe play on the third line, and I suspect that’s where he’ll start.

DARK HORSE: Josh Currie. That guy they just signed to an NHL deal? YUP! Currie has spent three seasons in Bakersfield and has seen his point total increase by at least ten in each season. He’s also proven he can score in the junior level. He posted 104 (57 at 5v5) in his final season in the QMJHL which put him 3rd in the league.

He hasn’t proven himself as an offensive producer at the pro level quite yet, but he has seen his point total jump in each of his four pro seasons, so maybe a jump to the NHL is the next logical step.

THIRD LINE RIGHT WINGER

Mar 18, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers right wing Jesse Puljujarvi (98) during the third period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

FRONT RUNNER: Jesse Puljujarvi. The only way he doesn’t start the season next to Ryan Strome is if he’s in the top six. His numbers next to Strome weren’t out of this world last season, but I thought he looked more comfortable on the third line. That might have been because he got softer matchups, was allowed to carry the puck more or a bit of both.

It would be great if Puljujarvi could jump onto one of the teams top scoring lines, but if he doesn’t make progress, it’s safe to assume he’ll start 2018-19 where he ended 2017-18.

DARK HORSE: Cooper Marody. The 21-year-old signed with the Oilers as a college free agent and made the leap to pro hockey at the end of last season, where he scored three points in three games with the Condors.

I would imagine the organization thinks he’ll be an NHL player sooner rather than later, and they may have already promised him NHL playing time this season, but Marody could surprise and crack the lineup on his own merit. He has some offensive punch and while he lacks size, he isn’t afraid to get dirty in order to win puck battles.

Caggiula cracked the lineup in 2016-17, I could see Marody doing the same thing this year and sticking on the third line.

FOURTH LINE RIGHT WINGER

Feb 15, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller (6) fights Edmonton Oilers left wing Jujhar Khaira (16) during the third period of play at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

FRONT RUNNER: Jujhar Khaira. I think he needs to be a winger this year, he looks more comfortable there and he produced better numbers as a winger compared to a centre.

Similar to Puljujarvi, it would be nice if he could steal a top-six job out of training camp, but if he ends up comfortably slotted on the team’s fourth line, there should be no problems with that. He can be an effective energy player, who brings a little offensive bite to the bottom six.

DARK HORSE: Pontus Aberg. His time with the Oilers was inconsistent, to say the least. He got hot for a quick stretch with Leon Draisaitl but also got healthy scratched for office reasons at one point. In the end, eight points in 16 games is nothing to scoff at.

If I listed more dark horses for some of the spots open on scoring lines, I would have mentioned him up there because he has shown some nice flashes. At the end of the day, there is a lot of young skilled talent and I wonder if Aberg’s lack of consistency will hurt his ability to win a roster spot.

EXTRA FORWARD

FRONTRUNNERS: Pontus Aberg & Brad Malone. Young guys like Kailer Yamamoto and Cooper Marody will either make the team or be sent to junior, they really aren’t candidates for the role of extra forward. Other than that, any one of Drake Caggiula, Jujhar Khaira, Ty Rattie or Zack Kassian could be swapped out without much hesitation.

I listed Malone as a favourite to be an extra forward because I think the team likes his versatility and he comes cheap. The type of player can be depended on to give you solid minutes in a pinch.

Aberg is also cheap but doesn’t come with the same dependability that Malone does. I think the Oilers could keep him around and keep him in the lineup when he’s hot and simply pull him out when other players are performing better. It’s obvious, but as a pending RFA at just 650k, you aren’t too worried about getting him regular playing time.

So with all that being considered, if all the “Front Runners” were to grab their jobs, this would be my assumed Oilers roster for opening day.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Connor McDavid Ty Rattie
Milan Lucic Leon Draisaitl Tobias Rieder
Drake Caggiula Ryan Strome Jesse Puljujarvi
Jujhar Khaira Kyle Brodziak Zack Kassian
Extra: Aberg/Malone

 

    • OilerForLife

      Lines always change constantly throughout the year and must be adaptable to different game plans by the Oilers and their competition. Even within a game the plan changes when things aren’t working. There is a lot of different combinations that should be explored to see what works best. You can definitely see a lot of combinations tried early and I suspect they won’t settle in early unless something works very well.

  • daryl

    Sorry man but as bad as Todd was last year he should be able to coe up with better line combinations than that Jesse actually made Conner’s numbers go up but you didn’t even consider him. You are what was wrong with the staff last year didn’t give JP chance. Jesse deserves a chance with Conner. How dumb can everyone be a number 4 pick over all and you pencil Rattie ahead of him NUTS

    • Sammy27

      Competition first, if Jesse is the better player, and takes over the job in preseason from Rattie, fantastic, (and i expect he will)…great! the job is his, but don’t give him the job because he is a number 4 overall.

      • daryl

        Was really commenting about how poorly Jesse was utilized last year. Todd on his recent interview was saying how he was rushing JP but I saw little of that last year. Jesse when he was with Conner help Conner’s numbers but Todd never left him there then at the end of the season never even gave JP PP time. This is the example of a coach who likes veterans and has little patience for rookies.

        • Kepler62c

          If Todd says he was rushing JP last season and we all thought it looked like they were slow playing him, maybe that says something about where Puljujarvi was as a player and not Todd’s ability to evaluate a player??? He’s going to be great, but Todd’s comments might suggest that slow playing him would have been AHL, not 3rd line NHL.

          Just a thought that the NHL head coach might know a bit more about young players than your average Oilers fan.

      • daryl

        I agree but that should apply to Lucic as well just because he costs 6 mil he should not be gifted top line mins but what do you wager Todd will use him on a top line?

      • Moneyball

        The oilers need to win games. We can’t afford to turn the oilers into a development team for Jesse Puljujarvi. Either he comes out to play and is good enough to play at the NHL or he goes down to bakersfield. The kid has had enough chances on all lines don’t you think?

  • The Oilers have some good young talent but they should not rush them into the line-up before they are ready. Its better to have a kid develop and learn how to be an NHLer in the minors than rush him in the line-up. Why put him on a line that doesn’t fit in with their skill set and why they were drafted in the 1st place? If the Oilers expectations for a player was to be a goal scorer when they were drafted why start their time in the NHL on a checking line or playing with unskilled plugs as line mates. I hope the Oilers have a good season and don’t ruin some of their young talent by expecting more from them before they are ready.

  • GK1980

    Apart from Rattie in the top 6, that looks solid. 3rd line is a total wild card and that fourth line looks pretty solid with veterans. That 4th line actually looks really solid. This team must have one of the best center depth charts in the league. Man is that nice!

  • If Puljujarvi and Yamamoto can take those #1 and #2 RW jobs and play well then that would put Reider to the 3rd RW and Rattie as the extra which would be the best. Rattie has his own problems but it’s never a bad thing to have a depth guy who can get sloted in right away and keep up with McDavid if injuries happen and while a German duo sounds nice Reider is a 3rd line guy and would be at his best there.

    • GK1980

      I haven’t watched Tobias much other then when he plays the Oilers but whenever he played the Oil he looked really good. Fast and competitive and created chances. I was excited when Edmonton signed him. I think he might surprise a lot of people with his offensive numbers this upcoming season.

  • El Oilero

    Rattie did well with McD but that was at the end of the season when McD went supernova. I would take Rattie’s production with a grain of salt. If Rattie is the real deal that is great given how cheap he is ($800K)

  • Bond 0097

    I think Connor should actually have a say in who his RW actually is. Khaira is a beast and on the wing he could certainly earn a spot with Leon. Jesse needs to be allowed the opportunity to be on the top 2 lines, anything less is dereliction of duty by TM. Given that opportunity, I don’t think we will be disappointed, Jesse can skate, shoot and is not a defensive liability, we already KNOW that.

    • Big Nuggets

      I have a hunch that Khaira with Draisaitl would look great together. And would Yamamoto look good on a line with those two beasts or am I crazy? It just might have the right blend of play-making and net-crashing abilities to work.

      Another odd pairing that might be intriguing but unlikely is Strome centering a line with Drai. It sounds dumb at first but, Strome’s right shot with Draisaitl’s sick backhand passes could work together. Depending if Strome shows some growth in year 2 with the Oilers.
      I have low expectations of Strome personally but his first season wasn’t all that bad, particularily when he settled in as a center. After adjusting to a new team he is a candidate to build off of last year.
      We’re all quick to pencil Strome into the 3rd line center role, because frankly, it is the obvious decision, but if he is playing well and showing offensive flair we don’t want to put a ceiling on him by relegating him to 3rd line duty. Just a thought, I would still rather see Drai get more experience playing center.

  • Moneyball

    Ratti deserves a shot on the top line he had an opportunity and made the most of it. Rieder is a lock for the second line. Puljujarvi will be competing with a lot of players for the third line RW spot. Aberg, Marody, Yamamoto and maybe someone out of the blue. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if puljujarvi was sent to Bakersfield to master that league.

  • Violentgent13

    Let the boys battle for the best. Let them gain confidence and chemistry with each other. I’m willing to give up goals to let guys like Poolio “develop” and learn from their actions. With that being said, that JJ-Drai-Rieder line sounds sexy afffff.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    With your final lineup, I don’r see the Oilers making the playoffs.
    Kassian and Lucic have difficulty taking or making a pass (so those 2 lines are limited offensively). Ryan Strome is not a great skater, which makes a 3rd line that is slower than most.
    Speed and skill is what wins in todays NHL, we can’t handcuff 3 lines and expect good results.

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      And yet this lineup isn’t that different from the one that made the playoffs in 2016-17.

      Brodziak > Desharnais
      Reider > Pouliot
      JP + Kailer > Eberle

      • Still no edit button?

        ? Eberly has had double the points as yam and jp combined almost every year he has been in the league. Couple years almost triple. They have good potential but can’t say they are better now while unproven

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      Oh shut up Katz! You dug a deep hole and shoved this team down into it. And they’ve been forced to crawl out of it! You don’t get a say in terms of what a “good p” hockey product looks like. You turned the Oilers into a country club.

      BTW, thanks for those box seat tickets to the Oilers-Canucks game back in 2009. I really appreciated that, even though the Oilers lost 4-1.

    • NewPants

      I agree. This is a very good look at the most likely game 1 line-ups by TY. I think TY is right about the way the Oilers head coach will look at thinks. I have Khaira ahead of Caggiula unlike Todd M.

  • FlyingVesey

    Went from hopeful to disconcerting about the upcoming season after reading this article. As much as I love my oil, anyone else predicting another bottom 10 finish?

  • Abagofpucks

    Too many worry warts in here theses days im fine with what we have work with im not worried . Go ahead whine complain i dont care , Even if they make the playoffs the regular whiners will still be crying the sky is falling.

  • Jimmer

    Here is another way to look at this…and I think it is a fair expectation.
    Play with McDavid…you have to score 30 goals.
    Play with Draisaitl….you have to score 20 goals.
    Play with Strome & Brodziak…10-15 goals.
    Assume: McDavid (35G), Draisaitl (25G), Strome (15G), Brodziak (10G).
    If this happens we will have a great season….looking at this roster there is maybe a 5% chance of this happening.

  • OilCan2

    Just for pizzaz factor I would love to see Yamamoto on the first line. If he can actually prove it and we keep winning the early games with him there it could be a fun season. Bonus if Bouchard is leading the D in points after 8 games.

    • NewPants

      Ty Rattie was only drafted 10 spots lower then Yamo and is 3-4 inches bigger so they both have comparable potential.
      Your Bouchard Bonus will most likely happen.

        • OriginalPouzar

          Bouchard struggled big time in the 2nd game (although he made one beauty stretch pass in the 3rd period). He was Canada’s best player in his first game and was named by Coach Hunter as one of the impressive players for the tournament.

          I’m not concerned about him getting beat on the rush a few times in a summer showcase in August.

        • NewPants

          I disagree. His draft pedigree is a comparable but his opportunity will be non-comparable. Yamo has the same chance to only play a few games in the NHL and spend 5 years in the AHL. It looks like he will get a longer opportunity with the Oilers but we are looking at players in the same mold.

          • OriginalPouzar

            Are you comparing their potential on draft day or their current potential.

            I thought you were talking about their current potential to impact the lineup going forward and I disagree on that.

            If you are saying that Yamamoto’s potential is similar to that of Rattie’s when Rattie was drafted then, sure, that’s a valid argument.

            Rattie is a bust – he’s a 25 year old that still hasn’t established himself in the NHL – this is his last shot to salvage an NHL career.

            Sure, that may be Yamamoto’s future path but he very well could establish himself as a true NHL player in October or January or October 2019 – we don’t know.

            I’d be surprised if his path went off course along the lines of Ty Rattie.

          • Redbird62

            Original Pouzer – I agree with you that comparing Rattie against Yamamoto now makes no sense given we have several more years of Rattie to understand what type of player he probably is. However, I think it is harsh to call him a bust given that when he was drafted 32, the odds on him having an NHL career in excess of 100 games played was less than 30%.