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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Can Leon Draisaitl drive his own line with the current wingers?

Greetings, Nation compadres! It’s Monday morning and that means it’s Mailbag time again. As always, I’ve taken your questions and sent them off to our panel of geniuses to assess and pass along some hot wisdom that you’ll be able to carry forward with you for the rest of your life. With that in mind, I need questions for next week, so open up your internet machines and send me any query you may have about the Oilers or life in general. You can get them to me through email or on Twitter — I’m good like that. Until then, it’s time to learn something. Enjoy.

1) Clint in Toronto asks – I know there are still a lot of variables at play, but I want to know what your point prediction is for Evan Bouchard this year? My guess is that he plays nine games and gets four assists.

Jason Gregor:

I predict he scores over 60 points with London.

Robin Brownlee:

I just rolled the dice — really. They say Bouchard plays 23 games and gets 53 points. Who am I to argue?

Matt Henderson:

Nine games, one goal, two assists. I think he plays sheltered minutes but looks like the real deal on the PP. Then they send him back to Jr for one last year when they realize they need to play the 6D ahead of him bc they trust them 5v5. (Klefbom, Nurse, Sekera, Larsson, Benning, Russell)

If they could play the kid in the AHL they would.

Christian Pagnani:

Two games, zero points then sent back to junior or Europe.

Chris the Intern:

I’m going to go with 30 games, 12 points. I have nothing to base that off of, just my guess.

Baggedmilk:

I say he plays in nine games with the Oilers, gets three assists, and goes back to London to rip it up. From there, he’ll get to go to the World Juniors tournament where he will be a major player for Canada.

Mar 31, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers left wing Pontus Aberg (46) skates against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

2) Mason asks – Where does Pontus Aberg fit into the Oilers plans this year? For me, I can’t see where he slots in apart from being the 13th forward.

Jason Gregor:

He will need a good start and force coaches to keep him in the lineup. Most important he will need to show he is committed and professional and be early to every meeting, practice and flight. With 3/4 of a new coaching staff, he will have the advantage of a fairly clean slate. He has great speed and has had some okay numbers in AHL. He could be a surprise if he comes in desperate and hungry to impress.

Robin Brownlee:

He’s a last option, so if the guys ahead of him perform adequately, he doesn’t have a job here. I think he has good enough offensive instincts to prove me wrong, but production will trump instincts. He has to be up to speed from the first on-ice session at camp to have any chance.

Matt Henderson:

He and Caggiula are playing against each other for the worst forward on the team position. Caggiula has the contract though so Aberg better show up in the fall.

Christian Pagnani:

Starts on the outside and possibly traded or waived before the season begins. On the right side, Ty Rattie has the edge with his late-season run with Connor McDavid. Jesse Puljujarvi will get a push. The Oilers and Todd McLellan like Drake Caggiula for some reason. Zack Kassian is probably what they like in a fourth-line winger. Tobias Rieder can the right side. Maybe Aberg gets some time at left wing, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic, Rieder/Caggiula, and Jujhar Khaira feels like the starting four.

Chris the Intern:

I think it will depend if Yamamoto makes the team. He will be the factor that squeezes Aberg out. But you are correct, I can see him landing in the 12/13th forward spot. But again, you never know what happens out of training camp, Aberg could surprise us.

Baggedmilk:

Who knows? Aberg has the talent to stick but the inconsistency is troublesome so it will be a really interesting year for him. I still like the trade that landed him here, but now it’s up to him to make the most of the opportunity. Lots of room on that right wing for someone to grab the bull by the horns.

Mar 31, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) controls the puck against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

3) Trey asks – Do you have any concerns about Leon Draisaitl driving his own line with the current depth on the wings? It seems like whoever centers the second line struggles to produce offence because of the last of established wingers in the organization.

Jason Gregor:

I have more concerns about the term; driving a line.

Robin Brownlee:

Sure. Until he does it over a period of time, you have to wonder if he can. His wingers, as you referred to, will have a say in that.

Matt Henderson:

I do have concerns about Draisaitl being asked to carry Lucic around the ice like its Weekend at Bernie’s and Bernie had gained an extra 75 pounds. Draisaitl is a fantastic player and one who had a great 5v5 season while simultaneously having a brutal year on the PP. I think he breaks out this year and the beneficiary is Yamamoto or Puljujarvi.

Christian Pagnani:

Definitely. There’s not a lot of talent on the wings and he’ll likely get some combination of Lucic/Rieder/Puljujarvi/Caggiula/Khaira on the second line. McDavid’s been Draisaitl’s most common linemate the past couple years. That’s a steep drop. I wouldn’t be surprised if his points took a hit without all that McDavid time.

Chris the Intern:

Draisaitl will need help from his wingers in order to be successful. I think Connor’s the only guy on the team who could singlehandedly create offence on his own. With that said, Tobias Rieder might be a good fit with Drai, but time will tell. Last year our winger depth was not good, so in order for the second line to succeed, Lucic and everyone else need to improve.

Baggedmilk:

It’s the same thing that happened with Nuge last year. People are going to get on Draisaitl for not producing as much as they’d hope if his wingers can cash anything in. It’s a concern but I think the big man will be fine.

4) Colton asks – It was the 30th anniversary of the Gretzky trade last week and I’m wondering what is your personal favorite Wayne Gretzky moment?

Jason Gregor:

His shorthanded OT goal in Calgary over Mike Vernon’s shoulder.

Robin Brownlee:

My sister was a huge Gretzky fan. She lives in Vancouver. He’d signed her Oilers jersey in the 1980s out there. When it became clear he was retiring in 1999, she and her children flew out to Edmonton to see his game here because the Rangers didn’t have another game in Vancouver. She brought that same jersey. Rexall Place was crazy that night for Gretzky’s last game here, as you can imagine, but despite all the demands on his time and the crush of people after the game, when I told Gretz the story — his original autograph had faded so you could barely see it — he took time to sign the same jersey again. Has always been a class guy.

Matt Henderson:

I was five when he was traded and not quite 16 when he retired. It’s fair to say I missed Gretzky at his best. I don’t have my own memories of the great one. I have the memories of other people passed down to me in what is now the legend of Wayne Gretzky. My own memories of Gretzky are things like reading his incredible list of NHL records and watching his retirement ceremony. It’s watching him show up to Boys on the Bus events loaded and laughing.

Christian Pagnani:

I’m too young to comment on this.

Chris the Intern:

Honestly, the only recollection I have of Gretzky playing a hockey game was in his final NHL game. I was so young. I just remember my Dad and brother trying to explain to me why and how Gretzky is so good and how he’s the best player in the game. I never really understood because watching him play his final game… well obviously he wasn’t as quick as all the other guys out there.

In more recent memories of Gretzky… I will never forget the Gretzky Reactions in the 2016-17 playoff run.

Baggedmilk:

Like a lot of guys, I’m too young to have truly appreciated his wizardry but I’ll always remember watching him with the Kings and how he could move the puck in and out of traffic with ease. I remember watching Gretzky highlight videos when I was a kid and seeing him set up shop behind the net, which was something I tried to plug into my own game. Obviously, it worked perfectly. ?

5) Rene in GP asks – Wrestlemania is coming up next weekend so my question is which Nation writer would you choose to be your tag team partner?

Jason Gregor:

I was a huge Demolition fan in high school. Tag teams are the best. Wanye is deceptively athletic and he has a good “snapshow” factor. We also had a good rapport when we sang Karaoke Boys II Men together, so we’d be in sync in the ring!!!!

Robin Brownlee:

Gregor. He’s in shape. The rest of the guys are pencil necks.

Matt Henderson:

I bet Robin could work the mic like a pro. I think we could be great heels.

Christian Pagnani:

Obviously Cam. He’s a big boy and could set me up for some slick moves.

Chris the Intern:

I’d probably go with The Nation Dan because of his previous bouncer experience. I’ve seen Cooom try to drop the mitts in beer league hockey and I wasn’t impressed. So I choose Dan.

Baggedmilk:

I’m going to go with Gregor because I think he’d look great in a speedo.

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  • ROILYDoGG$

    If Aberg and Rattie can legitimately stay and play in the Top 6(being skilled -Rattie and fast players-Aberg) with Pulj running his own 3rd line. Yamamoto staying a full year in the Ahl and developing in all situations with tons of minutes only coming up if injury happens then we will be a contender for a playoff spot no doubt. Play the mid 20’s players which could have breakout seasons and This allows our drafter young players to develop and fill out. I’ve been leaning on this side now for Bouchard as well. Give him his 9 games cup of coffee then improve his weak spots down in junior.

    • OTOF2

      If Aberg and Rattie are top 6 this team is in big trouble. Those two don’t even make the roster on 25 of 31 NHL teams. How many career goals do they have? Top 6? Ok. Sure.

        • That's My Point

          No Tobias Reider??
          25 points in 78 games and he’s quite fast, does he play on one of the top 2 lines?
          Does he get close to 40 points? He’s had 34 and 37 points years with the Yotes.

  • Chris Prongers Rake

    1) Bouchard: 0 pts in the NHL this year, Bear and Gravel are ahead of him, let him develop in the CHL or overseas, than start in AHL next year.
    2) Aberg and Cagguila are the 13th forwards.
    3) Draisaitl showed against the Sharks and Ducks in the Playoffs he can “drive” his own line, just needs consistency in line mates to develop chemistry.
    4) Favorite Gretzky moment: The missed high stick on Gilmour, keeping the Laffs from raising the cup!
    The Leafs are my pick for team the underachieves on the year!

  • 2centz

    Gregor, do you know where Bruce McNall got the $15 million to buy Gretzky? From everything I’ve read, Bruce actually never had a cent to his name. Fifteen melons in 88 would be like a hundred and fifty today. I understand the just of how Bruce was able to put on a show for a few years, and I understand how he got his loans to purchase the Kings, Argos, their Kings jet etc. He had collateral to offer for those loans. But where did he get $15 million in cash in 88, to pay Pocklington?

      • 2centz

        All I could find was that he went to jail over $236 million in fraud, no timeline on when he started, just that default of a $90 million dollar loan started his demise. I read that he started by smuggling rare coins and art out of countries. I’m assuming he made powerful friends by discounting these goods to the right people, and started securing loans through these friends. Once the flow of rare goods stops and you start defaulting on the money you owe them, those friends can quickly become venomous. Like I mentioned, pure assumption based on facts. All in all, I think Mr.Gretzky was a very impressionable young man, I’m glad he has friends like Daryl Katz now, Katz always looks after his friends. Cheers Gregor, look forward to chatting with you and Struds on the show.

  • TKB2677

    When it comes to Leon “driving his own line” I think a lot of it comes down to the coach telling him, you are our #2 center and we need you to take control of that line. I would think that it would be hard to “be the man” on your line if you don’t know if what line you are playing on. If you are centering your own line for a couple of games then on McDavid’s wing for a bunch, then back to center. You are having to change your game. Plus how do you develop chemistry getting jerked around. Keep him on the second line so he knows game in and game out he’s the man of that line. You don’t see the Pens jerking Malkin around the lines much.

  • Abagofpucks

    My favorite gretzky moment was when he in his office behind the net( i can’t remember what team it was) and he flipped the puck up and over the net bouncing it off the goalies back and into the net that was priceless.

  • Abagofpucks

    Leons year will depend on how his wingers are, i remember seeing on several occasions where he could have passed to lucic but didnt looked like he lost his trust in him.
    And his other winger was either too well covered or out of position so he had to try to do it himself. I sure hope we can fix that problem this year because hes not Mcdavid, and needs his wingers to be somewhat dependable.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Aberg produced 1.99 P/60 as an Oiler last year – yes much of that was in a hot 3 game stretch but the young man has skill. His issue is consistency but I believe he should get a chance to win a top 6 winger job. Pigeon-holing him as a 13th forward that plays in the bottom 6 when inserted in to the lineup doesn’t put him in a position to suceeds given his skill set.

    If McLellan is holding a grudge due to the missed practice and won’t give Pontus the opportunity because of it, well, that would be disappointing and there would really be no reason to hold on to the asset.

    Aberg’s cap hit is $675K – we have the opportunity for a massive value contract here.

    • JimmyV1965

      You have mentioned this a number of times OP. Why in the world would you think Tmac would hold a grudge against Aberg? After being benched last year, Aberg was playing 17-18 minutes a game. He actually had a few good games when he returned and then faded. That’s when his minutes started dropping to about 13 or so. And then he was benched the last couple games after going pointless in a bunch of them. If you look at his TOI after missing the practice, it looks to me like Aberg worked himself out of the lineup. If Aberg plays as well as he did after being benched, I’m sure the coach won’t be holding a grudge.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Drai has already proven that he can “drive a line” offensively as a center without McDavid. His offensive production without McDavid is first line territory. The issue last year was that his line gave up too much when they were on the ice (without McDavid) leading to a negative goal differential. Part of this is actually a low on ice save percentage but its also defensive issues among Leon and his wingers. Keep Drake away from the top 6 (until he improves his defensive play) and things may pick up.

    Lucic/Drai/Puljujarvi was impressive in a small sample size last year – positive metrics across the board.

  • NewPants

    Will we see a 14th forward, or 8 D-men? I’m hoping Aberg will be 3rd/4th line L-wing. Most likely 14th forward. I like his speed so if he brings the effort every night he will find a spot on the team.

  • HockeyYoda

    Thank you Mr Henderson for that “ Weekend at Bernie’s” analogy. I’m still chuckling. That’s the kind of gold that brings me to comment boards.

  • Violentgent13

    Looch will most likely be set up on the 2nd by right. But honestly if he’s not going to preform as a 2nd liner with Drai, who is an excellent centreman.
    Drop Looch to the 3rd or 4th and let him grind it out there. Tobias is gonna stay out on the 2nd line all season because him and drai will be excellent together and I’m almost certain Poolio will be right there on the right side of Drai. “Driving” the line.
    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • Abagofpucks

    Hey Vg13 i hope your right cos thats the 2nd line i hoped would be established.
    Not that i have anything against lucic other than last years cliff dive, but i think he would be better suited as a 3rd line guy.

    • Violentgent13

      Yeah man that’s what I mean, rather than have him struggle to keep up on the top 6 bite the bullet and keep him on the 3rd or 4th so what if he makes more money then anyone else on those lines haha maybe he’ll reconsider his NMC and we can all move on to better things come February.

  • TKB2677

    I love McDavid and thank the hockey gods each day for giving him to us Oilers fans but this whole notion that the Oilers need to find these amazing players to play with him, I find a bit puzzling. You absolutely want to find players who are good enough that they can play a bit with McDavid. You don’t want to be sticking 4th liners who couldn’t score a goal to save their lives with him BUT the advantage of having a player like McDavid is he is SOOOOOOO good, he can make decent NHLers into really good ones. This allows you to drop down really good NHLers to lower lines which strengthens your team.

    A direct example is Crosby. Who are these amazing players that have flanked Crosby? Guentzel, Sheary, Rust, Hornqvist being the best. Hornqvist is a pretty good player but I don’t think he is even as good as Nuge. But because Crosby is so good, you can play him with “lesser” players and he still produces. That allows the Pens to have guys like Kessel who is ELITE, play down the lines.

    So I think the notice of Leon ever playing on McDavid’s wing needs to be buried, never to be resurrected. You immediately dilute the Oilers lines big time if Leon is on McDavid’s wing.

  • Total Points

    Regrading wingers for Leon – The concern for me is what to do with Lucic. If the coaches and management (because of contract) play him on 2nd line with Leon then it will appear that Leon cannot “drive his own line”. The Oilers need to very quickly, but for sure by the end of training camp, determine if Lucic has responded or if he is washed up. They cant give him 10 or 20 games to find his game again or the season will be lost.

    • Bills Bills

      Lucic will get a chance to play in a top six role because contrary to what the self proclaimed hockey guys here say, he is still the best natural winger on this team. His stats prove it and I am sure his pride will prove it in the coming season.

  • Reg Dunlop

    My favorite Gretzky moment came when he got CRANKED by McCreary, a Leafs defenceman. Wayne laid, crying , on the ice and threw his gloves like a 3 year old. Wisely, Toronto did not play McCreary again that night ( he was out of the league shortly after) because Semenko was ready to genocide him. Gretz was the greatest but it always bothered me that there was an unwritten no-hit rule. I understand that nobody wanted to hurt the man that put money in everyone’s pocket but it just seemed wrong. Much like the way Bobby Clarke would hide behind Andre Dupont after slashing someone, with that ‘don’t hurt me, I’m diabetic’ look on his face.

  • Arfguy

    I really am starting to resent the term “driving his line” when it comes to Draisaitl. If he even had an average winger that was capable of getting shots on net or scoring, his points production would be great. I lost count of the number of times he’d breach the zone, stall and pass back to a rushing defenceman that would hammer a shot wide or over the net.