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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Revisiting the Bottom Six

The #PTOEveryone movement continued on Monday as the Oilers announced that winger Alex Chiasson has been invited to training camp.

The decision was a little puzzling to me because even without Chiasson, the Oilers have a lot of options to play in their bottom six. Competition is great, and I love that the Oilers are bringing in all of these veterans, but at the end of the day, there are only a certain amount of spots on the roster.

Which players have jobs locked up? And which players are on the bubble? This is how I see things right now:

SAVE TWO SPOTS

Just looking at the roster now, I think the Oilers will start the season with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on Connor McDavid’s left wing and one of Ty Rattie or Kailer Yamamoto on his right side. Whichever one of Rattie or Yamamoto don’t get that spot won’t be up with the NHL team.

The second line isn’t as clear-cut, but I could see some combo of Jujhar Khaira, Milan Lucic, Tobias Rieder, and Jesse Puljujarvi starting the year next to Leon Draisaitl. Whichever two of those players don’t find themselves next to Draisaitl will likely find themselves playing next to Ryan Strome or Kyle Brodziak.

That means there are only two everyday spots left on the team, and two spots in the press box.

THE FAVOURITES

Zack Kassian became a fan favourite in 2016-17 because of his reckless style of play and ability to agitate the opposition. In 2017-18, he started crossing the line far too often and as the Oilers continued to lose games, Kassian became less and less effective.

Although he produced nearly identical offensive numbers, Kassian was not nearly as impactful last season. Still, I think he would have to be spectacularly horrible in training camp to not be in the lineup for game one.

Drake Caggiula has a brand new $1.5 million deal and we know that he’s in Todd McLellan’s good books. I think it’s more likely that we see Caggiula start the year in the top six than out of the lineup. McLellan seems to really value what he brings and trusts him in multiple spots.

I think it’s fair to assume that Kassian and Caggiula are pretty much locks to make this team and be everyday forwards.

THE REST

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

Pontus Aberg had an up and down run with the Oilers after being acquired at the trade deadline. He had a few solid runs and didn’t look out of place next to Leon Draisaitl. He can play at the NHL level, it’s just a matter of doing this consistently.

If he struggles in camp, then the Oilers will not hesitate to put him on waivers. But if he comes in and starts capitalizing on his chances, he might get a look as an every day forward.

Scottie Upshall was signed to a professional tryout last month and I actually think there’s a good chance he earns a contract. He’s been described as a great locker room guy, he can kill penalties, and he had some success last year with Kyle Brodziak, who’s the Oilers de-facto fourth line centre.

Like I said, it was already a crowded situation, and then the organization announced that Alex Chiasson will also be joining the team on a PTO.

Chiasson spent last year with the Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals, playing in 61 games and recording nine goals and nine assists. Chiasson’s career high for points came in 2013-14 when he posted 35 points while with the Dallas Stars.

Last season, he played over 500 minutes at even strength and got some pretty rough zone starts, which likely impacted his possession numbers, which weren’t anything to write home about.

He did play 100 minutes on the penalty kill and 36 minutes on the powerplay. He wasn’t overly effective on either side of the special teams coin, but he’s proven he can be trusted in many different positions.

I think the Oilers are higher on Upshall, but you never want to write off a proven NHLer like Chiasson.

There’s also a long shot to make this team out of camp, and that’s Cooper Marody. He’s an undersized winger, who is coming off a really good season at the University of Michigan. I don’t know a lot about this player, but I know the organization is very high on him.

AHL time won’t be mandatory for Marody. If he impresses in training camp, he’ll be going to Europe with the team.

THE OUTCOMES

An easy and likely solution would be to let Chiasson, Upshall, and Aberg battle it out and then simply cut ties with whichever forward is the least impressive. But as I already said, all three have proven that they can play at the NHL level, so I think there’s a chance we could see a trade as well.

Someone like Zack Kassian, who is slightly overpaid, could potentially be on the move if the team feels there are better less expensive options for the fourth line. If they can get a draft pick, or package Kassian and land a proven defenseman, then I think the organization needs to seriously consider that move, or any move involving one of their bottom six forwards, because they have a lot of them.

Whether it ends with a surprising trade, or with something as simple as Pontus Aberg going on waivers, the battles for playing time in the Oiler’s bottom six will be very intriguing.

THE SEASON OPENER BRUNCH PARTY

If you’ve ever been to one of our season opener parties before, you already know that one of the best parts is getting 200 Nation citizens together to meet up and start off the new season on a high note. Not only are these parties a great way to get the band together, it’s especially fun to meet new people that you’ve been arguing with talking to online for Gord knows how long.

WHAT YOU GET:

The bag: Exclusive Season Opener Party tee, Pint GC, Oodle Noodle GC, stickers, and a ticket to enter all of the draws and raffles
The giveaways: 
Memorabilia giveaways, NationGear giveaways,
Anything else: We’ll also be having a NationGear pop-up shop that features some of the new shirts and hoodies that we’ve got for the upcoming season.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Where: The Pint Downtown
When: October 6th, with doors opening at 10 am and the hockey game starting at 11 am
Who: Every single one of you… that is of legal drinking age
Why: To celebrate the launch of a new season, get together, and to raise as much money as possible for our friends at KidSport
How much: Tickets are $25 each with net proceeds going directly to KidSport
How: Tickets are available here.

  • Ever the Optimist

    I have heard rumours of Kassian and a pick for faulk after Sekera hits LTIR on day 1. If this is true and even if not kKassian but someone else from the bottom 6 then all these pto’s make sense. The oil can keep these guys in camp till the season starts then sign whoever to fill the hole at a cheaper price. I think it would be nice to be on the other side of a schultz deal. Faulk has cratered playing in front of bad goaltending on a bad team. Playing with McDavid and in front of a decent goalie could see him come back to being a valuable puck moving dman.

  • Abagofpucks

    It looks like Caleb Jones is very serious about landing a spot on the team.
    I know playing against Nait/Mac players isnt much of a test but he looks good so far.
    Maybe benson is something and lagesson looks good too.

  • TKB2677

    I have no sources but I think a trade or 2 is coming from the forward ranks. Maybe the rumoured on of something like Kassian and a pick/prospect for Faulk happens but regardless, I think something is going to happen. The reason why I think that is these PTO’s. The Garrison PTO I can totally get. Sekera goes down, your are battling with Nurse for a contract, you need dmen in camp. Plus you have a few young guys who are close – Bouchard & Bear- to making the team, they need people pushing them. Nothing pushes young guys more than a hungry vet looking for a job. But the forward ones have me wondering. Upshall and Chiasson are bottom 6 guys who both are good PK guys. The Oilers PK sucked last year. What if Yawney came, looked at the roster and said I need different guys? I think for sure one of Upshall or Chiasson makes the team, probably Upshall because he’s one of those glue guys that they missed when Hendricks was gone. But I think Kassian is going to get traded. He makes WAY too much money for a 4th liner and if you can replace Kassian even if you are just trading him for a pick and Chiasson costs you half of what Kassian makes, are you really that worse off? As much as I like Kassian when he is on, I don’t think so.

    • Spydyr

      The team has to address Sekera absence this season,right. Chia admitted his error on that front last season and even the “Oiler braintrust” is not stunned enough to repeat the same error this season, or are they?

      • TKB2677

        I think so. I think as soon as they are allowed, they will announce that Sekera is done for the year. When Chia talked about it, though he didn’t say much, he sure didn’t sound too optimistic. My bro is in Physio and he said any achilles injury is typically a 6-9 month recovery process depending on the severity. Sekera went in for surgery in August. The best case of 6 months puts him into February before he would be recovered enough to I assume resume regular activity. I would assume with an injury like that, you aren’t do a hell of a lot of anything for the bulk of that healing time. If you can barely walk, how can a person train? So he won’t be anywhere remotely close to being in pro hockey shape and he would have barely skated for 6 months. Considering that he missed most of last year due to an knee injury and best case will miss most of this year with an achilles injury, the guy hasn’t played much in 2 years. When he came back last year, he was gawd awful. It’s not really his fault. When you miss an entire offseason, all of camp, all of the practices and almost 3/4 of a season, you are probably 2 steps behind everyone strictly because everyone else is WAY ahead of you game shape and skating. The same will happen again if by some miracle he came back with any games. I know players have egos and are proud guys but seriously, he can’t think he can do anything to help his team this season especially given how it went last year. I would hope and pray for the good of the team but also the player, he is shut down for the year because nothing positive will come out of him coming back this year for either of them.

        In all seriousness, at his age and the fact he’s barely played in 2 years, he might be better off to retire from the NHL and go sign a nice contract in Europe because he might be done as an NHL. Pretty tough for a past 30 yr old guy to get back his form back when he’ had 2 major injuries to his legs and hasn’t played much in 2 years.

        • Spydyr

          I have suffered through a complete Achilles tendon rupture. Trust me it is not fun. Funny thing was skating was easier then walking during the late recovery period.That being said even if he is cleared to go after six months he would be hard pressed to be effective at the NHL level. IMO the best course would be to write off the season and come back next fall. If he does come back in six months a long rehabilitation stint in the AHL would be in order.

  • rivid

    If the coach like what the Drake brings, then perhaps its the coach that needs to go as well as Drake. This player was the worst in just about every stat possible to evaluate you as a good player. The 1.5 mill is too much for what he brings and should have been cut free.

      • ed from edmonton

        Raffydog overstates his case, but stating at this point that the likes of Jones and Benson are better options than some veteran players is way over the top at thus point. Looking good against a bunch of players (either in rookie game or whatever that thing was last night was ) none of which will likely play in the NHL this year is a long way from making it in the NHL. The PTOs of Upshall and Chaisson and signing a “reliable” player like Brodziak makes me think the Oil don’t want to take chances on untried rookies.

      • ed from edmonton

        Well people are stating the like of Benson and Jones are real options. Given that neither had 17/18 years a anything remotely close to NHL ready their opinions must be based on something.

    • VvV

      Raffydog is just having a lil tantrum because the Flamers will never have a new arena. There only chance is the Olympics and he heard the Calgary proposal for the Olympics yesterday and it doesn’t even include a new arena, just refurbishing to the Saddome

  • ed from edmonton

    Obviously the competition for bottom six wingers has ramped up significantly. I’m not so convinced that “it’s fair to assume that Kassian and Caggiula are pretty much locks to make this team and be everyday forwards” Both are coming off less than impressive years and a more economic option may look attractive. Aberg will need an impressive pre-season to stay in the NHL.

  • ed from edmonton

    It appears that Caguliia (assuming he makes the team) will be this yea’rs Jason Arnott, Tom Poti, Sean Horcoff, Justin Schultz (pick one). I don’t think Cagullia is as talented as any of the above, but once a player get targeted by the mob, he is in a untenable position. So Cagulia haters take heart, history will tell us if you keep it up, you will get your wish and he will be playing with another NHL team within a year.

  • Big Nuggets

    The right wing spots are still wide open this season. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out. Anyone could find some chemistry with McNuge and run with it. I actually like both Chia’sson and Upshall, although it would mean waiving guys. Maybe they can waive Caggiula and keep him in the AHL as injury insurance. With the price tag seems a good chance of clearing. If Puljujarvi isn’t impressing during training camp they can send him down for a stint. I’m sure they want Puljujarvi on the team and ideally he finds his scoring touch, but I like the idea of taking the pressure off of him forba few months and letting him take the reigns when he is ready.

  • Rusty

    i get your point with Cagguila having the trust of Todd but theres no way Cagguila starts in the top 6. Theres too much talent in actual finishers in jesse, rattie and yamo for caggiula to get much consideration. If the season starts with Caggiula playing in the top 6 lord help us because 3-4 other players have totally wet the bed.

    • That's My Point

      Jesse’s NEVER scored goals. EVER!!!
      He has 13 goals in 93 NHL games.
      Heck, Yak had 17 goals in 48 games to lead ALL OILERS and ALL ROOKIES in scoring his 1st NHL season, Jesse not so much.

      • daryl

        If your coach doesn’t give you a chance and does not give you PP minutes this is the stats you have. If Todd can pull his head out of his as#$% and play the roster he has instead of pulling JP every time he makes a mistake JP will be just fine. Todd has always used veterans over younger players but thankfully if he does it again he will be gone by Thanks Giving!

        • bradleypi

          @daryl. And this is oilersnation in a nutshell. Caggiulla has a down year and oilersnation doesn’t like him, so it’s clearly because he doesn’t work hard enough and is a lazy piece of garbage according to a previous poster. Jp is a dud last year, but because oilersnation loves him, it’s all Todd McLellans fault. Lol. You guys are still as hilarious as ever. I remember jp getting lots of pp time and time with McDavid and failing to do anything. But oilersnation will keep making up stories to suit their narrative. You guys will never change. Terrible fans…..

      • ed from edmonton

        You are certainly correct and until JP actually does show some offensive skill this will be a question. However its far too soon to right him off. Matts Sundin in his D+1 year in the SEL scored 10 goals and had 8 assists. I recall Cherry ranting at that time about how the Nordiques waisted their pick on a chicken swede who can’t score.

  • BR

    Looking tougher and tougher for Caggulia to make the roster. Chiasson and Upshall could bring good experience and are proven. What has Cags done really? Agree that one of Yama/Rattie make it with the other on the outside, haven’t seen as much domination as you’d like from Yama so far in rookie camp. Also Rattie is dirt cheap right now so good to give him a shot. Really wanting to see Puljujarvi given some good opportunities this year, top six and PP. and want to see Aberg put it together, he’s got the speed which we need.

    Nuge – McDavid – Rattie
    Lucic – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
    Khaira – Strome – Reider
    Upshall – Brodziak – Kassian/Chiasson
    Aberg

    Klefbom – Larsson
    Nurse – Benning
    Jerabek – Russel
    Gravel(Bouchard for 9 games)

    Do we think Kassian could be traded? he’s pricey but brings a lot to the team, which we’d miss but Chiasson could fill in that spot well.

  • Bottomsix

    Yes the battles for the bottom six will be very intriguing because the whole team is made up with bottom six players.
    Watch every Oiler except Nuge, McD and Leon will play in the bottom six.
    There is even a chance Nuge Centers the 3rd line

  • I would like to see Kassian on the right wing with Nuge and Conner. He can skate and muck it up in the corner. He can play up and down the line up and if not for Lucic blocking his development would be more valued by this team.

  • Did Chiarelli sign Caggulia and Kassian to these short overvalued contracts to do just that–overvalue them for a trade to get a little something more in return?

    Marody/Benson will replace Caggulia.
    Chaisson could replace Kassian.
    Upshall won’t replace Aberg but I can see them splitting games.

  • toprightcorner

    Not sure why you are confused. He is the same type of player as Kassian, with more consistent offence, and could be had for less than half the cost. If Chaisson shows well, maybe the Oilers can trade Kassian and save over $1 mill.