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.
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.
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.
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.
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.