The pre-season is right around the corner! Unlike last season, the Oilers actually have quite a few posts up for grabs on the roster making this an interesting training camp to follow. There are a handful of players on the fringe of the roster right now plus two wingers at camp on professional tryout contracts. How is it going to shake out?
The obvious locks for the roster, pending injuries, are… Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Strome, Kyle Brodziak, Milan Lucic, and Tobias Rieder and the close to near locks would be… JJ Khaira, Zack Kassian, and Drake Caggiula. That’s 11 forwards right there that appear to be pencilled into the team’s lineup for the start of the season.
Fighting for the remaining sports are… Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi who can both be sent to the AHL without going on waivers, Ty Rattie and Pontus Aberg who can be buried without costing anything against the salary cap, and Scottie Upshall and Alex Chiasson who are on professional tryout contracts.
Here’s my best guess on how things shake out to start the season…
Nugent-Hopkins – McDavid – Rattie
Lucic – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
Khaira – Strome – Rieder
Upshall – Brodziak – Kassian
Extra: Aberg, Caggiula
I can’t see both Yamamoto and Puljujarvi starting the season on the team. One will be sent to the AHL to start the season, which would be the smart move for the Oilers to make. Not only is there a benefit to developing one of those young forwards in the AHL, it also gives Edmonton time to see if they actually have something in Rattie and Aberg without risking losing them on waivers prior to the season.
I think Rattie will be the first one in line to get a shot on the top line based on his success with McNuge to end last season. If Rattie can’t work with McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins like he did to finish last season, I can’t imagine the leash will be very long. Somebody else will quickly get slotted into that role, especially if Yamamoto is tearing it up in the AHL.
It seems inevitable Upshall will be given a contract given his general usage and places of need for the team itself. Obviously, anything can change. Upshall could look really bad in camp or another veteran could come available before the start of the season, but Upshall makes a lot of sense on the team’s fourth line. They missed Matt Hendricks in that role last season.
Kassian is an interesting case. There are rumours that the Oilers are shopping him in order to open up cap room given that his $1,950,000 cap hit for the next two seasons are steep for a player who doesn’t bring much offensively. If the Oilers find a way to dump his cap hit, I figure Chiasson could find his way on to the roster on a league minimum deal.
What say you, Nation? What do your 14 forwards look like to start the season? Will Upshall or Chiasson get contracts? Will Yamamoto and/or Puljujarvi start in the AHL? How long of a leash does Rattie have?