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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: Managing the forwards

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? 

  • Dapper Dan 3099

    Cam I agree with what you have there, except I think Kass is out (trade) and Caggiula takes his spot. Maybe they even send out Aberg and his crappy attitude and end up signing Chiasson to be the extra forward.

  • Jaysdude

    I suspect the rumors of Kassian headed out for Faulk might have some basis. Thus, I would think Chaisson might be a replacement (which is fine, as while Kassian can be a force, he takes too many dumb penalties.) I’d suggest Yamamoto on the farm is a good idea, at least to start, though I suspect he’ll force his way up before long. Upshall, we’ll have to see how much he’s got left. Let the others fight it out. I think Rieder might end up being good with Draisaitl. As far as right wing on the top line, whoever fits best with McNuge. Forward lines are often driven by pairs (Gretzky/Kurri for example) so I look for a guy who can just play support and shoot the puck when he gets the chance. As for those who have already given up on JP, give the kid a break. He might turn out to be a bust, but the jury is still very much out, and he’s only 20. There are lots of examples where guys blossomed in their third year in the league.

    • The Future Never Comes

      About three separate posters have commented about this trade talk now. You have any proof to this or just repeating what you’ve seen here in the comment section, starting with the original person who dreamed it up?

  • TKB2677

    Yamamoto needs to go down to the AHL. Even if he has a decent training camp, he needs to go down. They Oilers need a good start and can’t afford to have a young guy finding his way.

    If you can get rid of Kassian as much as I like what he can bring, you do it in a heartbeat.

  • NewPants

    Nugent-Hopkins – McDavid – Rattie
    Rieder – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
    Lucic – Strome – Chiasson
    Khaira – Brodziak – Kassian
    Extra: Caggiula – Upshall
    Sorry Aberg and Yamo to the AHL

    • toprightcorner

      No chance the season starts with Lucic on the 3rd line. The Oilers need a bounce back season and the only way to do that is to start him on the second line and hopes he doesn’t lose his confidence again

  • ziyan94

    In a few months it could be like this:
    Nuge-McDavid-Puljujarvi
    Lucic-Draisaitl-Rieder
    Khaira-Strome-Aberg
    Upshall-Brodziak-Chiasson
    Extra: Caggiula and Rattie, with Kassian probably being traded

    Puljujarvi played well last year with a lot of near-misses on top-corner shots. Converting those into goals this year would bump him up if Rattie doesn’t play up to expectations.

    • Arfguy

      Agreed. I think they should start the season with RNH on Draisaitl’s wing. I think Draisaitl needs more help than McDavid. I’d see if McDavid can develop some chemistry with Rieder. As much as I would like to see RNH and McDavid play on the same line, it might be better for the organization if RNH was Leon’s wingman!

  • toprightcorner

    Chaisson was definitely brought in to replace Kassian. More consistent offence, but the same type of player, plus you save $1 mill.

    Oilers are working to trade Kassian. My guess is Carolina or Ottawa

  • toprightcorner

    I don’t think Rattie will be on the top line to start the season. I doubt he will prove in training camp that he can continue is hot streak to end the season.

    Yamamoto will start in the AHL, even if he scores 3 goals in the first 9 games. He needs to learn to play agains strog men. Better to let him succeed in the AHL for a couple months and then bring him up when he is confident, than to keep him, have him struggle, lose confidence and then be sent down. That is not how you bring along what you hope to be a top 6 offensive player.

    Nuge – McDavid – JP
    Lucic – Draisaitl – Reider
    Khaira – Strome – Rattie
    Upshaw – Brodziak – Kassian
    Cagiula – Chaisson

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    Has anyone else noticed how good the bottom 6 looks going into camp (regardless of who actually plays there)? PC didn’t “fix” the D, but I must say he seems to have addressed some issues in the bottom 6. Imagine running some combination of JJ, Brodziak, Kassian, Upshall, and Chaisson as a 4th line. Horrible to play against.