Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody Called This

Hands up everybody who said prior to the start of pre-season that Ty Rattie, Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto were going to fill the net and that these three unproven right wingers would be the strength of the Edmonton Oilers five games into the schedule, not the biggest question mark. Sure you did.

I didn’t. You didn’t. Yet here we are in the wake of the Oilers rolling over the Vancouver Canucks 6-0 Tuesday to improve to 4-1 and Rattie, Puljujarvi and Yamamoto haven’t just been good, they’ve been great. Rattie’s hat-trick against the Canucks gives him 7-3-10 in the three games he’s played. Puljujarvi potted a pair against Vancouver and has 4-0-4 in four games. Yamamoto has 4-3-7 in the four games he’s played.

Those questions about the right side before the pre-season schedule were legit concerns, of course, but having scored 15 of the Oilers’ 27 goals through five games, Rattie, Puljujarvi and Yamamoto have not only had all the answers, they’ve made a mockery of the question. While this guarantees absolutely nothing when the puck drops with points in the standings on the line, it’s damn sure better than the alternative – the gaping offensive hole many feared.

While it’s not uncommon for a player with a question mark beside his name – somebody who has kicked around a bit like Rattie has or raw, unproven prospects with draft pedigree like Puljujarvi and Yamamoto – to exceed expectations and grab eyeballs and a roster spot at camp, having three players do it, at the same position, is. I don’t recall this happening with the Oilers. With three pre-season games to go, it’s a great story.

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Sep 18, 2018; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (98) celebrates his goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the first half at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

I had a coach when I was playing lacrosse who, when I appeared to be denser than usual getting his drift, had a habit of asking, “Do I need to draw you a picture?” Often, the answer was yes. That appears to be exactly what coach Todd McLellan did during a meeting with his right wingers a couple of weeks ago when he spelled things out in no uncertain terms.

“He showed us the depth chart and said ‘There are openings here, it’s going to be a battle, but the ball is in your court, whoever wants it go out and get it,’” said Rattie, who has played his way into a spot on right wing alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid. “You have to take that to heart and in the next practice, next game prove how bad you want to be there.”

Rattie, 25, clearly got McLellan’s message. He’s a lock to start the season on the first line. Yamamoto got a look against the Canucks with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl. I’d like to see more of him there because he was only OK last night. That said, my sense is that Yamamoto, barring a total el-foldo the rest of the pre-season, already has a spot on the roster, if not on that line.

Puljujarvi, 20, who mugged for fans in the penalty box for a photo-bomb last night, has been everything anybody could have hoped for while playing third-line minutes. He’s flying. He’s shooting the puck. “The goal he scored on the power play, I zipped it in there on his backhand, and sometimes that’s a tough play when you’re going full speed. He handled it perfectly and got off an amazing shot,” McDavid said of the big Finn. “He has another gear. He’s just got another step. He must have had a good summer.”

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Sep 23, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (56) celebrates his first period goal against Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

We can’t say for certain the Oilers are set on the right side just because Rattie, Puljujarvi and Yamamoto have started this well. History tells us that much. We know they aren’t going to continue to produce at the pace we’ve seen so far, and that’s OK. What we can say is we’ve got three players making terrific bids at what was supposed to be a position of weakness. McLellan and the majority of fans out there would have been more than satisfied with one or two of them doing that before camp opened.

Like a lot of you, I was of the mind not so long ago that the prospect of starting the 2018-19 season with Rattie, Puljujarvi and Yamamoto occupying spots the right wing was a hope-for-the-best gamble that had little or no chance of paying off. It’s pre-season, so that hasn’t happened yet, of course, but the odds have changed.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Señor Frijoles

    It’s so great to see the way Jesse has been flying – seems to have found that next gear he needed to grab his spot and never look back … looks like that’s starting to happen. Rattie, at the very least, is proving that he’s got the smarts and the ability to play with McDavid – exciting times for him and for Oiler fans dreaming of that top line of McD, RNH, and Rattie pouring in the goals this season.

  • Hemmercules

    These good news stories out of camp and pre season have me feeling good about the team again. I just pray it translates to the regular season. I would expect everyones confidence to be fairly high right now and they need that. The cup contender labels last season really hurt them. Seems like Rattie should slot in fine where Maroon left off, maybe less intimidating than Maroon but I think he will get more points.

    • The best news might be what we’ve seen from Talbot so far. He’s picked up where he left off late last season. The Oilers aren’t going anywhere without Talbot at his best. Those who, for reasons I don’t understand, were insisting Talbot was finished after a tough first half to 2017-18 have pretty much had to shut their pie holes since then.

      • Redbird62

        Oh I wish it were true that they would shut their pie-holes or at least restrain themselves to legitimate or constructive criticism. Talbot could finish top-4 in the Vezina again (or even win it) and some of his detractors would still complain about him. I am not even sure if he won the Conn Smythe, that they would change their mind. While I have confidence in him, if he were to have a .905 save % by December, that would very likely be sufficient proof for me to concede and hope the Oilers don’t resign him. But I don’t expect that and it is very reasonable and not just wishful thinking that the Oilers don’t think that either.

      • Hemmercules

        I have always maintained that Talbot will be better this year. Pride and a contract year should result in some improvement. He seems to be steadily improving every pre season game. Im not sure what happened last year. Injury? terrible defence? confidence?? or all of the above.

      • OilerForLife

        I had confidence with Rattie that he would stick with the first line, and would produce, but that was it. My biggest surprise was Jesse Puljujärvi, he looks like a lock for the top 6 and has arrived. Yamamoto was a wait and see, and we’ve seen. It’s quite possible to have all three in the top 6 at some point, which is very exciting. I what to temper my enthusiasm, but I’m having trouble with that. Talbot also looks good as well. If all this happens it’s going to rub off on Lucic and the playoffs are a strong possibility, barring injury. Would somebody please drop the puck!

        • Big Nuggets

          with the RWs all looking good in preseason the Oilers forwards appear to be solid. Talbot looks poised to bounce back as well. Just need the defense to step up and we could have a good season.

  • positivebrontefan

    I’m giddy with excitement. My finger is stained orange from dipping it in the koolaid crystals, I’m skipping mixing it with water.

    Could it be that we found McDavid his winger? Rattie said he worked at another level this summer too. Looks like it’s paying off, because he’s scoring without McDavid on the ice as well.

    And Poolparty looks like a different player. Can’t wait to see that goal scoring grin 30 times this year.

    Yamamoto on a line with Drai and Lucic could be fun to watch. Two big guys with a scrappy little goal scorer to tap in some sneaky goals.

    Love it, can’t wait for the season to start.

    • Rock11

      Know what is great about the JP goal scoring face this year. There is no surprise. Last year when he scored it was a mix of joy and utter amazement that he actually scored. This year the joy is still there but there is more of “yeah I did that and I’m gonna do it again” look mixed with it. Think his confidence is through the roof right now. Hope it travels with him to Europe.

  • CMG30

    Great news so far! I’m still not ready to say they’ve arrived based on an outstanding early training camp… If they keep this up over then next few games against NHL heavy rosters though…

  • Dapper Dan 3099

    yes, I know its only pre-season…but so far, Talbot looks dialed in for the most part, Rattie looks like he will make people forget about maroon, and PJ looks to have some confidence in himself and it shows…and then there is a bigger and faster mcdavid with his longer hair, who will no doubt do mcdavid type magic again….. hopefully they ride it into the regular season and shut the east media up a bit

    • BobbyCanuck

      Lets hope so, I do not want another season of balls to the walls in the pre-season looking like Cup champs, only to implode during the first month of the season, and then all of us talking draft picks before Remembrance Day

  • OilCan2

    OK OK I only called Bouchard as a roster lock. (several times) At least I was on the right side albeit defence. A strong push by our younger players will go a long way toward the post season party.

  • toprightcorner

    Rattie’s first goal was an elite goal scorers goal. Taking a pass from behind him, shooting it immediately just inside the post and above the pad. He has shown he has the talent and IQ, he has finally shown the drive and willingness to play the game the right way to play in the NHL. He won’t score7 goals in 3 games in the regular season, but he gets his chances on net and he gets into open spots. If he was getting lucky rebounds on the doorstep, it could be perceived as luck, but most of his goals have been scored with skill and effort. I think he has a very good opportunity to score 25+ goals.

    Who would have thought that Chiarelli may have found an even better value contract than Maroon!!

  • Spoils

    before the preseason I was worried about Draisaitl and figured – why bother stacking McDavid’s line because he creates with almost anyone. My thought was – what about RNH on Draisaitl’s line. We might need to look a that, but the emergence of Puljujarvi makes me wonder about having JP up there. Here’s a look I’d like to see:

    Khaira-Brodziak-Kassian OR Caggiula-Khaira-Kassian

    If that second line doesn’t produce, I think RNH dropping to Draisaitl’s line would be worth

    • toprightcorner

      I think they will keep JP on the 3rd line because he has shown he can drive that line and nobody else on that line can do that yet. Yamamoto isn’t at that level yet, so you keep him with Draisaitl, who drives that line. With JP on the 3rd line, the top 9 has a driver on each line and that is much better in the long run. I can see JP bumped up if behind in the 3rd period, but if he looks comfortable driving the 3rd line, leave him there.

  • toprightcorner

    Puljujarvi is plain blowing past NHL dmen and outmuscling every opponent on the ice. This isn’t him dancing in the Penticton tourney as he did in his rookie season, he is legitimately fast and using his strength. This could be his breakout season. It may not be his 60 point season yet, but he is showing that 20 goals and 40 points is likely achievable.

  • Alberta Ice

    These 3 are really looking awesome so far. But I’m wondering if the real story of a successful Oilers run to the playoffs this year might be the preview play of Cam Talbot. If his goal tending continues like this into the season, watch out NHL.

  • toprightcorner

    Who would have thought that it would be the LWers having difficulty scoring? Proves that having to fight for your life to make the team makes a difference.

  • Hear me out, here. Just…listen. I know it sounds crazy, but Jesse is starting to remind me a lot of Jagr.

    I know, I know. And I’m not saying he has the same skill set, not entirely. Jagr was a beast, a freak of nature. A bull moose with soft hands. But the way Pool Party is using his body, shielding the puck while bringing it out of the corner, or even catching a pass in traffic…combined with his speed…and growing confidence to shoot the puck…I’m just saying. There are similarities. And that’s a good thing.

    (For the record, Jagr’s official height and weight are 6’2″, 225 lbs…Jesse’s are 6’4″, 215 lbs. So our Finn is perhaps a bit lankier, but close enough for comparison.)

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      I think Jesse was dissapointed with how last season went and he went into the summer with the drive and determination to make it very difficult for the Oilers to send him down to the AHL, from the looks of thing he came into camp with a fire in him to be counted on as part of the teams offensive contributors, and by all accounts he has done just that, the kid has been flying and hustling and scoring and even managining to throw some hits and its hard not to smile at that grin on his face, ths kid is enjoying himself.

      The Oilers need people to drive offence and score and if Jesse can keep rolling along and contributing I dint see him going anywhere, cagguila may get waived, I dont think he has shown near enough to stay with the Oilers despite his contract, Kassian isnt doing a lot either I would be surprised to see him get traded at some point

      • As much as I love Kassian (and what’s not to love, especially during that playoff run?) he is looking more and more expendable. Jujhar Kaira brings a lot of the same grit and toughness, while also looking a step faster this year and with more offensive potential…while taking (arguably) fewer dumb penalties. Reider can pick up some of Kassian’s penalty kill minutes. I’d be sad to see Zack go, but if we could get a decent pick out of it, it would make sense.

  • Abagofpucks

    I said during the summer lucic was not washed up like most of you said, he looks better so far, but i would put him on the 3rd line and put Jesse and Kailer with Drai. And Rattie looking like the answer on right wing on the top line ya nobody saw this coming.

    • Frustrated Fan in Calgary

      Agree that Lucic looks better, but I do not see him as being a big benefit to the 2nd line, other than some spot duty. Game looks too quick for him and I think he needs a different style of play to shine. Hopefully he can embrace whatever the team needs from him and excel from there.

  • Frustrated Fan in Calgary

    Talbot looks really good, the 3 young RW’s has been nothing but outstanding, and both Bouchard and Bear do not look out of place at all, with Bouchard showing solid offensive flair. Season looks much more promising to me than it did a few weeks ago, so hoping that it does go that way. Now for Chiarelli to do some contract clean up to prepare for the possibility that some of these players shine and do need to be signed for higher $$ next year (Puljujarvi, Rattie, Talbot, etc.).

  • Bills Bills

    It is awesome to see these guys playing well. You’re right I cant say anybody saw this but Rattie has always been a very good AHL scorer, so preseason goal totals should not be surprising considering who he has played a couple of those games with. Having said all that, I never thought goal scoring this season would be an issue. It wasn’t last year and it won’t be this year. We have issues at the other end. Talbot played good last night but 35 shots given up to a less than stellar Vancouver offence is not good. They better pull their socks up and hope that Benning and Nurse can handle regular second pairing matchups. Especially if they plan on keeping Bouchard up with Russell on the third pairing.

  • BR

    Who would’ve thought huh. Problem now is where to put everyone – agreed that Yamamoto only looked OK on the second line the other night. Rattie and Puljujarvi are definitely beating him out. Reider is a veteran and had a very good game plus can play a good checking role so I think he stays on the roster but do they want to break up the Kharia-Strome-Puljujarvi trio?

    I think the final roster looks a bit like:

    Nuge – McDavid – Rattie
    Lucic – Draisaitl – Reider
    Kharia – Strome – Puljujarvi
    Chiasson – Brodziak – Kassian

    Yamamoto sent to AHL to start, as soon as something slips he’s called back up and stays remainder of season, I’m picking that the second line doesn’t get enough done and that one of Lucic/Reider gets moved down to 3LW for Yamamoto, Kharia gets bumped to 4LW and one of Cags/Aberg are waived to AHL.

    Klefbom – Larsson
    Nurse – Benning
    Russel – Bouchard(9 games before sent back down, Gravel/Bear or whoever impressing called back up)
    Jerabek (too much chaos in his game for me but seems to be the 7th man chosen)

    Montoya (Koskinen getting 10-15 games in AHL to get adjusted then swapped back for remainder of season)

    • Big Nuggets

      I’d look at giving Yam a shot on the second line with Lucic and Drai. Rieder can bring some speed to the 4th line for a few games while we get a look at Yam. We can waive Cags and Aberg or whoever. I think our bubble players are all likely to clear waivers, thus strengthening the Condors team and giving more call up options when injuries strike.

  • Rattie has made his message clear, he wants to be an element on the 1st line not a compliment. Didn’t follow him at all in the offseason but its pretty obvious to me he trained like crazy

  • BasementDweller

    I like what I see too but let’s pump the brakes a little here. We looked pretty good going 6 – 2 in the pre-season last year and we all know how that panned out.

  • bazmagoo

    I have to admit I thought RW was our weakest position coming into training camp.

    That’s saying a lot, considering the depth on defence!

    Happy Rattie, Puljujarvi, and Yamamoto are proving me wrong.