After missing the last few weeks with an injury, it appears that Ty Rattie will return to the Oilers lineup soon and possibly even tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks. A welcome sight for Oilers fans, but with his return comes a big decision for both the coaching staff and management.
If Rattie draws into the lineup, not only will someone have to come out, but the Oilers will need to make room on the active roster. The idea of re-assigning someone to the minors has been a hot topic over the past week, so let’s start by looking at some candidates for re-assignment:
COOPER MARODY: He made his NHL debut against Pittsburgh and also played against Washington, but right now he’s out of the lineup with an injury. He didn’t pick up a point in either of the games he played in, but he had four shots on goal and I thought he had a decent presence in their bottom six.
Sending Marody down, or putting him on the IR, would be a pretty safe move and I think it’s the most likely.
JESSE PULJUJARVI: After being healthy scratched the last four games, the expectation is that Puljujarvi will draw back into the lineup tonight against Chicago. I was fine with the decision to sit him for a couple of games, but four games was too long in the press box. If he’s going to develop properly, he needs to play, Whether it’s at the NHL or AHL level, it doesn’t matter to me.
In the next week, the Condors play four times between now and November 10th, so if they reassign Puljujarvi now, he’ll get plenty of ice time. At the same time, if they wanted to send him down, why would they wait until AFTER sitting him for four straight?
KAILER YAMAMOTO: He got a really solid look with Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins over the course of the Oilers recent winning streak. He didn’t look out of place and did some good things on the forecheck, he didn’t produce a drop offensively. That’s not good enough for a player riding shotgun with McDavid.
He was moved off the top line during the third period of the loss to the Wild, so maybe after giving him a good chance on a skilled line, the Oilers will decide that Yamamoto needs some seasoning in the AHL.
Once the roster is all set, the decision will then fall to Head Coach Todd McLellan, who will need to decide where to slot Rattie, and which one of his forward lines he should disrupt.
Over the last week, the lines have stayed fairly consistent.
Leon Draisaitl centered Alex Chiasson and Tobias Rieder. They played 41:31 together at even strength. With this combo, Leon Draisaitl saw his CF% and his GF% go up. The trio also hasn’t allowed a goal against when they’re all on the ice. They’ve been a pleasant surprise.
The third line has seen Ryan Strome with Milan Lucic and Drake Caggiula. They’re the only one of these three lines with a sub-50% CF%, but they do have a positive scoring chance percentage. They’ve done a good job establishing a cycle, but haven’t been able to finish very many of their chances.
The fourth line mainly featured Jujhar Khaira, Kyle Brodziak, and Zack Kassian. They played 32:55 at even strength. They’ve posted a 56.25% CF% along with a 57.89 SCF%. While those are good numbers, McLellan shouldn’t hesitate to break up this fourth line, they aren’t exactly world beaters.
Yesterday at practice, Ryan Rishaug had the following:
Based on some loose line rushes, Puljujarvi skating with Strome and Lucic. Caggiula took first reps with McDavid and RNH, and Yamamoto was with Reider and Draisaitl. 4th line the same.
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) October 31, 2018
Based on this, it looks like Puljujarvi will draw back into the lineup and will play next to Ryan Strome and Milan Lucic.
It’s interesting that Drake Caggiula is staying on the top line because if Rattie makes his return to the lineup, it’s safe to assume that he will get his old spot next to 97 and 93 back. Is Caggiula just a placeholder for when Rattie is healthy? If that’s the case, Caggiula could be the odd man out of the lineup.
Rishaug later added that Yamamoto was taking turns with Alex Chiasson on the Draisaitl/Rieder line. I can’t see McLellan taking Chiasson out of the lineup, he’s been one of their better forwards as of late, so this nugget of information leads me to believe that it could be Yamamoto drawing out of the lineup as well.
If all or any of this comes to fruition, then it leads you to believe that Cooper Marody will either be placed on the injured reserve or sent back to Bakersfield.
If Yamamoto is out of the lineup tonight, I don’t see this as a long-term solution. I don’t think that the Oilers can continue forward with rotating Puljujarvi and Yamamoto in and out of the lineup. A decision needs to be made so that both of their young stars can get consistent ice-time, whether it’s at the NHL or AHL level.
I’m all for having one young “project” at the NHL level, and if there was enough ice time to go around, I would be all for both of Puljujarvi and Yamamoto to stay, but that’s not the case. The ‘rat-turn’ of Ty Rattie is a definite positive for the Oilers, but it does create another issue for the organization.
While they can temporarily fix it by moving Cooper Marody off the active roster, at some point in the near future, Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan will need to make a decision, and that will likely involve sending one of their young right wingers to the AHL.