The majority of the roster spots among the Oilers forward group are completely up for grabs and that includes the most coveted spot alongside Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Zack Kassian had a strong showing late in the season, but with a new coaching staff in place, there is no guarantee that he’ll be back on the top line to start the 2019-20 campaign.
I’ve decided to give you the odds on pretty much every forward that could possibly be in the mix with the exception of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kyle Brodziak and Colby Cave. One of the reasons I’ve put so many wingers on this list is because I’m confident Draisaitl can be effective on either the right or left side.
Zack Kassian (6 to 1)
If Kassian was a forward with a higher offensive pedigree that finished last season with McDavid and Draisaitl his odds would be a lot higher. Coming off a career high 15 goals Kassian appeared to have the ability to keep up with the dynamic duo and of course always has the ability to provide a physical presence when needed.
Alex Chiasson (12 to 1)
Chiasson did the majority of his damage in the early part of the season but his 22-goal total will not go unnoticed by Head Coach Dave Tippett. Chiasson’s biggest asset is his quick and accurate release, a tool that could lead to a look with McDavid.
Josh Archibald (24 to 1)
It seems crazy to think that Archibald would have the third best odds of landing a job on the Oilers top line but when you look at who he’s competing against there is a decent chance it happens.
Archibald is coming off a 12-goal campaign with the Coyotes and while he’s a not a big guy he plays with an edge, gets around the ice well and on top of everything else, he shoots right.
JUJHAR KHAIRA (30 to 1)
Khaira has never really put himself in a spot to get a look with McDavid but considering he at least has some experience in the organization he’s likely in the right spot on this list.
Joakim Nygard (30 to 1)
If Nygard comes as advertised he should have the wheels to not look out of place next to Connor. He scored 21 goals in Sweden last season, the second highest total in the SHL.
Markus Granlund (32 to 1)
In a perfect world, Granlund would play well enough to at least earn a spot on the second line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but he is one of the few players Holland has signed with a decent amount of NHL experience so maybe he gets a crack up top by default.
Tomas Jurco (32 to 1)
Tomas Jurco has always had some promising offensive upside and I’m sure he’ll get some sort of opportunity in the pre-season. It could be a case of top six or bust for Jurco in Edmonton this season.
Sam Gagner (34 to 1)
He has the playmaking abilities to chip in with McDavid and Draisaitl but at this stage of his career, I’m not sure he’d be able to keep up. I would love to see this happen and to have it work well but I wouldn’t bet money on it.
Gaetan Haas (36 to 1)
Haas is better suited to be a bottom six center but he’s a right shot who seems to shoot the puck very well.
TYLER BENSON (40 TO 1)
There is a much, much, much better chance of Tyler Benson making the team alongside Nugent-Hopkins but I will say that his hockey sense is probably on a level where he could survive alongside McDavid.
KAILER YAMAMOTO (55 to 1)
Kailer Yamamoto likely needs a healthy season in the AHL to get his game back on track but stranger things have happened, you know, like last season, with Yamamoto.
MILAN LUCIC (60 to 1)
Does a fresh start under Dave Tippett mean another opportunity for Milan Lucic on the Oilers top trio? Likely not, hence the 60 to 1 odds. I don’t think it would be reasonable to have Lucic any higher on the list because there is a still a chance, albeit a slight chance, that he doesn’t begin the season in Edmonton.
Jesse Puljujarvi (1000 to 1)
Every set of odds needs a long shot and Jesse Puljujarvi fits the bill. Not only would Puljujarvi need to be willing to come back to Edmonton but Connor McDavid would have to be open to playing with a player he hasn’t felt comfortable with in the past.
Before everyone starts freaking out about the odds please just remember they are some random numbers I just decided to make up. I’d say the spot probably comes down to a battle between Kassian, Chiasson and Archibald. I did put quite a bit of thought into the actual order of the list and I’d love to see your top five in order, fire away!
Previously by Dustin Nielson:
- The Wish List: Mid-Summer Edition
- OILERS TOP TEN PROSPECTS: Post-Draft Edition
- The Great, Good, Bad & Ugly of the Broberg Pick
- NHL Draft Day Targets
- Nielson’s Final Mock Draft