Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers officially returned to the ice on Friday morning and now the fun begins.
General Manager Ken Holland did as much as he could this past off-season, especially up front. He managed to move Lucic and I believe he made good on his promise to make the bottom six both quicker and more competitive. As we now get ready for the club to drop the puck on their pre-season schedule there will be a number of battles and storylines to follow.
Holland says it’s very likely that McDavid won’t play any pre-season games. He says he watched one or two videos a week of McDavid skating in the off-season to keep tabs on things.
— Dustin Nielson (@nielsonTSN1260) September 11, 2019
I think we are already starting to get the sense that Connor McDavid really wants to play a few games in the pre-season for a couple of different reasons. The first reason being to get just a taste of game speed but the second one would be so people stop asking about his knee. They are just a couple of days into camp and he already has to be sick of talking about it. Poor bastard.
In my opinion, there is no reason to play McDavid in any pre-season games, even in a regular year. The only thing a player of his ability is doing in an exhibition game is putting himself at risk of an injury, it would be pointless. He could sit on the couch for the next two weeks and still be the best player on the ice, for both teams, in game one.
I AM SAM, SAM I AM
It appears as though Sam Gagner will get the first look on the Oilers second line. I spent the entire summer doing the #SummerOfLineys twice a week on Inside the Nation and only managed to fit Gagner into the top six a couple of times.
He could fit in well on that line because he still has the mind of an offensive player and is more than willing to dig pucks out of the corner for Nuge and Neal. On the other hand, he may also just be a place holder until one of the new faces in the line up proves that he’s ready for a shot in the top six.
It was Jason Gregor who first tweeted about Joel Persson working as a teacher prior to earning a full-time gig in the SHL. I then asked for teacher related nicknames and “The Per-fessor,” from @Archaeologuy, was one of the best ones I saw.
It seems like Oscar Klefbom came into camp expecting to play with Joel Persson and that’s the way it was in Group A on day one. Matt Benning is also in group A so if the coaching staff wants to give him a couple of skates with Klefbom they won’t have to move anything around.
Persson has a huge opportunity in front of him. He has all the attributes the Oilers have been looking for in a defenseman. He moves extremely well, passes the puck efficiently, has a bomb from the point and most importantly, shoots right. I asked a scout in Europe if he thinks Persson can make it the NHL and his answer was a simple “not sure”. A true wild card.
THE BOTTOM SIX
At this point, I believe there are four spots in the bottom six locked up and two spots featuring a new signing. I’d be shocked if Riley Sheahan isn’t the third line centre to open the season with Jujhar Khaira, Markus Granlund and Alex Chiasson fighting for spots on his wing. It would make sense to have Sheahan centre Granlund and Chiasson which would then leave Khaira looking for a couple of linemates on the fourth lines. Candidates for those spots include Gaetan Haas, Tomas Jurco, Josh Archibald and Colby Cave.
A GOOD PROBLEM TO HAVE
It looks like Tyler Benson or Cooper Marody will need to have a pretty impressive camp if they want to grab a job on opening night and that is the best news we’ve heard in a long time. Last season the Oilers opened the year with Rattie, Yamamoto and Puljujarvi as their top three right wingers. They got those jobs in part because they played well in the pre-season but also because there really wasn’t anyone else around.
If Benson is going to find a spot on the left side he’ll have to outplay two of Gagner, Granlund or Khaira, which isn’t unthinkable but at the same time, it’s ok if he doesn’t, for now.
Cooper Marody is basically trying to steal Riley Sheahan’s spot in the line up because it wouldn’t make sense to have a rookie centering the 4th line to start the season.
So there may not be room for Benson and Marody to start the year and that’s a good problem to have.
Let the games begin.
Previously by Dustin Nielson:
- Target in Tampa
- TEN TIDBITS: Jesse Puljujarvi Edition
- Lucky Number Six
- TEN TIDBITS: August Edition
- Projection Season: The Hockey News