One week from now, the Edmonton Oilers will kick off the 2021-22 season by hosting the Vancouver Canucks.
There are two preseason games left, both against the Canucks, that Ken Holland and Dave Tippett can use to decide on the final roster they’ll carry into opening night.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. What’s your opening night roster for the 2021-22 season? How should Tippett organize his lines to kick off the season? Who’s sitting in the press box and who’s going on waivers?
It seems Edmonton’s top-six is pretty much set.
As expected, we’ve seen free-agent addition Zach Hyman added to Connor McDavid’s left while Jesse Puljujarvi remains on the captain’s right after thriving in that role last season. The second line is a reunion of the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, and Kailer Yamamoto trio that performed so well for the team in 2019-20.
That would leave the Oilers’ bottom-six as the forward lines in question.
Coming into training camp, the third- and fourth-line centre roles appeared as though they were going to feature a veteran in Derek Ryan and a rookie in Ryan McLeod. McLeod hasn’t been great during the preseason and roster spots are certainly never a guarantee for a player without much experience. The fact he doesn’t require waivers could mean McLeod that starts the season with the Bakersfield Condors.
If that’s the case, Devin Shore would likely be Edmonton’s fourth centre. He’s been playing on a line in camp with a pair of bubble players, Kyle Turris on the right and Brendan Perlini on his left. The three of them have played nearly 40 minutes together at even-strength and have outscored their opponents 5-to-0.
If the dynamite preseason trio of Perlini, Shore, and Turris remains intact, we can probably assume that Warren Foegele, Ryan, and Zack Kassian make up Edmonton’s other bottom-six line. That would leave two other roster spots for forwards, assuming Edmonton rolls with 14 up front and seven on the blueline.
Former second-round pick Tyler Benson hasn’t had huge a preseason like Perlini has, but the organization has invested a lot of time and energy in his development and they’d surely hate to put him on waivers. Colten Sceviour, who’s in camp on a professional tryout, might earn himself a contract now that the team is without Josh Archibald. Sceviour has experience killing penalties, a hole that’s opened up in Archibald’s absence.
Another thing to consider is the possibility of using Nugent-Hopkins as a centre and moving a winger like Perlini or Benson into a role in the team’s top-six. That would slide Ryan down to the fourth centre role and Shore to the wing.
Defence and Goaltending…
It was expected that Edmonton’s camp would feature a bit of a battle for goaltending gigs, but news that Alex Stalock would miss the entirety of the 2021-22 season due to a heart condition changed that plan. Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith will be the Oilers’ goaltending duo again this year.
Edmonton has eight defenders currently in the mix for what is likely seven spots.
Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie figure to be the team’s top pairing while Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci look to be the pairing that Tippett will use in defensive situations. Evan Bouchard will start the season as the right-handed defender on Edmonton’s third pair, but who he plays most with isn’t certain.
Kris Russell is the veteran of the group as he’s played 308 games with the Oilers over the past five seasons. Slater Koekkoek is back with the team again after having most of his 2021 season derailed due to injury. Koekkoek suffered a broken clavicle and missed all of March and April but returned before the end of the season and played in all four of Edmonton’s playoff games. And then there’s William Lagesson, a prospect who’s been on the cusp seemingly forever but hasn’t managed to capture a role.
Unless the Oilers opt to roll with 13 forwards and eight defenders, one of these three will have to go on waivers. My guess would be Lagesson.
What say you, Nation? What’s your opening night roster? How should Tippett’s lines look?