The Day After -2.0: Which Edmonton Oilers depth forwards will separate themselves from the pack?

Photo credit:Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
7 months ago
The next two weeks are going to be fascinating to watch around Edmonton as more and more roster cuts come forth.
For the Oilers, most of it is surrounding what’s going to happen with the forward group with a number of depth players — young and old — are competing for a limited number of spots. There might be no player who could be impacted more than that of Raphael Lavoie.
The 23-year-old second-round pick from 2019 no longer has a waiver exemption this year, and is going to need to make the team out of training camp to eliminate the risk of being claimed on waivers. During Monday’s 5-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, he played on the Oilers’ top line taking four shots on goal in 12:07 of 5×5 ice-time with an additional shot being blocked. He, like a few other young Oilers, looked solid in the early goings of the game, but tapered off a bit towards the end as the game got out of reach.
What was promising about Lavoie’s performance alone was he was doing things the team wants to see from him by generating chances, and using his body to his advantage. He is a player I would expect to be in the Oilers’ lineup virtually every night for the rest of the pre-season, as his future in the organization depends on it.


Another forward who needs a strong showing this pre-season and into the regular season is Dylan Holloway. While he still holds his waiver status in place, he’s in a place where he needs to start to impact NHL games. Holloway had a tremendous pre-season last year scoring four goals and five points at 5×5 in as many games, and had a promising start to his regular season before being sent to the AHL in February. All in all, he scored three goals and nine points in 51 games but was a plus-player for the Oilers in all of his underlying numbers.
This pre-season, he’s been making some noise already with his physicality and his high motor. There’s more than enough reason to believe he can be a solid contributor for the Oilers this season, and while there are few players who get their spots pencilled in, it feels like he can be pencilled in for a third-line spot on the wing.
Another name to keep an eye on could be that of Adam Erne, who the Oilers have in camp on a professional tryout. Call me crazy, but he feels like the perfect Klim Kostin replacement. Over the last three years, he’s played 2188 minutes at 5×5 scoring at a 25-point-per-82-game pace while laying 10.83 hits per hour. Kostin played half the minutes as Erne over that time at 948 minutes, but he himself scored at a 26.5-point-per-82-game pace with 16.19 hits per hour. Erne’s been a strong driver of play individually and there’s reason to believe his on-ice results can improve on a better Oilers roster.
One of the other larger spots of contention right now in camp is going to be that of the fourth-line center spot. Logically, Derek Ryan can fill that role with ease, but we’ve also seen him effective on the wing on the third and fourth line. That leaves the likes of Brandon Sutter, Sam Gagner, and Lane Pederson contending for the 4C spot. We’ve seen the former and the latter each draw into a pre-season game thus far with tepid results. Sutter went 60 per cent in his 10 faceoffs, and Pederson went 83.33 per cent winning five of six.
Gagner, however, is the wildcard, and my preferred fourth-line center. According to The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman, it sounds like Gagner could start the season with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors. That right there would mean he’s signed to a contract with the team, and it could allow the Oilers to test drive one of Sutter or Pederson, depending on how the next number of pre-season games go.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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