I believe we are at a point where we can project the 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers roster. The 50-man list is almost complete—there’s room for maybe one more straggler—and we can begin to discuss roles for the coming year.
There’s a lot that goes into a roster, things like penalty killers and power-play men, or running the roster 14-7-2 or 13-8-2 to begin the season. How many bubble players can clear waivers? How many cannot? And on it goes.
OPENING NIGHT ROSTER, 2016-17
- Milan Lucic—Connor McDavid—Jordan Eberle
- Patrick Maroon—Leon Draisaitl—Jesse Puljujarvi
- Benoit Pouliot—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Anton Slepyshev
- Tyler Pitlick—Mark Letestu—Zack Kassian
- Oscar Klefbom—Adam Larsson
- Andrej Sekera—Kris Russell
- Darnell Nurse—Brandon Davidson
- Cam Talbot (Jonas Gustavsson)
- Scratches: Mark Fayne, Anton Lander, Matt Benning
That’s my recollection of the lineup, lots of movement during the game so your mileage may vary. As we sit here this morning, enjoying the summer breeze, we see what Todd McLellan was trying to accomplish. Things didn’t work out, but when we begin the process of cobbling together lines and pairings for the fall, it is worthwhile to look back in order to see the prevailing wisdom on roster deployment.
OPENING NIGHT LOCKS
- Patrick Maroon—Connor McDavid—Leon Draisaitl/Ryan Strome
- Milan Lucic—Leon Draisaitl/Ryan Strome—Anton Slepyshev
- Jussi Jokinen—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Jesse Puljujarvi
- Drake Caggiula—Mark Letestu—Zack Kassian
- Oscar Klefbom—Adam Larsson
- Kris Russell—Matt Benning
- Darnell Nurse—Eric Gryba
- Cam Talbot (Laurent Brossoit)
- Scratches: Yohann Auvitu, Jujhar Khaira, Iiro Pakarinen
That’s a guess of course, but this roster has a lot of certainty to it. Many times when we get close to training camp, I list the roster + invites and run percentages for each player and chances of making the roster (it is called Riesen to Believe in honor of Michel Riesen and Rod Stewart). Since we have time, let’s do exactly that for the current 50-man list, with AHL-only and junior players thrown in.
THE 2017-18 EDMONTON OILERS (F)
- C Connor McDavid, 20. Won all the big awards, hit 100 points in year two and has now established himself as one of the two best players in the game. One opponent, the Calgary Flames, designed its offseason around finding a way to contain him (two electric pairings). That’s a compliment. 100%.
- C-R Leon Draisaitl, 21. I always like to return each summer to the draft day scouting report. You know that rule I have about waiting five years? Leon has two years to go. There were notes about his skating on draft day, but he beat that back and in doing so made himself into an impact player. Still some miles to go, can he push the river? Still waiting on the contract. 100%.
- L Patrick Maroon, 29. All he’s done since arriving is score goals. Maroon has a sixth sense about location and has shown enough speed and skill to hang with 97. That has actual value, and another 25+ goal campaign will get him paid. Here or elsewhere. 100%.
- L Milan Lucic, 29. Big winger scored at his established levels but has so much more to give based on those established abilities. He needs to get back where he once belonged, delivering 2.00/60 5×5 scoring or thereabouts. 100%.
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 24. I am no longer worried that Nuge will get traded, because I know it will arrive someday. Doesn’t appear to be this summer, and that’s a good thing. He can help this team in multiple ways, I would love to see him stick around for the sixth Stanley. 100%.
- C-R Ryan Strome, 24. Today is his birthday but the present came last month when he was dealt to the Oilers. It looks to me as though he either gets a chance to cash McDavid’s passes or will center a soft parade 3line. A wonderful opportunity. 100%.
- L Drake Caggiula, 23. I like him, and the Oilers love him. The offense suggested by his NHLE (44) didn’t arrive in year one, we’ll see about this year. He could absolutely cement his status on this team moving forward with a 20-goal season. 100%.
- R Zack Kassian, 26. Rugged winger was a valuable contributor last year and show good offensive ability. PK’s and could have had 12 goals instead of seven. Young enough to hang around for several years, his foot speed is impressive. 100%.
- L Jussi Jokinen, 34. Acquired several days after the beginning of free agency, Jokinen brings clarity to the roster. He will be valued for his penalty killing and for his ability to play up and down the lineup. A very strong addition. 100%.
- RC Mark Letestu, 32. Unique skill set fits the Oilers perfectly, although Letestu may lose power-play time to Strome. That 4line needs to do better in possession but there’s zero doubt about him making the roster. 100%.
- R Anton Slepyshev, 23. I see him as being a big part of this year’s forward group, and would say there is a chance he emerges as a 15-20 goal man. That said, he can be sent to the minors without worry of waivers, so there’s a slight chance he gets beaten out for opening night roster spots. 90%.
- R Jesse Puljujarvi, 19. He is not a lock for the roster but I think it’s pretty damned close. Puljujarvi is an impressive prospect with great skills, it’s just a matter of waiting for him to show what he is as a mature player. Scorer? Playmaker? Brilliant two-way player? I think we’ll see it play out at the NHL level this year. 90%.
- L Jujhar Khaira, 23. He is in an excellent spot right now, with Matt Hendricks gone and his new status as a waiver eligible player. The Oilers like his size, speed and grit, with scoring the one worry. That’s the case for basically all of the kids, which could work against him this fall. 64%.
- R Iiro Pakarinen, 25. I went into the spring believing Pakarinen had a great shot at the roster, but the way things have worked out his hold on a roster spot isn’t as strong. Edmonton needs a fifth center on the roster and that could cost him. The club has added several PK options who project to play ahead of him, so this could be a difficult camp. 50%.
- LC Brad Malone, 28. He has a real shot to make this team. Malone can play center, wins faceoffs, penalty kills and it won’t hurt him to sit in the pressbox for long stretches. Edmonton signed him early in free agency, possibly for his ability to slip through waivers and back again. 40%.
- R Ty Rattie, 24. The new Tyler Pitlick is less rambunctious and more of a scoring option. Still a prospect, Peter Chiarelli said early this month he is a player the team has been interested in for some time. If Puljujarvi or Slepyshev falters, Rattie could benefit. 20%.
- L Joey Laleggia, 25. He is a long shot but what he brings is very valuable. If we see him getting some time with the NHLers and extra games in pre-season, we’ll have a story. 15%.
- R Mitch Callahan, 25. Consistent AHL performer, he brings skill with some physical play and that combination appeals to the Oilers. He may show very well in camp. 15%.
- R Kailer Yamamoto, 18. Electric skills and he can score goals. A small winger, he will impress if given chances. If he is here late in camp, the club may give him nine games. 15%.
- C Joe Gambardella, 23. He is not a high end prospect but could emerge as an NHL option (over time, likely a season or two). I’ll give him a slight chance to slide into a useful utility role at the back of the roster. 1%.
THE 2017-18 EDMONTON OILERS (D)
- L Oscar Klefbom, 24. He took a big step forward this past season and was healthy enough to play all 82 games. Klefbom has the full range of skills and looks comfortable with Larsson. He can wheel, his shot is a rocket and he is just coming into his own. 100%.
- R Adam Larsson, 24. I like this player type, forgot how much fun it is to see a rugged defenseman who can battle physically while also being able to think the game. Showed ability to make solid outlet passes and to jump into the play at times. 100%.
- L Andrej Sekera, 31. Delivered a strong season and playoff, he is absolutely one of the three best defenders on the team. He won’t be back for at least 20 games, maybe as many as 40 games. Edmonton will miss him in every one. 0.
- L Kris Russell, 30. One of the more divisive players on this roster over the last decade, good things happened with him on the ice early in the season. Todd McLellan values him highly, the Woodmoney tells us what he does well. Russell keeps the youngsters farther down the depth chart until ready, that may well be his biggest contribution. 100%.
- R Matt Benning, 23. One of the keys to success this coming season will be a repeat performance by Benning. He’s a smart player, good-to-excellent with the puck and cool as a cucumber in pressure situations. If he does it again, I’m calling him Dan Boyle. 100%.
- L Darnell Nurse, 22. Big, strong, fleet and with a substantial mean streak. He might be perfect, but there are still lessons to learn. It will be important to bring him along at pace, that will be a difficult task for Todd McLellan. 100%.
- R Eric Gryba, 29. Played 40 games as 7D last season, saw action in three playoff games. I think he’ll be in the mix for regular third-pairing activity but may not hold that job. As of now, he is a lock for the roster. 80%.
- L Yohann Auvitu, 27. New signing gives the team a much needed addition to the mobile passers on the roster. I don’t think he’s a lock for the roster but he has a good chance. 50%.
- L Ryan Stanton, 27. He appears poised to battle Auvitu for the 7D spot this fall, the edge goes to the player whose skill set best matches the required role. In a way, Stanton is more in competition with Gryba. 40%.
- R Mark Fayne, 30. He can defend but his foot speed isn’t great, he does not play a rugged game and the offense is minimal. I don’t think he’ll be on the team. 30%.
THE 2017-18 EDMONTON OILERS (G)
- Cam Talbot, 30. Aside from McDavid, the most important player on the roster. I don’t read many questioning his ability anymore, good to see. Plenty worry about injury, and based on proven depth at the position, it is reasonable to fret about it. 100%.
- Laurent Brossoit, 24. He has completed his minor league auditions and now is the time for Brossoit to stake his claim. I think he’ll play 20 games. 90%.
- Nick Ellis, 23. I include him because there’s always a chance someone gets hurt and the Ellis resume is very good. 10%.
OILERS PROJECTED TRAINING CAMP ROSTER
- G Eddie Pasquale. AHL veteran could get some NHL time.
- G Shane Starrett. Another college goalie turning pro. Strong resume.
- G Dylan Wells. Slide rule, he’ll spend one more year in junior.
- G Stuart Skinner. He has a solid resume and the Oilers love him.
- LD Dillon Simpson. Excellent chance he plays some NHL games this year.
- LD Keegan Lowe. Top 4D role in Bakersfield, where does he sit on callup list?
- LD Ziyat Paigin. The verbal coming out on him is very strong. Oilers later this year?
- LD Ben Betker. Big man should get a full AHL season.
- RD Ethan Bear. A player to watch in Bakersfield, could get NHL cup of coffee.
- LD Caleb Jones. Fastest and most mobile of the new pro defensemen.
- RD Ryan Mantha. Big man, big shot, good speed. Duplicates Bear’s skill set.
- LD Dmitri Samorukov. Intriguing two-way defender.
- C Grayson Downing. Skilled center coming off subpar second AHL season.
- RC Josh Currie. Back on an AHL deal, he has skill and two-way ability.
- RC Kyle Platzer. We’ll know by Christmas if the Oilers have any plan for him.
- L Ryan Hamilton. AHL only deal, he’ll get some time with the big club in camp.
- L Braden Christoffer. Final year of entry deal coming up.
- L Evan Polei. Size and skill (6.02, 227 and 33 WHL goals) are intriguing.
- L Tyler Benson. Slide rule, may get some pre-season games if healthy.
- L Ostap Safin. Size, speed and skill. First Oilers camp on the way.
- R Zach O’Brien. May end up being an important player for the Condors.
- R Patrick Russell. Scored only 8 times as rookie pro. Needs to fill the net this year.
- R Greg Chase. Final year of entry-level deal ahead, has shown only flashes.
- R Brian Ferlin. Effective when healthy. Has had substantial injury issues.
- R Dave Gust. Small skill winger. AHL deal.
- R Chad Butcher. AHL deal, skilled RW played in Medicine Hat 2011-17.
- R Kirill Maksimov. High risk skill winger has some real skill.
That’s 60 names, although Andrej Sekera won’t be playing for a job. We’ll see all kinds of additions to that list, some likely to come from the orientation roster of last week.
POSSIBLES FROM ORIENTATION CAMP
- RC Steve Owre: WHL skill center is now finished in junior and at 21 will be looking for opportunities in pro. 88 points in 71 games.
- C Kevin Klima: Small skill center is 20 years old and scored 36 points in two QMJHL stops this season. He and twin brother Kelly (below) are both Petr’s boys.
- R Kelly Klima: Small skill winger is 20 years old and scored 49 points while with two teams in the QMJHL this year.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
A busy show with a range of guests this morning, beginning at 10 on TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Todd Cordell, Hockeybuzz. We’ll talk Yohann Auvitu.
- Derek Taylor, TSN. CFL Week 3 and looking ahead to the weekend.
- Scott Cullen, TSN. Are the Oilers better? Have the Flames passed Edmonton?
- Jeff Krushell, Krush Performance. Here comes the Judge!
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. See you on the radio!