AUGUST AND EVERYTHING AFTER

by Lowetide

If I use the big part of my brain—the area devoted to Bobby Orr’s goals, Natalie Wood in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, the Allmans, and demon liquor—it shouldn’t be too hard to guess most of the Oilers opening night roster. Folly would be also guessing the Bakersfield 23 and the Wichita Extra Guys.

PROJECTED OPENING NIGHT ROSTER 2017-18

  • Todd McLellan may decide to keep eight defensemen for the first while, hoping to figure out his pairings. Auvitu should get the push but Stanton has a chance.
  • Placed the lines with Nuge getting the RW push and Leon centering his playoff line. The soft parade gets Strome.
  • I would like to remind you that my lines are not meant to offend you in any way, that I’m not ‘working through some personal things’ and am not “finally coming around to your way of thinking” on these matters. If I didn’t piss you off with these lines, will do better next time.
  • Would prefer Russell-Benning and Nurse-Gryba but I’m not sure we’ll see it.
  • Andrej Sekera is not listed and that’s a damned shame.

BAKERSFIELD CONDORS 2017-18

  • I look at AHL rosters strictly as development teams, so the prospects of note (mostly blue) are the important men.
  • There are two tiers of prospects in Bakersfield this season.
  • The first tier are veteran prospects (Rattie, Callahan, Lowe) and have a better chance of playing with the Oilers this coming season.
  • The second tier are the prospects who are going to spend some of their entry-level deals in Bakersfield. I’ll include Jones, Bear, Paigin in that group.

WICHITA THUNDER 2017-18

  • Starrett probably plays in both Wichita and Bakersfield so I put him in both spots.
  • Based on what we’re seeing here, I think defensemen will be signed to increase depth for the minor league season.
  • Brian Ferlin is listed here because it’s not certain how ready he’ll be this fall. Certainly has enough talent to win an AHL job if he is completely healthy.

Photo by Mark Williams 

YOU GOT THE SILVER

There are seven men on the current 50-man roster—that is 14 percent, for the math challenged—who (in my estimation) have no chance of playing in an NHL game this coming season. That is no big deal—unless this is your third year of pro hockey and final one on an entry-level deal. If that is the case, then the chances of getting another deal at the end of the entry deal could be in doubt. Here is the list of players for whom I cannot see a pathway to the majors this winter.

ENTERING FIRST YEAR PRO

  • G Shane Starrett. A promising college career got him an NHL contract and his resume looks good from here. A full season in the minors is straight ahead.
  • RD Ryan Mantha. I don’t think any of the rookie blue (Jones, Bear, Paigin, Mantha) will play in the NHL this coming season, but Mantha is the surest bet to remain in the minors all year. No worries, the play here is getting pro experience, hopefully a bunch of it in the AHL.

ENTERING SECOND YEAR PRO

  • R Patrick Russell. He had some interesting things last year (lots of shots) but needs to hit the score sheet way more often in the coming year.

ENTERING THIRD YEAR PRO

  • RC Kyle Platzer. He was a third-round pick but hasn’t moved the needle much through two pro seasons. You’d like to see a major spike but the competition is heavy.
  • R Greg Chase. The first year in pro saw some good ECHL numbers but Chase didn’t get into the lineup much in his second year. I hope he gets something resembling 68 games just to see what’s there.
  • LD Ben Betker. He is the one player entering year three who I think the organization likes enough to keep around. PC is a fan of giants and Betker moves pretty well for a big blue. Don’t believe he plays in the NHL this season but a contract in the spring is very possible.
  • L Braden Christoffer. He has the agitating style that lines up with a Chiarelli team, but the offense hasn’t been there in pro.

WHAT WILL AUGUST BRING?

We’re most of the way through the story of summer, with the big additions being Ryan Strome, Jussi Jokinen and Kailer Yamamoto. It feels like there are more things to come, and Leon Draisaitl’s signing (eventually) may in fact ignite a free-agent signing or (more likely) a trade.

There are things we don’t know (Sekera’s ETA) and things we do (Oilers are committed to kids on RW) and question marks along with astute additions. I keep wanting Peter Chiarelli to be aggressive in finding things (like his Torey Krug or his Nathan Horton) but he appears to be looking for internal solutions all down the line.

Can the Edmonton Oilers win the Stanley Cup with this team? My answer is there are too many question marks, too many unproven youngsters in major roles, to consider this team a strong SC contender.

I think Peter Chiarelli wasn’t ready for his team to be ready this past spring, and his solution seems to be preparedness for a stronger trade deadline. It’s a strange plan of attack but perhaps there is a trade target who will only come available after another failed season. We wait.

LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE

A fun show this morning as we dig into all manner of stories with an accomplished group of guests. 10 this morning, TSN1260, scheduled to appear:

  • Jonathan Willis, Oilers Nation. We’ll chat about right wing, defensive pairings and Jesse Puljujarvi.
  • Scott Mitchell, TSN. The Jays made some moves, blew a massive lead.
  • Scott Cullen, TSN. Leon’s deal, CFL weekend, Jays.

10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!

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Kinger_Oil.redux

– Great post LT! Picking up on last thread: It’s quite possible Pool will get the Drai treatment this year. What I mean is he could spend a lot of time on that line

– Then you have all of RNH, Strome and Drai rotating for 2C, It’s going to be a challenging coaching situation next year for sure: but in a good way, as they explore what the team looks like

– Total aside: there was a trivia question on the radio this morning: “Which Pittsburgh Pirate who also played for the jays has the most hits?”

– Answer: Dave Parker. The funny anecdote the host told was that Parker wore the Star of David around his neck, it was his “trademark”. He had no clue it was a Jewish symbol.

– When asked way back in the 70’s: “Why do you wear the Star of David?” Parker replied: “My name is David, and I am a star”

season not played

I believe this team, as currently constructed, has as good a chance as any other team, including Pittsburgh, of winning the cup this year.

McNuge93

‘Can the Edmonton Oilers win the Stanley Cup with this team? My answer is there are too many question marks, too many unproven youngsters in major roles, to consider this team a strong SC contender.’

My view is there is one favorite to win the cup – Penguins. After that it is wide open. So if all the tumblers click into place the Oilers could. Not saying by any means they’re a favorite but there just aren’t as many scary teams out there to beat.

Ford Prefect

I think this is the first time you referenced Natalie Wood and did not include a picture. It’s a damn shame.

chrisco stu

Doughty? It’s doughty. You’re talking about doughty right?

jtblack

“Can the Edmonton Oilers win the Stanley Cup with this team?” – Sure they can.

First step is getting in to the playoffs. There are 11 teams going for 8 spots in the West (AZ, VAN, COL – no chance) …. Who is better than the Oilers? Anaheim gets my vote. All the other teams have young players and question mark thru their lineups ….

Add the fact we get Sekera back, our D core will be deep and able to sustain injuries in the playoffs. We have the best player in the League. PC has kept his powder dry to add at the deadline, once he knows what he needs.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance! – You bet there is

TO10801

The way I see things is that you can trade for say Neal now and do very little at the deadline (and also probably pay more in terms of assets for a full season) or you could add Neal and say Mike Green at the deadline. So while we may not be a SC contender now, would we be if we ran lines like this in March?

Maroon-McDavid-Neal
Lucic-Drai-Strome
Jokinen-Nuge-JP
Caggiula-Letestu-Kassian
Sleppy-Khaira

Klefbom-Larsson
Sekera – Russell
Nurse- Green
Benning

No doubt there will be injuries but I think that lineup is better. Not to mention there is the possibility you could add the sedins with the amount of cap space we would have at the deadline.

JJS

I don’t get the impression Chia is slow playing his hand.

He may be a bit surprised by how much progress the team made last year but he has made massive changes since the Golden Card right through the organization (granted, not deep enough for some).

My impression is he has a few key player-types he would like to acquire/groom over the next 2 seasons and is willing to be moderately patient to ensure balance going forward.

As long as the team continues to mature and play at least two rounds per playoffs, this is a solid strategy.

Once we find the pieces, there will be a cluster of 2-3 Stanley’s (and other close calls) much like the Hawks, Kings and Pens.

I can live with that.

Woodguy v2.0

LT,

I’m glad you’ve worked through your personal things and have come around to my way of thinking.

dustrock

I think T-Mac saw the value in moving Draisaitl off of McDavid’s wing against the Sharks and especially the Ducks.

I’m agreeing with you that he’ll probably center the 2nd line.

Will he move up to play with McDavid if the Oilers are down in the 3rd? Yes, that will happen.

GMB3

Maybe JP and Benning are Chiarelli’s Horton and Krug

Also to keep this train of positive thought going… Ryan Martha is our Colton Parayko. Book it (cross your fingers and hope). Another late blooming giant RHD

russ99

My expectations for the next few years is gradual improvement, the big jump of last season isn’t realistically possible again this year.

So 2017-18 anything less than one playoff series win would be a step back, but we do need to evaluate the young RFAs.

2018-19: dump Nuge and sort out the RFA kids with low-cost veterans and kid replacements getting us closer to the balance picture, McDavid core one year older and closer to career apex: Conference finals or bust.

2019-20: Top Cup contenders or front office/coaching changes.

leadfarmer

jtblack:
“Can the Edmonton Oilers win the Stanley Cup with this team?”– Sure they can.

First step is getting in to the playoffs.There are 11 teams going for 8 spots in the West (AZ, VAN, COL – no chance) …. Who is better than the Oilers?Anaheim gets my vote. All the other teams have young players and question mark thru their lineups ….

Add the fact we get Sekera back, our D core will be deep and able to sustain injuries in the playoffs. We have the best player in the League.PC has kept his powder dry to add at the deadline, once he knows what he needs.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance! – You bet there is

AZ is no longer in the no chance category with the addition of Stepan and Hjalmarsson.

Scungilli Slushy

The only way Auvitu is on the NHL team is that Stanton is worse than Gryba skating and with the puck and the sad fact that Russell has only been close to a full season only twice ever – 73 GM 2010/2011 and 79 GM 2014/2015.

It should be expected he’ll miss 20. If that happens before Sekera is back I expect assuming no one else is hurt

Klef Larsson
Nurse Benning
Stanton/Auvitu Gryba

GMB3

Kinger_Oil.redux,

That is truly hilarious

leadfarmer

chrisco stu:
Doughty? It’s doughty. You’re talking about doughty right?

We prayed for Doughty. Instead we got Daughtry.

GMB3

russ99:
My expectations for the next few years is gradual improvement, the big jump of last season isn’t realistically possible again this year.

So 2017-18 anything less than one playoff series win would be a step back, but we do need to evaluate the young RFAs.

2018-19: dump Nuge and sort out the RFA kids with low-cost veterans and kid replacements getting us closer to the balance picture, McDavid core one year older and closer to career apex: Conference finals or bust.

2019-20: Top Cup contenders or front office/coaching changes.

*Dumps third best forward, become top cup contender*. That’s interesting

Bag of Pucks

Even during the dynasty years when the team was stacked, Sather’s philosophy was that he always wanted 2 or 3 new players breaking in with the club, as that youthful enthusiasm is a good counterbalance against any potential complacency.

Actually love the fact that our RW depth chart is a vet coming off a breakout season (Kassian), two young pros on the cusp (Caggiula, Shlep), a young pro with talent and something to prove (Strome), and a young phenom with the largest upside of them all (JP). Let the battle commence in training camp and the competition for icetime continue throughout the season.

There’s enough vets and experience elsewhere in the lineup to carry them through, and come trade deadline you’ll have a far better sense of the contenders and pretenders and can deal accordingly.

Whilst a roster stocked with proven vets is likely best for comfort and the infamous balance photo, I don’t know that day ever arrives in the salary cap era. Because of the need for some small contracts, you’ll like always have some peach fuzz in the lineup. Nature of the beast.

Radman

My guess would be that within one week, at the end of August we see:

1) Leon sign a long term deal ( 8M x 8 years)
2) RNH for Gallagher and a pick. Bergevin has cash in his pocket and his designer shirt collar tightening to find a top 6 C. The Oil avoid making Nuge a square peg in a round hole by trying to convert him to a winger. Instead the team gets a top 6 RW, 2.25M cap saving, and a 25 year old Chiarelli style player locked up for 4 years. Another sad day for the fan base. Cap saving banked for FA signings next summer.
3) Veteran RW signed for 1 year. My guess is Iginla. RW insurance and a R shot for the PP. Still room to add at the deadline.

My three pesos anyway.

jtblack

leadfarmer,

“AZ is no longer in the no chance category with the addition of Stepan and Hjalmarsson.” – They will be better but I still think their lineup is not good enough to make playoffs .. Guess we will see!

Chachi

leadfarmer: AZ is no longer in the no chance category with the addition of Stepan and Hjalmarsson.

They also no longer employ the architect of this masterpiece:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdUcm1cBMcE

jtblack

Woodguy v2.0,

Well said! +1

treevojo

Am I the only one that thinks Nuge is going to hit it out of the park this year and force himself on next years lineup at the expense of ufa wingers?

YELAK

I think the obvious thing is waiting to get Draisaitl signed before making any other moves. After that is done and Chia knows exactly where he is sitting I would actually like the idea of going ahead with who we have. Give the kids and everyone opportunities to play up in the lineup/ just get playing time and learn/develop. Once we see how that goes and we get closer to the trade deadline we will have lots of cap space to cover off the bonus’s (plus have a better idea of how much bonus money may be paid out) and pick up a couple larger contracts for rentals. That way we install experience and leadership into the end of season and playoff push while still preparing our younger players and helping them develop incase of an injury or for next year. James Neal jumps out as a potential target, probably a PP dman as well or a faceoff specialist.

russ99

GMB3:

Please. Third best forward on paper only.

What part of not working in the system, lack of getting to tough areas, not being physical even though he’s 6’2″ 195 and declining shooting percentage are you not getting?

106 and 106

#Oilers goalie prospects Dylan Wells & Stuart Skinner on @HockeyCanada’s summer camp roster. Tyler Benson invited but unable to attend. -Oilers Twitter

Is that dude hurt again? Or still?

Scungilli Slushy

treevojo:
Am I the only one that thinks Nuge is going to hit it out of the park this year and force himself on next years lineup at the expense of ufa wingers?

We hope. I would like to see Strome become competent and have 4 skilled centres, 3 rotating around as needed, as a hedge against injuries derailing playoff runs. Ideally you have a good backup goaler and very capable young D on third pairing and roll with whatever happens Eskimo style.

flyfish1168

I can’t help but think about next summer and how trying to sign all of Maroon, Nurse, Benning, Slepyshev, Caggiula and Letestu to contracts for 2018/19. Because of this I can see Puljujarvi being sent to the AHL to start the season due to bonuses. I think Slepyshev will get a push and if he performs well he may replace Maroon at the trade deadline since Maroon will cost us big next summer. This way we will not lose Maroon for nothing next summer. JMHO

Bag of Pucks

As much as I like the player, I don’t know this is the time to be buying on Brendan Gallagher. Quite an injury plagued season last year and you could see that becoming a pattern. Love the way the little man plays, going to the hard areas without fear. But it’s quite possible that his small frame starts to pay the price for that with more time out of the lineup with nagging injuries.

Bag of Pucks

treevojo:
Am I the only one that thinks Nuge is going to hit it out of the park this year and force himself on next years lineup at the expense of ufa wingers?

You’re probably not the only one, but after back to back disappointing seasons, I would imagine the predictions calling for another breakout season for Nuge – particularly if he stays at C – will be less this year.

stush18

Bag of Pucks:
Even during the dynasty years when the team was stacked, Sather’s philosophy was that he always wanted 2 or 3 new players breaking in with the club, as that youthful enthusiasm is a good counterbalance against any potential complacency.

Actually love the fact that our RW depth chart is a vet coming off a breakout season (Kassian), two young pros on the cusp (Caggiula, Shlep), a young pro with talent and something to prove (Strome), and a young phenom with the largest upside of them all (JP). Let the battle commence in training camp and the competition for icetime continue throughout the season.

There’s enough vets and experience elsewhere in the lineup to carry them through, and come trade deadline you’ll have a far better sense of the contenders and pretenders and can deal accordingly.

Whilst a roster stocked with proven vets is likely best for comfort and the infamous balance photo, I don’t know that day ever arrives in the salary cap era. Because of the need for some small contracts, you’ll like always have some peach fuzz in the lineup. Nature of the beast.

This is something that needs to be considered when talking about LT’a infamous balance photo.

Having a team only full of vets isn’t always the solution. As you said, having a couple younger players breaking into the team every year helps keep the game fun.

The issue is most of edmontons drivers are young already.

John Chambers

russ99: Please. Third best forward on paper only.

What part of not working in the system, lack of getting to tough areas, not being physical even though he’s 6’2″ 195 and declining shooting percentage are you not getting?

Played the 3rd most minutes of any forward last year, was trusted in all situations and faced the team’s toughest matchups. Yep, I don’t see how anyone but Nuge could be said to be the team’s 3rd best forward.

Hypothetically, McDavid and Draisaitl have just finished a long shift against the other team’s 2nd or 3rd line, and both teams change on the fly with the opposing coach throwing out their top unit (Getzlaf n Rackell, or Monahan Gaudreau), and you’re TMac who do you send out? Ryan Strome? Mark Letestu? No – Nuge!

It’s Nuge who enables McDavid and Drai to go for broke while 93 handles the counter-attack.

That’s McLellan’s strategy with RNH. Nuge wants to win and has accepted a defensive role that is mightily under appreciated by fans.

leadfarmer

jtblack:
leadfarmer,

“AZ is no longer in the no chance category with the addition of Stepan and Hjalmarsson.”– They will be better but I still think their lineup is not good enough to make playoffs .. Guess we will see!

Well in that case I agree. Outside chance but no longer the no chance that I give Vancouver and Colorado. Growth year some call it.

treevojo

Bag of Pucks: You’re probably not the only one, but after back to back disappointing seasons, I would imagine the predictions calling for another breakout season for Nuge – particularly if he stays at C – will be less this year.

Well I also thought Eberle after getting somewhat hot at the end of the season was going to rip it up in the playoffs so there is that.

But I will double down with Nuge and Nurse having breakout seasons this year.

Let me be right.

doritogrande

First step is getting in to the playoffs. There are 11 teams going for 8 spots in the West (AZ, VAN, COL – no chance) …. Who is better than the Oilers? Anaheim gets my vote. All the other teams have young players and question mark thru their lineups ….

Not to be a know-it-all stir-the-pot kind of person, but a lot of you have seemingly forgotten that Vegas is a team in the Western Conference this year. We know where they’re going to be in said Conference but solely for a numbers perspective, they should be in this conversation with Van, Col and arguably Ari.

Side

russ99: Please. Third best forward on paper only.

What part of not working in the system, lack of getting to tough areas, not being physical even though he’s 6’2″ 195 and declining shooting percentage are you not getting?

Out of 4 things you mentioned, only 1 is measured. I’m willing to bet the other 3 points is good ol’ confirmation bias. If you’re going to knock Nuge for his performance, at least base it on something that’s not based on your eye test or can’t be contradicted by reality. If Nuge was not “working in the system”, I very much doubt he would be trusted as much by Todd as he is.

OilClog

Nuge is the 3rd best forward

Bruce McCurdy

GMB3: *Dumps third best forward, become top cup contender*. That’s interesting

Worked last year. Just saying. (Also ducking & running).

Calm down Woodguy, it was a joke.

Bruce McCurdy

russ99: Please. Third best forward on paper only.

What part of not working in the system, lack of getting to tough areas, not being physical even though he’s 6’2″ 195 and declining shooting percentage are you not getting?

Trying to figure out who you are describing here. Benoit Pouliot?

GMB3

russ99: Please. Third best forward on paper only.

What part of not working in the system, lack of getting to tough areas, not being physical even though he’s 6’2″ 195 and declining shooting percentage are you not getting?

Not working in the system yet clearly Todd disagrees with all the things he has said about him… I forgot you were an elite coach.. maybe he should change his stick flex. If he runs a PDO heater like Russell you’ll be on his nuts. Also never seen him listed as 6’2″ anywhere, ever

LadiesloveSmid

Cap and D flexibility just so shot for the next 4 years with the Russell contract. Still can’t believe that is real. Add a 2RD and Jagr and those asinine Vegas odds will be a little closer. Hard to believe they couldn’t turn Eberle into a 2RD. Ok, disappointed rant of the day out of the way.

Ryan

Bruce McCurdy: Trying to figure out who you are describing here.Benoit Pouliot?

I think he meant Nuge though he’s not 6’2″.

Georges

I’ve been meaning to comment on the the PuckIQ numbers. The Nuge discussion is a good lead in.

Here are Nuge’s 5v5 results:

Comp, % TOI, G +/-

Elite, 42, -2
Middle, 36, -3
Gritensity, 23, -2

So Nuge had practically the same results, as measured by G +/-, for all categories of competition he faced. He played tough minutes and slightly lost the goal battle, but when the minutes became easier, he didn’t do any better.

Intuitively, you would expect that on-ice results should improve as competition weakens. Any one player may have unusual results, but in the aggregate, you should see a pattern where Elites are toughest to play against and Gritensity are the easiest to play against. If we don’t see this pattern, then we would wonder what we mean by Elite and Gritensity, no?

Here are the total results for all centres off of PuckIQ. Obviously, there will be some double counting of goals here because centre TOI isn’t mutually exclusive (e.g., CMD and Drai played together; CMD and Letestu played together, etc.). So the totals won’t be accurate but if the competition categories are reasonable and we’re dealing with enough players, then hopefully we get something like the pattern we expect.

Comp, G +/-

Elite, 30
Middle, -146
Gritensity, -60

OK, not what we expect. Overall, centres outscored players in the Elite category and were outscored by players in the other two categories.

One explanation is that G and WG decided the categories for the players before the season began. Which means they were engaging in a bit of forecasting. If these are the results, then you can see what a tricky job it is to forecast player performance over an entire season. Players who you thought were good (based on their historical performance) don’t have good seasons; players you forecast as plugs have great seasons.

Another explanation is I’m getting the numbers wrong or misinterpreting their meaning, i.e., I’m out to lunch. Which is where I’m headed actually. Talk to y’all later.

Bruce McCurdy

Ryan: I think he meant Nuge though he’s not 6’2″.

In that case he lost me at “not working in the system”. Once we got to “6’2, 195” I was going “who TF is this, anyways?”

Side

Nuge is 8’13” and 350 and plays as hard as a wet paper bag. At least wind blows paper bags into a corner every now and then. His shooting % is also 0 and his coach doesn’t trust how Ryan Nugent Huge plays his system, which is why he uses him as a #2 centre and puts him up against other teams #1 lines.

What are you all not getting about this?

stush18

Side:
Nuge is 8’13” and 350 and plays as hard as a wet paper bag. At least wind blows paper bags into a corner every now and then. His shooting % is also 0 and his coach doesn’t trust how Ryan Nugent Huge plays his system, which is why he uses him as a #2 centre and puts him up against other teams #1 lines.

What are you all not getting about this?

Does anyone else struggle to read 8’13”?

Like my brain shut off for a minute. It’s half past quarter to three.

stush18

Georges,

Looking at goals with the crossover might just contain too much variable?

Bag of Pucks

But isn’t the issue with RNH that he plays the tough comps but he doesn’t win or saw off that matchup? By Corsi, GD and +/- last season, I thought he gave up more than he gets?

Great that he’s willing to do that thankless job and take it on the chin to free up a better matchup for Connor and possibly Leon, but I would suggest that if you want to be a true Cup contender, Nuge can’t be Dave Keon lite, he actually has to be Dave Keon and consistently saw off those matchups at the very least.

Guy Carbonneau, John Madden, Jonathan Toews. You can’t just play the toughs, you have to win them. That is what separates the Champs from the also rans.

As it stands now, the opposition will hard match against Connor when they have last change in their barns and RNH does very little to outscore the lesser matchup as evidenced by his boxcars. Then when TMac has the change at home, he’ll feed RNH to the wolves and trust that, even if RNH gives up a small margin in possession against the elites, Connor will outscore the lesser opps. The latter strategy does work but imho, makes you a contender, not a championship calibre team.

For me, this is ultimately why Leon is going to be elevated sooner rather than later. You need a C that will feast on that secondary matchup on the road and consistently saw off the toughest matchups at home. Granted, Leon hasn’t done it yet, but he’s definitely shown a greater ability than RNH to produce points and I believe TMac will move heaven and earth this season to graduate this club beyond being a one line hockey club.

Jaxon

I am SO OFFENDED by your lines. Is everything okay?

Haha, truth be told, I almost always agree with you. I too, always wanted Pouliot to get a better shot at it. Anyhow, small difference in what I think might happen is Strome as 1RW and Nuge as 3C. I’d also give Malone the advantage over Khaira at least to start. He’s got more experience and more faceoff success. He also hits a lot, fights some, and shoots a lot. And, he can more easily go back and forth between AHL and NHL without getting claimed as his ceiling isn’t as high.

I think we’ll see your preference with Gryba making the opening lineup. Klefbom-Larsson, Russell-Benning, Nurse-Gryba. I don’t see the evidence of Auvitu having any puck moving ability besides some verbal (he has never scored at a great rate, even in lower tiers).

I think Paigin could be the one who makes the team first out of all the others. Lots of qualifiers (PP time) and more recent history (usage aside) that somewhat disputes Paigin’s numbers from his time in Sochi, but we shouldn’t forget that he achieved an NHLe of 15 goals and 30 assists (45 pts!) in the 2nd hardest league in the world as a 20 year old, 6’6″ D. Bear just turned 20. That’s really something for a player who was drafted for his defensive ability. He checks off some boxes (size, aggression, hard slap shot, PP). I’d be surprised if he made the club opening night, but he may be an injury call up that sticks. Or, if they put Russell on the right side again to make room.

Unless there is an injury on the right side. Then, we might see Bear given a shot. Mantha may surprise and surpass Bear, but I doubt it.

I also believe Betker will get the extra chance with another contract when his is up. That guy shows so well every camp, that he must leave a pretty good impression. He might be the classic big-Ds-take-longer prospect and he seems to be making steady progress every year. The man knows how to camp.

The other wildcard this fall may be LaLeggia. His NHLe since moving to LW was impressive. But his goals NHLe was even moreso. Small sample size and all, Laleggia had a goal NHLe of 20 goals to end the season. If he can bring 20 goals to the NHL, there’ll be a place for him.

I hope Benson gets a taste of regular season action before being sent back to the WHL, and I hope he has a chance to be dominant at the World Juniors this year. I think that experience would be very valuable to show him what he has to work on and give him some encouragement. They may need him to step up as early as next year if Maroon and Nuge are both gone.