EDMONTON OILERS FORWARDS: WHO GETS THE GRAVY-TRAIN MINUTES | Oilersnetwork.com - Edmonton Oilers News and Rumours

EDMONTON OILERS FORWARDS: WHO GETS THE GRAVY-TRAIN MINUTES

It's one thing to be lucky enough to play on a team that has Connor McDavid. It's another to be selected as his line-mate. McDavid isn't just a generational talent, he clearly makes the players around him better.

Taking a look at his stats, his CF% numbers are the stuff of rookie dreams. His CF% rel of 6.2 and Fenwick scores of 52.8% and Fenwick rel 6.9 would make teammates salivate —  if hockey players truly paid attention to the stat lines. What matters is that teammates of McDavid understand, if you're on his line, you're on the gravy-train. You could literally pick up points simply by standing in one place and letting McDavid bounce the puck off of you, but you better work to stay that lucky.

McDavid makes all his linemates better on the ice. At practice with Darnell Nurse. Photo by Connor Mah

Milan Lucic knows this. It's one of the many reasons he cited choosing the Edmonton Oilers over what was probably a dozen teams that showed interest in his services over the summer. Lucic has skill, size and enough speed to keep up and could potentially have a miraculous season. Lucic starting the 2016-17 on McDavid's line is a given. But who gets the gravy-train minutes on the right side?

Jordan Eberle


Eberle is likely the consensus selection. He's done well with McDavid before and is a skilled goal-scorer. When on the ice together, Eberle and McDavid boost up the others production and Eberle is probably the purest goal scorer the Oilers have. More than any other combination of McDavid and another forward, this pairing directed the most shots at the net, This is a good thing for a team that needs to shoot more.

To improve his versatility, Eberle is actively working on his one-timer, getting ready to accept those juicy McDavid passes and pot what Eberle hopes could be a 40-goal season if both stay healthy.

Nail Yakupov


Whether Yakupov has gotten the shaft over his NHL career in Edmonton or simply needs some time to showcase his goal scoring ability to up his trade value, is up for debate. Regardless, Yakupov is another popular choice. Yak was selected for one reason — his elite ability to score goals. In short spurts, he's shown some ability to do so. His most notable spurt was the start of the 2015-16 season when paired with McDavid.

To date, Yakupov's scoring has been anything but elite, but with McDavid he was on a point-per-game pace to start the season. Because slotting Yakupov anywhere else could limit his effectiveness and skill set, would be it wise to place him in an area he's most likely to succeed? Or does doing so, come at the expense of another forward who could have similar or better chemistry?

Yakupov's numbers are almost 4 percentage points better when he's with McDavid — that's not a small amount. But, if the Oilers find Yakupov not worth the risk or can't repeat that chemistry, in limited playing time, Yakupov did have a bit of a connection with Leon Draisaitl and maybe those two can reignite some sort of magic.

Leon Draisaitl


Some debate exists about where Draisaitl fits with the center depth in Edmonton. Is he better suited on the wing or in the pivot spot? If you move him to the wing, you have two strong lines in Lucic-McDavid-Eberle, Pouliot-Nugent-Hopkins-Draisaitl. This, however, leaves your third line center position relatively weak.

If you play Leon at center, his playing time with McDavid would be relegated primarily to time on the powerplay. Leon is a less popular choice simply because these two played extremely little time together in any real pairing in 2015-16. I don't see that likely to change.

Jesse Puljujarvi


Play the rookie with McDavid you say? The sight of two incredibly fast, powerful skaters flying toward the opposing teams' netminder paints a nice picture. It's the picture Oilers coaching hoped they'd see when Taylor Hall and McDavid played together, but that wasn't always the case. Two drivers of play on line, may be better suited apart.

There is no chemistry or past connection to refer to, but McDavid's ability to make everyone better and Puljujariv's ability to play with speed, power and skill make this an obvious choice to at least consider.

The real question here is how much consideration Puljujarvi gets to play the entire season in the NHL. If the Oilers plan to keep him in Edmonton, it might make sense to see who he strikes the most chemistry with and ride that train as long as possible.

Who would you choose? Is there anyone else you'd like to see McDavid make look fantastic? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.





Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.




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