EDMONTON OILERS LINE COMBINATIONS HEADING INTO CAMP | Oilersnetwork.com - Edmonton Oilers News and Rumours

EDMONTON OILERS LINE COMBINATIONS HEADING INTO CAMP

We're about two weeks away from the start of NHL training camp and real debate about line combinations for the Edmonton Oilers seem to be dominating the headlines. Even more so, with the recent news that Kris Versteeg has signed a PTO and coming to camp to win a role on the roster, things have gotten interesting in Oil Country.

Who plays with McDavid? Who is your second line right wing? Is Draisaitl a third-line center or should he get time in the top-six? Does Versteeg make the team? Is someone on the way out?



I wrote a couple articles on for the Hockey Writers discussing these exact topics:

Related: Is Nugent-Hopkins a Second-Line or Third-Line Center?

Related: Oilers Should Consider Starting Draisaitl at Wing

Centers


Based on the current depth chart, the center position looks like Connor McDavid followed by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Mark Letestu. It's stronger depth at center than the Oilers have had in years, but there is still a bit of uncertainty to it.

The Oilers have offered Mike Richards a PTO in an attempt to add a bit more depth to this roster. Perhaps a move like this will create flexibility to move players like Draisaitl around the lineup, making different line combinations an option for coach Todd McLellan. Should injury pop up, (which it often does in Edmonton) this added depth is not a bad idea. The only question is whether or not a player like Richards will accept a PTO with the Oilers and if he does, can he get back to even a fraction of his old self?

Wingers

Left wing looks like Milan Lucic, Benoit Pouliot, Patrick Maroon and Matt Hendricks. This is a real strength of the Oilers this year. The top-three have proven to be moveable pieces up and down the lineup, have size, grit and ability to score. This group seems to become more a matter of managing ice time and finding linemates that create chemistry than anything else.

Edmonton's right wing depth is a bit weaker and unproven, but still, the potential is there. Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, Zack Kassian and Iiro Pakarinen make up the current roster with newly drafted Jesse Puljujarvi seems ready to make a statement in the NHL. Potentially, Versteeg fills out the right-side, adding some veteran depth.

Puljujarvi could be a star and he could take some time to transition into the NHL. Yakupov has struggled and is looking for a rebound season. Kassian appears to be in the best shape of his NHL career and mentally ready to slay dragon's while Eberle is working on his one-timer, hopefully adding another element to his ability to be one of the NHL's best pure goal scorers. Versteeg needs to prove he still has the goods and his injury troubles that kept him out of the Swiss League and brought him back to the NHL is actually all behind him.


Defense


This defense is vastly improved and appears to be the best since 2006 when the Oilers squeaked into the playoffs. However, it's also a question mark. It should go Oscar Klefbom with Adam Larsson, Brandon Davidson with Andrej Sekera (Sekera playing his off side) and Darnell Nurse with Mark Fayne. That said, there is a very strong possibility that we see a lot of combinations and changes on this blue line throughout the season. Expect Griffin Reinhart, Jordan Oesterle and newly signed college free agent Matthew Benning to get some time this season.

The hope is that Larsson and Klefbom make a strong first-unit pair and stay healthy. This alone would be a drastic and positive change for the Oilers. If they can eat big minutes and play against the opposing teams top scoring lines with success, it could drastically improve the Oilers very traditionally weak goals-against statistics.

Not to be forgotten, the Oilers have also invited Eric Gryba on a PTO, but he's yet to accept. This would add some proven depth to Edmonton's right side that of the two sides is clearly weaker. It doesn't fill their hole for an offensive powerplay specialist, but that looks it may not happen here for the season starts. I'm sure it's still on Chiarelli's mind.

Overall


This team is improved and the only way to know how much is to start playing games. The biggest hurdle for the Oilers is health. How healthy can this team stay and if they don't, how will this affect the line combinations? If they do, how do new players like Lucic and McDavid mesh? Larsson and Kelfbom? You get the idea. It's a team with the most depth at all positions that I've seen in years.

But, who cares what I think right? 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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