When the Injuries Heal: Zack Kassian | Oilersnetwork.com - Edmonton Oilers News and Rumours

When the Injuries Heal: Zack Kassian

In our first of the series "When the Injuries Heal" we took a look at Kris Russell. Russell seems an obvious choice to be immediately inserted back into the lineup at the second-pair right-handed defensive spot he occupied when the went down. Less obvious is what to do with the next player in the series and a player who is scheduled to make his return tonight against the New York Rangers, Zack Kassian.


Flickr Photo By Loxy!!

Zack Kassian


Kassian has done well to reinvigorate his NHL career. He's also been up and down in terms of his play for the Oilers this season. Due to some unexpected changes at the start of the season, where at first Kassian was likely looking at third or fourth line right wing duty, he's been often played on the second line and higher up than he should be.

It's not Kassian's fault that Edmonton dealt Nail Yakupov, lost Kris Versteeg to a contract and Jesse Puljujarvi is struggling a bit with his consistency. Kassian is doing his best to keep up, but he's not a second-line player in the NHL. He now has four points in 12 games and on a few nights, been a pleasant surprise. Ideally, he's a third line energy player — fourth line if the team has solid depth.

Where Kassian Fits

Kassian is coming back from his injury against the Rangers on Sunday. Where should the Oilers put him? Does he go back on the second line where Edmonton is clearly having issues finding a suitable right-winger? Or, does he go in a spot that's more suited for his style of play and level of production?

Oilers Now host and color commentator for the Edmonton Oilers, Bob Stauffer tweeted that the Oilers are going to be keeping the status quo in terms of lines one and two and Kassian will see third line duty.



For now, this makes a lot of sense, but the Oilers will likely be keeping a close eye on Puljujarvi. Puljujarvi is cleary having issues adjusting and against the Dallas Stars on Friday, only saw 9:47 seconds of playing time, none of which was on any of Edmonton's three power play opportunities. This leaves the Oilers in a tricky spot. If Puljujarvi continues to show signs that he's not quite ready, will the Oilers move Kassian up?

Right wing is clearly the Oilers weakest position. Eberle is a first line player and the Oilers currently have a lot of three's and four's. Edmonton is also currently getting a lot out of Tyler Pitlick, but it's a lot to suggest that he's a second-line player in the NHL. If Pitlick plays well, Kassian may see the fourth line. If Pitlick and Puljujarvi falter, Kassian gets the second line minutes.

It's an interesting battle between three wingers with completely different playing styles.

Related: Pitlick Making Case for NHL Expansion Protection



Long-Term


Kassian is likely not a long-term player for the Oilers. But, he could change that if he comes back and picks up his pace. He was projecting about 27 points for the season and that's not really enough to make him a player the Oilers will keep with younger options knocking on the door.

He's on a short-term one-year deal and likely is the type of player Edmonton looks at every summer and gives a contract to once all their other plans have been made.

What would you do? Would you play Kassian on the second, third or fourth line?

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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