NHL pre-season has come to an end and the Edmonton Oilers opening night roster is starting to take shape. Now’s the time to make some projections on what that roster will look like. There’s the obvious shoe-ins like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the much improved top 6 forward group. In addition, a much more veteran looking defense core. At the same time, there’s young guns and new guys trying to crack the roster.
Here’s what I believe the lineup to look like with a few projections for the 2021-22 season.
Extras: Ryan McLeod (C), Tyler Benson (LW), Colton Sceviour (C/W)
The Oilers finally have some depth up front. The addition of Zach Hyman helps Dave Tippet with keeping McDavid and Draisaitl on their own lines.
Adding Warren Foegele helps round out the bottom six and hopefully give the team more than one or two lines that can score consistently.
The news of Josh Archibald being out for most likely the whole season with myocarditis is hard to hear. He was great to have in the bottom six as an energy guy. Josh will be easy to replace for what he brought offensively but much harder to replace what he brought with his work ethic.
Brendan Perlini, who has scored 6 goals in 6 pre-season games, has exceeded expectations so far. He’s definitely earned his spot on the roster. Especially along with his line of Shore and Turris, who out scored opponents 5-0 at 5 on 5.
Kyle Turris was recently put on waivers, but I don’t see any team picking him up. The Oilers couldn’t maximize the long term injured reserve (LTIR) with him on the roster. Once Klefbom, Stalock and Archibald are put on LTIR, Turris will be called back up.
On the Outside..
Colton Sceviour signed a PTO and has impressed in pre-season. If anything, I see him signing a 1 year deal, maybe a two-way.
Ryan McLeod hasn’t impressed as much this pre-season. He doesn’t have to go through waivers to go to Bakersfield, so I can see him starting the season in the AHL. If the Oilers decide to sign Sceviour, they’ll have to choose between McLeod and him.
Tyler Benson is a top prospect, who is very close to cracking the lineup. All the depth players have impressed this pre-season so far, leaving him on the outside still. He isn’t waiver exempt so the team will need keep him, unless they are going to risk another team picking him up. They have spent too much time with Benson’s development so I hope they don’t think it’s worth the risk.
Extras: Kris Russell. William Lagesson
Nothing changed more this off-season than the Oilers defense. It’s hard to say if the back-end got better or worse.
Analytically, the core is way worse than last season. At the same time, hockey is a very random sport and I believe the eye test still carries a lot of weight. This is a defense where Oilers fans are going to have to just wait and see what this defense will do.
This off-season the team lost young defensemen like Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones via trades. The biggest loss was Adam Larsson to free agency. Larsson chose to sign with Seattle and later stated that his father’s death while visiting Edmonton back in 2018 was the biggest reason. It’s hard not to respect his decision no matter how much his departure hurts.Embed from Getty Images
The upside is that the Oilers have youngsters like Philip Broberg, Dmitri Samorukov and Filip Berglund who are close to becoming NHL players.
No matter how bad the defense might be analytically, at the same time, it’s the best puck moving d-core the team has had in a while. The Oilers are a quick team up front and getting the puck up the ice will be crucial to success.
The forward depth is better than ever and hopefully the team will spend less time in the defensive zone. With defensemen like Nurse, Barrie and Bouchard who are all very offensive minded.
Expect this team to basically out score teams to win games this season.
If that’s the case, this team will surprise a lot of doubters.
Goaltending might be the biggest question mark entering the 2021-22 season.
Mike Smith was stellar last season but the 39 year old will have a hard time replicating that. Stuart Skinner has been decent this pre-season and is finally getting close to NHL caliber, but was recently sent down to the AHL. On the other hand, Mikko Koskinen had a season to forget.
I predict both goalies performing at an average level, with Smith regressing and Koskinen improving. Last season was odd for players all around the NHL and it’s tough to project 2021-22 stats based on that.
I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see Koskinen steal the starting job from Smith sometime this season. He’s had decent numbers in the past but the only thing that worries me is his consistency.
The team has a lot to prove after the way the season ended last year and I hope they come out of the gate strong.
The Edmonton Oilers open the season at home on October 13th, where they will face the Vancouver Canucks.Embed from Getty Images