Last night was a big win for the Edmonton Oilers. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was a hard fought, smart victory over a tough team in an incredibly hard building to win in. The Oilers are now 2-4-0, and tomorrow they will have another big game in a tough building against a team that has started off pretty well.
When the Oilers visit the Flyers tomorrow afternoon, they will be looking to avenge a tough loss from last December at the Wells Fargo Center. In order to do that, the Oilers are going to need to get the offense going again. While they won last night, scoring two goals a game simply is not going to get it done in this league.
Luckily for the Oil, at least one offensive player looks to be close to returning to action. Both Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula are on the current road trip, and Sportsnet’s Mark Spector all but assured Oiler fans of Leon’s return tomorrow. That would fall in line with Todd McLellan’s verbal from earlier in the week as well.
Naturally, Draisaitl would skate with Connor McDavid and Patrick Maroon on the top line, right? Wrong. Kailer Yamamoto is on a three game point streak and is looking quite nice in that right wing spot right now. So, where does Leon go? What should Todd McLellan do tomorrow afternoon?
The Top Line:
Connor McDavid is the best player in the NHL, evident by his performance last night in Chicago. He’s the top center and it is indisputable. Patrick Maroon struggled early, but he’s looked better the last two games and I thought he played his best game of the year last night.
I was skeptical of putting Yamamoto here, but he’s played really well and has started to look comfortable on this line. I’d like to see him shoot the puck a little more, but all in all he is getting better by the game and is creating chances. Until he struggles, I’d keep Yamamoto in this spot. The line is clicking right now and was the most dangerous unit in Chicago.
The Second Line:
When Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was summoned to center Milan Lucic and Ryan Strome, I had my doubts. Both Strome and Lucic had struggled early, and neither player is known for their speed. That said, this line has worked hard and actually been solid both possession wise and to the eye. They create chances, wear out the opposition and can cycle the puck in the offensive end.
There is a little inconsistency with this group, but overall I like what I’ve seen so far and think they are a fine second unit for the time being. They could end up being the third line, but for now I like them where they are. This trio likely gets split up tomorrow, but it would be wise of McLellan to let this developing group get a little more time together. Who knows, they could end up being a solid trio for the entirety of the season.
Dr. Drai’s Line:
So, where do we put Leon Draisaitl if we keep the top two lines together? He’d be on the third line, but I’d imagine this trio would get deployed more like a second unit thanks to Leon’s presence. On the wings, I’d personally like to see Anton Slepyshev and Jussi Jokinen tomorrow. Jokinen is a smart veteran who could use some skilled linemates, while Slepyshev has the size, speed and skill combination to be an effective forward.
If Drake Caggiula is ready, I could see him on the wing here in place of Jokinen, mainly because he possesses more speed and the Oilers seem to like him, but I’m not sold on him being in the lineup.
Draisaitl is a big forward who should be able to (and has at times) drive his own line. With a smart veteran in Jokinen and a young player who, by the way, is playing pretty well on his wing there should be some success here.
This also allows the Oilers to potentially have three lines that score while distributing the wealth of the team’s top players. It might not work, and Leon may end up back with McDavid, but it is certainly worth a look now that McLellan seems to have unlocked a second line.
Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Kailer Yamamoto
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Ryan Strome
Jussi Jokinen – Leon Draisaitl – Anton Slepyshev
Brad Malone – Mark Letestu – Zack Kassian
What say you for tomorrow’s lines?