We are a little over a week into Edmonton Oilers training camp. There are eight days until the NHL’s regular season begins. The Edmonton Oilers will battle the Vancouver Canucks on that first night, but there is plenty to be determined in the next few days. The Oilers have trimmed their roster quite a bit, with some surprising cuts having been made late last week.
The Oilers have three preseason games remaining, starting tonight with their final home tilt against the Arizona Coyotes. There are still a few roster spots left to be won. Here’s a look at the Oilers roster as it currently stands, and a look at what battles are still there to be won.
Remaining: Mike Smith, Mikko Koskinen, Shane Starrett: There is no battle here. Starrett will be returned to Bakersfield in the coming days and will be the starter for the Condors. Mike Smith is slated to make his preseason debut tonight, and if all goes well expect to see the roster trimmed as early as Wednesday.
It’s a very big season for both Smith and Koskinen. One of them will need to step up and win the starting job.
Remaining: Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Joel Persson, Matt Benning, Kris Russell, Ethan Bear, Evan Bouchard, William Lagesson, Brandon Manning: Logan Day is also on the roster, but will require hand surgery. His training camp is over, and he’ll likely miss time in the AHL. Expect him to be placed on IR and sent down as soon as he is cleared.
Manning has been given a shot in camp, but it’s safe to say he hasn’t earned a spot on Edmonton’s roster. Ken Holland likely tries to deal the veteran, but odds are he gets placed on waivers in the next week. The Oilers no doubt hope he is claimed.
Larsson and Nurse will be paired up together, while it appears that Persson has a big lead on the second pair job with Klefbom. Both Russell and Benning, barring a trade, will be on the roster as well. That leaves one spot open.
The smart money is on Bouchard heading to Bakersfield and getting a month or two in a key role. Let him develop in a professional league, playing key minutes and learning from Jay Woodcroft. Bear and Lagesson both bring different skills to the table. Bear, who looks really good in camp, could be the logical choice here.
It’s not crazy to think the Oilers will carry eight defenders.
Remaining: Josh Archibald, Kyle Brodziak, Colby Cave, Alex Chiasson, Leon Draisaitl, Sam Gagner, Markus Granlund, Gaetan Haas, Tomas Jurco, Zack Kassian, Jujhar Khaira, Connor McDavid, James Neal, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Joakim Nygard, Patrick Russell, Riley Sheahan, Kailer Yamamoto, Anton Burdasov (PTO):
Yamamoto is still on the active roster, but will not play this preseason. He’s currently in Bakersfield rehabbing a wrist injury. He’ll get to start with the Condors and play in an offensive role. He needs to build some confidence and get on the score sheet at the AHL level.
Brodziak will be placed on IR and won’t play this season. You can take him out of roster consideration.
Burdasov looked good in his preseason debut on Friday, but he’s still far from a lock to make the roster. Tomas Jurco, Patrick Russell, Colby Cave, Gaetan Haas and Joakim Nygard are all fighting for bottom of the roster roles.
Haas and Cave continue to fight for the fourth line center role. Cave, to my eye, has clearly been the better of the two. Depending on how many forwards the club carries both could make the team. Russell appears to have the inside track on a fourth line role, while Nygard is in danger of missing the cut.
What Will It Look Like?
Dave Tippett will roll with a veteran lineup tonight against the Coyotes. The final two preseason games will be used to determine the final roster spots. I expect the Oilers to go with 14 forwards and seven defenders off the bat.
There’s also the possibility of trades. Matt Benning, in my opinion, is in danger of being flipped. The Oilers have Bear pushing, with Bouchard right behind him. If they can find a forward, Benning could be moved.
As we enter the final days of camp, this is where I have the Oilers roster at:
Leon Draisaitl – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Sam Gagner – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – James Neal
Jujhar Khaira – Riley Sheahan – Josh Archibald
Alex Chiasson – Colby Cave – Patrick Russell
Joakim Nygard, Tomas Jurco
Darnell Nurse – Adam Larsson
Oscar Klefbom – Joel Persson
Kris Russell – Matt Benning
I don’t think Haas has done enough to make the Oilers at this point. He may end up going back to Europe, which would open some cap space and a spot on the 50-man roster.
I think both Bear and Bouchard go back to Bakersfield. There’s just no need to keep Bear in the pressbox, he needs to be playing. Ditto for Bouchard. I expect both back up during the course of the season.
Jurco has surprised me a lot this camp. He looks better than I remember, and brings some of the speed and skill missing from the Edmonton lineup a year ago. He’s earned a roster spot. Nygard makes the team in my mind, but he’s by no means a lock. Burdasov could pass him with a few good efforts in game action.