EDMONTON – If you look at the Edmonton Oilers lineup, player by player, you’ll notice that they stack up exceptionally well. In fact, the problem they will face during training camp is where they have to put all NHL players in this lineup, unlike years ago when the bottom of Edmonton’s roster was occupied by American Leaguers disguised as NHL players.
Veteran Mattias Janmark comes in as a reliable fourth-line winger, Jesse Puljujarvi will likely move to a third-line role where he can play with less pressure, and if Ryan McLeod doesn’t play in the middle of the third-line, Ryan can Nugent-Hopkins does. — a pretty decent evasion position for head coach Jay Woodcroft.
And then we haven’t even mentioned the leftist Dylan Holloway. Or defender Philip Broberg, who will have a solid veteran to beat him in D7 Ryan Murray if the rookie Broberg needs a night off.
In goal, Jack Campbell can expect 50-55 starts, while the time has come for reserve Stuart Skinner, who has four pro seasons under his belt as he progresses to become Edmonton’s No.
As for the salary cap, with Oscar Kefbom and Mike Smith going on LTIR, Edmonton will be maxing out their payroll for the season opener. However, that hinders flexibility on the trade deadline, a dynamic where injuries have left GM Ken Holland little choice.
When training camp starts, the decisions are usually at the bottom of the roster, the sign of a strong, mature roster. Here’s a look at where the battles lie.
Current salary ceiling room: $-7,556,336
General manager: Ken Holland
Head Coach: Jay Woodcroft
Assistant coaches: Dave Manson, Glen Gulutzan, Mark Stuart, Dustin Schwartz Unsigned players: Ryan McLeod
AN IMPORTANT QUESTION: Are we there yet?
Edmonton finally defeated the dragon that still haunts the Toronto Maple Leafs, winning two rounds last season after being defeated in the opening round two seasons in a row. But after years of building, rebuilding and building again, have the Oilers finally reached a place where a berth in the Final Four is a springboard rather than a ceiling?
Connor McDavid is 25, Leon Draisaitl 26 and Darnell Nurse is 27. The rest of the core is also in their late 20s or early 30s, and Jack Campbell arrives to give Edmonton a level of goalkeeping that should be good enough to win with. If they can’t turn three rounds in ’22 into four rounds in ’23, that would be considered a step backwards for the Oilers, a team that set the bar high for itself and then improved its roster over the summer.
Teams talk about learning from failure and the Oilers have undoubtedly had their share of lessons. It’s time to take those lessons and put them into practice.
It is now Stanley Cup of bust for this team.
A TRAINING CAMP BATTLE TO WATCH
In a front rank that has a lot of guns, the left side is the busiest, with Evander Kane and then a range of options for Woodcroft to sort through by training camp.
Dylan Holloway, who turns 21 on Friday, was seen by the Netherlands as a player who has to play his way to the Top 12 attackers. He is too young to be in an NHL press box when he could play top minutes at AHL Bakersfield in all situations, Holland said.
Well, with his two-goal, five-point performance at the rookie tournament in Penticton, Dylan Holloway has officially entered the chat.
Here’s how the Oilers do on the left wing: Kane plays with McDavid, with Zach Hyman on the right; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins can play with Leon Draisaitl, assuming the team wants to keep young Ryan McLeod on 3C; Warren Foegele is de facto third line left winger, and free agent signing Mattias Janmark is the 4LW.
But if Holloway is making his way into this lineup, where is he playing?
Do you shift Nugent-Hopkins to 3C and make McLeod the 4C? Do you push Janmark out of line or to the right? Or maybe Foegele moves?
When Holloway lands in Bakersfield, the front units fall nicely into place. However, if he stakes his claim, someone will be out of work.
PROJECTED SETUP FROM THE CAMP
Kane McDavid Hyman
Nugent-Hopkins Draisaitl Yamamoto
Foegele McLeod Puljujarvic
Holloway Ryan Janmark