For years, the Oilers have been looking to add depth up the middle. Heading into the 2015-16 season, it would appear they are the deepest they have been at centre in quite some time.
Heading into his fifth professional season, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a huge part of the centre group in Edmonton. The addition of 2015 first-overall pick Connor McDavid has added excitement and potential. Adding free-agent signing Mark Letestu has bolstered the depth and veteran leadership. The development of 2014 third-overall pick Leon Draisaitl and the emergence of Anton Lander as a legitimate NHL option have also given the Oilers things to look forward to.
“I think this is probably our best year for centremen depth, that I’ve been a part of,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “We still have young guys, which is always good. With Mark coming in, I think he’ll be a really good leader for us and show us the way. There’s going to be competition amongst ourselves and I think that’s going to make us better.”
Nugent-Hopkins looks forward to the day when they can roll numerous offensive lines against opponents. Given the added depth at centre, that day is closing in.
“Having two or three lines that other teams have to worry about on the offensive side of things makes such a big difference,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “It spreads everything around a lot more and I think the best teams in the league are deep on the offensive side of things and also on defence. When we get the right depth and we find that on our team, it’s going to be a big change for us.”