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CAMP: Lineup taking shape

The Oilers 23-man roster and taxi squad is yet to be solidified but does appear to be taking shape

by Paul Gazzola /

Oilers Training Camp coverage is Fuelled By Gatorade

EDMONTON, AB - Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett made it clear on Monday that his 23-man roster and taxi squad is not finalized just yet. "We still got lots of tinkering to do," the bench boss claimed.

But some areas of the Orange & Blue appear to be penciled in, with a few lines and defence pairings having gained a rhythm together after over a week of Training Camp skates.

Video: THE PANEL | Season Preview

Zack Kassian is acting as protector and playmaker alongside first-overall selections Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on Edmonton's top line. Kassian flanked the Oilers Captain for a total of 663:27 minutes in '19-20, and provides some moxie and a blue-collar mentality to a skill-studded unit.

The Oilers current second line is a product of German engineering, sprinkled with some Spokane spunk. It features Dominik Kahun, Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto, combining to form an attack that can work well down low or strike off the rush. 

"So far, so good," said Tippett of the Oilers Deutschland duo. "We know we have some other players that can play there if it doesn't go where we want but the line looked pretty good today."

On the third line, Josh Archibald, Kyle Turris and Jesse Puljujarvi have been a fixture together at Camp. The trio fuses offence, defence, speed and high skill, as Puljujarvi's entrance back into the NHL comes alongside seasoned professionals.

As far as the blueline goes, Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear look as though they will continue to build upon the chemistry they formed in '19-20.

Veteran defenceman Adam Larsson will be without his good friend and fellow compatriot Oscar Klefbom, who fielded the media Monday morning, but could be a calming influence for the fleet-footed Caleb Jones.

Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 01.11.21

"He looks more mature and makes more mature decisions out there," Larsson said of the 23-year-old. "His skating ability and his skill is really, really good. People will see that this year. I'm just trying to make him calm down a little bit back there but I think he will have a great year."

Blueline weapon Tyson Barrie will see regular minutes in the Oilers top-six and anchor the club's threatening power play. The former Toronto Maple Leaf provides surefire offence and puck movement, sharing the ice at Training Camp with defence-first rearguards Kris Russell and Slater Koekkoek - two players who have also paired up with Evan Bouchard.

Europeans William Lagesson and Theodor Lennstrom also partnered together on Monday and could prove to be options should injuries arise or players are unfit to compete on certain nights.

"I feel like we have balance back there," Coach Tippett said of his defence core. 

"We got some puck movers, we got some guys that can defend. I feel like we've got a good balance. We'll see who ends up playing on opening night but we're going to need all of our defencemen in a shortened season like this. We expect all of them to play and have confidence in all of them."

Video: RAW | Adam Larsson 01.11.21

James Neal continues to get up to speed while positions are still up for grabs on the Oilers fourth line. Up-and-comers Tyler Benson and Ryan McLeod skated alongside veteran Alex Chiasson on Monday while several players including Jujhar Khaira, Joakim Nygard, Patrick Russell and Alan Quine hope to clear waivers and become solid depth options up front.

"We hope we don't lose anybody but it's a very unique time with the taxi squad and with the salary cap," Tippett said. "There's a lot of factors that come into play. Hopefully, everybody gets through and we can go about our business but we'll see where that gets to tomorrow."

Some areas of the Oilers roster seem to be taking shape and others are still subject to change. Regardless, Tippett and Co. will hope to have the squad in high gear for Wednesday's season-opening back-to-back series against the Vancouver Canucks.

"These last two days, you have to get ready to play," said the coach. "Training camp is over and it's time to get on with the season."

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