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INBOX: Potential line combinations at camp

by Bob Stauffer / Edmonton Oilers
Oilers radio colour analyst Bob Stauffer answers fans submitted by fans about the team.
  1. What are some of the line combinations you think we might see at Oilers camp or in the regular season? 

— James from Edmonton

The question of the potential make-up of line combinations is a favourite for sports talk shows like “Oilers Now” in the off-season.

I mentioned a week ago on the air and via Twitter @Bob_Stauffer that I would be interested in seeing these four lines get a look in pre-season:
Taylor Hall - Connor McDavid - Teddy Purcell
Leon Draisaitl - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot - Anton Lander - Nail Yakupov
Matt Hendricks - Mark Letestu - Lauri Korpikoski
Here is the rationale behind getting a look at these lines.
Both Hall and McDavid are/will be capable of beating players 1v1 and making plays at high speed. They have played a bit together at the BioSteel Camp and should make a terrific tandem. Purcell had some challenges last season, but has a history of complementing top-end players in Tampa Bay and he is in a contract year. Hall is also due for a bounce back after a frustrating injury-riddled campaign last season.
Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle really amped up their game in the second half of the season under interim Head Coach Todd Nelson as he bred offensive confidence into the Oilers PP, with RNH finishing with 27 points in his final 31 games and Eberle with 34 points in his final 35 games. That tandem clearly has a history of success playing together. Draisaitl can think on RNH and Eberle’s level and I think the trio could excel off of the cycle in the offensive zone. New Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan has a track record in San Jose of getting surprising results with young forwards (Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi) by playing them in the top 6 with top-end forwards. He also did not hesitate in playing centres on the wing, early in their transition into the NHL.
I realize Pouliot was very effective in the second half of the season, finishing the year with four multiple-goal games playing mostly with RNH and Eberle; but a Pouliot-Lander-Yakupov trio could give the Oilers three lines capable of contributing offence. Pouliot’s speed and stick makes him a good forechecker. Lander is a smart player with leadership ability, capable of getting Yakupov the puck so he can be the primary shooter on the line. Both Pouliot and Lander can be a net presence on a PP unit and they could also be a tandem as a PK unit.
It would not surprise me if McLellan deploys this trio as a line to start the season that can match up against other teams top offensive lines at times. Letestu is a right-shot centre, which the Oilers needed with Nugent-Hopkins, McDavid, Lander and Drasiaitl all left shots.
Hendricks and Korpikoski are veteran bottom-six forwards experienced enough to understand and accept their roles. All three can kill penalties as well.
  • A bunch of NHL teams are announcing that they’re bringing in established veterans for tryouts, like the Penguins bringing Sergei Gonchar in on a PTO. Do you think the Oilers might go this route at camp this year?

    — Jack from Red Deer
    A strong argument can be made that the Oilers could maybe use another winger who plays with a bit of edge compete for a spot in the bottom six. Defensively the Oilers seemingly have a lot of bodies with six D on one-ways: Andrej Sekera, Mark Fayne, Justin Schultz, Erik Gryba, Nikita Nikitin and Andrew Ference. Oscar Klefbom is on his ELC but is a virtual lock to play in the Oilers top four with Griffin Reinhart, Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson trying to crack the line-up as well. Not a lot of room for a veteran “D” to come on a PTO.
  • Which Oilers Prospect are you most interested to see?

    — Krista from Barrhead

    The obvious answer is Connor McDavid. But the truth of the matter is when the Oilers were in Toronto and Pittsburgh last season I took the opportunity to go and see McDavid play live in Erie. Given McDavid’s numerous appearances on Sportsnet over the last couple of seasons and on TSN during the World Juniors I think we can all say we have seen a lot of Connor… and we are really excited!

    The prospect I have very little read on right now is Anton Slepyshev. As a 20 year-old last season playing for Ufa Salavat in the KHL he had 15-10-25 in 52 games, pretty good numbers for the 6’2” winger. Are we looking at a potential top-nine NHL forward? My guess is yes, but the question is, how long will that take?
  • Bob Stauffer is Colour Analyst on the Oilers Radio Network and Hosts “Oilers Now” each day Noon to 2:00 PM Monday thru Friday on 630 CHED and you can follow him on Twitter at @Bob_Stauffer
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