Projecting the Edmonton Oilers' Opening Night Roster

1 month ago  /  NHL Trade Rumors  /  Read Time: 3 minutes
Projecting the Edmonton Oilers' Opening Night Roster

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We're now one week from the start of the NHL season. Teams are finalizing their rosters and signing their RFAs, and players are deep into their training camps and gearing up for pre-season action. There is a lot of pressure on the Oilers this season. After a second playoff disappointment in as many years, the team went into this summer with a ton of cap space and the belief was that it would be used to make the team better. GM Ken Holland seems to have done that, and an extremely different-looking Oilers team will be taking the ice when the season starts. However, the expectation is no longer just to make the playoffs, but to go on a run once there. The Oilers will need their new players to contribute in a significant way, and for some prospects to start doing the same. The top-end talent is there, let's see how the rest of the team looks, starting at forward:Zach Hyman - Connor McDavid - Jesse PuljujarviRyan Nugent-Hopkins - Leon Draisaitl - Kailer YamamotoWarren Foegele - Derek Ryan - Zack KassianBrendan Perlini - Ryan McLeod - Devin ShoreTyler BensonKyle TurrisColton SceviourThe top 6 is all set, and it's a very good group. Zach Hyman finally solidifies the LW position that's been in flux since Patrick Maroon left town two and a half years ago, and it is further strengthened by the addition of Foegele on the third line. Similarly, adding Derek Ryan gives the Oilers the best 3rd-line centre they've had in years. Brendan Perlini has had a stellar preseason and has earned himself a spot on the roster, but that leaves Tyler Benson in the lurch. He and Ryan McLeod haven't shown as much as the Oilers might've liked at training camp, but McLeod's position is more secure. However, Benson is not waiver exempt, which means the team could feel handcuffed into keeping him as the 13th forward. If they decide they're ready to move on from Benson, Kyle Turris is available to fill in that role.On defence, more new additions look to improve the blueline, and help the young players along in the process:Darnell Nurse - Tyson BarrieDuncan Keith - Cody CeciSlater Koekkoek - Evan BouchardKris RussellWilliam LagessonFilip BerglundWhile the top pair remains the same, the rest of this group is brand new, at least on a full-time basis. Duncan Keith brings his resume, age, and $5 million contract to Edmonton in the hopes of locking down the left side, and ideally, he will help along Evan Bouchard as he develops. Speaking of Bouchard, he is expected to join the team permanently this season, and coach Dave Tippett calls him the team's "X-factor." There is a very real chance that Bouchard will jump up into the team's second pair at some point in the season, pushing Ceci down at the same time. Koekkoek and Russell are interchangeable for the most part, but Lagesson, like Benson, is not waiver exempt this season. He'll either win that spot or risk being picked up by a new team. If that occurs, Filip Berglund has had a good showing at camp and may end up getting a look on the bottom pair as the season unfolds.In net, the same tandem that was 8th best in the NHL last season is returning for another go:Mike SmithMikko KoskinenStuart SkinnerOdds are goaltending will be the biggest deciding factor in the Oilers' performance this year. Mike Smith was excellent last season, but he also just turned 40 years old. Can he repeat the same level of performance, or will he return to a level of play that's closer to his career average? Meanwhile, Mikko Koskinen had a down year in 2021 and will look to bounce back. He previously managed a .917sv% in 38 games the season before, and if he can return to that level of play it will be a huge boost to his team. Lastly, there's Stuart Skinner, who is more likely going to play as a starter in the AHL but had a pair of good preseason games and could get a call-up if injuries strike. He recently signed a two-year contract extension in Edmonton, and it's a good bet the Oilers expect him to make the jump to the NHL before that deal runs out.What do you think of this roster for the Oilers, and what would you change?Photo credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports...

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