By now everyone has heard the Chiarelli interview that was conducted by TSN insider Bob MacKenzie. If you have been in a coma for the last week or just haven’t gotten around to watching it yet you really should. There is some really great stuff in there. It will give a small insight into the mind of the general manager and hints at the direction that he plans to take this team.
The part of the interview that pertains to what we are discussing today is when Bobby Mac asks about Leon and Darnell making the team this fall. This is what he replied.
- Chiarelli: “We have to see how they do. They are two fine prospects, with size and skill you just don’t find anywhere. I still really believe size matters in this league. We’ll see. We’re going to try Leon on the wing and we’re going to try him, he protects the puck so well, we’ll try him at both (wing and center). Darnell is so strong, he defends so well. He’s an energetic player, we have to teach him you don’t have to do six things, if you do three very well, you can do the other three later. He’s got some stuff to learn but there’s a lot to like there.”
From that we can infer that the boys are going to have a legitimate shot to make the team and they will not be sent to Bakersfield just for the sake of “development”. Prospects of their caliber have the capability of learning on the fly a lot quicker than a lesser player. I’ve already made my arguments for which way I think things will go with Darnell Nurse and that piece is available at Just Oil, a website of my own creation, but what will the team do with Leon Draisaitl?
There was a ton of talk about why Draisaitl was getting to play all three games at the recently finished Young Stars tournament out in Penticton. I seen some comments that the team didn’t Leon had shown enough in his two previous outings and others still that assumed it was because of the teams intent to let him shift to the wing for at least part of training camp. Obviously neither theory proved to be right when it was confirmed that Leon was in fact playing in the third game because of an injury Mitch Moroz suffered to his hand in the first game against the Canucks.
As close as we are now to training camp, we can expect the chatter to heat up about any player that isn’t a guaranteed lock for the NHL roster. The story for Leon will play out in its own good time and eventually we will see what the Oilers staff has decided to do with them. With that being said, who wants to wait to see what the Oilers will do? I sure as hell don’t! I want to pull on my armchair GM cap and make the decision for them.
What would I do if I was the man leading the Oilers charge back to the playoffs? Well son, pull up a chair, slap a Canucks fan and sit your ass down and listen and I’ll tel you exactly what I will do! I freely admit I am not the smartest man in the world but I can guarantee that I am very far from the dumbest as well. It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to know that there are relatively few spots that are open to competition amongst the forwards group. Hall, Eberle, McDavid, Nuge and Pouliot are virtual locks for top six work with the final candidate probably being one of Teddy Purcell and Nail Yakupov.
So where does Leon fit into the picture then? If he is to make this team it will have to be in the bottom six. The only scenario that I see Leon making the team is if Todd McLellan would prefer to put Yakupov in the top six and move Purcell to the left of Anton Lander. This would allow Draisaitl to take the third line right wing position and move recently acquired Lauri Korpikoski down to the fourth line with Matt Hendricks and Mark Letestu.
This combination of forwards would give us two lines that an absolutely tear it up and a third that while not as offensively gifted as the first two lines will be a more defensively responsible trio. Add to that the fourth line that can take on the heavy work and tougher defensive zone starts and there might actually be the beginnings of a real NHL forward group.
I have no illusions of any players that are eligible for UFA status next summer being retained. Purcell, Nikitin and Scrivens among others, will all either be moved at the deadline or allowed to walk for nothing in July. This is why I say we have the beginnings of a NHL quality forward group. We all know there will be turnover between now and then but it will be minimal.
What would everyone think if the lines for opening night in St. Louis was Pouliot/Nuge/ Eberle, Hall/McDavid/Yakupov, Purcell/Lander/Draisaitl and Hendricks/Letestu/Korpikoski? Any other combination of players involved and I don’t see how Leon can possibly be on the team. If McLellan prefers to put Purcell on third line right wing then there really isn’t any room for the big German.
What do you all think? Leon on the team for October 8th or will he be leading the charge in Bakersfield to start? I want to hear from you! Leave me a comment here or get at me on Twitter, @justoil78. If you liked what you read please visit Cooke Designs and buy one of our beautiful shirts! Thanks for reading!