The Oilers will still have one of the best players in the league with captain Connor McDavid and the hope is that he’ll have more weapons to play with up front. Goaltending and defense remain question marks, but at least there are a number of options in the prospect pool to draw from.
Evan Bouchard|Codie McLachlan/Getty Images
Welcome to the Five-Year Plan. In this summer exercise, we forecast the rosters for all 31 current NHL teams for the 2023-24 season. Are we bound for folly? Sure, but the point of the exercise is to give some sense of where an organization is heading based on current long-term contracts and the prospects they have in the system.
Some ground rules: No trades will be made and no future draft picks will be included – so you won’t see the likes of Alexis Lafreniere or Quinton Byfield on any roster, even though they will certainly be NHL stars in 2023-24. All current contracts are honored and most restricted free agents are projected to stay with their teams, unless it is determined the player will lose his spot or move on in the future. Some future unrestricted free agents will be kept on if the players are deemed integral and likely to re-sign. The Seattle expansion draft is not considered. With all that established, let’s take a look at Edmonton.
The hope here is that Edmonton is flush enough with high-end players that McDavid and Draisaitl can center their own lines instead of playing together still. For that to happen, the Oilers need their prospects to really hit and there is definitely signs of that happening, with Benson and Maksimov coming off excellent campaigns in 2018-19. Jesse Puljujarvi is not included because, let’s face it, he might not even play for Edmonton this season. The bottom-six here looks decent, especially with Nugent-Hopkins at center on the third line. But it’s all going to come down to support for McDavid up top.
The Oilers are in the same boat as Detroit when it comes to future defense: there are prospects, but how much veteran connective tissue will there be to back the kids up? It’s hard to see Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson sticking around after their contracts are up, but Nurse looks like a nice option for a leadership role. He could also be a safety for the offensive-minded Broberg, which is why Bouchard is on the second pairing here. Matt Benning would be another pick, though he might not be a top-sixer. Samorukov had a dynamite final season of junior and is a dark horse to become something special.
Edmonton has options, but no sure thing in net. And unless they trade for a veteran, it’s going to be a battery of current prospects playing in the future. Skinner has the size, while Rodrigue has more pedigree – but anything can happen in five years. Heck, maybe big boys Dylan Wells and Shane Starrett are the two goalies who make it instead. Decide for yourself whether this is a positive or a negative for the organization.
In general, the Oilers’ best-case scenario seems pretty decent for new GM Ken Holland, who will no doubt tinker in the coming years. But there is a hope, as long as the prospects can develop. The fact AHL Bakersfield was very good last season is a great sign and the Oilers have to build off that. Given the trajectory of Sidney Crosby’s career, we can assume that McDavid will still be a top-3 player in the NHL in five years. A lot needs to go right for this team to be a contender, but there’s a chance.
Want more in-depth features, analysis and an All-Access pass to the latest content? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.