Predicting How Each Edmonton Oilers Line Will Look in 2013-2014
When the Oilers hired Craig MacTavish as their new general manager, the former Oilers captain and head coach promised that bold moves were on the horizon. He later went on to say that there could be from six to eight new players suited up for the team next season.
It was obvious that aside from the top-six forwards in Edmonton, no one else was really contributing. MacTavish is likely to add role players who can provide an added dimension to an already potent Oilers attack.
Who stays and who goes will be an interesting topic over the next few weeks heading into the NHL entry draft and the free-agency period starting July 1.
Here is a prediction on how each Edmonton Oilers line combination will look in 2013-2014.
Line 1: Taylor Hall/RNH/Jordan Eberle
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The “Kid Line” will once again be the premier attraction for the Edmonton Oilers as Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle continue to establish themselves as a formidable No.1 line.
Though the line was separated at times last season, the chemistry the three young dynamos have already created is undeniable.
Barring the addition of a bonafide No.1 center that could supplant Nugent-Hopkins on the top pairing, the line should remain in tact heading into 2013-2014 and will once again provide the lion’s share of the offense in Edmonton.
Line 2: New Addition or Magnus Paajarvi/Sam Gagner/Nail Yakupov
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Towards the end of last season it appeared that Magnus Paajarvi finally began to take the next step in his evolution as an NHL player—utilizing both his size and his speed to wreak havoc on the offensive end.
Paajarvi is also becoming the responsible defensive-zone forward, which would balance out the holes created by Yakupov in his own end.
Yakupov also came on late last season, starting to show his natural goal-scoring talents and his ability to take over a game single-handedly.
If the Oilers do decide to bring in another center, Sam Gagner could be moved to the wing and Magnus Paajarvi demoted to the third line.
The Oilers need a consistent center iceman who can win faceoffs and has the skill and speed to play with any one of the Oilers’ talented youngsters.
The Oilers desperately need size in their top-six forward ranks, so it's likely MacTavish will make a serious offer to unrestricted free agents such as David Clarkson or Nathan Horton.
Both of whom would bring size, grit and scoring ability to the second line.
Line 3: Paajarvi/Shawn Horcoff/New Addition
Shawn Horcoff's future with the Oilers will be a hot topic during the 2013-2014 offseason.
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If the Oilers bring in another forward for the top-two lines, Magnus Paajarvi will find himself on the third line opposite Shawn Horcoff (if he is still an Oiler) and, likely, a new forward.
Edmonton is likely to add another gritty player to play on the third line. Players like Eric Nystrom, Viktor Stalberg or Raffi Torres would be excellent additions to the squad.
The Oilers need toughness, but they also want to maintain a certain level of skill in order to establish a line that head coach Ralph Krueger can feel comfortable putting on the ice during any situation.
Shawn Horcoff's future with the Oilers is still unclear, as the captain is a prime candidate for a compliance buyout this summer. He is still a solid player and is one of the Oilers' top faceoff men, so it is going to be interesting to see what the new GM will do.
Line 4: Ryan Smyth/New Addition/New Addition
2013-2014 may be Ryan Smyth's swan-song with the Oilers.
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Gone are the days when Ryan Smyth was a viable option as a top-six forward in the NHL. Some will also argue that even his days of being a bottom-six forward are behind him. However, Smyth will likely suit up for the Oilers on the fourth line in 2013-2014.
A player like Boyd Gordon would be a nice fit in Edmonton, bringing some toughness and tenacity to the fourth line.
Cal Clutterbuck is a restricted free agent this offseason and, with all of the talent in Minnesota and all of the money the team invested in Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the Wild may not be able to match an offer sheet.
Clutterbuck, though not large in size, is a great fourth line agitator whose physical brand of hockey wears down opponents.