The Edmonton Oilers have a lot of upcoming free agent forwards that they will have to make a decision on before next season. Just about 30 games into the season, we’ve got a pretty good look at how each has performed and the team has started to judge who is worth keeping around for what kind of money and length.
This article will focus on the upcoming free agent depth forwards, either unrestricted or restricted. So this excludes players like Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto and focuses on what has been an issue that has been needed to be addressed for years.
The depth of the Oilers group doesn’t just have to produce offence every game, most times the bottom-six group is filled with high-energy/hard-working players who are fighting every night to stay in the lineup. They can bring a defensive aspect at both five-on-five and on the penalty kill, as well as physical play. An underrated bottom-six shift can just be tiring the opponent out by working the puck around and creating chances in the offensive zone. Every player is in the NHL for a reason, and each one can be a threat to score given a chance.
The management will have to gauge what roles these depth players can play for them and who is ready to take the next step with candidates like Dylan Holloway, Cooper Marody (upcoming RFA), and less likely players to make the jump in Raphael Lavoie from the American Hockey League (AHL) and Aapeli Rasanen who is playing in Liiga.
No need to rush anyone with such a deep prospect pool, but someone is going to make the jump, so there needs to be room. So here are a couple of candidates that are worth keeping around for at least another year.
A professional tryout turned into a reliable depth forward for the Oilers. Colton Sceviour has played over two-thirds of the games this season and he is settling in nicely for the team. He is a great option on the fourth line and provides high-energy shifts at both ends of the ice and has been a pleasant surprise (“Stuart Skinner and Ryan McLeod rewarded for strong play, but not Colton Sceviour? Hmm”, Edmonton Journal, Nov. 22, 2021).
Sceviour can play the wing or at centre, so it gives the Oilers some wiggle room when creating lineups every game. He is reliable in the defensive zone and has provided some much-needed offence for the team over the past three games, scoring twice (“Oilers Colton Sceviour: Tallies in win”, CBS Sports, Dec. 19, 2021).
His role with the Oilers is less than it has been throughout his career, but this four-time 20-point getter can still be effective, even if he isn’t in the lineup every night. At worst, Sceviour should provide the team with a good depth option at a very cheap price that is now more familiar with the group he’s playing with.
Ryan McLeod is an obvious choice but is worth talking about. He looks to be part of the Oilers’ future, whether it’s centering the third or fourth line or elevated to play the wing in the top-nine if the team ever elects to run with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins down the middle.
With lackluster play from Derek Ryan this season and a couple of injuries, it allowed McLeod to quickly find his way back to the Oilers after a slow start to the season. If you watch him, he puts on a display of puck-handling skills and has the ability to cleanly enter the zone on most attempts. This creates offence for a bottom-six line that makes the Oilers so much better if they are scoring and contributing offensively.
McLeod isn’t going anywhere, and he looks like the future third-line centre, if not more for the Oilers. I expect more of a bridge deal than a long-term contract right off the bat due to the cap constraints and he may only be scratching the surface of what he can provide.
I asked a large number of fans who they would give a little longer look at next year between Brendan Perlini and Tyler Benson. It highly favoured Perlini, and I agree. Though his start has not been anything like how he played in preseason, he looks like a different player after a short stint in the AHL.
Based on Perlini’s goal-scoring success in past seasons and Benson’s inability to score a goal yet in the NHL, it allows for Perlini to get a better shot higher up in the lineup. This past proven success will be one of the reasons why Perlini will continue to get a better opportunity to succeed over Benson.
Perlini has scored at least 14 goals in three of his first four seasons, and even though his last season in the NHL was less than ideal, he finds more success when he shoots more. He has a great shot and if he continues to fire the puck like he had in the game where he took seven shots, more good things are to come. An added bonus is that the Oilers won’t have to pay him too much at all for his services.
All of these players may not be signed, as well will have to wait for how the rest of the season plays out, especially for Perlini. But I believe McLeod is a lock, while Sceviour is an underrated option to bring back for another season in the same type of role, this time not starting out on a professional tryout. Whatever the Oilers do, they will be looking for whatever will bring them the most production, as five-on-five and depth scoring continues to be an issue.
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Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
You can find more of his work here.