Edmonton Oilers: Previewing the Opening Night Roster

The Edmonton Oilers open the 2013-14 season tonight, October 1st, at home to the Winnipeg Jets. Both teams have heightened expectations this season and pressure to make the playoffs.

There has been much change over the offseason to the Oilers personnel, be it in the front office, behind the bench or on the roster. New faces and an apparent focus on changing the culture has many Oiler fans eagerly anticipating puck drop on the new season.

The Oilers unfortunately will not be dressing their desired roster for game one of the season due to the ever present injury bug. Top two centres Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner will be out at least a month and defensemen Denis Grebeshkov and Corey Potter will also start the year on IR.

Here’s a look at what to expect to open the season.

*new addition





Ryan Smyth ($2.25M)

Taylor Hall ($6.00M)

Ales Hemsky ($5.00M)

David Perron ($3.812M)

Mark Arcobello ($600K)

Jordan Eberle ($6.00M)

Jesse Joensuu ($950K)

Boyd Gordon ($3.00M)

Nail Yakupov ($3.775M*)

Ben Eager ($1.10M)

Will Acton ($680K)

Mike Brown ($737K)

Luke Gazdic ($635K)



Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C ($3.775M*)
Sam Gagner, C ($4.80M)
Steve MacIntyre, LW ($625K)
Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall will start the year centering the team’s top line (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Taylor Hall will be the main point of focus for many, first for the mere fact he is the team’s best and most dynamic player and second because he will start the year at a new position and centre the team’s top line. A move that has been talked about for some time, and made this pre-season out of necessity

That top line in itself is somewhat of a surprise as both Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky had fallen out of favour as top six forwards under Ralph Krueger. A new season will give them both chance to redeem themselves as Eakins has shown early confidence in them.

AHLer Mark Arcobello will hold the No.2 centre spot warm and centre Eberle and Perron, a trio that found some chemistry in pre-season. Eberle is one of the slickest players in the league and Perron has shown an impressive two way game to go along with his exceptional hands. Arcobello has had success at the AHL level, including a stint between Hall and Eberle last year during the lockout. He’ll have at least a month to prove he can do it at the next level.

All of the shuffling finds last year’s goal scoring leader Nail Yakupov on the third line playing with newcomers Boyd Gordon and Jesse Joensuu. Hard to tell what this line will give, as it can’t be considered a true checking line, nor is it a completely balanced offensive line. The hope is that it will provide a balance of the two. Depending on early results Yakupov could find himself moved up the lineup and will certainly see a lot of playing time.

The fourth line will certainly not provide much offence, but a steady forecheck and insertion of energy should be no problem. The line is tough, physical and will be faster than most people think as both Eager and Brown can get down the ice in a hurry and create havoc on the forecheck. New acquisition Luke Gadzuric will provide additional toughness when he enters the lineup.

The Oilers will hope to put up as many points as possible until RNH and Gagner return, and then there will be a few decisions to make. Likely someone from the fourth line is out to make space and then it will be up to Arcobello to prove whether he is an NHLer or AHLer going forward.




Andrew Ference ($3.25M)

Justin Schultz ($3.775M)

Ladislav Smid ($3.50M)

Jeff Petry ($1.75M)

Nick Schultz ($3.50M)

Anton Belov ($1.525M)

Denis Grebeshkov ($1.50M)
Corey Potter ($775K)
Ference was named the 14th captain in Oilers history (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)
Ference was named the 14th captain in Oilers history and will be paired with Justin Schultz (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Newcomer and team captain Andrew Ference will team with phenom Justin Schultz and be the teams top pairing at least to start. Ference brings grit, toughness and a winning resume and will look to complement the offensively gifted Schultz. The Oilers hope Schultz will take the next step this season towards becoming one of the league’s elite offensive defensemen.

Jeff Petry and Ladislav Smid will be the second pairing or really more of a 1b pairing as they will likely log as much ice time as the previous duo. Will also do a lot of the heavy lifting against the other team’s top line.

The third pairing has gone through many changes due to injuries. Nick Schultz is the mainstay there and a rock defensively. Starting as his partner will be KHL import Anton Belov, who has good size and a lot of upside. Both Corey Potter and Denis Grebeshkov will also see time there once they return from injury with Grebeshkov likely to see the most ice time of the three.

There is also a number of exciting prospects and potential callups in Oklahoma City with Philip Larsen and Taylor Fedun likely first on the list. They are also the elder statesmen down there at just 23 and 25 years old respectively. The rest of the defense in OKC has a year or less of pro experience. Top prospect Oscar Klefbom is also there and will likely get a shot at some point.


Devan Dubnyk ($3.50M)
Jason LaBarbera ($1.00M)


Devan Dubnyk Oilers
Devan Dubnyk will enter the season as the unquestioned starter (Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

 Devan Dubnyk returns as the starter, and for all the critiscm he endured and the constant rumours of the Oilers trying to upgrade the position this offseason, he was the least of the team’s problems last year. He played behind a poor defense and was among the leaders in shots against and still put up a save percentage of .920%. He will get the majority of the starts and a chance to prove he is a legitimate No.1 option.

He will be backed up by NHL veteran Jason LaBarbera, who will look to give him a few nights off but doubtful that he’ll push for top minutes. There are not many viable options behind him with newcomer Richard Bachman the top option in OKC and prospect Olivier Roy behind him on the depth chart.

Dubnyk will have the ball to run with and prove all his doubters wrong.


There is a new sheriff in town, well two to be exact, with both GM Craig MacTavish and head coach Dallas Eakins in their first year at each position. Time will tell whether they will be the ones to return the Oilers to the playoff picture or not, but they are certainly saying all the right things so far.

One thing they have brought in is the mentality of fiery competitiveness and the unwillingness to accept losing. Eakins has also preached fitness and an increased work ethic. His recent appointing of Ference as team captain should come as no surprise as Eakins and Ference appear to be kindred spirits and will push a young Oilers team harder then they have been pushed so far.

MacTavish’s moves in the offseason have reflected the same attitude with the signings of Ference, Boyd Gordon, Jesse Joensuu, Will Acton, Denis Grebeshkov and Steve MacIntyre among others. All are reponsible players that bring an element of grit and toughness to the lineup.

 It’s too early to judge the Oilers on the moves they’ve made and probably not until they have a healthy lineup in place, but the level of play tonight will give an indication of whether the message from the brass has sunk in whether the team can set the tone for the season.


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