After the start of the season looked very promising in regards to the Edmonton Oilers‘ bottom-six, it is 13 games into the season and Devin Shore is out for 4-6 weeks and Zack Kassian is considered day-to-day. Nobody ever knows how long day-to-day injuries can last or turn into — just look at the situation Mike Smith is in right now.
The Oilers’ bottom-six has looked very strong all season and given the team the much-needed depth that they have been waiting for with offseason acquisitions in Warren Foegele, Derek Ryan, Brendan Perlini, and Colton Sceviour. The third line of Foegele, Ryan, and Kassian was red-hot out of the gate and was together from the first game of the season until Kassian went down to injury and head coach Dave Tippett decided to switch things up.
With the call-up of Ryan McLeod to re-enter the mix, the lines are looking a bit different than what fans are used to seeing.
Latest Oilers Line Combinations
I’ve really liked the play of the bottom-six in the recent back-to-back in Boston and Buffalo. They have all worked hard and showed why they deserve a spot in the lineup. The bottom two lines had the look of Foegele, McLeod, and Perlini on the third, while Tyler Benson got in with Ryan and Sceviour against the Buffalo Sabres. Benson was especially engaged in the second matchup where he was very noticeable in all aspects of the game.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the last two games the Oilers have lost, both of whom they’ve outmatched, Kyle Turris has been one of the healthy scratches. Turris has had a good bounce-back season thus far. He may not be the point producer like he once was, but he is playing his role and working hard every time he steps out on the ice. Going forward, I think Sceviour needs to have a seat in the press box and the team should continue to roll with Turris while his confidence is up.
In my opinion, McLeod has played the two best games of his young NHL career in the most recent back-to-back. His work was noticed by the coaching staff and he was elevated from playing on the fourth line against the Boston Bruins in the first game to forming the big, strong third line against the Sabres the next night.
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The third line set the tone for the game in the Oilers’ matchup vs. the Sabres and they were given more time on the ice. They controlled the play in the offensive zone, driving the net and creating chances while backchecking and being responsible in their own end.
What Will Happen Once Oilers’ Roster is Healthy?
Ryan has also been noticeable and looks very comfortable carrying the puck and making moves out there. For a role player that is counted on defensively and to win draws, this is a nice surprise to see his confidence level where it is — he gives himself more space and is a larger threat offensively.
We should surely see Kassian back before Shore, so each player is trying to leave a good impression while they have the chance. It looks just as crowded down in the bottom-six as it was to begin the season, but that’s not something I or the team are complaining about. Cheap players are competing and working hard each night to contribute to the winning culture in Edmonton.
Both Ryan and McLeod are natural centres and I can’t see Tippett using them anywhere but down the middle. If McLeod keeps up his play, it will be a very tough decision in a month who to send down. He was expected to make the team out of training camp and stick with the team the whole season after a strong showing at the end of last season. Now that he’s back in the NHL, he’s going to make it very hard for the team to send him back down again, despite his contract status and that he doesn’t have to pass through waivers.
This can cause the wings to become even more crowded than it already is. The Oilers have Kassian, Sceviour, Turris, and Josh Archibald, if he makes a return this season, that are right wingers. Benson is solely a left wing, while Shore can shift over to the left, and Foegele and Perlini can play both.
With a healthy roster, I would elect to send down Sceviour since I figure teams wouldn’t be too eager to jump on a player that earned a contract off of a professional tryout this season. They would have their eyes set and their position in the waiver order intact for a younger talent with potential. A healthy roster would be ideal because there’s never a problem with an excessive amount of riches. But for now, the bottom-six is nothing to worry about and is in good hands.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.