Oilers News and Rumors: McDavid, Smith, MacTavish, More

In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update for September 24, 2019, there is news on Connor McDavid’s preseason debut, and a former Oilers coach was fired from the KHL. Mike Smith seems like he’s almost ready to go in the crease and working on communication with his blue line and is Leon Draisaitl fairly ranked outside the Top 10 for in the NHL Network’s 50 best players?

McDavid to Debut vs Coyotes

The Edmonton Oilers have been playing it slowly with Connor McDavid, making sure not to push the issue when it comes to playing him too soon after rehabbing an injury. All signs are that’s he’s looked really good and it appears he’s ready for game action.

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl
Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl take part in training camp. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Unless something changes last-minute, the Oilers superstar and captain will play in Tuesday night’s exhibition contest against the Arizona Coyotes, reports TSN’s Darren Dreger. Ryan Rishaug of TSN echoed those sentiments when he said of McDavid, “Looked great in Kelowna and seems raring to go. Makes sense to play him at home if they can.”

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MacTavish Fired From KHL Coaching Job

It didn’t take long for the Craig MacTavish coaching experiment in the KHL not pan out. As per a report by the league on Tuesday, MacTavish has been terminated by Lokomotiv after leading them to a 3-5 record to open the season.

It’s not uncommon to see NHL coaches not be able to transition over to coaching in the KHL. Will MacTavish have an opportunity waiting for him in the NHL after this? It’s hard to say as he offers a ton of experience but it’s not likely to be with the Oilers. He was one of the first changes of the Ken Holland era and ushered the idea that the team is moving on from the ‘Old Boys Club’.

It might be fair to lump MacTavish in with that group but he’s tied to it and it will probably cost him another chance with Edmonton.

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Mike Smith Ready to Go

After being sick and missing most of training camp, goaltender Mike Smith is finally ready to go in net for the Oilers and he’s excited to get into some game action this week.

For a goaltender like Smith, who likes the handle the puck, that game action is critical and the communication between himself and his defensemen important. “The communication lines are open,” Smith said. He called it not a one-way street and that they needed to talk and ask questions.

He explained of his style of play, “I think the quicker we can get on the same page with guys knowing where they’re supposed to be at certain times, that’ll come as I get into some games and guys get used to it.”

It sounds like the Oilers players are excited to have a goaltender like Smith because he adds another weapon when the team tries to quickly transition the puck. Draisaitl said it’s like having a sixth skater on the ice and that it was nice to be on the side of the coin for once.

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Draistaitl Comes in at No. 16

The NHL Network ranked Draisaitl 16th in the Top 50 for players currently in the NHL. There are many in Edmonton asking why?

Edmonton Oilers Leon Draisaitl
Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Draisaitl scored 50 goals last season, had 105 points and is ranked behind three different Toronto Maple Leafs, none of whom have ever posted those kinds of numbers. The argument was that he’s playing with McDavid so he drops in the rankings.

The silver lining here for fans who take issue with the ranking is that he jumped up from last year where he wasn’t ranked at all.

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Third-Line Center Still Missing?

There is speculation in Edmonton that the search for a third-line center has not gone well. Hoping that there would be some players stepping forward to really grab that vacant spot, no one has and the team might need to look outside the organization for a solution.

Matt Benning Oilers
Matt Benning, Edmonton Oilers, Oct. 21, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Allan Mitchell of The Athletic wrote:

The biggest roster overload is on defence. Edmonton has too many qualified defencemen based on preseason performance, meaning Holland can shop one (or more) leading up to opening night and into the season.

source -‘Matt Benning may be vulnerable to a trade as Ken Holland works to tweak Oilers roster – Allan Mitchell – The Athletic – 09/22/2019

Mitchell then asks if Matt Benning would be the piece to move in an effort to try and acquire the third-line center the Oilers apparently still need?

It will be worth keeping an eye on both Benning and the bottom-six center position over the last couple of preseason games. If someone doesn’t step forward, expect talk to pick up.

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