Who makes Oil­ers’ for­ward ranks? Who starts in net on open­ing night?:

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - Jim matheson

Try­ing to pick the open­ing night ros­ter for the St. Louis Blues is child’s play be­cause they were car­ry­ing the Stan­ley Cup around the ice in June and you don’t fix what ain’t broke un­less you can’t af­ford some­body like Pa­trick Maroon and they walk away.

But the ros­ter for the Edmonton Oil­ers, who missed the play­offs by 17 points?

That’s a fool’s er­rand with way more ques­tions than an­swers.

This might be the 23-man ros­ter by line, or not.

Leon Drai­saitl - Con­nor Mc­david - Zack Kas­sian.

Thomas Jurco Ryan Nu­gent-hopkins - James Neal.

Joakim Ny­gard - Colby Cave - Alex Chi­as­son.

Ju­jhar Khaira - Ri­ley Shea­han - Josh Archibald.

The 13th and 14th for­wards? Markus Gran­lund and Sam Gag­ner.

Gae­tan Haas was very good in Cal­gary in the last ex­hi­bi­tion game on Satur­day, but Cave was bet­ter through camp and Haas doesn’t need to clear waivers while Cave does (Bos­ton might want him back).

Haas, on a two-way deal, could go to Bak­ers­field, but for a short time be­cause he has an out to re­turn to his Swiss team with no stom­ach to make cheap money in the AHL af­ter be­ing a semi-star back home.

Pa­trick Rus­sell may lose out even though he only makes $700,000 and he has shown his ver­sa­til­ity through most of his six ex­hi­bi­tions as a bot­tom-six, penalty killer be­cause, well, there’s al­ways op­tics at play here. They signed Gran­lund to do just that and he’s more ex­pe­ri­enced at it, even though Rus­sell has out­played him. Some­times life isn’t fair. Rus­sell has caught the eye of other teams, though. He has to clear waivers. Ny­gard’s speed gets him the room to adapt to the NHL game, plus he set up both goals in Cal­gary Satur­day and they need skill with so may role play­ers. He’s a top-nine player, for sure. Jurco had five pre-sea­son points.

If his back holds up and he gets over the knock of in­con­sis­tent play, he’s a keeper.

Gag­ner is a spe­cialty player who can be on the sec­ond power-play unit, plus he’s able to com­ple­ment skill guys

and coach Dave Tip­pett knows what he can do from their time in Ari­zona. His $3.25-mil­lion salary is prob­lem­atic, of course, if he’s a 13th or 14th for­ward, but he’s a vet­eran voice in the room. Now, of course, GM Ken Hol­land could see some­body bet­ter on the waiver wire. He’s got enough guys who can check; does he have enough who can score? He could make a trade but he doesn’t want to give up as­sets.

“We found out a lot about our team in the last two to three weeks, we know where we stand,” said Tip­pett. “I think there’s more than just 12 for­wards we’re look­ing at, and the key is find­ing rhythm on the lines, peo­ple in the right roles as to power play and penalty killing, all part of the de­ci­sions we make. It’s skill level, over­all team speed, how well do play­ers hound pucks and play in our struc­ture.”

While the Oil­ers lost 3-2 to the Flames to fin­ish pre-sea­son 3-4, Tip­pett liked what he saw with Mc­david, Ryan Nu­gent-hopkins, Neal, Oscar Klef­bom and Kris Rus­sell at home.

Some grasped the op­por­tu­nity and re­ally played well, like Ny­gard.

“He was very good, quick on pucks, tenac­ity, real strong,” said Tip­pett.

Tip­pett thought he was good all game, Ny­gard for 20 min­utes.

“I cre­ated some passes, our line scored two goals in the third,” said Ny­gard. “But the first and sec­ond pe­ri­ods weren’t that good. I know I can per­form bet­ter.”

And Haas? Tip­pett got an eye­ful of the Swiss cen­tre who had strug­gled with adapt­ing to the NHL game in ex­hi­bi­tions but was very ef­fec­tive in Cal­gary.

“This was Haas’s best game by mile, so we’ll eval­u­ate,” he said.

“While we had play­ers not hav­ing to play for much, oth­ers do and it’s great that they show up and give you what they’ve got.”

Haas, a solid No. 2 C in Switzer­land and a matchup guy on their na­tional team at the worlds, was no­tice­able in his 16 min­utes against pretty much Cal­gary’s NHL lineup. But, again, he doesn’t have to clear waivers.

Maybe it’s eas­ier to send him down for a few weeks and keep Cave, who’s shown the abil­ity to make some plays but isn’t a shooter and played in six of seven ex­hi­bi­tions.

Buyer be­ware with pre-sea­son of­fen­sive stats. Jurco tied Klef­bom and Ethan Bear for the team high, but Ty Rat­tie was great last fall and Kailer Ya­mamoto made the club off ex­hi­bi­tion prow­ess, too. But, if Jurco goes on waivers, some­body might take him be­cause he had three goals in his four games and 12 shots.

Tip­pett thought Gran­lund, both­ered by a sore groin in camp, was “OK.”

“He’s got some smarts, the penalty kill was pretty good. Not bad, not bad,” he said.

TOP PHOTO: ian Kucerak/postmedia; inset: ed Kaiser/postmedia

Sam Gag­ner (above) would pro­vide a vet­eran voice in the Oil­ers dress­ing room, while Colby Cave (inset, left) has shown the abil­ity to make plays and suited up in six of the Oil­ers’ seven pre-sea­son games.

Ed Kaiser/postmedia

Joakim Ny­gard, who was im­pres­sive in the Oil­ers’ pre-sea­son fi­nale on Satur­day, has the speed needed to get him the room to adapt to the NHL game.

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