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Who Gets Oilers Extra Top-Line Spot w/ McDavid to Start 2021 Season?

There are plenty of choices in Edmonton for the coveted right wing spot alongside Connor McDavid. Who gets it?

Selecting the top-six for the Edmonton Oilers isn’t difficult when you look at slots one-through-four. Edmonton has at least Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto taking up two-thirds of the top-two lines and that’s exactly where they should be. In fact, while it can be debated, even newly-acquired Dominik Kahun might be an easy choice for some, leaving only one spot left to fill.

Related: 16 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Connor McDavid

Because Kahun is likely to get early time alongside friend former teammate Draisaitl, it’s the coveted spot beside McDavid that appears to be up for grabs and there are a few early candidates.

Bob Stauffer recently tweeted that he has Zack Kassian there. It’s a fair argument considering Kassian has played there before, had some success and his contract warrants being in the top six. Others may argue the physical and skilled, but inconsistent forward had his chance and blown it.

I might be tempted to try James Neal in that role. The Oilers want to get off to an early jump in a shortened season and Neal has proven he can put up big numbers out of the gate. Neal scored 10 of his 19 goals in the month of October last year and nine goals in the first eight games. While he’s getting older and slower, this is a proven 20-plus goal guy who might do his best work before he gets tired.

James Neal Edmonton Oilers
James Neal Edmonton Oilers

Why would you not see if he can’t reproduce that early success after plenty of time off and a chance to get rested, rehabbed and ready?

Are There Any Other Candidates?

To say that the Oilers won’t shuffle the roster a touch would be illogical. There’s a better-than good chance head coach Dave Tippett spends time early trying to find the right chemistry and that means giving players like Jesse Puljujarvi, Josh Archibald or even Kahun a look if he goes back to the Draisaitl-Nuge-Yamamoto trio.

There are hopes Puljujarvi can really come over and make a difference. He may be the most successful if he’s playing with top-end guys. Meanwhile, Archibald is one of the few guys that can keep up with McDavid on a regular basis.

Who would you put in that slot? What about testing out a player like Joakim Nygard who crushed his final six games overseas before he was recalled back to Edmonton?

Next: NHL Expansion Debate: Subban or Burns to Be New Face of Seattle Kraken?

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