In this post, I’ll discuss the Edmonton Oilers’ power-play units to answer the question of whether Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (RHN for short) should play on a line with Connor McDavid or with Leon Draisaitl. Given that the Oilers have such strong fire-power at the top end of the roster, making that choice for the 2020-21 season seems like a big one.
Oscar Klefbom Was Injured and Will Miss the Entire Season: He’s Replaced by Tyson Barrie
The Oilers suffered a bit of a setback when Oscar Klefbom was injured last season. Klefbom is a great defenseman in his own right, but he also is a strong quarterback for what was one of the best power-play units in the NHL. So, to take Klefbom’s place, the Oilers signed free-agent right-shot defenseman Tyson Barrie.
Barrie had most recently played with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2019-20 season. Barrie also has gained a reputation of being able to quarterback a strong power-play unit, and had been quite successful with the Colorado Avalanche prior to moving to the Maple Leafs prior to last season.
It’s hard to say that Barrie’s season was at all successful. He struggled. However, he’s looking to rebound big time with the Oilers and most hockey commentators believe he’ll have a big season playing with such an elite offensive unit as the Oilers.
Where Should RHN Play on the Power-Play Unit?
The Oilers have a new power-play quarterback; but, who will Barrie be passing to on the Oilers number one power play? Oilers head coach Dave Tippett has a number of choices, including top-six forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Draisaitl has found success with young Kailer Yamamoto on his wing. McDavid can play with just about anyone; however, he’s obviously best when he tandems with Draisaitl on his wing. And, often that’s what happens on the Oilers’ top power play. The two big guns line up together on the team’s first power-play unit.
But after McDavid and Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent Hopkins (RHN) is probably the best forward in the Oilers roster. Where will he play? Is he better with McDavid, or with Draisaitl?
Gene Principe and Mark Spector Disagree About Where RHN Should Play
That’s the question this video discusses. If you are the Edmonton Oilers, would you rather play RHN on the wing in a power-play unit with Connor McDavid or on the wing with Draisaitl? In the video below, Gene Principe joins Sportsnet’s Mark Spector just prior to the opening of the Oilers’ training camp to discuss some of the possible ways the Oilers can produce the best lineup for the 2020-21 season.
Obviously, because the Oilers have such elite talent at the top end of the roster, one of the key questions is how to deploy that talent on the ice. Here’s where a discussion of Nugent-Hopkins comes into play. That’s what Principe and Spector discuss. How and where should RHN be played in Edmonton’s power-play lineup?
The Logic of the Discussion
In the video, Spector makes a relevant point that – if centers McDavid and Draisaitl are close in their power-play skill – that Oilers’ fans can actually define which power-play unit is number one because it’s the one that plays RHN on the wing. Spector’s call is that you play RHN with your number-one center – and he believes that’s still McDavid.
Spector also believes that Draisaitl and Yamamoto have some real chemistry and these two should probably stay together. As a result, he believes the best choice is to play McDavid with RHN. That gives McDavid a top-six winger to work with on the power-play unit. Principe, on the other hand, believes that RHN should be partnered with Draisaitl. He believes that Draisaitl, who has scored 50 goals, is also a great back-hand passer. That passing skill fits well setting up RHN. That, for Principe, works best.
Either way, one has to believe that – if Barrie can deliver the puck – the Oilers’ power play can deposit it in the back of the net.
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