Edmonton Oilers

Exploring the Edmonton Oilers 2023–24 training camp lineup

With training camp and the preseason underway, now is a time of intrigue and optimism across NHL fan bases. While a summer of speculations can swell into runaway storylines, seeing the first iterations of training camp lines gives onlookers the chance to understand each team’s self image. Across the league there are players who might make the step into NHL relevance as well, though such rays of hope might still be coming into focus.

No different are the Edmonton Oilers, who come into the preseason with their own set of questions. With a returning coach and a high level roster that remains quite intact versus last season’s, there might be less preseason questions than other teams. Still, there are a number of situations worth monitoring as evidenced by the team’s training camp lines. While NHL lineups are dynamic in nature, as changes in the lineup are inevitable, using some data from last season and a look at the early lineup we might be able to preface the lineup changes on the Oilers horizon.


Last season

RankLineTypeMinutesGamesxGoals %xGoals ForxGoals AgainstxGoals For
Per 60 Minutes
xGoals Against
Per 60 Minutes

Looking at the numbers, we can observe the amount of shifting around required of an NHL lineup throughout a regular season schedule, through injuries and otherwise. From the relatively cozy confines of the preseason this is a reality we should not forget.

Naturally, the Oilers top-six forward group begins with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, two of the best players of all time. While the two will see time together at different points, on the power play, late in games, or even on the same line should circumstance require. It seems to be a point to try to start each season with the two separated as the coaching staff looks to form multiple identities within the lineup. This multiplicity will help the Oilers in the long run, perhaps in adding a jolt should the offence grow stagnant, or as a tactical tool against tailored checking schemes of the opposition.

We can see that McDavid fared quite well alongside Zach Hyman. The downside here is that Draisaitl and Evander Kane produced less than desirable results.

Elsewhere in the lineup, the trio of Ryan McLeod, Warren Foegele, and Derek Ryan were quite effective together, as lines with both McLeod and Foegele did well in general. While it might seem sub optimal to have Ryan so high in the lineup, it might be worth it to give the trio more time together, riding out whatever hot streak they have going for as long as possible.

Camp lines


Early on McDavid is centring a line with Kane and former junior teammate and Oilers newcomer Connor Brown. Though Brown is hardly thought of as an offensive force, his responsible style of play built off work ethic does bring an element to McDavid’s wing. Theoretically, McDavid is skilled enough to power a line on his own, and the services of Kane are nothing to sneeze at as a power forward with legitimate 30 goal upside. If Brown is able to build some chemistry with McDavid, it would certainly bolster his offensive output, but so too would it deepen the Oilers lineup as a whole. For his part, Kane might be a better fit on McDavid’s wing than Draisaitl’s, and Brown might bring enough defence to help balance the line.

This leaves Draisaitl to centre Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, in what should be a dominant force of a line. The depth afforded with a Brown promotion rings true here, as there should be little doubt this group can be effective, as a second line no less.

With McLeod out due to injury, Lane Pederson gets a golden opportunity to play in his spot between Foegele and Ryan. This is a significant addition, as Pederson will have the chance to show just how far up the lineup he might be capable of.

This also leaves Brandon Sutter, a PTO, with a similarly coveted audition. Sutter has missed two seasons, and at 34 years old is no spring chicken. That said, stylistically Sutter is the ideal fit for the fourth line centre role, a determined, right-shot, defensive specialist with penalty kill expertise. His being on a line with Mattias Janmark and Dylan Holloway simulates what linemates Sutter would have in the regular season.

Speaking of Holloway, the early version of the camp lines do not look favourably upon chances for younger players to start higher in the lineup. This could, and perhaps will, continue to progress throughout the rest of training camp and the season at large, but it is clear that the Oilers are controlling the optics that spots higher in the lineup must be earned. Fans will likely want to see the likes of Holloway and Raphael Lavoie in auditions higher in the lineup with more skilled players in hopes that their offensive upside begins to materialise.

We were given a nugget of their paths to such auditions in Coach Jay Woodcroft’s media availability, citing that Lavoie would have to continue to perform well each day in camp to be considered for even an audition in a larger role. For the younger players, like Lavoie and Holloway this will be the case, but there is still a chance for both to make their impressions. Even if the duo of Holloway and Lavoie start the season lower in the lineup, or off the NHL roster entirely, a strong showing in camp can help build their case for a promotion when absence inevitably strikes the depth chart above them.


Last season

RankLineTypeMinutesGamesxGoals %xGoals ForxGoals AgainstxGoals For
Per 60 Minutes
xGoals Against
Per 60 Minutes

Not since the prime of Oscar Klefbom have the Oilers had a defenceman who could challenge Darnell Nurse as their top option— until last season that is. Once Mattias Ekholm was acquired, his pairing with Evan Bouchard took off, as the duo blossomed into a new top pairing of sorts. For his part, Nurse did quite well in handling top minutes once again with Cody Ceci as his partner. Between the three top level defencemen, Nurse, Ekholm, and Bouchard, the Oilers have a strong foundation to work with on the blueline.

Beyond them the Oilers have a trio of interesting options. Brett Kulak might be every bit the two way contributor that Ceci is, though now that Tyson Barrie is longer aboard the spot as his main partner is vacant. Philip Broberg is highly touted, and still possesses a lot of upside. He was worked into the lineup as a rotational piece last season, getting his most consistent work with Bouchard on a sheltered third pair prior to Ekholm’s arrival. Vincent Desharnais was a revelation, providing a much needed defensive option on the right side, and he’s looking to prove his success was no fluke.

Camp pairs


Early on, Ekholm is missing time with a hip injury. He is expected to return to action shortly, but for now it forces the Oilers to try out some new combinations. Ekholm is expected to return to a pairing with Bouchard, but for now a pairing with Nurse will get some time together as the top pair. Although Nurse has spent some time with Barrie over the years, it will be interesting to see how he gels with a more offensive partner than we are used to seeing.

The second and third pairs give us the most to think about. Kulak and Ceci should be reliable, though neither seems a natural fit as the primary puck handler on a given pairing. Both will need to be in good form for their partnership to yield results. Both are trusted players as individuals, but together they might form an equally trusted veteran pair.

Meanwhile, Broberg and Desharnais will be paired together, as the duo looks to make a case that they should surpass Kulak and Ceci on the depth chart. Both had some success in their rookie seasons, and any steps forward might be enough to force their way into bigger roles. As Broberg spent most of last season as the defensive conscience on a sheltered pairing with Bouchard, or rotating through the defence pairs as a seventh, this partnership with Desharnais provides a new challenge. Desharnais should provide some stability as an in-zone defender, and the onus will be on Broberg to handle the primary puck moving duties.

Quite simply, if Broberg is able to prove himself in this role there will be very little holding him back from reaching the status of a top-four defenceman. While the eventual return of Ekholm will reshuffle the pairings, the union of Broberg and Desharnais have a fantastic opportunity to prove themselves together.

Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire

Gregory Babinski

twitter: @axiomsofice

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