Don’t look now, but the Edmonton Oilers might actually have a second-unit power play that does considerable damage to the opposition. A team that has boasted one of, if not the best power plays in the NHL over the past two seasons, this Oilers’ roster is deep enough now that they could roll two units and still be successful.
Granted, anytime you have Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Tyson Barrie, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on a power play, it’s bound to be good and you want them on the ice as much as possible. All you need is a net-front presence and goals are likely to come in bunches. This season, the Oilers have almost too many weapons and it gives head coach Dave Tippett options.
Let’s, for argument’s sake, suggest that Zach Hyman gets the fifth spot on the top-unit man advantage. His job will be to dig up loose pucks, retrieve errant shots/rebounds or bang in the biscuit from close range. There are still a ton of offensive weapons on this newly-constructed Oilers roster that could have earned a shot.
Jesse Puljujarvi is growing by leaps and bounds and it’s fair to suggest he get a look before Hyman does. Puljujarvi came on strong to end last season and while he only had two power-play goals in 2020-21, the coaching staff started to use him in those types of situations. He was fifth in forwards for time-on-ice a man up and he’s likely to get more looks as he grows into the type of player he knows he needs to be and the Oilers want him to be — a hard-to-move heavy body with a net-front office.
Warren Foegele won’t get a look at the first unit, but there’s talk he could compete for a top-six spot if he catches fire early and with that might come bonus time on the power play. Like Hyman, Foegele loves to drive the net and go hard at the opposition’s goaltender. He could create nightmare scenarios on that second unit.
Rounding out the forwards, Kailer Yamomoto needs to get his offense going and if Alex Chiasson is re-signed, he’s a reliable forward who offers some proficiency in that area as well. Chiasson played 134:31 minutes in that role last season. He was the only non-top-six forward to get that kind of consideration.
When we talk about defense on the power play, we really mean scoring from the blue line. The Oilers should be excited about the prospect of this season as Evan Bouchard could be fighting for first-unit time by the end of the year. Until then, he’ll quarterback the second unit and his blue line partner will be none other than Darnell Nurse. That’s a huge advantage for the Oilers.
It could be argued that Nurse could play on the top unit, but because the Oilers use him in so many other ways, and because they have a player like Barrie to run the offense, Nurse is a luxury at that position. He’ll make a great partner for Bouchard who the Oilers hope explodes this season. Unlike in the seasons past where the coaching staff wasn’t sure they could trust players like Ethan Bear in that role, one of Bouchard’s biggest strengths will come when the Oilers are a man up. He’ll be used and used often.
Backing up Bouchard might be Duncan Keith, who won’t be looked at as a primary driver of offense on the power play, but has plenty of experience in that role. He led all Blackhawks’ defensemen in time-on-ice (131:52) when asked last season and the Blackhawks finished just outside the Top 10 in the NHL. A pretty good power play saw him in the No. 1 spot, whereas, he’ll be the No. 3 or No. 4 option in Edmonton.
Oilers Two Power Play Units
If we look at the potential options for Dave Tippett, we see a possible combination as listed below:
|Unit 1||Unit 2|
|Connor McDavid||Kyle Turris|
|Leon Draisaitl||Warren Foegele|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Jesse Puljujarvi|
|Zach Hyman||Darnell Nurse|
|Tyson Barrie||Evan Bouchard|
The one area of weakness seems to be at the center position for the second unit. This, of course, is assuming that all of the Oilers’ top centers are on the first unit. In 2020-21, McDavid and Draisaitl often played near the full two minutes of any man-advantage, so if a player like Kyle Turris can’t fill the role, there’s no reason to think the Oilers won’t be able to double dop and spread the wealth between the two leading scorers in the NHL over the past two campaigns.
The alternative would be to run two defensemen on each unit, moving a player like Nugent-Hopkins to the second unit and placing someone like Keith in beside Barrie on the first unit. That would really round out both groups, while still boasting one of the better top units in the NHL.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”