The Edmonton Oilers top line to start the pre-season will consist of two former first overall draft picks and a player who has yet to become an NHL regular.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid and Ty Rattie were together for the final 12 games of last season. While Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid should again be offensive leaders for the Oilers, Rattie is still trying to stake his claim as a full-time NHLer.
“I thought about it every day,” said Rattie, of the opportunity to play with McDavid.
Rattie, drafted 32nd overall by St. Louis in 2011, has played just 49 NHL games. He showed well during that 12-game run last season, putting up nine points.
“This is kind of a do-or-die,” Rattie said of this opportunity. “I’ve had my chances. I’ve been through a few teams. You only have so many chances before the league says maybe you can’t do it.”
While Rattie’s longevity on that line may be in question, there isn’t much doubt that Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid will form a deadly duo.
“I thought we clicked pretty well at the end of last year and through Worlds,” said Nugent-Hopkins, who tied a career-high with 24 goals last season.
He admits he had to get used to playing with McDavid.
“I was always kind of looking for him and playing off him. When we clicked the best, I just continued to play the way that I play and just read the game the same.”
“We had success, we had days when we weren’t so good. We have to find a way to click early and build some chemistry,” McDavid said.
“I’m definitely hopeful that there’s a line that clicks so we can build and work on our game together. Last year, we kind of bounced around lines and we didn’t find something solid until the end of the year.”
“They think similarly. They complement each other,” head coach Todd McLellan said.
“Nuge can keep up and keep plays alive for Connor. Rattie, Nuge, Connor, have to get it done when it’s really tough early in the year. We believe they can.”
The Oilers opened training camp Thursday morning with medical and physical testing. Darnell Nurse wasn’t in attendance as he remains without a contract.
“The business aspect of the game has nothing to do with the coaching staff or anyone who’s in training camp,” McLellan said.
“Darnell is a hell of a player. He’s a great human being. We all want him to be here. He’s also a businessman, and so is our management team. They’ll work things out eventually. It’ll get done.”
The Oilers first on-ice sessions are set for Friday morning.