There are a number of reasons why each team needs performers and players doing well in the bottom-six. Early on, the Edmonton Oilers have been spoiled by the fact that they finally have some depth at the forward position after a long absence in that regard.
The Oilers’ third line has been more than anyone could have asked for, recording a total of nine points in five games and has recorded at least a goal in each contest thus far. A coach always has to be analyzing players each game and through practices to see who could be the next man up. In this case, Warren Foegele looks like the perfect candidate. They would hate to break up a good thing right now, but if things fall into place, someone has to fill a role in the top-six.
Warren Foegele Can Play the Role
Foegele is able to play the role of retrieving pucks that players like Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Connor McDavid need on their lines. This doesn’t mean right away, but if Foegele keeps it up, he could be the right fit to fill in on the wing if someone were to go down to injury or underperform.
The only name that I would consider decreasing their role in the lineup if his play doesn’t pick up throughout the season is Kailer Yamamoto. Foegele has the versatility to play either wing, so it makes it easy for head coach Dave Tippett to slot him in on either side, depending on the situation.
The only thing that could hold Tippett back from doing this is if the Oilers’ third line continues to play well and has great chemistry all season. Then they would have to go with Brendan Perlini or Tyler Benson, so as to not break up what works. We have seen that once already this year with Perlini playing up on the second line in place of Yamamoto for a shift in Anaheim. I would really give Yamamoto a chance, but things could just continue to not go his way, carrying over from last season.
Foegele is not accustomed to playing as much as a top-six player would play, but who’s to say he wouldn’t do well in that role. He’s only 25 and has lots of room to grow and get better in the role he’s in. He works hard, and it shows every shift. He also uses his big frame to win puck battles and drives the net every opportunity he gets.
Foegele’s Past Success & Future Expectations
Foegele’s best season came in 2019-20 with the Carolina Hurricanes, a season that saw him score 13 goals and 30 points in 68 games in a similar third-line role with the team. Last season, his production dropped a little, but not to the point where it is concerning. Each team played the same opponents all season, so other factors could have affected his game a little bit. He is in the same role this season with Zack Kassian and Derek Ryan, but they have seemed to form instant chemistry and have been very effective.
This third line for the Oilers has done everything right, working hard, wearing down opponents in their zone, and adding to an offence that has long awaited depth scoring and effectiveness from the bottom-six. Foegele has a goal and three points in five games this season, the goal being a beautiful solo effort in Game 3 vs. the Anaheim Ducks. He is playing less than he did the last two seasons with the Hurricanes, but that’s the result of playing behind two lines that are on the ice almost every second shift.
Despite less time each game, I believe that Foegele can have his most productive season thus far in the NHL and reach a minimum of 35 points through a full season. If he scores at the same pace as he did two seasons ago, that would put him at 36 points in 82 games. It’s early, but he has scored 0.6 points per game thus far which would see him finish with 49, an unrealistic mark for a third liner that plays 13 to 14 minutes a night. The Oilers would be more than happy with 40 points from someone not in the top-6, as it would show just how dangerous this team is throughout the lineup.
While Foegele is still young and can easily get better playing under the likes of McDavid and Draisaitl every night, any improvement on last season would see Oilers fans and management alike breathe a sigh of relief after trading Ethan Bear for him. This is exactly what they wanted from Foegele, and one can only hope this early success continues.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. As a fantasy hockey veteran, he will be informing you on the best weekly options for your matchups to begin the week and mid-way. He will also keep you in the loop for weekly news and updates on the Oilers & Flyers.