Are the narratives that the Oilers are wasting Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl dead? Sure, Edmonton still hasn’t been to the Stanley Cup Finals with the best player in the league and another guy who is in the top-five. But they built a much better team last year, and in the heated Battle of Alberta, came out on top. After beating the Flames, they went to the Conference Finals, but lost to the Avalanche. But is there shame in losing to a team as good as Colorado? The Avalanche have taken a step back on paper. Is this Edmonton’s year?
Offseason additions: G Jack Campbell, F Mattias Janmark, D Ryan Murray, F Greg McKegg.
Offseason subtractions: D Duncan Keith, G Mikko Koskinen, F Zack Kassian, D Kris Russell, F Kyle Turris, F Colton Sceviour, F Derick Brassard.
Of course, you have to start with McDavid. He is so ridiculously good that the Oilers will throw anyone on his line and he makes it work. He scored 44 goals with 79 assists for 123 points, capturing his fourth Art Ross Trophy in seven seasons. He received some heat after the Jets swept the Oilers in four games last year, and he scored just once. But McDavid responded in grand fashion, scoring 10 goals with a total of 33 points in 16 playoff games. The Zach Hyman contract still won’t age well in all likeliness, but he brought exactly what the Oilers needed in his first year. Hyman scored a career-high 27 goals with 54 points in 76 games. Despite a very good 3.11 xGF/60, Hyman had an actual goals for per 60 of just 2.54, signaling that his best could be to come. The controversial decision to sign Evander Kane midseason paid off on the ice enough to where the team extended him for four more seasons. Kane scored 22 goals with 39 points in 43 regular season games, then scored 13 goals in the playoffs. However, he served a costly suspension when the team was eliminated.
He only finished ninth in Hart voting, but Leon Draisaitl scored 55 goals while matching the 110 points he had in his Hart-winning 2019-20 season. Draisaitl doesn’t get enough credit for how good of a scorer he is. He has sustained a 17.6 percent shooting rate over his career. Even Alex Ovechkin is under 13. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has dialed back on his goal scoring in recent seasons, instead becoming a playmaker. He scored just 11 goals in 63 games, but had 39 assists. Nugent-Hopkins’ goal scoring rates increased in the playoffs, as he scored six times in 16 games. Following a tough 2020-21 season, Kailer Yamamoto rebounded with his first 20 goal season. He had a total of 41 points while playing with either McDavid or Draisaitl. Yamamoto gets judged a ton for his height, something that isn’t unique to him. But he is still a physical player, with 114 hits last season.
The Oilers and analytical darling Jesse Puljujarvi seemed destined for a divorce this offseason, but the two sides agreed to a one-year deal. Puljujarvi scored 14 goals with 36 points in 65 games last year. That isn’t anything special before you factor in the effects of playing on Edmonton. But Puljujarvi led the team with both a 59.1 xGF% and a 64.4 GF%. Only Kane and McDavid were on the ice for more goals for per 60 in the regular season. In his first full season, former second-rounder Ryan McLeod didn’t play a ton and had 21 points in 71 games. He was solid defensively, with the second-best xGA/60 on the team. The offense wasn’t there, but he also suffered the lowest on-ice shooting percentage on the team. Promising defender Ethan Bear was traded before last season for Warren Foegele, who gave standard bottom-six production. Foegele had 26 points with 127 hits in the regular season. But he didn’t help enough in the playoffs, with just one assist in 13 games.
Defensive forward Mattias Janmark signed with the Oilers. While his production, 25 points in 67 games, is similar to Foegele, Janmark is not as physical. He had just 19 hits with 21 penalty minutes, although the latter is more of a positive. Center Derek Ryan won 55.9 percent of his face-offs, just over his career number of 55.5 percent. He scored 10 goals and was one of 71 players to receive a Lady Byng vote. Journeyman Devin Shore played in 49 games in his second season with the Oilers. He gave the team no offense, which is to be expected, but his xGA/60 was bottom-six on the team. Another well-traveled player is Greg McKegg, who is entering his tenth NHL season. The Oilers would be his eighth team. McKegg played in 43 games for the Rangers last year, the third-most in his career.
As Darnell Nurse’s huge contract extension kicks in, there has to be some sense of regret at the $9.25 million cap hit that he carries. Predictably, he didn’t match the 16 goals and 36 points he had in 56 games the season prior, but Nurse still had 35 points in 71 games. Averaging over 25 minutes a game, Nurse blocked 132 shots with 196 hits. He has triple-digits in both of those categories in each of the past five seasons. Evan Bouchard finally got a shot to play consistently, and he flourished. Bouchard scored 12 goals with 31 assists for 43 points in 81 games. He added nine more points in the postseason.
The Oilers found a much-needed defenseman in Brett Kulak, who they extended after acquiring at the deadline. Kulak had good two-way numbers on a lowly Montreal team, then had a 57.9 xGF% with eight points in the regular season after the trade. Kulak has received third-pairing ice time for most of his career, but has shown that he can handle a bigger role. Tyson Barrie saw his ice time get cut back in his second season with the team, becoming more of a power play specialist. Of his 41 points, 21 of them were on the man advantage. His defense wasn’t crippling this year, as he had a 2.6 xGA/60 and a 2.49 GA/60.
Philip Broberg gets a ton of slack since he is not Trevor Zegras, the guy drafted directly behind him in 2019. Broberg made both his AHL and NHL debut last year, with 23 points in 31 AHL games, and three in 23 NHL matches. He had just a 36.85 GF%, but don’t read too much into that as he had a 92.7 PDO. Cody Ceci set a career-high in points in his first Oiler season. He had 28 points in 78 games with 121 blocks and 117 hits. Ceci’s 52.3 xGF% was the sixth-best on the team. Only Puljujarvi, McDavid, Nurse, Hyman, and Bouchard were better. For the second consecutive season, Slater Koekkoek was a depth defender who received limited ice time when he did play. Koekkoek has five points in 37 games over the past two years. Both Koekkoek and Ryan Murray were top-ten picks in 2012, with Murray going second behind famous Oiler Nail Yakupov. Murray signed a one-year deal with Colorado last year, playing in 37 games but none in the postseason. Injuries have long been a problem for him.
With Mike Smith expected to go on LTIR, the Oilers finally have their franchise goalie. After building his stock up and then down in Toronto, Jack Campbell signed a five-year, $25 million deal this offseason with Edmonton. Campbell had a solid .914 save percentage and a 2.64 GAA before struggling in the playoffs. His GSAx was nearly minus-eight. However, Campbell also had a 2.15 GAA in 2020-21 and was amazing in that year’s postseason. Keep an eye on Stuart Skinner, a 23-year-old who was impressive in 13 games last season. He had a .913 save percentage while both Smith and Mikko Koskinen were struggling.
Evander Kane – Connor McDavid – Zach Hyman
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Warren Foegele – Ryan McLeod – Jesse Puljujarvi
Mattias Janmark – Derek Ryan – Devin Shore
Scratched: Greg McKegg
Darnell Nurse – Evan Bouchard
Brett Kulak – Tyson Barrie
Philip Broberg – Cody Ceci
Scratched: Slater Koekkoek, Ryan Murray