NHL Team Preview: Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers are at somewhat of an organizational crossroads. They’ve got a generational talent in Connor McDavid, another bonafide star in Leon Draisaitl… and then a lot of questions after that. McDavid torched the league with 105 points in 56 games last season, a pace the NHL hasn’t seen in the past 25 years. Draisaitl finished second in the league at 84 points; the closest to either of them was Boston’s Brad Marchand at 69 points.
Since McDavid joined the team in the 2014-15 season, the Oilers have made the second round of the playoffs just once. Edmonton made several roster additions to bolster the team, but with questionable defense and goaltending, getting to the second round may still prove difficult.
The biggest roster move the Islanders made was signing Zach Hyman in free agency. If things go according to plan, Hyman will be McDavid’s left wing for the next five seasons at least. Hyman has scored 30+ points in each of the past four seasons and was lifted to the Maple Leafs’ top line last year. Last season was arguably his most productive both offensively and defensively, but Toronto was unable to afford him with their current roster makeup.
Edmonton also brought in the middle six winger Warren Foegele, who was previously caught in a logjam of wingers with the Carolina Hurricanes. A strong two-way forward, Foegele should get a chance to thrive with the change of scenery.
Also in the bottom six forward group is Derek Ryan. A defense-first forward, Ryan provides the desperately needed structural depth needed to keep the Oilers in the lead.
On the back end, the Oilers traded for longtime Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith. A two-time Norris Trophy winner, three-time Stanley Cup champion, and a Conn Smythe winner as the most valuable player in the playoffs, Keith is one of the top defensemen in NHL history. While he isn’t as fast as he used to be, Keith will be a vital part of the Edmonton defense and a mentor to younger players (like Evan Bouchard) working their way through the ranks.
Instead of using this space to laud McDavid and Draisaitl, there are a few other players I’d like to highlight here. First and foremost is goaltender Mike Smith. Between the pipes, Smith will have the biggest impact on the season of any player outside of those two.
Smith will turn 40 during the season, and while he was still productive last season (21-6-2, 2.31 GAA, .923 save percentage, three shutouts), at some point, his age will catch up with him. He is the second-oldest goaltender in the league behind Buffalo’s Craig Anderson, and the dropoff is likely coming soon. However, Smith is under contract with the Islanders for this season AND next year. With no disrespect to Smith, the Oilers cannot continue to play a 40-year-old goaltender during McDavid’s prime years and expect to win.
Another player to watch is defenseman Evan Bouchard. The 10th overall pick in the 2018 Draft, Bouchard has three goals and three assists in 21 career games. He has great reach and is a smooth skater with great hockey sense, and if Edmonton is going to make a deep playoff run, Bouchard will need to have a productive season.
Finally, Jesse Puljujarvi had a strong season in 2021 and should continue that play into the 2021-22 campaign. His 1.53 points per 60 were solid for second-line work, but if he plays on the top line, the fourth overall pick in 2016 will need to take another step forward. He certainly can, given his active work on the forecheck. Puljujarvi also had 0.97 expected goals per 60, and if he worked on improving his shot during the offseason, that number should increase this year.
Edmonton Oilers Season Predictions and Odds
2021-22 Over/Under Point Total: OVER 99.5 (+100), UNDER 99.5 (-120) Pacific Division Title Odds: +380 (second-best) Western Conference Champions Odds: +900 (third-best) Stanley Cup Odds: +2000 (eighth-best)
* All odds provided by Action247 Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
**All views expressed are my own. My picks are my own and are not a guarantee, bet at your own risk.