After seeing his rookie season cut short by a broken clavicle, McDavid appeared in all 82 games last year and led all players with 100 points (30G / 70A). This summer, the 20-year-old took home the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award but he will be looking to add Stanley Cup to the trophy case soon. McDavid has quickly become the class of the NHL and the Oilers did their best to insulate the third-year forward heading into 2017-18.
Upon signing McDavid to an eight-year, $100M extension ($12.5M AAV), they inked his sidekick Leon Draisaitl to a deal of the same length worth $68.0M ($8.5M AAV). This summer they also signed veteran winger Jussi Jokinen to a one-year deal and traded Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for Ryan Strome.
On paper, the Oilers look like an improved team. In the early parts of training camp head coach Todd McLellan has split McDavid and Draisaitl up, which alone makes them a deeper team. So far, McDavid is skating with Patrick Maroon, who is coming off of a career-year and the aforementioned Strome, who will look to rejuvenate his career alongside the NHL’s best centre. Milan Lucic, who disappeared for a few months last year finished the year on a strong note and is poised for another 20-plus goal, 50-plus point season. The key to splitting McDavid and Draisaitl up is creating depth and making it difficult for the other team’s to match-up. The move allows Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to skate as the third-line centre and he should thrive in that role, even if he’s overpaid for it. Jokinen should be expected to join RNH on that line and the veteran is one of the more underrated playmakers in the league. He comes in on a value deal because he struggled last season but he is just one-year removed from a 60-point (18G / 42A) season. Second-year forward Jesse Puljujarvi is expected to make the team out of camp and could be an impact player after struggling to find his stride in his rookie campaign. Puljujarvi has an impressive combination of size (6’4” / 203 lbs) and skill and comes back to the Oilers after posting 12 goals and 16 assists (28 points) in 39 AHL games with Bakersfield a season ago.
Nothing has changed on the blueline, other than they will start the year without Andrej Sekera, who is expected to miss at least the first month of the year. Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larrson will both be leaned on heavily as a result, but each is coming off of the best year’s of their career’s and should be able to build off of them. Klefbom, who wasn’t a part of the No.1 power-play until about midway through last year, should be there from Day 1 this season and he should be expected to post double-digit goals with 25-plus assists yet again. Kris Russell is back after getting a four-year extension in the offseason and with Sekera out, Eric Gryba and Dillon Simpson will battle it out for the role of sixth defenseman.
Unsurprisingly, the Oilers didn’t make any moves between the pipes because Cam Talbot was an absolute workhorse for them last season and figures to do so again this year. Last year, Talbot ranked first in the NHL in games started (73) and tied with Braden Holtby for the league-lead in wins (42). Talbot also tied for 12th in GAA (2.39) and was 14th in SV% (.919) so consider him a safe No.1 fantasy option with top-5 upside. Laurent Brossoit figures to be his back-up but carries little-to-no fantasy value because he might only see 12-to-15 games all season.
McDavid is so good that he has taken the Oilers from playoff hopefuls to Pacific Division favourites in two years. After a decade without playoff hockey, the Oilers can comfortably expect to be back in the postseason this year and will challenge for the first Division title since 1986-87—the year of their third Stanley Cup and a season in which Wayne Gretzky had 183 points (62G / 121A) in 79 games.
Fantasy Rankings (Top 350)
- Connor McDavid-#1 (#1 C)
- Cam Talbot -#23 (#5 G)
- Leon Draisaitl-#28 (#6 RW)
- Milan Luci-#146 (#25 LW)
- Jussi Jokinen-#198 (#37 RW)
- Oscar Klefbom-#208 (#48 D)
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-#232 (#55 C)
- Andrej Sekera-#248 (#61 D)
- Ryan Strome-#264 (#61 C)
- Patrick Maroon-#280 (#54 LW)