One season removed from a 103-point outburst, the Edmonton Oilers found themselves outside of the playoffs for the 11th time in 12 seasons in 2017-18.
The Oilers finished under .500 despite Connor McDavid leading the NHL with 108 points (41G / 67A). Edmonton struggled all season long, ranking in the bottom-third of the league in all key statistical categories—20th in goals for (2.85 GF/PG), 25th in goals against (3.21 GA/PG), worst ranked power-play (14.76%) and seventh worst penalty-kill (76.73%).
This season they bring back a very similar team to the one that fell drastically short of expectations a year ago. Their biggest changes are the rookies that are expected to break camp with them. Their 2017 first-round pick, Kailer Yamamoto, is expected to skate in the top-9 right away and this summer’s No.10 overall pick, Evan Bouchard, could start on their third pair. Both players bring plenty of offence to the Oilers and they will need to score more goals if they’re going to allow over 3.00 goals per game again.
➕ Evan Bouchard (Draft)
➕ Mikko Koskinen (Free Agency)
➕ Tobias Rieder (Free Agency)
➕ Kevin Gravel (Free Agency)
➕ Kyle Brodziak (Free Agency)
Towards the end of last season, head coach Todd McLellan put Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on a line with McDavid and it worked wonders. McDavid played just 15.7 percent of his even-strength time with R.N.H, but the duo averaged a robust 35.9 scoring chances per 60. On the right side it looks like Ty Rattie will get the first chance on a star-studded line. Rattie is a former second-round pick (No.32 overall in 2011) who struggled at the NHL-level during his time in St. Louis, but has posted excellent stats in the WHL and AHL. During the preseason, Rattie flashed what he is capable of if he plays with McDavid, leading the entire preseason with seven goals and tied with the No.1 player in the world with 11 points. The pre-season certainly isn’t the same as the regular season, but Rattie definitely earned a shot to start on that line and owns tremendous sleeper upside as McDavid’s scoring winger.
Their second-line should be much better this season and take some pressure off of McDavid. Leon Draisaitl showcased he was more than capable of anchoring his own line last year, but Milan Lucic and Jesse Puljujarvi need to be infinitely better. Lucic had the worst season of his career, posting 34 points (10G / 24A) in 82 games and Puljujarvi has had two underwhelming seasons to start his career, compiling just 28 points (13G / 15A) in 93 career games. However, the third-year winger looked his best this preseason and could be poised for a breakout campaign.
— OilersNation.com (@OilersNation) September 26, 2018
Depth continues to be a bit of an issue for the Oilers, but the addition of Yamamoto should help their bototm-6. The former No.22 overall pick had 64 points (21G / 43A) in 50 WHL games last season and looked NHL-ready while finishing the preseason tied for third in points (6G / 3A). He will likely line-up with Ryan Strome, who has averaged just 11 goals and 19 assists (30 points) in three seasons since breaking out for 50 points in 2015. Tobias Rieder will likely round-out the Oilers’ top-9 after beating out Pontus Aberg in training camp.
This unit is the exact same as last season except with Bouchard replacing the injured Andrej Sekera. Bouchard fell a bit in this summer’s draft, but brings a strong two-way game with high-end offensive ability—evidenced by his 87 points (25G / 62A) in 67 games with the London Knights (OHL) last year. He should play some sheltered 5v5 minutes while seeing a lot of time on the power-play.
One player you can almost certainly expect more from this year is Oscar Klefbom. The 25-year-old burst onto the scene in 2017, but struggled last year thanks to a 2.5 shooting percentage. However, he’s gone over 200 shots in back-to-back seasons and should have no problem getting back to double-digit goals this season. Darnell Nurse stepped up while Klefbom struggled last year, but also shot a very low-percentage (3.1%), so he can be expected to get close to 10 goals as well.
Cam Talbot led the NHL in wins (42) during his second season in Edmonton, but really struggled in 2018. Talbot was 31-31-3 with a 3.02 GAA and .908 SV%, which fell way short of his career 2.32 GAA and .922 SV% he had coming into the year. Even with the struggles, Talbot will continue to be the Oilers workhorse, because they don’t have any other options. The Oilers signed 6-foot-7, 30-year-old netminder Mikko Koskinen from the KHL but he was terrible in the preseason. In three appearances, Koskinen surrendered 10 goals on 69 shots (.855 SV%) so there isn’t a lot of trust there right now.
|Connor McDavid (37)||Connor McDavid (69)||Connor McDavid (106)||Milan Lucic (9)|
|Leon Draisaitl (25)||Leon Draisaitl (45)||Leon Draisaitl (70)||Leon Draisaitl (7)|
|Milan Lucic (22)||Nugent-Hopkins (30)||Milan Lucic (52)||Nugent-Hopkins (6)|
- 1. Connor McDavid — C1
- 42. Leon Draisaitl — C15
- 100. Cam Talbot — G17
- 135. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — LW25
- 167. Oscar Klefbom — D44
- 220. Darnell Nurse — D57
- 273. Milan Lucic — LW44
Predicted Pacific Standings
2018 was terribly disappointing for a team that was viewed as a potential Stanley Cup favourite. 2019 will likely be similar to last year because the Pacific Division is loaded up top. The Sharks added Erik Karlsson, the Golden Knights added Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny and the Kings added Ilya Kovalchuk, so all three of them improved in a big way. The Oilers will push for a playoff spot because of McDavid’s brilliance, but they lack the depth on the blueline and the above-average goaltending that the other Pacific Division teams have.