Peter Chiarelli’s time finally ran out after another wasting another season of Connor McDavid’s prime in 2018-19. Long-time Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland now sits atop the Edmonton Oilers’ brass as he tries to fill the obvious holes on the roster left by Chiarelli. Holland gets the chance to build around a truly generational talent with some relatively low expectations after the Oilers sputtered through a 79-point campaign in 2018-19.
Holland was relatively quiet in his first off-season in Edmonton, but he did execute a savvy trade to land a valuable depth piece in James Neal. Edmonton’s key additions from the off-season include:
- James Neal (Trade): Acquired for Milan Lucic and a 2020 third-round pick.
- Mike Smith (UFA): Signed a one-year, $2M contract.
- Markus Granlund (UFA): Signed a one-year, $1.3M contract.
- Joakim Nygard: Signed a one-year, entry-level contract.
- Josh Archibald (UFA): Signed a one-year, $1M contract.
- Riley Sheahan (UFA): Signed a one-year, $900K contract.
- Tomas Jurco (UFA): Signed a one-year, $750K contract.
Holland did an admirable job of shoring up the Oilers’ depth up front, but their top-nine still lacks quality play-drivers at 5v5 outside of McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and the blue-line remains an issue. You never want to count out McDavid, but the Oilers still don’t look like a playoff team.
The Oilers’ offense will continue to be the Draisaitl and McDavid show in 2019-20. Without any other real play drivers on the roster, Edmonton will struggle to create offense when their two superstars are off the ice. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins works best in a complementary role, so it will be interesting to see whether Dave Tippett opts to start the season with Nuge or Draisaitl as his number-two centre.
Connor McDavid (C)
- — Coming off his third-straight season with at least 100 points, McDavid is the safest bet you can make on draft day. His usage should continue to be sky-high after playing almost 23 minutes a night last season. 100 points seem like a near-lock for McDavid, but he could have a hard time getting back over 40 goals if he can’t improve on his shot volume. He scored 41 times on 240 shots last season (17.1%). His usage and otherworldly talent make him a consensus top-two pick, and he is the only player with a real argument for going ahead of Nikita Kucherov in standard formats.
Leon Draisaitl (C/LW)
- — Draisaitl broke out in a major way last season, posting career-highs in goals (50), assists (55), and shots on goal (231). Last year’s 21.6% SH% is an obvious red flag, and he won’t get back to 50 goals without finding a way to get more pucks on net. I’d expect him to fall back to around a 40-goal, 90-point pace in 2019-20. Incredible production, but not enough to warrant a top-five selection for me.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C/LW)
- — Nuge quietly had a career year last season, potting 28 goals and adding 41 assists across a full 82 games. He’s a must-start when he’s skating alongside McDavid but struggles to keep his production afloat when he’s centering his own line. There’s plenty of upside here, but the uncertainty surrounding his role is a significant damper to his fantasy value.
James Neal (LW/RW)
- — The move to Edmonton has created a lot of fantasy hype for Neal, and for good reason. Heck, even Zack Kassian was a viable streaming option when he slotted in next to McDavid and Draisaitl last year. Still, with just seven goals and 12 assists to his name last season, it’s best to let someone else burn a roster spot on Neal come draft day.
The continued development of players like Darnell Nurse and Evan Bouchard will be key to the success of Edmonton’s blue-line this season. As it sits right now, Nurse, Bouchard, Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson are an underwhelming group of top-four defensemen, to put it lightly. Nurse and Klefbom will have to continue to eat huge minutes, as Kris Russell and Matt Benning need to be sheltered at 5v5.
Darnell Nurse (D)
- — Nurse enjoyed a bit of a breakout campaign in 2018-19. He registered 10 goals and 31 assists despite Klefbom seeing most of the power-play time with Draisaitl and McDavid. It’s a situation that is worth monitoring during training camp and the pre-season. Nurse could be a legitimate number-one fantasy defenseman if he can usurp Klefbom on the power-play.
Oscar Klefbom (D)
- — Unlike Nurse, Klefbom needs that top power-play time to stay fantasy relevant. He has struggled to produce at even strength over his career and would not be worth rostering without his spot on the top unit. A shaky floor without a lot of upside is enough to convince me to stay away from Klefbom this season.
The Oilers brought in Smith in the off-season for some added insurance should Mikko Koskinen struggle with consistency again this season. Smith, now 37-years-old, saw his game take a nosedive last year in Calgary. Ideally, for Edmonton and fantasy players alike, one of these guys will run away with the number-one job, but this is looking more and more like a timeshare.
Mike Smith (G)
- — After posting three-straight seasons with at least a .914 SV%, father time seemed to finally catch up with Smith last year. His .898 SV% was the worst mark he’s posted over his 13-year-career, and that was playing behind a much more defensively-sound team in the Flames. Aging, time-sharing netminder on a lackluster defensive team is not someone you want to invest in on draft day.
Mikko Koskinen (G)
- — Though consistency was a major issue, Koskinen certainly had his moments last season. The .906 SV% he ended up with was nothing to write home about, but the .916 mark he posted over the first three months of the season leaves room for optimism. I like his upside more than Smith’s, but Smith does seem to have the leg up on the starting gig heading into training camp.
Projected Scoring Leaders
|C. McDavid (44)||C. McDavid (75)||C. McDavid (119)||L. Draisaitl (12)||C. McDavid (28)|
|L. Draisaitl (39)||L. Draisaitl (56)||L. Draisaitl (95)||C. McDavid (7)||L. Draisaitl (25)|
|R. Nugent-Hopkins (27)||R. Nugent-Hopkins (33)||R. Nugent-Hopkins (60)||R. Nugent-Hopkins (6)||R. Nugent-Hopkins (18)|
Oilers in the DFO Top 300
- 1 — Connor McDavid (C)
- 7 — Leon Draisaitl (C/LW)
- 111 — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C)
- 159 — Darnell Nurse (D)
- 169 — Oscar Klefbom (D)
- 206 — Mike Smith (G)
- 218 — Mikko Koskinen (G)
- 243 — Evan Bouchard (D)
- 280 — James Neal (LW/RW)
|2||CALGARY FLAMES||44-29-9||97 PTS|
|4||ARIZONA COYOTES||39-32-11||89 PTS|
|5||EDMONTON OILERS||39-34-9||87 PTS|
|7||ANAHEIM DUCKS||36-36-10||82 PTS|
There are some obvious flaws on the roster, but Edmonton’s incredibly-talented core gives them the edge over the Pacific’s basement dwellers. The defense is a major concern, but the Oilers could seemingly push for a playoff spot if they somehow get above average goaltending out of Koskinen and Smith. There are a lot of bad teams in the West, but only one of them has Connor McDavid.