Edmonton Oilers(47-26-9: 2nd Pacific):
Well, what a surprise this team was they went from dead last in the Pacific in 2015-16 to 2nd in Pacific last season. Much should be accredited to Connor McDavid of course. Ok let’s toot McDavid’s horn he won the Hart Memorial, Ted Lindsay, and Art Ross trophy finished ahead of Sidney Crosby in points(100), had 70 assists and scored 30 goals. Okay, we get it he’s pretty good at hockey. But the Oilers have a team now centered around McDavid that looks to be here to stay. With Leon Drastically recent contract extension(7 yrs, $8.5 mil a year), Patrick Maroon who doesn’t seem to mind playing with McDavid, Milan Lucic, Ryan Strome and a couple of key role guys like Mark Letestu and Zack Kassian that help round out this roster. Along with a defense that continues to grow and get better, Oilers defense only allowed 207 goals against last season the 8th least among all teams and allowed 2.5 goals per game the 8th least again. With a defense that continues to make strides individually and as a unit, this Oilers defense seems to be one of the more reliable defenses in the league. Plus having Cam Talbot starting 70 games a season posting 42 wins, a 2.39 GAA and saving 2,117 shots a year doesn’t hurt.
Moral of the story is Edmonton has been bad for quite some time now, last season was the first time in ten years the Oilers clinched a playoff spot. The Oilers have a balanced lineup, a superstar(two superstars), a solid defense and Cam Talbot in net, they are here to stay and with the Oilers around for awhile the Pacific gets a little bit more difficult for those teams like the Sharks and Flames.
Honestly, what is there to say about the Oilers, they have McDavid and Draisaitl producing 80 plus points, Maroon tapping in goals, Lucic doing his part. Oscar Klefbom leading the defense and Kris Russell playing a sound game. But the Oilers did not win the Stanley Cup last season and for them to make that leap a few guys will need to step up and play some bigger roles such as….
Darnell Nurse: Entering his bridge deal year, Nurse has yet to contribute 70 games to the Oilers in his two years with the team, he battled injuries last season and played in 69 games in 2015-16, where he posted only 10 points. Nurse was the Oilers first round, seventh overall pick in 2013 and at 6”4, 220 pounds has not fared well with Edmonton. But with Edmonton’s success last season and looking to repeat that year, Nurse may be put into a better situation to succeed. Plus the pressure of a contract extension may help the 22-year-old defenseman produce more. He is still a big piece to this Oilers defense and if Nurse can meet the expectations many had for him, produce 40 points then the Oilers defense is even more solidified. Nurse will be a player to watch and Edmonton will be counting on him to help this team make that stride deeper into the playoffs.
Jesse Puljujarvi: What a disappointing year for the 19-year-old, after playing 28 games and failing to then be assigned to the AHL team is not a good start for the rookie. Puljujarvi just did not produce what the Oilers were expecting him to. Luckily though he is extremely young and on a team that seems to treat their young players fairly well and allow them to develop. As it seems now though Puljujarvi will be on the starting roster for next season, aside Ryan Nugent Hopkins and Milan Lucic. Next season is more of a time for Puljujarvi to prove his top six worth, play a full season and show Edmonton he is able to handle NHL play. The Oilers need this kid to produce some points next season, he was a 4th overall pick and was highly sought out coming into the season. Next season is a big step for the young forward.
Ryan Strome: Islander fans have some mixed emotions for Strome he showed some signs of light but also showed signs of being a liability out there. After being dealt over to Edmonton for Jordan Eberle, the Mississauga native gets the chance to play in Canada again. Strome will more than likely be a third line center or second line center(depending on Nugent Hopkins), at the spot alongside Drake Caggiula and Jussi Jokinen some pressure will be taken off the 24-year-old center, but the Oilers brought him for some center depth and a player that can produce 30 points a year. With some pressure off him, Strome should excel more, surrounded by some great youth and a growing franchise in Edmonton, Strome’s fresh start may do him some justice. His center depth will allow the Oilers to have more tools and options come postseason time.
Cam Talbot: Holy sh*t, Talbot started in legitimately almost every game, he didn’t start in 9 games last season. Is there even a back up in Edmonton? Seriously though, Talbot aside from McDavid was hands down the sole reason the Oilers made it into the postseason and made it past the Sharks the first round. Talbot had a career year for himself and set the bar high. He’s now in contention with some elite goalies in the NHL and is the guy Edmonton is relying on to steal a few games here and there. Talbot now at age 30, seems like a good age to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup if you’re Edmonton. Often goalies get looked upon to do more, or they are the question mark of the team, but honestly, after a 42 win year, 73 starts and a 2.39 GAA is it even possible for Talbot to do “more”? I’m sure there is more for Talbot to do, he’ll be just fine for Edmonton.
FOR MORE FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER!! @nhlhotcakes