Things are Looking Up in Edmonton

USATSI_9607181_154158418_lowresLike the New York Rangers, the Edmonton Oilers are 2-1-0. And like the New York Rangers, the Edmonton Oilers have been able to score a lot of goals (14) early in the season.

But while many expect the Rangers to do rather well down the stretch and ease into the post-season, expectations are a little more modulated for the Oilers. Perhaps it’s a case of past history. Perhaps it’s simple realism.

Or perhaps it’s time for the Oilers to finally come around.

There are, after all, a lot of reasons for optimism in Edmonton.

Connor McDavid is at the top of that list. He has six points in three games, including three goals and three assists. He is growing into his role as team captain and, as of Monday night, contributed to 6.4 scoring chances per game at even strength. Last season, McDavid contributed to 4.6 scoring chances per game.

Milan Lucic has also panned out thus far. He’s the big, bruising winger the Oilers have needed and he looks every bit the Semenko to McDavid’s Gretzky. It may seem a lofty comparison for now, but the 19-year-old captain has a lot of hockey to play and Lucic could have a lot to do with his success on the scoreboard.

There is more toughness on the roster, too. Zack Kassian and Eric Gryba can play punishing hockey, as can Patrick Maroon.

The scoring has balanced out a little beyond McDavid, with Leon Draisaitl picking up five points in three games and Jordan Eberle contributing four points in three games. Defenceman Kris Russell has posted three helpers and looks locked in on the blueline.

Sure, there are problems.

Goalie Cam Talbot has been shaky and the Oilers have allowed a disappointing 13 goals against, with only the Calgary Flames allowing more. Darnell Nurse has looked better, too, and could benefit from a little AHL conditioning.

But there is a pretty significant bright side in Edmonton and the kids are alright, at least for now. If McDavid can hold it down as team captain and benefit from the surrounding grit, he could put serious points on the board.

And if general manager Peter Chiarelli can make a few necessary tweaks along the way, Edmonton fans could christen the brand new Rogers Place with a playoff run sooner than they think.

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