It’s safe to say that expectations are high for the Edmonton Oilers going into the 2017-2018 season. They came close to landing in the Western Conference Final last season and finished well in numerous statistical categories. They had the fifth best power play in the league and the eighth best goals and goals against totals.
Changes, therefore, were minimal. The Oilers did sign forward Connor McDavid to a massive contract and followed up by signing Leon Draisaitl to a deal of his own. Jordan Eberle was traded to the New York Islanders to make room, while Jussi Jokinen was signed to a one-year deal. Edmonton also bought out Benoit Pouliot.
The goal now is to push further. The Oilers came up against a tough Anaheim Ducks team in the post-season and got out to an early series lead before losing four of the last five games. The experience was valuable, but it’s not something Edmonton wants to repeat. And with any luck, they won’t.
McDavid came out for his first full NHL season and did not disappoint. The 20-year-old settled in for 100 points in 82 games, including 30 goals and 70 assists. He had 27 points on the power play and rose to the challenge of the playoffs with nine points in 13 games. McDavid spent considerable time beside Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon and should be up for more of the same in 2017-2018.
Draisaitl had 77 points in 82 games last season and followed up with 16 points in 13 playoff games, making him the Oilers’ leading scorer in the post-season. The German is a slick playmaker and he’s found chemistry with McDavid, giving Edmonton a solid one-two punch up front. In a pinch, the Oilers could move him to the second line as a centre.
Milan Lucic sits near the top of the depth chart and should see a fair bit of ice time in 2017-2018. He had 50 points last season, including 23 goals and 27 assists in 82 games. He followed up with six points in 13 playoff games and averaged around 17 minutes in the regular season and the post-season. The 29-year-old is a prototypical power forward and he’ll cover a lot of statistical ground.
Maroon benefitted greatly from skating with Draisaitl and McDavid and should be up for more of the same in 2017-2018. He had 42 points in 81 games last season, including 27 goals. 24 of his goals were even strength markers and he was second only to McDavid in that category. He set career highs in goals, points, shots on goal, and plus/minus in 2016-2017.
Swedish blueliner Oscar Klefbom had a dozen goals and a total of 38 points last season and should be back for more in 2017-2018, especially with Andrej Sekera out until November with a torn ACL. Klefbom averaged more than 23 minutes of ice time in the post-season and is one of Edmonton’s best players in terms of pure positioning. He can play shutdown hockey and is a power play factor.
Adam Larsson posted 19 points last season and averaged 20:08 of ice time. He was a beast in the playoffs, scoring two goals and adding four assists in 13 games. He averaged 23:43 of ice time in the post-season and used his big point shot to generate chances on the power play. Larsson will log more minutes in Sekera’s absence and could see an increased role in Edmonton.
The Oilers signed defenceman Kris Russell to a four-year deal and the 30-year-old will earn his paycheque in 2017-2018. He posted 13 points in 68 games last season and added four assists in the playoffs, but his value comes in intangibles. He’s also a boss at blocking shots and skates confidently with and without the puck.
Cam Talbot had an outstanding year. He led the league with 73 starts (!!!) and posted 42 wins, tying Braden Holtby for the league lead. The 30-year-old may see an abridged workload in 2017-2018 or he may return for more of the same. Either way, Talbot should pile up at least 40 wins. He had a goals against average of 2.39 and a save percentage of .922 in 2016-2017, plus he put together seven shutouts.
24-year-old backup goalie Laurent Brossoit had just four starts last season to go with a few minutes in relief. He finished with four wins, a 1.99 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. In 28 minutes of playoff action, Brossoit allowed two goals on eight shots. He’s a resilient netminder, however, and should see more starts in 2017-2018.