If three weeks ago someone would have told you the Edmonton Oilers would start with a 7-2-1 record sitting second in the NHL, like most of us, you would have laughed. What specifically is leading them to their early success? Let’s take a look.
The Dynamic Duo
Starting with the obvious big two, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have nothing less than spectacular. Both top five in assists and top three for points. There were questions coming into the season if McDavid was still nursing an injury he suffered at the end of last season tearing his PCL but clearly he hasn’t missed a beat. Draisaitl has become a scoring machine with no signs of slowing down for years to come.
After what appeared to be a pretty even trade during the off-season, no one saw this coming. In a trade that saw Milan Lucic go to the Calgary Flames in exchange for James Neal, both teams were hoping to get what they wanted. The Edmonton Oilers were looking for some secondary scoring and the Calgary Flames, some grit Let’s just say one team definitely got what they were looking for. Tied for first in the NHL in goals with nine, Neal has won the hearts of fans and teammates coming out of the gates with something to prove.
Between the pipes
The Edmonton Oilers can finally play with confidence between pipes. Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen have been a fantastic 1A-1B combination. Some healthy competition between the two netminders has many questioning who is the starting goalie. Mike Smith sits with a 3-1-1 record while Mikko Koskinen sits with a perfect 4-0-0 record. Something tells us this is going to be one hell of a battle between the pipes.
Q&A With Gregor
Q: “Where do you realistically see the Oilers finishing in the Pacific Division?”
Jason Gregor: “I have them finishing 4th in the Pacific. I felt that before the Larsson injury, so I won’t change now that the season has started.”
Q: “Who gets the most games this season, Mike Smith or Mikko Koskinen?”
Jason Gregor: “Mike Smith, but I think the starts will be very close, unless someone gets injured.”
Q: “Is McDavid 100% healthy or does he still seem to be nursing his injury? Maybe he’s just playing cautious?”
Jason Gregor: “He is 100% healthy. He isn’t playing cautious at all in my eyes. He is hitting holes and showing no signs of hesitating. He looked a bit rusty to me, which is understandable considering he hasn’t been able to do what he normally does in the off-season. His game-winning goal against Vancouver, at high speed, is likely the starting point for him being his usual dominant self.”
Q: “What changes (additions or subtractions) do you think Ken Holland needs to make in order for the Oilers to make a deep playoff run?”
Jason Gregor: “A deep playoff run this year seems unlikely for me. Making the playoffs is possible, I think they do, but going deep would be a big surprise to me. They would need some of their young players in the AHL to get recalled in March and add some jump for this team. Similar to how Jake Guentzel became a huge piece for the Penguins in 2017, the Oilers would need a young player to emerge. They don’t have enough cap space to add much of significance right now.”
Q: “Battle of Alberta, how many games do the Oilers take this season?”
Jason Gregor: “I see them going 3-2. Hopefully the off-season trades and signings adds more intensity and animosity to the series.”
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