Vancouver Canucks Division Preview: Edmonton Oilers

Apr 6, 2016; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Jordan Eberle (14) and forward Connor McDavid (97) discuss a plan prior to a face-off against the Vancouver Canucks at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2016; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Jordan Eberle (14) and forward Connor McDavid (97) discuss a plan prior to a face-off against the Vancouver Canucks at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

After a decade of terrible hockey, the Edmonton Oilers finally look like a team to beat in the Vancouver Canucks’ playoff pursuit.

It has been exactly a decade since the Edmonton Oilers saw playoff action for the last time. In fact, they even made it all the way to the finals that year. Since then, it was mostly high draft picks and terrible seasons for the five-time Stanley Cup champions. But 10 years after seeing the Carolina Hurricanes hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup right before their eyes, the Oilers are back in the game — which could hurt the Vancouver Canucks.

To be honest, that’s what we thought just about every year, ever since the Oilers selected Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov with the first-overall picks of three consecutive drafts. But, it took another first-overall selection, Connor McDavid in 2015, to really get them back on track.

McDavid got injured early in the season, limiting him to 45 games in his rookie year. In those 45 games, however, McDavid recorded 48 points — enough to finish the season third in team scoring.  Connor McDavid is the real deal, ranking ninth on The Hockey News’ top 50 player ranking. If McDavid leads the NHL in scoring this season, he wouldn’t surprise anyone. And that might just be enough to lift the Oilers to new heights.

Projected Lineup


Milan Lucic — Connor McDavid — Jordan Eberle
Patrick Maroon — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — Jesse Puljujarvi
Benoit Pouliot — Leon Draisaitl — Nail Yakupov
Matt Hendricks — Mark Letestu — Zack Kassian
Taylor Beck, Anton Lander, Iiro Pakarinen

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Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli wants to finally change something in Edmonton. A rebuild is all fun and games until your team gets stuck in it forever. Chiarelli is doing his best to pull the club back out, which included a ballsy trade this offseason.

The Oilers dealt Hall to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for defenseman Adam Larsson. Hall led the team in scoring with 26 goals and 65 points last season, and had done the same thing many times before. He is one of the top left wingers in the world, which shows how desperate Chiarelli was for blue-line help.

Still, the Oilers have plenty of firepower in their lineup. They signed Milan Lucic, a 20-goal scorer last season, in free agency. Lucic joins a young group that includes McDavid, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Benoit Pouliot,  Leon Draisaitl and Nail Yakupov.


Oscar Klefbom — Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera — Mark Fayne
Darnell Nurse — Brandon Davidson
Griffin Reinhart, Jordan Oesterle

Finding a right-side, top-pairing defenseman was the Oilers’ top priority for an extremely long time. Most expected Chiarelli to go hard after Colorado Avalanche blue liner Tyson Barrie, but when he signed a new deal with the Avs, Edmonton needed to make a different move. That move was the acquisition of Larsson, which will definitely help. The question is just whether Larsson really is a legitimate top-pairing player.

Whatever the answer to that may be, the Oilers got stronger on defense. Oscar Klefbom was limited to 30 games last season but should be ready to play top-pairing minutes with Larsson. Behind that, Andrej Sekera has a spot reserved, but his D-partner is still up in the air — it could be Mark Fayne, like last season, but Griffin Reinhart and Jordan Oesterle are also hoping to make the jump as full-time NHLers.

With players like Lucic, Maroon, Pouliot, Pakarinen and Beck, the Oilers got bigger and stronger over the past couple of years, and the same can be said for the defense. Klefbom, Larsson, Nurse, Reinhart and Fayne all have good size, so Chiarelli’s intentions are obvious here.


Cam Talbot
Jonas Gustavsson
Laurent Brossoit

Another major weakness the Oilers had for a long time was the goaltending position. In 2015, they acquired Cam Talbot to do the job and, after a rather rocky start, it looks like Talbot can be their guy. An improved defense should certainly help him in the future.

As a backup, the Oilers added Swede Jonas Gustavsson, who was never good enough to be an NHL starter and never bad enough to not be in the league. Gustavsson had a .908 save percentage last season, which is exactly what you can expect from him. It’s all fine as long as Talbot holds up, but if the starter gets injured, the Oilers might run into trouble.

Unless, of course, Laurent Brossoit pulls a Matt Murray and miraculously carries the team as a rookie. Brossoit played 31 games in the AHL last year, posting a .920 save percentage. He also appeared in five NHL games, recording a .873 save percentage. He will profit from another year of seasoning but could be relied on to make an NHL impact sooner rather than later.

Key Players

1. Connor McDavid

No surprise here. We only got to see him in a limited amount of games last season, but in those games, McDavid showed everyone that Sidney Crosby comparisons are no exaggeration. By the end of 2016-17, McDavid could be the best player in the NHL. That’s not saying he will be, but it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise.

2. Adam Larsson 

Larsson was drafted as an elite-talent two-way defenseman. But so far, he was more of a defensive guy, finishing the 2015-16 campaign with three goals and 18 points in 82 games. However, the Oilers really need some offense from their blue liners, and they will certainly rely on Larsson to provide some.

3. Cam Talbot

In 2015-16, the Oilers ranked 27th in goals against, with an average of 2.95 goals against per game. The defense is one way to improve that number, spending more time in the offensive zone is another. But if all else fails, it will be up to Cam Talbot to keep Edmonton in the game.


It looks like the California teams have the top-three spots in the Pacific Division reserved once again. However, Edmonton, Calgary, Arizona and Vancouver all have the intention to sneak into the playoffs. Out of those four teams, Edmonton is probably the team with the best chances — mostly thanks to McDavid.

Next: What it Takes to Make the Playoffs

It really only takes one player to win a game. Crosby, Pavel DatsyukPatrick Kane and many others have proven that. McDavid is exactly that kind of player. But if he gets injured again or the rest of the team plain sucks, there is only so much a single player can do. A single player is all it takes to win a game, but it takes more than one player to win enough games to earn a playoff spot.