Edmonton Oilers are solid Stanley Cup contenders
By Neil Becker
By Neil Becker
It might not be a stretch to call the Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup contenders.
While hockey fans would mention such teams as the Colorado Avalanche, Tampa Bay Lightning, or Florida Panthers as favorites, I strongly believe that the Oilers should be in that group.
As all hockey fans know, Edmonton boasts two of the league’s top players in forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl who have been electrifying hockey fans for years.
Back on July 22, 2021, the Oilers showed that burning desire for winning when they signed former Toronto Maple Leafs unrestricted free agent forward Zach Hyman to a lucrative seven-year deal.
Hyman, who has been playing on the number one line with McDavid, has gotten off to a strong start with 8 goals and 13 points in the team’s first 14 games. His secondary scoring and strong defensive play are a key reason for Edmonton getting off to an impressive 11-3 start.
Meanwhile, during the season’s opening six weeks, Draisaitl has electrified Oilers Nation by getting off to a torrid start by totaling 15 goals and 31 points during those 14 games.
Captain McDavid, who is just now entering his prime, is off to his usual strong start with 10 goals and 27 points which places him just behind Draisaitl in team scoring.
Other key offensive weapons which make this team so dangerous include veteran Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who has a goal and 18 points in 14 games and former 2016 first-round Oilers draft choice Jesse Puljujarvi who has blossomed on the first line.
Coming off a career season that saw Puljujarvi score 15 goals and 25 points in 55 games, he has started this year with 6 goals and 14 points in 13 games played.
The Oilers also have lots of grinders which you need to have a successful long playoff run. Grinders such as veteran Zach Kassian, left-winger Warren Foegele and right-winger Kyle Turris to name a few.
An essential ingredient to being a Stanley Cup contender is having a number one defenceman who has some offensive flair and can log over 20 minutes of ice time. Anchoring the Oilers blueline is their 2013 first-round draft choice Darnell Nurse who just keeps on getting better. So far this season, the 26- year-old has totaled 9 assists and a +5 plus/minus rating in 13 games played this year.
Nurse, who logs over 20 minutes per game, is an efficient skater with an offensive flair who throws thunderous checks and doesn’t mind dropping the gloves.
Once again management stepped up when last July, they re-signed offensive defenceman Tyson Barrie to a three-year deal. This smooth skater, who scored 8 goals and 48 points last year, has gotten off to a decent start. So far, in 13 games, he has scored 2 goals along with 8 points.
During the off-season, Edmonton lost defenceman Adam Larson to the expansion Seattle Kraken. That being said, they signed steady unrestricted free agent Cody Ceci to a four-year $13 million dollar deal.
The Oilers blueline also has a fearless shot-blocker in veteran Kris Russell and veteran three-time Stanley Cup champion Duncan Keith. Following 16 years with the Chicago Blackhawks, Keith was on July 12, 2021, traded to the Oilers. Naturally, he brings experience and knows what it takes to win the cup and will be a valuable asset for the young defenceman.
The one major question comes in net and whether 39- year-old netminder Mike Smith can handle the workload.