Bright Future Ahead for the Edmonton Oilers
After experiencing about a decade of futility, it appears that the Edmonton Oilers are back on the NHL's map and will now be Stanley Cup contenders for the next several years.
For starters, the Oilers proved that for the first time in a long time, they can have success in the regular season. Last year, the Oilers finished fourth in what is an extremely tough Western Conference, cracking 100 points and coming within three victories of 50 on the season.
The club also showed that they could be competitive when it matters most: the Stanley Cup playoffs. In their return to the postseason for the first time in ten seasons, the Oilers were able to knock off the 2016 Cup finalist San Jose Sharks in six games in the first round and were able to be extremely competitive in a hard fought seven game series loss in the second round to the Anaheim Ducks.
While this is technically considered now to be part of the past, the Oilers are set-up to be Cup contenders for at least the next several years to come. It all starts with superstar Connor McDavid.
After having an injury-shortened season in his rookie year in 2015-16, McDavid, the Oilers team captain and fresh off an 8-year, $100 million contract extension, came back and took the hockey world by storm. He won the Art Ross Trophy as the league's top scorer by posting 100 points (30 goals and 70 assists), the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player and the Ted Lindsay award as the league's most valuable player as voted on by his peers.
It is clear that he is one of the best players in the world and that at just 20 years of age, has an extremely bright future in this league. To make that happen, however, McDavid needs to have a strong supporting cast.
This is exactly what the Oilers have in place both now and in the future for the face of their franchise. It starts with the team's depth up front.
Behind McDavid is 21-year-old Leon Draisaitl. Not only did Draisaitl have a big regular season with 29 goals and 48 assists for 77 points, but he was also the team's best player in the playoffs with 6 goals and 10 assists for 16 points. Hopefully, the Oilers will be able to keep him in the fold as the RFA has yet to come to terms on a new contract with the club.
The team also has the likes of Milan Lucic (23 goals and 27 assists for 50 points), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (18 goals and 25 assists for 43 points), Patrick Maroon (27 goals and 15 assists for 42 points), Mark Letestu (16 goals and 19 assists for 35 points), Ryan Strome (13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points) and Jussi Jokinen (11 goals and 17 assists for 28 points). Going forward, offense should not be a problem for this franchise.
Defensively, the Oilers are very young, but extremely talented and even reliable. Guys like Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse, Andrej Sekera, Kris Russell, and Oscar Klefbom are all expected to be big contributors for this team both now and into the future.
In net, the team has one of the better goaltenders in the league in Cam Talbot. Last year, the 20-year-old masked man racked up 42 wins while posting a 2.39 goals against average, a .919 save percentage and 7 shutouts.
No pun intended, but this franchise looks to be on the cusp of being a "well-oiled machine" not only for this upcoming season, but for many years to come.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.