Dating back to the Oilers inaugural season in 1972, and including Ryan Smyth’s one game as captain, the Oilers have had 18 captains in their franchise’s history. With training camp kicking off on September 22nd, the Oilers appear set to name the team’s 19th captain.
Here we go
“We’ll select a captain at some point throughout training camp,” McLellan told NHL.com yesterday. “We’ll pick a captain when we’re all around and together as a group.”
McLellan noted that with the World Cup of Hockey right around the corner, it is likely the team will announce a captain just before the season.
For the first time in the franchise’s history, the Oilers did not have a player wearing the “C” during the 2015-16 season. On October 7th, 2015, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Todd McLellan, alongside Andrew Ference, announced his demotion from the captaincy.
Opting to go with four alternates, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, and Andrew Ference was a move that bought the new management and coaching staff time to evaluate the team and get to know the personnel.
With Taylor Hall no longer being in the picture, the list of candidates can be boiled down to roughly four or five players.
As one of the longest serving Oilers, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has come into his own and is arguably a top two-way centre in the NHL. His leadership capabilities are known, as he has been tasked with the responsibility of being an assistant captain with the Oilers for three of the past four seasons. A player who isn’t known as being rambunctious, on or off the ice, Nugent-Hopkins does have experience as a captain as he occupied the role during the 2013 World Juniors, where he led the tournament in scoring.
As of this writing, Jordan Eberle is the longest serving Oilers and has worn an ‘A’ for the last five seasons, Like Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle has come into his own and is regarded as another leader and core member for the Edmonton Oilers. Scoring 331 points in his 425 games as an Oiler, Eberle has been one of the teams most consistent producers. While he doesn’t have experience as a captain in the past, it is clear he is a candidate to be the teams next captain.
After signing a seven year contract with the Oilers this offseason, Milan Lucic could be considered as an option to be the Oilers captain. The rugged winger has never worn a letter during his NHL tenure, but has been known as a leader during his time in Boston and his one year stint with the L.A. Kings. Lucic brings with him a veteran presence, as well as the ability to contribute.
Matt Hendricks has had his name thrown around as another option for the Oilers captaincy. Known as a true leader on and off the ice, Hendricks encapsulates everything you want in a captain. However, the true concern here is Hendricks’ age and his impending expiring contract. How much gas does he have left in the tank? He would likely only be a stop-gap captain at this point.
Despite these three players being options, the one that might make the most sense is Connor McDavid. What is there to say about him? Connor has come into his own as an NHLer despite only having 45 pro games under his belt. Dubbed the next great one by many, there is no denying that this kid is going to rip up the league for a number of years after putting up over a point per game in his rookie season to go alongside his Calder Trophy nomination.
Who will it be?
At this point in time, all fingers point to Connor McDavid being named the youngest captain in the NHL’s history.
His Oiler teammates sure had good things to say about him this spring:
“I think, on the ice, he does everything the right way,” said Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot. “He doesn’t take shortcuts, he’s always the first one up the ice, first guy back on the backcheck. He leads by example on and off the ice, just the way he carries himself. There’s different ways that you can lead and it doesn’t always have to be vocal and Connor is just one of those guys who leads by example and that’s a guy you can follow.”
“I think on the ice he was everything and more,” said Taylor Hall, who hosted the rookie in his Edmonton home. “By the end of the year, he was our leader on the ice and I think with all the expectations that are on him, the way he conducts himself off the ice and the kind of kid he is I think it’s been a lot of fun to be around him.”
“He didn’t make any noise in terms of all the autographs he had to sign when we go on the road and all the people that wanted to see him,” said Oilers veteran Matt Hendricks. “He was very business-like, took care of it and moved on to the group and wanted to be a part of it. I think Connor has a lot of attributes, in terms of his playing ability, but I see him as a very good leader as well.”
“Absolutely. Absolutely, he could be,” said Hendricks, who doesn’t know when the 19-year-old should be expected to take on that role.
“That’s not a question for me, but you’ve seen players at his age wear the ‘C’ after their first year or so, but I have no doubt in my mind he’d excel at it.”
Who should the Oilers name the team’s 19th captain? Tweet me if you think it should be someone not listed.
— zach laing (@zjlaing) August 23, 2016
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