The kids have gone back to school and the NFL started last weekend which means one thing for hockey fans…the NHL is almost back!
We are officially 23 days away from puck-drop on the 2017-18 NHL season and it’s time to look at what you should expect from the Oilers’ top players.
If you are not familiar with me, I am the Editor-in-Chief of DailyFaceoff.com, where I do yearly projections for all players expected to make NHL rosters this fall. My projections hit the web last Tuesday and today we’ll look at who (I think) the Oilers’ top-10 scorers will be during the upcoming season.
1. Connor McDavid (C)
|2016-17 Season Stats||82||30||70||100|
McDavid was on-pace for 88 points during his rookie season before he had it cut short by a broken clavicle. He returned in 2016-17 with a full bill of health and torched the NHL with 30 goals and 70 assists (100 points) in 82 games.
McDavid is simply sensational, combining ridiculous mitts with outrageous speed and has become the class of the field in just 127 regular season games. McDavid might win the scoring race for the next decade and he is the only player in the NHL that you can confidently project to score over 100 points.
2. Leon Draisaitl (C/RW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||82||29||48||77|
In 2015-16, Draisaitl showcased what he is capable of by producing 51 points (19G / 32A) in 72 games. He took his game to another level last year, finishing the year eighth in the NHL in points (77), tied for ninth in assists (48) and tied for 27th in goals (29).
Draisaitl spent a lot of time on McDavid’s wing, but he is expected to play centre during the 2017-18 season—he was between Milan Lucic and Drake Caggiula during the first day of training camp. The 21-year-old playing on the second line makes the Oilers a much deeper team and his great playmaking ability should help bring along the Oilers’ wingers.
3. Milan Lucic (LW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||82||23||27||50|
Lucic’s Oilers career got off to a solid start, posting 17 points (7G / 10A) in his first 24 games, but cooled off in January and February, registering just nine points in 26 games. He ended up finishing the year on a high, and recorded 50-plus points for five times in the last six full seasons.
The 29-year-old winger is a big physical presence, who is a safe bet for 20 goals and 25-plus assists, with upside. Lucic will either play with McDavid or Draisaitl, giving him a tonne of potential for success in his second year in Edmonton.
4. Jussi Jokinen (LW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||69||11||17||28|
Jokinen is one of the most underrated forwards in the NHL and the Oilers landed a sneaky signing this summer, inking the veteran to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million. Jokinen isn’t going to score 25 goals, but he is just one year removed from a 42-assist, 60-point season and will help a young Oilers’ forward group. Jokinen is a great playmaker, who will help players like Jesse Puljujarvi find the back of the net this season.
5. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C)
|2016-17 Season Stats||82||18||25||43|
Nugent-Hopkins has yet to blossom into the elite-level forward that he was expected to become when he was drafted No.1 overall in 2011. RNH has a career-high of 56 points and has not topped 50 points in the last two seasons.
Nugent-Hopkins is a strong playmaker thanks to his great vision, but he has fallen behind McDavid and Draisaitl on the depth chart, limiting his upside entering the 2017-18 campaign.
6. Ryan Strome (C/RW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||69||13||17||30|
Strome was the No.5 overall pick in 2011 (four spots after RNH) and it looked like was going to have a great career after recording 50 points (17G / 33A) in his second NHL season. Since then he has just 21 goals and 37 assists (58 points) in his last 140 games and was acquired for Jordan Eberle this summer.
During the first day of training camp, Strome skated on McDavid’s wing which makes him a potential breakout candidate, if that sticks. He has the ability to play centre as well, so if the Oilers elect to move Draisaitl back to the wing, Strome could take his spot in the middle.
The 24-year-old has great hands and playmaking ability, which makes him a nice fit with Connor and Patrick Maroon.
7. Patrick Maroon (LW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||81||27||15||42|
Maroon registered just 34 goals in his first 220 career NHL games, but exploded for 27 goals in 81 games last year. Maroon wasn’t expected to play on McDavid’s wing, but that’s what happened and the big winger (6-foot-3 / 227 lbs.) enjoyed a tonne of success.
It’s tough to expect Maroon to re-create this numbers in 2017-18 but playing alongside McDavid makes anything possible. Maroon skated with two great playmakers (McDavid and Strome) in the first day of training camp, making the 29-year-old an obvious 20-goal candidate.
8. Jesse Puljujarvi (RW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||28||1||7||8|
Puljujarvi was drafted No.4 overall last summer and made the Oilers out of training camp, but found himself back in Bakersfield (AHL) after 28 games. He struggled to make an impact with the Oilers, but had 28 points (12G / 16A) in 39 AHL games and comes into 2017-18 expected to make the team yet again.
The 19-year-old moves well for a big-man (6-foot-4 / 203 lbs.) and has gamebreakinig talent and an elite-level shot. Puljujarvi skated on the third line in training camp on Monday, but he doesn’t have too much competition for a promotion—currently Strome and Caggiula stand in his way from playing with McDavid.
9. Oscar Klefbom (D)
|2016-17 Season Stats||82||12||26||38|
Klefbom has a great two-way game, which allowed the Oilers to lean heavily on him last year. Klefbom saw a big uptick in power-play time and he turned that into 16 power-play points (3G / 13A). The 24-year-old is one of the top young defenseman in the NHL and he is a candidate for double-digit goals and 25-plus assists again this season.
10. Mark Letestu (C)
|2016-17 Season Stats||78||16||19||35|
Letestu is an unusual commodity. In 2016-17, he averaged just 9:49 TOI/GM at even-strength but played over two minutes per night on both the power-play and penalty kill. He was able to parlay all of the PP usage into 11 PPG’s and a career-high 35 points. The veteran will continue to be a weapon on the Oilers’ power-play.