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Photo Credit: © Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Countdown to the season question #16: Career years for Oilers?

Last season, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Patrick Maroon, Mark Letestu and Oscar Klefbom had career-best offensive seasons. Cam Talbot played 73 games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played all 82 games for the first time in his career.

It is no surprise they finished with 103 points. Many players contributed and had excellent seasons.

How many will have career years this year?

McDavid reached 100 points last year, and most expect him to match or exceed the century mark this season.

Draisaitl will be expected to be over 70 points again. Maroon is determined to avoid the “one-hit wonder” label. “I want to show it wasn’t a fluke. I have a lot to prove,” he said.

Klefbom was healthy all season for the first time, which led to his best offensive season, but his offence wasn’t a complete surprise. He had produced decent offensive numbers in the 50 previous games over two seasons.

Letestu scored 16 goals and 35 points. He then added 11 points in 13 playoff games. He was excellent on the powerplay, but his focus this year will be trying to produce more five-on-five. “I think I sat back too much. I was comfortable being solid defensively, and I think sometimes bottom-six forwards think that way and we rely on the top guys to score. I think our line can produce more, especially me, at even strength,” Letestu said.

It will be difficult for Draisaitl to surpass 77 points, but he should be within five.

Same goes for Maroon and his 27 goals, and Letestu and his numbers.

Players like Anton Slepyshev (4-6-10 in 41 games), Drake Caggiula (7-11-18 in 60 games) and Matt Benning (3-12-15 in 62) will be expected to produce more.

Ryan Strome and Jussi Jokinen will be looking for bounce-back seasons. Jokinen had the second-lowest point total of his 12 year career last season, scoring 11-17-28 in 69 games. He had 60 points in 2016 and had had 44+ points eight times. He should provide more offence than Benoit Pouliot did last year.

Strome has scored 30 and 28 points the past two seasons. It is unfair to expect him to replace Jordan Eberle’s offence. In a down year Eberle still produced 20 goals and 51 points. Strome’s career-best is 50.

If he can produce 40 points that would be a good season, but his ability to produce will depend on where he plays. If he earns his icetime by playing well, he should be a regular in the top-six and that likely means Draisaitl won’t play on the wing very much.

SURPRISES

Apr 18, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Drake Caggiula (36) shoots as San Jose Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon (4) defends during the first period in game four of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Last season produced many surprise performances from the Oilers, but with heightened expectations and a more proven lineup, we simply won’t see as many this year.

If Strome scores 55 points it would be a surprise. If one of Caggiula or Slepyshev can score 15-18 goals, the Oilers would be very happy. How much can Jujhar Khaira and Kassian produce from the fourth line? Both were productive in the preseason.

I’ve read a lot about Milan Lucic’s 5×5 scoring. His numbers were down last year, but his powerplay numbers were the best of his career. He finished with 25 PP points — his previous best was 14. Does it matter where he scores his points/goals? Lucic won’t be scoring 48 or 50 5×5 points like he did when he had 60+ point seasons in Boston. Only 18 players in the NHL had 50 EV points, nevermind just 5×5 points, so Lucic won’t be in that group.

If he can produce 50-55 points he’ll be fine. Of course, you’d like to see him produce more at 5×5, and he admitted it was an area of focus, but with him being on the first PP unit, and with an expected increase in powerplays this season, it is very possible we see Lucic being more productive on the man advantage than he is at even strength.

It is difficult to say who will be the surprise, breakout Oilers player.

I’ll go with Caggiula. I think he surprises many and produces 44 points. I like his speed, shot, smarts and his aggressiveness. As the season unfolds, I see him getting more opportunities.

Who is your pick for breakout offensive season and why?

QUICK HITS…

  • Slepyshev didn’t re-injure his ankle prior to Saturday’s game in Vancouver according to Todd McLellan. He came down the flu and couldn’t keep any food down. He was skating today on the fifth line with Chris Kelly and Iiro Pakarinen. I’m curious to see who McLellan takes out of the lineup to insert Slepyshev.
  • Today’s practice lines were the same as Saturday’s game except Kassian was in for Puljujarvi.Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl
    Lucic-RNH-Yamamoto
    Jokinen-Strome-Caggiula
    Khaira-Letestu-KassainI suspect we will see constant change in the month of October. Nothing is set in stone and I won’t be surprised to see different combos in game two than we see on opening night.
  • If you are interested I will be hosting a AMA tonight at 8 p.m. MST on Reddit discussing the Oilers season. You can join in here. 

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  • 24% body fat

    Does it matter where he scores his points?

    Not to the coach it doesn’t, but it should to the GM. PP points have a direct correlation to the men running the powerplay. Not to say Lucic doesn’t contribute, but he was a product of 29 and 97 on the PP last year. If he were scoring 5 x 5 than we know there was less “gifted” or easier points.

    Letestu was great on the powerplay, and penalty kill last year. Along with his contributions in the defensive zone and faceoffs it is fair to say he contributed just as much to the team as Lucic did. So yes it does matter where you get your points (yes letestu didnt have as many), but if you are paid like a top 6 forward you should produce like one in all aspects of the game and not where it is much easier to. If management didnt fully care where players produced than Letestu would be making much more money.

  • Happy McDavid Decade

    I wanted to say Slepyshev, but considering he’s yet to suit up he’s going to be playing catchup. Strome or Caggiula will be the surprise this season.

    Still think keeping healthy like how they did last year will be the deciding factor between challenging for the division and placing in a 3rd div / wildcard spot. It’s that fine of a line.

    Still wondering why Chris Kelly is still skating with the team though… I don’t see any value added even if comes on the cheap, as we would be hitting the 50 contract limit even if Yamamoto doesn’t make it past 9 games. Guess the team still has till Tuesday to make that final decision.

    • LamesSuck

      “Ask Me Anything”. It’s a reddit thread where you can ask questions and the person doing the AMA will respond. If you’re not on reddit, you should be. And check out the Oilers subreddit. r/EdmontonOilers

  • Oilerboy1112

    I think, if Yamamoto gets sent to the CHL after 9 games, the Oilers will sign Jarome Iginla. It was only 2 seasons ago he put up around 47 points, last year he didn’t get many points because he played on a really bad Avs team, and LA a team that couldn’t score. He is slowing down, but he still has a really good shot, which will be great for the PP. Imagine Calgary Flames fans reaction if Iginla wins a cup with the Oilers.
    2nd line: Lucic – RNH – Iginla/Yamamoto

  • oilergirl

    Please tell me that they aren’t seriously considering signing Iginila. That would be like tieing a boat anchor to any line we put him on. He is WAY to slow to keep up with even our 4th line. Don’t get me wrong, I think Iggy would be a great presence in the dressing room, but give him a training/coaching/administration job. He should have hung it up when he didn’t get a cup with Boston, or Pitts, or ??? wherever else he went fishing for a cup. Its over, he just needs to figure that out.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      Mark Recchi looked washed out in Pittsburgh after the great lockout of ’05…

      Then he won a Cup with the Bruins. And he was no passenger.

      I want Iggy.

  • btrain

    I think Kelfbom continues to develop into that top pairing defender status and he improves his career best offensive totals. He is going to get even more ice time this year, and will be the primary option from the point on the PP start to finish. Top pairing defenders need to start somewhere, and no reason to bet against Klefbom from where I sit.

      • Dreadguy

        Once Connor decides to walk in from the half wall on the PP and shoot more often, the opposing PK will have to challenge him more; opening up McDavidesque (trademark pending…) seeing-eye passes. This spells chaos and disaster in front of the net if the defenders remain in their box positions, or the slot if they collapse. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. My crystal ball says +10pts each for Drai and Connor on the PP. Who knows about 5v5? Too many variables.

  • oilerjed

    Where is the love for Nurse? I saw him really improve by the end of last season and expect a huge season out of him this year. Hoping to see lots more rushes up the ice and dishing out punishment in front of the net.
    Prediction: 25 pts and 100+ in PIM. and Talbot’s best friend by Xmas.

      • Big Nuggets

        Thankfully training camp never predicts how a player’s season will play out. Preseason is only good for seeing which bubble players came to earn a spot on the big club.
        Benning and Nurse might not be great players right now but I think Klef and Larss will have career seasons so they can hold the fort while the others get more experience. As long as Sekera is back in top form by playoffs we’ll be fine. At least thats my prediction.

  • Ranford.85

    McL will be switching lines as always, but I’d like to see some lines similar to last year’s playoffs.
    Maroon/McD/Caggs or Strome
    Looch/Drai/Slepy or Yam
    Jokinen/RNH/Caggs or Strome
    Khaira/Testu/Kassian

    Those 4 centers are top 5 in the league and I say we use that. Get some wins/confidence in the first 10-20 games with Drai and McDavid together, then roll something similar to those lines for the res of the 82 game grind.

    Defence… well unless Chia brings in a strong RD… they may need to score themselves out of some games or have Talbot steal even more this year.

  • Rob...

    The best thing about this season is that, after moving out the last of the anchors, the coach and GM are finally in a position where they can truthfully tell the players that ‘If you don’t compete, you don’t play. If it becomes a habit, you’ll be moved off the team.’

  • OldOilFan

    Yam vs. Jagr: I think [if mgmt was considering what direction to take with the RWs] it’s clear the Oilers have chosen to go with youth/speed. As for burning one year of Yam’s ELC, who cares? If the kid fills a strategic void (i.e. compared to last season’s team) then he improves the odds of winning the Cup THIS YEAR.