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.
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?
- 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
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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