Barring a shocking trade or a minor free agent signing, the Oilers roster we see now will be the same one we see come September. With minimal changes to the roster, it’s clear that the organization is banking on some best-case scenarios from multiple players this year in order to return to the playoffs.
Over the next few weeks, you’ll see me go through every player who should have an impact in the Oilers organization and try to guess what that players “ceiling” is, and also what their “floor” would be performance wise.
In doing this, I’ll be making a few assumptions. The first being that the player stays healthy for the entire season. Obviously, the worst case scenario for any player would be to miss a significant amount of time with injury. The other is that the player will spend the entire season with the Oilers. It would be easy to say that the best case scenario for some names is that they’re traded away from Edmonton.
For the high end of things, I tried to be realistic yet optimistic. Of course, it’s POSSIBLE for someone like Kyle Brodziak to score 25 goals this year… but c’mon.
Now that I’ve explained my thought process, here is part one of my “Highs & Lows” for the 2018 Oilers: The Centres.
THE CEILING: Trying to establish what Connor McDavid’s ceiling could be proved to be very difficult. He scored 41 goals last year on a bottom ten team, with a dismal power play and no consistent linemates. He also fought off a nasty illness halfway through the season.
A boost in powerplay numbers alone could get him close to 50 goals in my opinion. If he continues to click with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ty Rattie, and the Oilers start winning more games (which could mean more empty net points), McDavid could have a historic season.
My ceiling for Connor McDavid is 50-75-125, with a Hart Trophy and some playoff games to go with it all.
THE FLOOR: Well, what if he doesn’t click with RNH or Rattie? The Oilers are so thin on the wings, it could be tough to find a linemate who can truly help McDavid.
There’s no guarantee that the powerplay bounces back either. Still, it’s Connor McDavid, so I’ll set his floor for this coming season at 30-60-90. It would be tough for the situation around him to get much worse than it was this past season, but you never want to say never.
THE CEILING: Similar to McDavid, Draisaitl’s numbers could get a significant boost just from the powerplay returning to form. In 2016/17, he scored 27 powerplay points while this past season, he only had 11. An added 16 points this season likely would have taken away much of the criticism Leon faced this year.
There’s also the issue of who his wingers will be. But if he clicks with either Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto, it could turn into a dangerous duo and give the Oilers a second line that can produce an elite amount of offence. Even if everything goes well, it’s important to remember that Leon likely won’t get as much 5v5 time with Connor McDavid compared to last year. That will no doubt hurt his production.
With some help from his wingers and some added powerplay productivity, I think 82 points over an 82 game season is the ceiling for Leon Draisaitl.
THE FLOOR: Again, with RNH being pencilled in on McDavid’s wing, it’s unlikely that Drai will see close to 500 minutes with #97 like he did this past season.
The power play struggled, but the bottom line is that Draisaitl spent a significant amount of time with Connor McDavid at 5v5 and likely won’t have that luxury this season. The team also doesn’t have a proven goal scorer to put on his line, so if he’s going to produce offence, he’s going to have to drive the play all on his own.
There’s a chance we could see Leon’s point total drop as low at the 55-60 point range, but I can’t see it going any lower than that. So that’s what I’ll make his floor.
THE CEILING: By the end of last season, Ryan Strome sat fourth on the Oilers in primary points produced. When I look at his first season in Edmonton, Strome found most of his success, both offensively and defensively, when he was playing as a centre. I expect that next year he will get 82 games as the Oilers 3C.
Strome didn’t contribute much on the powerplay, but that could change this year. The Oilers need a right shot to play on the top unit opposite to Connor McDavid, and Strome could fill that spot. If he does, expect a spike in his production.
If everything lines up for Strome, and he ups his shooting percentage from the 8.8% he had last year, I could see him become a 20-30-50 player.
THE FLOOR: This is another scenario where the Oilers lack of depth on the wings could hurt the production of their centres. If Strome is simply stuck with the remains of a weak group of wingers, it might be tough for him to produce consistent offence.
When it comes to the powerplay, he wasn’t exactly a fit on the top unit last year, so I doubt he’ll all of the sudden click in that spot this year. There’s also a chance that Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto get prime PP time ahead of him.
Strome was up-and-down in his opening season in Edmonton, so I don’t think he can get much worse. I’ll set his floor at 10-20-30 for 2018-19.
THE CEILING: Last year with the Blues, he scored 8 even strength goals, didn’t play at all on the powerplay but took on a large amount of their penalty killing duties (140 mins at 4v5).
If he can give the Oilers the same amount of offensive support, I’m sure they’ll be absolutely thrilled with it, especially considering he’s only costing them $1 million. But perhaps even more importantly, he needs to come in and help their penalty kill.
My ceiling for Kyle Brodziak is 12 goals and 20 assists, with an added 150 minutes of time on the penalty kill, which he’ll help finish in the top half of the league.
THE FLOOR: This is pretty straight forward actually. As long as Brodziak can stay in the lineup and be a semi-competent NHL centre, the Oilers will have no problems with him.
The problem will be if the 34-year-old loses a step and struggles to keep up in a league that’s only getting younger and faster. If this happens, he could struggle to stay in the lineup, which would obviously be a problem for the Oilers given their lack of depth.
Less than 10 points, and less than 70 games played is the floor for Kyle Brodziak.
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