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The Beginner’s Guide to the 2020-21 Edmonton Oilers: the defence

Less than a few hours away from the first Edmonton Oilers game of the season, it’s time to wrap up our beginners guide to the team.

Part one broke down the organization, while part two look at the offence and powerplay.

The defence and goaltending

Edmonton’s defence has been a big issue on the club for a number of years. They’ve struggled to have even league-average defensive numbers for the last number of years, but last year marked one of the biggest shifts to more responsible hockey in their own end.

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They allowed fewer goals last season than they had in a number of years, and this year their defensive depth is some of the best it’s been in the last decade.

This, all the while, not making any changes from last year to this year in net. Mikko Koskinen will lead the way there and he was a perfectly average goaltender last year in comparison to the rest of the league. He’ll likely take the majority of the games this season.

His backup, Mike Smith, has struggled in recent years and was, over the course of the season, one of the worst goalies in the league last year. Yes, he had some hot streaks, but that was far from enough. Edmonton made no changes in net and Smith will return.

The penalty kill

Edmonton’s penalty kill was one of the best in the entire league last year, much like their powerplay was last year. The Oilers are expected to once again have top special teams units, although some regression is expected this season. With that being said, the unit will be relied on much like they are for every team in the league.

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This is where the Oilers bottom-six players like Josh Archibald and Jujhar Khaira, who were two of the best penalty killers in the league last year, come into play. I’d look to them to once again keep that up.

The players

Darnell Nurse

Nurse will be looked to as the Oilers top defenceman this season. His offensive game has come around and last year he scored 33 points in 71 games. Look for him to continue to contribute offence as a big, brusing player who doesn’t shy away from jumping up in the rush.

Ethan Bear

Stepping in as a rookie last year, Bear was nothing short of tremendous. He plays great hockey in his own zone and has a great first pass out of his own zone. A dynamic force in both ends of the ice, Bear will play on the top pairing alongside Nurse and help settle the latter’s somewhat chaotic play.

Adam Larsson

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A defensive defenceman, Larsson has battled some back injuries in the last number of years that diminished his game. He’s looking to get back on track with his stout play in his own zone.

Caleb Jones

Entering his second year in the league, he’s expected to step up in the absence of the Oilers top defenceman Oscar Klefbom. Jones plays a smart game and has great feet allowing him to be a force in both the offensive, and defensive zone.

Tyson Barrie

One of the league’s most lively defenceman, Barrie’s known for his incredible offensive game. He’s joining the OIlers after entering free agency and will be the team’s powerplay quarterback. Look for him to put up a ton of points.

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Slater Koekkoek

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I hope sooner rather than later I’ll be able to spell Koekkoek on my first try, but today wasn’t it. Nonetheless, he was signed as a late addition to the Oilers and will sure up the team’s third pairing alongside Barrie. Koekkoek will provide some real solid defence.

Evan Bouchard

Currently one of the Oilers extra defenceman, the young Bouchard is right on the cusp of breaking into the NHL. He’s incredibly mobile and an offensive defenceman much to the tune of Barrie. He’s going to be a very good player for the Oilers down the road.

William Lagesson

Another extra defenceman, Lagesson is still young but showed in a brief spurt last year he can fill in on the bottom pairing. His game is continuing to develop, but will be a solid depth defenceman for years to come.

On Twitter: @zjlaing