Through six games, the Edmonton Oilers own a 2-4-0 record and have yet to win a two-game mini-series. Next up, the Winnipeg Jets, who are off to a hot 4-1-0 start.
1. One of the many oddities of this season is the fact that Patrik Laine and Pierre-Luc Dubois will have to wait for two weeks before joining their new teams. Laine and Dubois, two disgruntled young stars, were the headliners in a big swap between the Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday morning, but the Canada-US border situation means they’ll both have to wait in quarantine.
2. In a normal season, tonight would have likely featured Dubois’ debut as a Jet. He had a very public falling out in Columbus and badly wanted a change of scenery. That wish was finally granted and I imagine that these two weeks in purgatory will feel like a lifetime.
3. It’s interesting to think back to the 2016 draft now that this trade has happened. Jarmo Kekalainen’s decision to select Dubois with the No. 3 overall pick was shocking because Jesse Puljujarvi seemed like the obvious, slam-dunk selection after Auston Matthews and Laine were taken No. 1 and No. 2.
At the time, it didn’t appear as though Dubois was on the same level as Puljujarvi, let alone Laine who was the higher-rated of the two Finns. Here we are, four-and-a-half years later, and Winnipeg is the team adding another asset (Jack Roslovic) on top of Laine to acquire Dubois. Nobody would have predicted that in June of 2016.
4. It’s difficult to say whether Winnipeg or Columbus won this trade. Laine is the flashier player. He scored 44 goals as a sophomore in 2017-18 and looked to be on his way to becoming one of the best goal-scorers in the league. His two seasons since (30 and 28 goals) have been somewhat dissapointing but there’s no questioning his talent. Dubois will likely never be a 40-goal player, but he offers a better all-around game.
5. The Jets are currently sitting in a tie for second place in the North Division with a 4-1-0 record, though that hot start might be somewhat deceiving. They won their first game of the season in overtime against the Flames and then lost their next game to the Leafs. Since then, Winnipeg has racked off three-straight wins, but all of them came against the basement-dwelling Ottawa Senators.
Wins are wins and I don’t think the Sens are as much of a punching bag as they were last year, but it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions about the Jets when 60 percent of their games have been played against a rebuilding club.
6. Winnipeg is a very top-heavy team. They have a great top-six with Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler, and Nik Ehlers that drives their offence. Scheifele, Connor, and Wheeler all eclipsed 60 points last season and Ehlers was only two points off of that plateau. The Jets also have a mediocre blueline behind Josh Morrissey, but Connor Hellebuyck, last year’s Vezina Trophy winner, makes up for it.
7. It’s been the same formula this year for the Jets as it was last. Their top-six is producing at a high clip (Connor has nine points, Scheifele has eight, Wheeler has seven, and Ehlers has six) and Hellebuyck has been excellent in net (he has a .920 save percentage through four starts). Again, a lot of that has come against the Sens, but this group posted a 37-28-6 record in the highly-competitive Central Division in 2019-20 and they look like a tough team to beat again this year.
8. Edmonton is fairly similar, which makes this an interesting match-up. The Oilers obviously don’t have a goalie as good as Hellebuyck, but the Jets don’t have two forwards as good as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Like the Jets, the Oilers have a very strong top-six with McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Kailer Yamamoto, but depth is a concern. Those aforementioned four forwards have 10 of Edmonton’s 15 goals this season while off-season additions like Kyle Turris, Dominik Kahun, and Jesse Puljujarvi have yet to score.
9. Speaking of Puljujarvi, hopefully we see him get a promotion in the lineup soon. Though he hasn’t scored, the young Finn’s play has been encouraging thus far. He looks like a much more confident player than he was in his first go-around in the NHL. He has the third-best on-ice shot attempt differential on the team at even-strength (58-to-53) behind only McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins. Zack Kassian, who has been McDavid’s right winger, has looked completely invisible for much of this young season.
10. Edmonton went 1-1-1 against the Jets last season. The first meeting was a 1-0 win for the Jets in the shootout in which Hellebuyck stopped all 28 shots the Oilers threw at him. The next was a 3-2 win for the Oilers that featured two Leon Draisaitl power-play goals and a great 39-save showing from Mike Smith. And, finally, the third game (which ended up being both the Oilers’ and Jets’ final games of the regular season) was a 4-2 win for Winnipeg in which Hellebuyck stopped 36 shots.
11. The Jets just played a game last night so the Oilers are the more rested team despite the long bus ride to Winnipeg. I don’t like calling a game a must-win in the first month of the season, but it feels that way. You really don’t want to be sitting at 2-5-0 staring down the barrel of Winnipeg picking up a two-game sweep with Toronto on the horizon.