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21 Questions Ahead of the 2020-21 NHL Season

We’re only weeks away from training camp kicking off and that got me thinking about what’s to come. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of 21 questions that I have for the 2021-22 season and I’m hoping that you fine citizens can help me come up with the answers.

  1. After hitting 105 points in only 56 games, I can’t help but wonder just how high Connor McDavid can set the bar for NHL points production over a full season? Would it be crazy to think that the guy can hit 130+ points in an 82-game season? I don’t think so.
  2. Outside of taking swings at his points total, I wonder if this is the year when Connor McDavid pushes 50 goals? So far, McDavid has two 41-goal seasons under his belt but I don’t feel like that’s anywhere close to his ceiling in the goal-scoring department.
  3. I wonder if Leon Draisaitl is at all annoyed about the fact that he wasn’t named as a finalist for any NHL awards despite finishing second in league scoring by a fair margin? I don’t know about you guys, but I think that an angry/motivated Draisaitl would be devastating news for the opposition and I can only hope he spent at least a chunk of his off-season stewing on what I’m calling the disrespect of not being recognized for his efforts.
  4. It’s no secret that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a rough season in the all-Canadian Division but I’d still bet Gregor’s money that we’re in line for a comeback season from the longest-serving Edmonton Oiler. My question, though, is in regards to how much pressure he must be putting on himself to perform at the level we’ve come to expect from him, especially after inking an eight-year extension that should keep in Edmonton until he’s set to retire? Does RNH look at last year’s mess and take that as a challenge to get better even as a 10-year veteran? I may be biased but I’m going to say yes.
  5. How long will it take for Zach Hyman to build some chemistry with either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl? With a seven-year contract in his pocket, Hyman is here for the long term and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that it would be in our best interest if our new hero can gel with one of the big boys as quickly as possible.
  6. Can Mike Smith build on the strong 2021 season that saw him put up a 21-6-2 record and .923 save% in 32 appearances, or will we get the guy that settled in with a .902 save% in 2019-20? Obviously, we need him to be closer to the former than the latter, and I will be endlessly fascinated to watch him try and replicate last season’s success.
  7. Can Mikko Koskinen win us all back? I don’t think I’m talking out of school when I say that his .899 save% in 26 appearances in 2021 didn’t exactly inspire much confidence and I wonder if he’ll be able to come up with a bounce-back year or if we’re all destined to cringe any time he gets a start?
  8. Which Zack Kassian will we get for the 2021-22 season? When he’s at his best, Kassian can make a major impact on the game with his physicality and ability to score timely goals, but when he’s off, he’s about as invisible as a dude that’s 6’2″ possibly can be and that’s not a great look for a guy getting paid the way he is.
  9. Will Kailer Yamamoto be able to cash in on more of the Grade-A chances he produces for himself/gets set up with by Draisaitl than he did last year? Yamamoto is always relentless on the puck and I’m never worried about his work ethic, but I do wonder which player we’re going to see this year — the one that caught fire in the second half of 2019-20 or the one that struggled to produce in 2021? Sophomore slumps happen all the time in this league and the tricky part will be seeing whether or not he can battle back.
  10. Can Warren Foegele make us forget about Ethan Bear? I know there’s a chunk of Oilers fans that seem to be happy to run the guy out of town, but there are many of us that thought Bear was going to be a part of the future here, and I wonder if Foegele’s wrecking ball style of play and relentlessness on the forecheck will be enough to help us all move on?
  11. Personally, I’m pumped about what Warren Foegele can bring into the mix and I wonder if the opportunity to play with some pretty good players will be enough to push him to a new career-high in goals scored (his current high is 13 goals in 2019-20)?
  12. What are we going to get from Cody Ceci? After losing Adam Larsson to Seattle in the expansion draft, Ken Holland had to scramble a pick up a veteran RHD and it resulted in Ceci getting a four-year contract with what will be his fourth NHL franchise. In 53 games played in 2021, Ceci registered four goals and 13 assists for 17 points with the Penguins and I wonder if that would be enough production to make Oilers fans happy, or if we’ll be expecting him to fill more of a shutdown role as Larsson played before he left? Either way, Ceci will be an interesting player to follow this season since he’s not only one of the new guys but one that will be asked to play some big minutes on that second pairing.
  13. Speaking of the second pairing, what does Duncan Keith have left in the tank as he starts his 17th NHL season only a few months out from his 38th birthday? Needless to say, the Oilers need Keith to look more like the guy that won Norris Trophies over the one that was getting his head caved in Chicago, and I wonder if he is up for the challenge because we absolutely need him to be.
  14. How many of you animals are going to get into fights at Rogers Place/outside the building because we’ve all forgotten how to deal with the general public?
  15. Can Ryan McLeod cement himself as an NHL regular in what could be his first full season with the Edmonton Oilers? In 10GP last season, Mcleod registered a single assist while averaging 12:47 in TOI after being recalled from the Bakersfield Condors.
  16. Sticking with the Condors, is this the year when Tyler Benson steals a spot with the big club or is his time with the organization winding to a close? Drafted 32nd overall at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Benson has five years of development under his belt and I just wonder whether that time and effort will be put to use here or in another organization.
  17. With a fresh one-year extension in his pocket, Cooper Marody will start his fourth season with the organization after being acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers and I wonder if we’ve reached his ceiling? Word on the street is that his boots are a little bit slow and likely a major reason he’s only played six games with the big club, and I’m curious to see if he’ll get more than a cup of coffee with the Oilers this season.
  18. Jesse Puljujarvi was one of the best stories of the year in 2021 and I can’t wait to watch him push for more in 2021-22, building upon a strong return that saw him put up 15 goals and 10 assists for 25 points in 55 games. Assuming he starts the year on McDavid’s right side, is it that unreasonable to suggest that Puljujarvi could score 20 goals for the first time? What about 25 goals?
  19. Where will Evan Bouchard finish the year on the depth chart? I don’t know if you guys are as bullish on Evan Bouchard as I am, but I’m honestly expecting him to be playing on the second pairing by the time we get to the playoffs and I refuse to bet against a guy with the kind of skill that dad has.
  20. Will Alex Stalock play any games for the Edmonton Oilers? I mentioned in Q7 that Mikko Koskinen has a lot of work to do to earn our trust back and that makes me wonder if Stalock will be able to weasel his way into a few starts here. I know he hasn’t played in nearly two years — his last appearance was a loss on March 7th against the Los Angeles Kings — but the guy has proven that he can be a productive backup option wherever he’s played and it makes me feel like he could be a wildcard between the pipes.
  21. After Derek Ryan signed with the Oilers in free agency, Ryan Pike from Flamesnation told us that he would provide the Oilers with “10-12 minutes of no stress hockey” and I’m hoping he can actually come through on that. The Oilers’ bottom-six has been a tire fire far too often over the years and I’m wondering what it will be like to not worry so much when anyone not named Connor or Leon is on the ice?

Now that I’ve emptied my brain of all of the questions I have about the upcoming season, feel free to hit me up in the comments section with your own questions that need answers or if you have thoughts about anything I’ve posted above.