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20 takes at the 20 game mark

We have hit the 20-game mark of the year, which means we’re basically a quarter of the way through the regular season. For the Oilers, this has been a nearly perfect start. They’re 15-5-0 and currently sit first in the Western Conference in wins and points percentage. They’re also tied for second in the league in both of those categories as well.

The entire regular season will not be smooth sailing, but the fact that the Oilers have banked the number of points that they have already this year is huge.

I figured the 20-game mark was also a good spot to look back and give a general overview of the team’s start to the season. Here’s what I’ve learned through the first 20 games.

1 – This is a resilient team.

It’s been very impressive to see the way this team has been able to just roll through their injury issues. It’s one thing to be missing two or three players at some point this year but the fact that they’ve continued to rack up wins despite missing their starting goalie and THE ENTIRE LEFT SIDE OF THEIR BLUELINE has been great to see.

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2 – This team doesn’t quit on games

This team has always had a strong ability to come back in games and it’s clear that they haven’t lost that. With the Oiler’s dynamic top-six, no lead is safe for the opposition and they now have a few really great comeback wins under their belts. That night against the Rangers is still something I think about. The crowd was unreal.

3 – Draisaitl might hit 60 goals

Before the season started, I was hesitant to take the over on Leon Draisaitl’s goal prop for the season, which was set at 46.5. Well, I was very wrong. He’s going to crush that mark and now I’m honestly starting to think that he can hit the 60-goal mark, which has only been done twice since the 2004 lockout.

4 – 150 seems like a good mark for McDavid

I believed that 150 points was possible for Connor McDavid and through 20 games, he’s currently on pace for 148. I like his chances of getting there. If he’s even close to that mark coming down the stretch, he’ll find another gear just like he did last season when he was chasing 100 points.

5 – I didn’t learn it, but the powerplay confirmed that it’s unreal

On Oilersnation Radio, I said that the powerplay could hit the 40% this season and people laughed. Well, who’s laughing now?! The powerplay has been absolutely dynamite sitting at a league-best 37.7%, a whopping 8.4% better than any other team in the league. I still believe that they could finish around 40% and they should set the NHL record for best single-season PP%.

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6 – Cody Ceci has been sneaky good

Moving away from the two superstars, I have been very impressed with Cody Ceci this season. To say I was nervous about the contract that Ken Holland gave him would be an understatement. So far this season, he’s been on the ice for 346 even strength minutes and while he’s been outscored 18-15, that’s mainly a product of him having to face a lot of tough matchups. He’s been solid and that’s surprised me. He isn’t quite Adam Larsson good, but he’s been a fairly adequate replacement.

7 – Maybe I should have been higher on Stuart Skinner

I really wasn’t sold on Stuart Skinner as the goalie of the future for the Oilers heading into this season. Now, he’s starting to change my mind. He’s given them a shot to win in every single game he’s appeared in and his .928 save percentage is well above the league average of .913. I would like to see him get more starts as Mike Smith continues to work his way back from injury.

8 – How about Mikko?

His dominant performance on Saturday night against Vegas was much needed after he had allowed three or more goals in five straight appearances. His bounce-back night got his save percentage on the year back up to .912. You have to be happy with how the big Finn has played this season. He gave them some great starts at a point in the season when they really needed him to come through. His record on the year is now a staggering 11-2-0.

9 – Maybe they don’t need a goalie

I’m now not sold on goaltending being the biggest need for this team at the deadline. I’m confident enough in some duo of Smith, Skinner, or Koskinen being able to get the job done. All you need is one of them to get hot come playoff time.

10 – No concerns about Evan Bouchard

During the summer, we heard Dave Tippet call young Evan Bouchard the key to the Oilers blueline. It was nerve-wracking to hear the Head Coach call a player with less than a year of NHL experience the key to the team’s backend but honestly, that hasn’t been far off. He’s been their best puck-moving defenseman and while yes, there have been a few short rough patches, he’s been a solid top-four defenseman for them for the bulk of this season.

11 – Philip Broberg is close

When Darnell Nurse went down and Broberg got the call-up, I thought that it could be a moment that we look back on at the end of the year as a weird blessing in disguise. Broberg wouldn’t have gotten this chance if Nurse didn’t go down with an injury and now, even though the sample size is small, there’s a chance that Broberg could stick even once everyone is healthy. He’s been excellent.

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12 – Ryan McLeod should stay

One player who I’m certain has played his final game as a Bakersfield Condor is Ryan McLeod. He wasn’t great in training camp but since getting the call back up, he’s looked like the speedy offensive third-line centre that this team desperately needed.

13 – Zack Kassian is back?

Contract year Kass appears to have returned for the Oilers. He’s been very inconsistent during his time in Edmonton and while his contract still isn’t good, he’s bringing the team some real value on the ice. I would still like to see him contributing in a bottom-six role, but he’s been fine in the top six. They need this version of Zack Kassian to stay for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

14 – Zach Hyman was worth the money

Has he been perfect? No. Hyman has had a few short slumps, but for the most part, he’s been a good play-driving winger for this Oilers team and adds an element of physicality that I think their top-six needed. He has also been very good on the powerplay. I’ve loved what I’ve seen from him through 20 games and I think he’ll only get better once the playoffs roll around.

15 – They could use a forward

With all that being said, I think that Ken Holland needs to add one more winger to this group. They appear set down the middle but they could use another winger that’s capable of producing some offence.

16 – That winger could be Dylan Holloway

Before they jump into the rental market for forwards, I think they’d be wise to give Dylan Holloway a serious look. Let him play in Bakersfield for a month once he’s healthy and then give him a crack with the big club. I think his combination of size and speed could fit in perfectly in any spot in the Oilers lineup. If it doesn’t work, then Holland should look at acquiring another forward before the deadline.

17 – Puljujarvi should get paid

I would assume that this will wait until the offseason, but it appears as though Jesse Puljujarvi has taken another step forward this season and the best part: I still don’t think he’s reached his full potential. He should only keep getting more confident at the NHL level and as he does, he’ll start making an even bigger impact. I think he could be a perennial 25-goal scorer and the Oilers should lock him up as soon as they can.

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18 – You gotta love the overs!

Blindly betting the over in every game would have made you some money this year! The over is 12-7-1 so far this season and honestly, I would keep hammering it. It’s fun and it’s making money!

19 – They need to be buyers

This team is clearly a contender and I would expect that Ken Holland recognizes that. They have the high-end skill to go on a deep run and I think Holland would be wise to use this year’s first-round pick and even a ‘B’ level prospect as trade bait to add two more pieces to this roster. Adding a LHD and a middle-six forward would really change the dynamic. Holland has said that he will spend if he believes his team has a shot, now it’s time for the Oilers GM to put his money, or assets, where his mouth is.

20 – COVID is still here

And finally, we get to the news that dropped today. Cody Ceci is in COVID protocol as the Oilers have been added to the growing list of teams in the league that could potentially be facing pandemic-related problems. The Oilers 15-5 start has been a blast to watch and here’s to hoping that issues with COVID-19 don’t throw them off their current path.