Four Oilers who could surprise as next unlikely NHL playoff hero

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Panganiban
16 days ago
The Edmonton Oilers are gearing up for another shot at raising Lord Stanley, and one of their undeniable strengths heading into the postseason lies in their wealth of top-end talent, with the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Evan Bouchard, who are all expected to produce offensively. Also, add Evander Kane to that list, as he started to heat up over his last few games and previously led the playoffs in scoring with 13 goals two years ago.
As the playoffs approach, discussions arise about who could emerge as an unexpected but impactful player in the postseason. In Edmonton’s case, this player is referred to as the next ‘Fernando Pisani‘ a former Oiler role player who scored timely goals and was a big part of the team’s incredible run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, tallying 14 goals and four assists in 24 playoff games.
With that in mind, it begs the question of which depth players on this current Oilers’ roster have the highest potential to emerge as the next unlikely playoff hero—one who doesn’t grab the most attention but produces points and scores timely goals this postseason. Let’s have a look at four potential candidates.

Warren Foegele

Warren Foegele is enjoying a career-best season, recording 41 regular season points, and he’s become the player the Oilers hoped he would be when they traded him for Ethan Bear nearly three years ago. He’s tenacious on the forecheck, tough in front of the net, and his powerful shot has propelled him to score a career-high 20 goals. Moreover, on several instances in the regular season, he’s made moves blowing past opposing defencemen, which made me double-check the number on the back of the sweater, thinking it was #97, but it actually being #37.
That said, considering what he brings to the table, he’s a top pick to be the Oilers’ next unlikely playoff hero. According to Natural Stat Trick, the 28-year-old finished the regular season ranked 12th in the NHL with 3.53 expected goals per 60 minutes at 5v5. With a little bit more puck luck, to go along with his growing confidence and booming shot, those ‘expected goals’ might turn into actual tallies, and if so, we might end up talking about ‘Foegele from the 2024 playoffs’ in the same manner as ‘Playoff Pisani from 2006.’

Corey Perry

Corey Perry has been a thorn in the side of the Oilers for many years, yet in the 38 games played with the orange and blue, Oilers fans have learned to admire his agitating antics. It’s easy to see why he’s been a winner at almost every level. He’s scored, fought, and forced his teammates into the battle. Unconvinced? Keep an eye on how many scrums the typically cheerful Ryan McLeod gets into this postseason with Perry as his winger.
Moreover, there’s an indication he holds his teammates accountable, which is evident in the viral verbal exchange on the bench with Kane during the last Battle of Alberta. However, the incident seemed to stem from good intentions, with Perry saying on ‘After Hours’, “Like I said the other day, brothers fight. To get us to that next level, sometimes that does happen.”
Despite being a touch slower at 38 years old and likely destined to play in the bottom six this upcoming postseason, the former Hart Trophy winner is a candidate to be an unlikely playoff hero, largely due to his hockey smarts, slick hands and veteran savviness. The Oilers have shown their maturity in gutting out wins in tight-checking games this season. Still, if their big guns get shut down with the game tied this postseason, I can foresee Perry emerging as the hero in that scenario with a game-winning goal, likely with a nice deflection in front of the net.
Moreover, the future Hall of Famer’s 124 playoff points rank 59th all-time in the NHL, indicating that he steps it up when it counts. Given his earlier statement this season, “When playoff time comes, the ice gets smaller, and I just want to win. I’ll do anything to help this team win,” there’s a good chance he’ll raise his intensity level a notch or two. Some players have ‘rise to the occasion’ engrained in their DNA, and Perry seems to be one of those guys.

Adam Henrique

Hopes were high for the Oilers to acquire a top-tier sniper at the trade deadline, but instead, they got Adam Henrique, who brings a Swiss army knife-like versatility to the team.
Henrique won’t be winning any fastest skater competitions any time soon, but he plays in all situations for the Oilers, averaging a minute a game on the penalty kill. He gets deployed on the second unit power play and plays down the middle and also on the wing. Additionally, he’s scored six goals as an Oiler, and all of them have come within a few feet of the blue paint, showing he’s not afraid to go to the greasy areas.
Henrique could emerge as the next unlikely playoff hero because he’ll be highly motivated. This upcoming opportunity might be his best bet to win a Stanley Cup, given the playing years the 34-year-old might have left. Also, the fact that he tied an NHL record for the most game-winning goals in a playoff season as a rookie shows he can excel in high-pressure situations. Because of that, he’ll likely reach another gear, and I anticipate he’ll be battling for every inch of space in the blue paint in the playoffs.

Connor Brown

Mar 13, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor Brown (28) celebrates after scoring a goal during the third period against the Washington Capitals at Rogers Place.
Connor Brown arrived in Edmonton with the reputation of lighting up the OHL as McDavid’s former junior linemate. Rational thinkers knew that it would take time for him to get caught up to game speed after missing a year of action due to injury, but I think it would take less than 55 games for him to find the back of the net.
That said, I previously speculated after he scored his first goal of the season against the Washington Capitals, that he would begin finding the back of the net more often. Since March 13th, he’s scored at nearly a 20-goal pace and there’s a good chance that he will carry that momentum forward into the playoffs.
By the eye test, we’ve seen a quicker, more confident and revitalized Brown down the stretch and as a result, he’s a strong candidate to deliver a sneaky productive playoff performance reminiscent of 06’ Pisani, this postseason. Should that happen, he’d totally redeem himself for his lack of goal-scoring earlier in the season.
All in all, the Oilers have the top-end firepower that can score at will, but the playoffs pose a greater challenge and they’ll also need a depth player or two to step up and make a regular impact on the scoresheet. With that in mind, who are your top picks to be ‘Fernando Pisani-like’ difference makers this upcoming postseason?

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