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Ten things I expect from the Edmonton Oilers this season

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Photo credit:© Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
7 months ago
It is the final Friday before the 2023-24 NHL season officially begins. Rookies are competing in various tournaments across the NHL, but for me the season doesn’t officially begin until the veterans report to camp next week. As we near medicals next Wednesday and the first on-ice session next Thursday, here are 10 things I expect this season.
1. Leon Draisaitl will have a good start. Draisaitl played the 2022 playoffs on one leg, after suffering a high ankle sprain in game six of round one v. LA. He didn’t miss a game, and played incredibly well despite the injury, but once the Oilers lost to Colorado, Draisaitl had to rest and let his ankle heel. He lost valuable training time, and his slower start to the season was due to a lack of training. This summer Draisaitl was healthy and able to train intensely.
Draisaitl produced 31 points in the first 20 games last year, but he had 15 on the power play. At 5×5, his pace wasn’t where he wanted it and much of that was due to a lack of training. Sunil Agnihotri (welcome to the Nation, Sunil!), had a good article yesterday outlining the early season struggles of the Oilers. Draisaitl’s start was sluggish, by his standards, and much of it was due to rehabbing his injury.
Look for Draisaitl to have much better possession numbers in the first 20 games this year. Training and conditioning are a major factor for a player’s success, and he had a great summer training.
2. Many Oilers set career highs in goals, assist or points last year. Connor McDavid set a new high in goals, by scoring 20 more than before, he had 10 more assists and finished with 30 more points than his previous best. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ previous high was 69 points. He finished with 67 assists last year, along with a new high of 37 goals. His 104 points were a 35-point increase from the 69 he scored in 2019. Zach Hyman set a new mark in goals at 36, nine more than his previous high, produced 20 more assists and crushed his previous career-best by 29 points finishing with 83 points.
Draisaitl set a new high in assists with 76 and points with 128 (18 more than before).
Darnell Nurse’s 43 points beat his previous high by three.
Evan Bouchard set a new standard in assists with 32.
Klim Kostin and Ryan McLeod set new highs in goals and points.
You get the picture. Many Oilers had career years. It will be difficult for all of them to do it again, especially the top-four forwards, because they scored so much. McDavid, Draisaitl, RNH and Hyman could have excellent seasons and not set new career highs. Nothing wrong with that.
Look for Bouchard to set a new standard in goals, assists and points. I also think Nurse will reach 50 points for the first time in his career.
3. I expect McDavid to push for 150 points again. In 2021 he scored 105 points in 56 games, which prorates to 153. He scored 153 points in 2023. I don’t view last year as a one-off. The greats of the greats rarely have just one outstanding season. McDavid continues to evolve his game. His shot/60 rate has increased steadily the past five seasons going from 8.08 in 2019, to 9.09 in 2020, 9.67 in 2021, 10.71 in 2022 and 11.51 last year. I don’t see him shooting less this season.
4. McDavid will be the 12th player in NHL history to produce 90 assists in a season. Wayne Gretzky did it 13 times, Mario Lemieux (5x), Adam Oates, Bobby Orr and Joe Thornton (2x) and Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Doug Gilmour, Pat Lafontaine, Peter Stastny and Steve Yzerman did it once. Thornton is the only player to reach 90 assists since 1996. He had 96 in 2006 and 92 in 2007. McDavid had 89 last year. He will reach 90 this season.
5. Jack Campbell will be more consistent. I realize that isn’t overly difficult. Last year he made 34 starts. In 15 of them he had a Sv% of .886 or lower. He allowed 68 goals in those starts. When you have a 4.53 GAA over 44% of your starts, it is difficult to have a good year. He did have 10 starts with a .913Sv% or better, including seven of .935+.  I don’t expect the lows to be as low. Last season 40 goalies made 30+ starts. Campbell’s .888Sv% ranked 37th with Martin Jones, Kaapo Kahkonen and Jonathon Quick worse. Campbell doesn’t need to be great. If he can post a .903Sv% then he’d have been tied for 21st with Freddie Anderson last year. I expect a more consistent, but not spectacular, season from Campbell.
6. I don’t like to point this out, but I also don’t believe in jinxes. I don’t expect the Oilers’ top-five D-men to miss a combined two games. They were the only team in the NHL with five D-men who played 80+ games. Nurse, Bouchard and Kulak played all 82 games. Tyson Barrie/Mattias Ekholm also combined to play all 82. Cody Ceci missed two games. Philip Broberg and Vincent Desharnais will play more games this year, simply due to the odds a minor injury occurs. Here is a list of all 32 teams and how many defenders played 70+ or 60+ games last season.
70+ GPTEAMS
1MTL
2BUF, COL, CBJ, PIT, TOR, VAN, WSH
3ANA, ARI, CHI, DET, NSH, OTT, STL
4BOS, CGY, MIN, NJ, NYR, SJ, TB, LVK
5CAR (76+), DAL (79+), EDM (80+), LA, NYI, PHI, WPG
6FLA (71+), SEA (73+)
60+ GPTEAMS
2CBJ
3CHI, VAN
4ANA, BUF, COL, MTL, SJ, STL, TOR, LVK
5ARI, BOS, CGY, CAR, DET, EDM, NSH, NYR, OTT, PHI, PIT, TB, WSH
6DAL, FLA, LA, MIN, NJ, NYI, SEA, WPG
Fourteen of the 16 playoff teams had five or six D-men play at least 60 games. Toronto and Colorado had four. Health can be a big factor in regular season success.
7. I expect Connor Brown to remain healthy. He never missed a game in his first five NHL seasons. Last year was his first major injury and he only played four games, but he isn’t coming back early. He was injured on October 17th, 2022, and had surgery soon after. He isn’t returning to the lineup 6-8 months after surgery. He’s had more time to rehab and heal, and that is a significant benefit. He will surpass his career high of 21 goals and 43 points.
8. Dylan Holloway will play more regular minutes. He will score 14-16 goals and have a solid season.
9. The Oilers will finish first in the Pacific Division. It will be their first regular season division title since 1987. I also feel they will win the President’s Trophy. In the last decade Nashville, in 2017, is the only Western Conference team to win the President’s trophy. Colorado had the most points in 2021, but that was when you only played teams in your division. The President’s Trophy was first awarded in 1986 and the Oilers won it in 1986 and 1987, but nothing since. They could be the sixth team to win it three times. Detroit (6x), Boston (4x) and Colorado, Washington and the New York Rangers have won it three times.
10. The Oilers will allow fewer than 230 goals against. They have only done that once (in a full season) since the 2005 lockout. In 2017, they allowed 207 goals against. The Oilers have realized lowering their goals against, while continuing to be a force offensively, is what will lead to success.
What do you expect to happen this season?

PIZZA PIGOUT…

I’m excited to announce our 5th annual Pizza Pigout is going back to where it started. In 2019, we had our first Pigout at Molson House and then COVID arrived, and we transitioned to having it in conjunction with a drive-in movie. It worked well, but we wanted to bring it back to the original place, because it allows attendees to try more pizza. This format allows more mingling and tasting many different great pizzas. If you love pizza this is a must-attend event.
  • Date: Wednesday October 11, 2023
  • Time: 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Location: Rogers Place, Molson Hockey House (2nd floor, 18+ only venue)
  • Ticket price: $65 per ticket
  • Ticket bundle: $250 for 4 tickets (saving you $10!)
The event ends and then we will have a watch party (details to come) for the Oilers season opener v. Vancouver. Pizza, Kidsport and hockey. A great mix.
Purchase tickets here.

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