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Three Oilers to keep an eye on down the playoff stretch

Edmonton Oilers Connor Brown
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Panganiban
3 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers have scored 11 goals in their last two games and appear to be heating up just in time for the playoff stretch, led by their impact players. Connor McDavid has 12 points in March, Leon Draisaitl tallied four points against the Washington Capitals, and Zach Hyman could crash social media platforms by scoring his 50th goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs next week.
However, things haven’t gone as smoothly for a few of their Oilers teammates, who’ve been under the microscope due to various factors. That said, below, we spotlight three Oilers who were playing while under pressure and who might step up their game now that they can breathe a little bit easier.

Warren Foegele

All things considered, Warren Foegele has had a steady season despite being moved up and down the lineup. He’s bounced from the third line to the top six, but he’s already set a career-high in goals (15) and points (34) and has become the player the Oilers envisioned he would be when they traded Ethan Bear for him almost three years ago.
Yet, back in December, Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli published his first Trade Targets list, ranking the impending unrestricted free agent at #14 due to the potential of his $2.75 million cap hit being used for an upgrade. Additionally, his name circled in trade rumours directly leading up to the trade deadline.
Despite the rumours, he wasn’t traded and said a day after the trade deadline, “Personally, it was a little bit less stressful today than it was for the past week.” He suggested that he felt relief that he’s staying in Edmonton, and perhaps the comfort of knowing he won’t be traded has already had an impact on him, given his superb play lately.
Foegele was reunited on a line with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan McLeod against the Buffalo Sabres on March 9, a line that had shown great chemistry earlier this season. The trio had energy from the start, with all three players touching the puck before McLeod scored 30 seconds in. Later in the period, Foegele stripped a Sabre of the puck during the PK and went in 2-on-0 with McLeod, scoring a fantastic tally.
He got into his first NHL fight the next day and four days later, he scored another goal off a great passing play against the Capitals. It remains to be seen if he and McLeod will stay on the second line with Draisaitl. Still, with relief from trade talks being over, Foegele is a player to watch closely as he could emerge as a dark horse candidate to have a surprising “Fernando Pisani-like” playoff performance.

Connor Brown

What an unforgettable moment it was for Connor Brown when he scored his first goal as an Oiler last game against the Capitals. What came next were moments that are sure to stick around in his and Oilers’ fans’ memories for quite some time. He scored a goal off his leg from an Evander Kane feed during a 2-on-1 and Baggedmilk described the surreal experience after Brown scored:
“I was at Rogers Place last night, and I’ve never seen anything like the reaction after we all realized that he scored. There were hats hitting the ice, a standing ovation, and pockets of the crowd chanting his name on an endless loop for the rest of the third period. It was incredible.”
The first-year Oiler talked about the relief of pressure in the post-game interview, saying, “I haven’t been able to get one to go, so for [the fans’] support to shine through there and obviously rooting for me, [it was] a good feeling.” Scoring his first goal in almost two calendar years is a huge monkey off his back, and looking ahead, he’s a player I’m eager to see how he plays, now that he’s freed from that weight. Above all, I’m curious to see if he starts scoring in bunches now.
The trio of Brown, Kane and Adam Henrique seem to be gelling as a line, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can develop more chemistry down the stretch. All three players previously played or were expected to play in the Oilers’ top six, and the fact that this could be the third line heading into the playoffs speaks volumes on just how deep Edmonton’s forward group may be, heading into the postseason.

Cody Ceci

Before the trade deadline, Cody Ceci’s name circulated in trade rumours as he’s often perceived as the player most in need of an upgrade on the Oilers’ roster. After the deadline passed, Ceci obviously didn’t get traded, but it was believed that Edmonton offered him in a trade for Chris Tanev, but the Calgary Flames were hesitant to take on a contract with term.
May 6, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci (5) in the first period of game three of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the LA Kings at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
In addition, Zach Laing wrote that Elliotte Friedman mentioned on the 32 Thoughts podcast that Ceci’s teammates potentially voiced for him to stay, stating:
“I think they considered some subtractions from their team, ultimately decided not to do it. I know everyone is talking about Ceci, and I mentioned on the Spittin Chiclets pod last week that I think some players had indicated they preferred to have Ceci kept around.”
There’s likely a tremendous sense of relief for Ceci, knowing that he’s not on the move and can now ease his mind. Additionally, if what Friedman said is true, and the players — likely the Oilers’ leadership group — vouched for him to stay, that should instill a certain level of confidence in him as well.
The blueliner has played most of his minutes paired with Darnell Nurse this season. Yet, according to MoneyPuckthat pairing ranks 12th in the league in expected goals against per 60 minutes (minimum 20 games played), suggesting that the duo isn’t particularly strong defensively together.
However, over the last six games, he’s played with Brett Kulak and according to Natural Stat Trick, they’ve posted a 6-5 goals-for at 5v5. Also, the scoring chances are 72-55 at even strength in favour of the duo, indicating this pair could be a better-suited match. With the relief from the pressure of potentially being traded, it’ll be interesting to see how Ceci responds moving forward.
That said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. As per Natural Stat Trick, in the elimination series versus the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights over the last two playoffs, Ceci has a combined 15 goals against and only 3 goals for at 5v5, which are unsettling stats on a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.
However, since GM Ken Holland decided not to trade Ceci, perhaps he’s relying more so on the saying of ‘third time’s a charm’ and crossing his fingers that the blueliner can deliver this time around. While Ceci may feel less pressure now, it’s bound to intensify once the playoffs roll around.

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