After having his rookie season with the Edmonton Oilers rudely interrupted by a busted clavicle that kept him on the shelf for 37 games, Connor McDavid completed the equivalent of a full NHL campaign in a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings Thursday.
McDavid hit the 82-game mark last night, and his numbers are what you’d expect from a player who arrived in Edmonton riding a wave of hype and hoopla we haven’t seen since Sidney Crosby, the guy McDavid is jockeying with atop the scoring race for the Art Ross Trophy, came into the league.
Despite a December that’s been slow by the standard he’s already set, McDavid, who is still two weeks from celebrating his 20th birthday, has 29-61-90 through his first 82 games (1.10 PPG). In 2015-16, McDavid scored 16-32-48 in 45 games (1.07 PPG). Through 37 games this season, he’s scored 13-29-42 (1.13 PPG).
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With Crosby hotter than a three-dollar pistol with 42 points, including 26 goals (in just 31 games), and Pittsburgh teammate Evgeni Malkin right behind McDavid with 15-26-41, Oiler fans don’t only have a playoff race to contemplate in the second half of the season after a decade out of the post-season, they’ve got an Art Ross Trophy contender in McDavid.

SOMETHING TO CHEER ABOUT

 
 
 
The fact that McDavid, who was held off the score sheet against the Kings and has just 1-3-4 in his last eight games, is still in the race against Crosby has me thinking they’ll go nose-to-nose the rest of the way. Seasons tend to go in ebbs and flows and McDavid will have another stretch when he heats up. Crosby, inevitably will cool off. It’ll go back and forth the rest of the season.
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The Oilers haven’t had an Art Ross Trophy winner since Wayne Gretzky did the deed in 1986-87 with 62-121-183. Gretzky won his first scoring title in 1980-81 with 55-109-164 – he turned 20 during that season (Jan. 26). McDavid turns 20 Jan. 13. While McDavid won’t approach Gretzky’s numbers in this era, he’s on pace for 92 points this season and he’ll likely take a run at 100.
In the bigger picture, the Oilers, now 19-12-6 for 44 points, have won four of their last five games without McDavid lighting it up and having to carry the team on his back. The Oilers didn’t hit 44 points until Game 51 last season. It took them 59 games to hit 44 points in 2014-15. A scoring race. A playoff race. What’s not to like so far?
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WHILE I’M AT IT

  • The Oilers finished last season with a goal-differential of minus-42. Through 37 games this season, they’re plus-10. That’s fourth-best in the Western Conference behind only Minnesota, Chicago and San Jose. Going into this season, I thought the Oilers were capable of cutting that minus-42 by 30 goals or so, but I didn’t see them as a plus-team.
  • Eric Gryba’s game-winner against the Kings last night was his first in a career that’s spanned 236 NHL games. It was the just the sixth goal of his career. His single-season high is two goals, a feat he managed in each of his first two seasons. Goals, let alone game-winners, from guys like Gryba are like finding a crumpled, old $20 bill in a suit pocket.
  • The win over Los Angeles gives the Oilers a 14-4-4 record against Western Conference teams and they’re 5-3-2 against Pacific Division teams. They were 9-15-5 against Pacific teams last season. If you want to look at why the Oilers are in contention for a playoff spot, that’s a good place to start. 
  • Kris Russell led all Oilers in ice time against the Kings with 21:51. I thought he played very well yet again. I’m not so impressed that I want to see GM Peter Chiarelli throw a long-term contract (anything more than two years) at him, but Russell can play second-pairing minutes here and he’s damn sure worth signing.
  • On the flipside, and still going with what my eyes tell me as opposed to plugging the Bronte 5000 super-computer with data, I’m thinking the only reason Benoit Pouliot is still around is because there’s no way to move his contract with the way he’s playing right now. 
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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