The Edmonton Oilers 2016-17 will long be remembered as the group that pulled the franchise out of the depths and allowed the fanbase to dream of Stanley again. The breathtaking Connor McDavid and emerging Leon Draisaitl provided ample torque for the team, while Cam Talbot was outstanding all year long for Edmonton. Can this trio repeat, or push beyond 2016-17? Will they get more support this time?
YEAR OVER YEAR
My RE projections a year ago didn’t give enough credit to the scorers or the defenders. I think Connor McDavid’s injury as a rookie obscured progress, and we’re probably more in line this time around. One thing that should be mentioned about the RE: No way we could have predicted the kind of good health enjoyed by Edmonton last season. It’s guaranteed the luck won’t hold, as Andrej Sekera’s injury has already derailed at least a portion of the 2017-18 campaign.
I have the goals against slightly increasing, while the offense increases close to an equal amount, due mostly to Connor McDavid. I also believe the team will have more power-play opportunities and the presence of expansion Las Vegas (Oilers play them four times) should mean increased power in the lineup.
The Oilers were No. 6 in goal differential a year ago. I don’t have Edmonton winning the Pacific, but rather second place in a close finish behind the Anaheim Ducks.
COMPLETE ROSTER PROJECTIONS 2017-18
I don’t really expect 12 forwards to score 10+ goals but had a helluva time projecting the RW’s on this roster. Ironically, one of the RW’s we may see this season is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who I have projected at center. I’m also projectinga free-for-all on defense until Andrej Sekera gets back, with his return coming around mid-season in this model.
I have Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Strome as mirror men and also see Drake Caggiula as a candidate for 1RW alongside Connor McDavid. Getting mighty crowded there, hopefully we’ll know a lot more this time next summer. Notice the lack of rookies? Heh. This team is becoming a veteran group.
THE MCDAVID CLUSTER
I count the department of youth portion of the cluster as ages 18-22, so the McDavid cluster is far smaller than one year ago. Two players left (Yakupov, Reinhart) via trade and expansion, while several moved into the ‘prime’ cluster. There are additional candidates (Kailer Yamamoto, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear) but a more veteran group is a good thing for the Oilers. This is the heart of the Edmonton Oilers.
THE PRIME CLUSTER
On a traditional team, this would be the heart of the order. With McDavid still in the youth department, this section lacks the star power but there is substantial talent here. RNH, Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson are important pieces and the emerging Matt Benning may join them. Ryan Strome is going to get a massive chance to fill some roster holes on this team and I think Zack Kassian, Anton Slepyshev and Drake Caggiula all have a chance to be around these team for the next few seasons. This portion of the team needs to own 50 percent of the goals and 50 percent of the possession even when Connor McDavid isn’t on the roster.
THE VETERAN CLUSTER
This is the group that needs to pay for itself, but that’s no easy task. Plenty of turnover from last year in this category, with Jordan Eberle, Benoit Pouliot and Matt Hendricks gone from last fall. Milan Lucic will have plenty of pressure on him to post offense 5×5, my guess is he’ll improve markedly while also helping on the 5×4.
THE 2017-18 OILERS
- Final record: 82GP, 46-28-8 100PTS
- Finish: No. 2 in the Pacific Division, No. 4 in the Western Conference, No. 10 overall
- All-Star Team: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Oscar Klefbom, Cam Talbot
- Traded by deadline: Anton Slepyshev, Caleb Jones
The Oilers aren’t aggressively pursuing talent and that tells me Peter Chiarelli is concerned enough about max cap to hold back his water on some of the available free agents (Cody Franson) who might be able to help. I’ll also allow for the possibility that he doesn’t value Cody Franson as much as me.
If things change from here on in, we’ll cover them but this is the projection for 2017-18 for the RE. As soon as I publish this I assume we’ll see three trades, four acts of God and one college free-agent signing.
This brings us to the end of the RE series for another summer. Thanks so much for reading, I hope the prose helped you through the thunder and rain. I think this team could win the Stanley Cup next spring, and that’s a wonderful feeling.