Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2020-21, where Last Word On Hockey gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. Make sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our 2020-21 Stanley Cup pick. Today the series continues with the 2020-21 Edmonton Oilers.
2020-21 Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers had themselves a bounce-back season considering their previous performance and missing the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With focusing on getting back into post-season play during the 2019–20 season, the Oilers were well on their way to break 90 plus points and lock down a playoff spot. Due to a pandemic, the 2019-20 NHL calendar year would be cut short. The Oilers would play 71 games rather than 82, finishing with a record of 37-25-9. This would secure Edmonton for the 2nd spot in the Pacific Division with 83 points.
An intriguing topic to talk about is the Oiler’s special teams that vastly improved compared to the 2018-19 season. A struggling power-play would skyrocket from being ranked 30th to a league 1st best. Their previous penalty kill that was a disaster would find ways to improve quite significantly. The Oilers coaching staff of Jim Playfair and Glen Gulutzan in full control of the penalty kill found ways to direct a league’s second-worst to the second-best. Furthermore, with the combination of their power play and penalty kill statistics, last season resulted as the NHL’s all-time second-best special teams in league history.
Once again, we saw two of Edmonton’s elite finishing in the top four with points. Leon Draisaitl (110 points) and Connor McDavid (97 points) lead the league, finishing as the top 2. Draisaitl would take his turn winning the Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay and adding the Art Ross to his trophy case. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins finished as the team’s third-best with 61 points. Also, let’s give an honourable mention to the kid Kailer Yamamoto. He made his way onto the Oilers roster late in the season recording 26 points in 27 games. Kailer Yamamoto, being the team’s best point producer at five on five behind Draisaitl was a massive help with the Oilers’ even-strength struggles.
Ken Holland would do his part in putting his stamp on this Oilers team at the 2020 trade deadline. The Edmonton Oilers would acquire two players from the Detroit Red Wings, veteran defensemen Mike Green and the speedy centre/winger Andreas Athanasiou. The Oilers GM did not hang up the phone just yet as he continued to add more offensive help to the team. Edmonton would acquire 31-year-old Tyler Ennis from the Ottawa Senators. Holland was hoping the addition of these three players would put the Oilers over the top come playoff time. Unfortunately, things just did not work out the way he had planned.
The NHL would come up with a 24 team play-in format to decide which teams would make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We would see the 5th seed Edmonton Oilers face-off against the 12th seed Chicago Blackhawks in a best of 5 series. Unfortunately, Edmontons goaltending would be nowhere near post-season standards leaving Chicago to get the best of Edmonton. The Chicago Blackhawks would upset the Oilers 3-1 in the series advancing the underdogs to the playoffs. Although it is easy to hang the blame on the teams goaltending, the entire team lacked any drive or resemblance to the regular season.
The Edmonton Oilers added some new additions at the deadline, only one of those players stuck around. Tyler Ennis being that one player to extend his stay with the Oilers in a one-year deal worth $1 million. The salary cap would make Ken Holland’s life difficult as he was left no choice but to move on from certain players. Mike Green (retired), Andreas Athanasiou, Riley Sheahan, Markus Granlund, Tomas Jurco, Matt Benning and Brandon Manning would not see an extension. The Edmonton Oilers would re-sign William Lagesson, Mike Smith and Jesse Puljujarvi. They would also extend the likes of Kris Russell at $1.25 million through the 2021-22 season. The defenceman currently has one-year remaining on his deal at $4 Million.
Ken Holland would once again go bargain shopping in the free-agent pool. He would add some minor league depth pieces, one of them being goaltender Anton Forsberg. Without a doubt, the most important piece Edmonton inked in the summer happens to be right shot defencemen, Tyson Barrie. The Edmonton Oilers and Tyson Barrie would agree to a one-year show-me deal worth $3.75 million. The news of Oscar Klefbom possibly missing the 2020-21 season panicked Oiler fans and happened to push Edmonton to either make a trade for a defenceman or sign one.
Kyle Turris signed a two-year deal worth $3.3 million. Adding a veteran like Turris should result in a positive move and cover their third-line centre needs. The Oilers would not stop there as they announced the signing of Dominik Kahun. The signing of Kahun may not have lit a spark from most Oiler fans. However, on a one-year deal worth $975k, clearly, there is no risk. Not to mention the Edmonton Oilers strapped cap issues they face, it would be difficult to go after a star player.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Connor McDavid-Zack Kassian
Dominik-Kahun-Leon Draisaitl-Kailer Yamamoto
James Neal-Kyle Turris-Jesse Puljujarvi
Tyler Ennis-Jujhar Khaira–Alex Chiasson
Extras: Gaetan Haas, Joakim Nygard, Josh Archibald
The 2020-21 Edmonton Oilers top line could very well be juggled early on in the season. The reason for this being is Edmonton lacks a top right-winger. For now, Zack Kassian will look to continue filling in that role, as last season earning himself a career-high of 34 points. Some will say that Kassian is not capable of achieving on the first-line, which is not far from the truth. Having said that, the guy was the fourth-best player last season on the Oilers roster. The left side could be somewhat less complicated, as two options make the most sense of those being two Centers (R.N.H) and Leon Draisaitl.
Perhaps the second line is less complicated if Draisaitl and Yamamoto pick up where they left off last year. Keeping these two together is a no brainer and adding Dominik Kahun makes a lot of sense. Leon Draisaitl and Dominik Kahun have a history as they played in Germany together during their young careers. The choice of breaking up a consistent line such as R.N.H, Draisaitl and Yamamoto was a head-scratcher. Although Dave Tippett was looking for ways to spread the offence, it seemed to backfire in the play-in round.
Where do you even start with the 2020-21 Edmonton Oilers bottom-six forward group? One thing we can establish is the newly acquired Kyle Turris will grab Edmonton’s third-line centre position, as he’s the best option. Look for Dave Tippett to be experimenting with the bottom six group. Surely, you could make a case for anyone really to be on that third line come opening night. An interesting note to add is Jesse Puljujarvi has made his return as an Oiler. It’s almost certain that he will be looking to turn heads, as well as prove his worth to the team. An under-looked player on the Oilers’ roster is Josh Archibald. the best penalty killer on the team last season, who will find a way to make his return into the lineup.
Caleb Jones-Tyson Barrie
Kris Russell-Adam Larsson
Extras: William Lagesson, Evan Bouchard
The 2020-21 Edmonton Oilers defence is another area that remains up in the air. The addition of Tyson Barrie to fill the void of Oscar Klefbom will be a considerable help on the power-play. Where he slots into the defensive pairings will be the big question. Ethan Bear remains an RFA as it has some Oiler fans screaming in agony. Although this may be concerning, Ethan Bear and the Edmonton Oilers will get a deal signed before the action starts. Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear should look to continue their chemistry with each other and push to secure the top pairing.
The team has some noticeably great young up-and-coming talent. Two of which could steal a job from one of the veteran players. William Lagesson and Evan Bouchard both had great performances in Sweden recently, who are in great in-play hockey shape at the moment. We could see some surprises regarding Edmonton’s defensive core.
Extra: Anton Forsberg
Goaltending in Edmonton looks to be set in stone using the same duo of last season. Look for Mikko Koskinen to light the way in the crease as he showed indications he was ready to take on the number one role. Mikko Koskinen had a far better season posting a .917%. Mike Smith and his streaky performance should look to find some consistency in his game, otherwise, he may be the odd man out. The question of Anton Forsberg possibly backing up Koskinen wanders in the minds.
Players to Watch
The Edmonton Oilers will focus on newly acquired and recent players for bounce-back or breakout seasons. Jesse Puljujarvi and the Oilers finally made up, which felt like a bad breakup. The two sides agreed to a two-year deal worth $2.35 million in the summer. We all know how badly Jesse wants to play in the top-six and show the world he can shine. Jesse Puljujarvi will have to begin his path on the third line to prove he is top-six worthy. The Oilers will want to maximize his potential, and they will need to put him in a position to succeed. Look for Jesse to have a breakout season, as it may be his last chance to show his worth.
Tyson Barrie signed a one-year show-me deal, and that exactly is what he will look to do. After a down season with Toronto last season, he will look to get back into his true form. Tyson Barrie is surrounded by all the tools he needs on this Oilers team. Playing with Draisaitl and McDavid on the power play will not only help Barrie increase his numbers, as well as their top-ranked power-play. The Edmonton Oilers and Barrie seem to be a proper fit, and if all appears to be true, he may have one of his best seasons yet.
Prediction for 2020-21 Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers had a fairly good season last year. If they want to repeat their success or greater their season, defence and goaltending need to be the backbone. The offence can seem to be provided by only Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid at times. The remaining forward group has to find a way to add to the score sheet each night for pressure to deflate from the elite forwards. Anything seems like a possibility when everything is going in the right direction, even something so crazy as a 2020-21 Edmonton Oilers team winning the Pacific or Canadian Division.
The 2021 post-season will be in Edmontons sights. The likes other than Leon Draisaitl and Connor Mcdavid need to discover ways adding to the score sheet. The Edmonton Oilers will be more than capable of outscoring their opponents, as this was an issue last season. The defence in Edmonton needs to work together and play stingy on their end. Plenty of work remains on this roster and is a work in progress. This team has to get it right soon as fans have little patience left, and surely the elite stars want nothing more than post-season success. In conclusion, with a workload ahead for the Edmonton Oilers in a 56 game season, they will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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