The Edmonton Oilers Report Card: First Quarter Edition

grading the Edmonton oilers

We’ve hit the quarter pole on the Edmonton Oilers’ season and the Edmonton Oilers report card is ready to take home. The team has a Western Conference-best 15-5 record, a points percentage of .750, and a hefty +18 goal differential. They’ve achieved that record with injuries to their entire starting left defence, their starting goaltender, and a smattering of bottom-six forwards.

The Oilers haven’t started a season this well since 1983.Β  The caveat, of course, is that there are some signs of caution. The team’s possession numbers aren’t the strongest, the goaltending situation still has questions, and the injuries mentioned above are a legitimate hurdle. Pessimists will argue that regression is due, while optimists say that the best is yet to come.

In the meantime, let’s get this class in session and grade the Oilers’ players through their first 20 games. How has each Oilers player fared and are there any clues to reveal what’s ahead?

The Edmonton Oilers Report Card

Top of the Class

Connor McDavid & Leon Draisaitl

There is absolutely no surprise here. Both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are off to electric starts and remain the two best players in Edmonton. It’s been this way since 2015 and it’ll be this way for years to come.

Draisaitl has taken his goal scoring to an even higher level. He’s now starting to spark conversations about the possibility of 50 goals in 50 games. Not only that, but he already has 40 points and is on pace for 164. This is as good as he has ever been.

McDavid is dishing out his own brand of exceptional play, in a way only he can. It’s November and he already has two goals that will factor into the goal of the year conversation. The best part of McDavid’s season so far is that there are still 62 games left. Who knows what else he has in store.

The Straight-A Students

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

In Ryan Nugent-Hopkins‘ case, the “A”‘s on his report card stand for apples. In 20 games, he has a whopping 18 assists. He started the season with 17 straight before finally registering a goal. He’s been his usual consistent self for the Oilers, stapled into the top six and a featured player on both special teams. Here’s one of his more impressive, underrated stats this year: in 40 minutes of penalty killing, he’s only been on the ice for three goals against, with two goals for.

A 40% goal rate. On the penalty kill. In forty minutes. Nuge is every teacher’s favourite student. Always on time and always prepared. If the Oilers could clone him, they would.

Zach Hyman

It’s way, way too early to make such a definitive statement, but Hyman is already looking like one of the best free-agent signings in team history. He has nine goals and 15 points in 20 games. He apparently never takes a shift off and has a constant nose for the net. At the end of each game, he is a fixture at the top of the list in terms of scoring chances and possession. The new kid in class is showing the others how it’s done.

Jesse Puljujarvi

Not everyone will agree with this high of a rating, but it’s well-deserved. Jesse Puljujarvi has easily been one of the best Oilers this season. He’s at 16 points in 20 games and is second only to McDavid in Corsi and Fenwick. He’s also averaging over 17 minutes of ice-time a night, which is the most in his career. It’s to the point where coach Dave Tippett is now using the young winger to jump-start other players as a driver of his own line. He’s one of Edmonton’s brightest pupils.

Evan Bouchard

Evan Bouchard is only 41 games into his NHL career. You’d be forgiven for not realizing that given his cool, calm composure on the ice. As the rest of the blue line has deteriorated from injury around him, Bouchard has been forced to tackle increasingly difficult minutes. He’s done so in stride, with 11 points in 20 games, possession rates north of 50%, and an on-ice goal differential of 15-14.

If Bouchard’s parents could, they would take the video of his pass below and slap it on the fridge with a magnet. Too good.

The Not All A’s But Still Fridge Worthy Report Card

Darnell Nurse

He’s injured right now, but Darnell Nurse is unquestionably the Oilers’ most important defenceman. Although he isn’t quite on last year’s stellar level, Nurse is still providing excellent defence for a team that desperately needs it. Prior to his injury, Nurse was delivering over 26 minutes a night, with the highest possession metrics of his career. His zero goals on the season keep him from cracking the straight-A grade.

Cody Ceci

The most surprising Oilers’ report card might just be Cody Ceci. Who leads all Oilers in 5v5 ice time? The answer, surprisingly, is Ceci. Oilers’ fans weren’t sure what to expect when Ceci headed out west, but what they’ve got so far is an incredibly consistent, veteran defenceman. No, his numbers aren’t knock your socks off good, but in context, they reveal a quality player. He’s been tasked with playing key minutes with Duncan Keith, who has been trying to redeem himself after a poor end to his Chicago Blackhawks‘ stint.

When Keith went down with an injury, Ceci was then partnered with rookie Philip Broberg who has been playing his first few games in the NHL. In four games, that duo has a 59% Corsi for at even strength. Ceci is firmly delivering on all reasonable expectations.

The Advanced Placement Kid Who Bumps Up a Grade and Still Nails It

Philip Broberg

Broberg was only playing the fourth game of his NHL career on Saturday in Las Vegas. He ended up leading the team in ice time. That isn’t how this is supposed to work. Broberg was supposed to spend most of, if not the entire year, down in Bakersfield. Injuries forced the Oilers hand and the young Swedish blueliner was forced to take a massive step. He’s done so and then some.

Darnell Nurse and Duncan Keith are set to return soon, but it’s going to be incredibly hard to send down a player who’s made the most of this opportunity. If the kid is ready to take the test, let him take it.

Stuart Skinner

Stuart Skinner has stepped up in the absence of Mike Smith and put up a stellar .928 save percentage in six games. He has the city dreaming of the long-awaited, often thought impossible home-grown NHL goaltender. With Smith on the sidelines for a few weeks more, Skinner will have plenty of opportunity to prove himself as the real deal.

The B Students

All of these players have been decently good for stretches, but are missing a few key components in order to take their game to the next level.

Mikko Koskinen

Mikko Koskinen is 11-2, and yet according to MoneyPuck, he’s still given up more goals than expected. For the most part, Koskinen has been fine, but he’s still apt to let in weak goals at bad times. It’s strange because those weak goals usually come after highlight-reel saves. He’s like the kid in class who spells his own name wrong, but then rattles off a 500-word, the perfect short answer on Canada’s role in the post-World War 2 economy. How?

Warren Foegele

Warren Foegele has provided a solid forechecking option to the bottom-six and has chipped in enough offensively for what’s expected. With only 13 minutes of ice-time a night though, you’d like to see him make a bit more of an impact on a nightly basis and earn more minutes. There are too many games where he is just a little too quiet.

Duncan Keith

Duncan Keith has been much better than advertised, and at times has proven to be a very important addition to the team. Keith needs to watch his turnovers though, and be a bit more consistent in his ability to stop the opposition’s cycle.

Kailer Yamamoto

Kailer Yamamoto simply needs to find a way to produce more than five points in 20 games. His consistent energy and workhorse attitude have kept him in the top-six even when his production has dipped. He is clearly a player that Dave Tippett likes.

Ryan McLeod

Ryan McLeod needs to build his confidence and get more shots on the net. That isn’t to say that his game hasn’t been good though. He’s getting better with each passing game but will find the back of the net more once he sheds the “here, you take it” rookie syndrome.

Kris Russell

Kris Russell is here because we can’t pass up yet another letter pun. In this case, the B on his report card stands for “block”. As in the most shot blocks in hockey history, a feat he accomplished on Saturday night. Russell’s voodoo ability to get caved-in possession (42% Corsi for) but come out even or ahead in actual goals (7-3) remains completely “B”ewildering, as well.

Please “C” the Teacher After Class

Tyson Barrie

On paper, Tyson Barrie‘s 12 points in 20 games look pretty good. The issue is that he is getting caved in possession while on the ice and that is despite starting 64% of his shift in the offensive zone. He’s coming out close to even in actual goals, which is fine, but he needs to step up his game and do a bit more homework defensively or that will change.

Zack Kassian

Zack Kassian has picked up his play recently with four points in his last two games but has been too quiet for most of the season. Kassian’s inability to kill penalties, and his woes on the defensive side of the puck, limit his utility.

Colton Sceviour

Colton Sceviour hasn’t been bad, he just hasn’t stood out in a meaningful way yet. His penalty killing has been alright, but he’ll need to contribute more at even strength to secure a more regular spot in the lineup.

The Burn It Before You Get Home Oilers’ Report Card

Kyle Turris

Kyle Turris has given the Oilers’ two key shootout goals this season, helping them secure the win in each game, which the team certainly appreciates. In the real minutes though, he is largely the same player he was last year. Two points in 15 games and only eight minutes of ice-time a night. That’s a failing grade and not enough to occupy a roster spot.

Derek Ryan

Derek Ryan is apparently a bit banged up and maybe that explains some of his struggles. One goal in 17 games, and rather brutal possession and on-ice goal numbers. A catastrophic drop-off after his strong season last year. To be fair, the jump from the Calgary Flames to the Edmonton Oilers is like going from Math 30-3 to AP. That might make this the most disappointing Oilers’ report card of all.

Brendan Perlini

Brendan Perlini had a wicked preseason but has contributed almost nothing in the regular season. His role will be in major danger as the Oilers eventually trade for forward depth down the line.

Slater Koekkoek

Slater Koekkoek was struggling mightily prior to his injury, with some of the worst advanced metrics on the team. Broberg’s emergence puts his role in jeopardy.

Skipping Class

Tyler Benson, Devin Shore, William Lagesson

This group hasn’t had enough minutes, to this point, to form a definitive grade one way or another.

That does it for the first quarter edition of the Oilers’ report card. Check back in at the halfway mark when the red pen and terrible puns come out once again.

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