As a general rule, the shorter the summer has been, the greater the anticipation of a new season when the puck drops in training camps around the NHL.
That’s true for fans here, as the Edmonton Oilers open their 2022 training camp with physicals today before hitting the ice tomorrow. While playing one more series after the Western Conference finals and having a three-week-shorter summer wasn’t on the cards after a sweep at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche, expectations are high for the Oilers after a 104-year season. points. the team’s highest total since 1986-87.
Throw in the primer of Ryan Smyth and Lee Fogolin as the first two additions to the team’s newly created ring of honor on Tuesday, and everyone is excited for the puck to drop and see what Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the rest of the next edition will bring. of the Oilers will be able to accomplish in a full season under coach Jay Woodcroft.
Questions? Of course. Like you, I have a few when it comes to the roster that general manager Ken Holland and Woodcroft will bring to camp and the preseason, which begins Sunday afternoon against the Winnipeg Jets. Once things start, it all happens pretty quickly. Your questions are likely to be very similar to mine. This is who and what I’m looking at. . .
Like former Toronto Maple Leafs teammate Zach Hyman, jack campbell He seems like a fantastic guy who is easy to like. More importantly, given that the Oilers signed him to a five-year, $25 million deal, Campbell represents a clear upgrade over the late duo of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen. That is going to require quality and quantity.
Campbell played in a career-high 49 games with Toronto last season, and the Oilers will need at least that many from him or lean too heavily on Stuart Skinner. Campbell will have to add to the .914 he shot last season for the Oilers to be noticeably better in the blue paint: Two seasons ago he was .921 in 22 games. If the Oilers aren’t better in goal, then all that talent up front won’t be enough to take them one step further.
ZACH AND EVANDER
It has been said more than once that the Oilers scored a lot last season. It was the goals-against that was the problem. True on both counts. But while McDavid Y Draisaitl lead The Attack, Hyman Y Evander Kane he provided a depth of offensive pop the Oilers haven’t had. Kane, especially, gave the Oilers a clincher and a marker behind McDavid and Draisaitl. Hyman scored a career-high 27 goals. Kane scored 22 times in just 43 games and added 13 more goals in 16 postseason games.
I didn’t think the Oilers would be able to re-sign Kane as UFA, but he’s back on a four-year deal worth $20.5 million. Simply put, Kane is a rare mix of skill, speed, and a nasty competitive edge. If he can produce a reasonable encore in 82 games, he will make a big difference in taking the next step. Kane put it like this today:: “High expectations are a good thing and none is higher than in our room. We look forward to building on last season.”
Hyman is a bit more subtle in getting the job done, but he is competitive and has an engine that never stops. He brings the rubber to the net, competes every turn and is versatile. Roll up Hyman and drop him. He is plug-and-play.
The Oilers’ defensive game has to improve against Campbell and Skinner. Everyone, particularly veterans Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci, has to take a piece of that. That said, I’m looking Evan Bouchard after the big step he took last season and wonders how much more is to come. Bouchard, who turns 23 on Oct. 20, had a coming-out party going 12-31-43 in 81 games, averaging 19:48 of ice time.
With just 102 NHL games on the books since his draft day in 2018, Bouchard hasn’t rushed, and there’s still room to grow. With Nurse, Ceci (injured to start camp), Tyson Barrie and Brett Kulak in the blueline mix, there’s enough coverage to allow Bouchard to come in as his performance dictates. What is his upper limit for offensive production? Ready for more ice time this season? What do you say, dad?
THE WILD CARDS
Dylan Holloway he’s an intriguing player at small forward after earning rave reviews at Penticton and even if he’s not ready to stick around and stick around to start the season, he’s risen in value and looks, according to those who watched him firsthand, like a player. . . . I would like to see Jesse Puljujarvi transition from being an analysis favorite to a striker who can be counted on to play a full season and produce goals more consistently. If he does, the Oilers will be much better on their right side. . . Ryan Nugent-Hopkins he sometimes gets lost in the shuffle, but his versatility gives Woodcroft some options up and down the lineup at wing and center. Where does RNH play most of its time this season?
THE WAY I SEE IT
There is more to consider, of course. After causing a stir behind the bench when he replaced Dave Tippett, Woodcroft has a tough act to follow with the 26-9-3 record he put together in the second half. What does the encore look like for him after having a full offseason and training camp to prepare? And what answers will Holland give, who met with the media today? I see a move or two before the regular season starts.
I had the Oilers win the Pacific Division last season, like a lot of people did. I was wrong about that. I see them doing another race this season and this time finishing ahead of Calgary. It’s what comes after, another step in the playoffs, that matters most. Finding out how (and if) the Oilers pull that off begins to unfold tomorrow. Here we go.
- When: On Thursday, January 12, we will be taking a flight out of Edmonton International Airport and heading to Las Vegas. On Sunday night, we will fly back from Las Vegas to Edmonton. So the dates you need to book for this trip are January 12-15.
- Where we stay: After landing in LV, we’ll hop on the free shuttle and head to Park MGM before settling in for a good night’s sleep. 😉
- What you get: Your round-trip flight, hotel, transportation, viewing party (Friday night), game entry – we’ve got seats this time (Saturday night), and exclusive entry to our pre-trip “meet them all” event.
- How many: The total cost of travel, flight, hotel and entry to the game is $1499 per person (based on double occupancy)
- Tickets: Ready to dive in? click this link.