Predicting Risers and Fallers On The Oilers Roster - Forwards
We are only a couple days removed from the beginning of August which likely means that the Oilers roster is just about set. Yes... the dominant force the Oilers have assembled will break out onto the ice in just a couple short months.
I don't know how many different ways I can say this; the Edmonton Oilers are an incomplete team with a massive drop off between their top end talent and the supporting cast. The only way this team makes the playoffs is if some key players are able to step up in a big way.
The issue with that is a number of players stepped up on a weak Oilers roster last season, and it still wasn't close to being enough to propel the team to a playoff spot.
Today we are going to take a look at the Oilers roster and the forwards who played for an NHL team last season and try and predict whether the player will have a better, worse, or roughly the same production this coming season.
James Neal - I for one do believe that James Neal will bounce back in a big way this season. The forward took 143 shots last season, very close to his regular pace but only had a 5% shooting percentage. It is almost a given that Neal will get ample time in the top 6, likely with Ryan Nugent Hopkins, but could find time with McDavid as well. I'm not prepared to say he will return to being a 25 goal player, but a 15-20 goal season is not out of the question.
Sam Gagner - #89 finds his way on this list, purely because he will play a full season on the roster. Gagner came back to the Oilers in the twilight of last season, playing the final 25 games with the Oilers, going 5-5-10 through those games. Samwise should see plenty of second unit powerplay time and should (when) injuries occur he could slot in the top 6.
Jujhar Khaira - Khaira has been a funny player for Edmonton. At times he has shown the ability to play in the top 6 while at other times he doesn't even look like he belongs in the NHL. After shooting at 15%, scoring 11 goals in the 2017/2018 season, Jujhar managed only 3 goals last season at 5%. Khaira may only ever track as a fourth line forward but he should be better this year.
Zack Kassian - I debated whether or not to put Kassian here. Over the last couple of years we have seen a complimentary player jump onto a line with McDavid, score some goals, then fall out of favor the following year. It happened with Rattie a couple of years ago, and could happen now with Kassian. Nevertheless, because the Oilers depth is so poor, Kassian should be able to make a case to stay in that position, and should he do so he will score more.
Connor McDavid - I mean at what point do we look at a season and say this is McDavid's offensive ceiling? Three years ago McDavid scored 100 points, then 108 the season after, and 116 last year... I guess that means he scores 124 this year.
Josh Archibald - A good complimentary signing by the Oilers, but there is little evidence right now to suggest that he will be any kind of revelation for Edmonton. A 10-12-22 season from him would be fine.
Markus Granlund - Copy and paste the above. A decent complimentary forward and one who should be especially valuable on the PK but no reason to expect a points surge.
Colby Cave - According to Wikipedia... Colby Cave is a professional hockey player who plays for the Edmonton Oilers.
Ryan Nugent Hopkins - RNH has been the Oilers best soldier over the past decade. Leon's 50 goal season ended up overshadowing the fact that Nuge has a career high, nearly breaking 70 points despite playing away from McDavid most of the year. The issue is that Nuge scored nearly a third of his points (8-18-26) on the powerplay; a career best. Powerplay production is very unreliable to track and assuming those numbers fall back down to his usual average, we should expect another 55 point season as opposed to a 70.
Leon Draisaitl - In case I haven't made myself clear...let me bold this next point: Unusually high shooting percentages almost always fall back to earth the following year. Watching Leon race Alex freaking Ovechkin for the Rocket last year was awesome and one of the only reasons to watch Oilers hockey at the end of last season. Draisaitl shot at a 21.6 Sh% last year and scored 12 goals in his last 20 games. An 80+ point season isn't out of the question for him, but expect goals in the mid 30's as opposed to 50's.
Alex Chiasson - Unusually high shooting percentages almost always fall back to earth the following year. Sorry...needed to make sure it was noted. After the first couple of months of last season, Chiasson was shooting close to 50%. That isn't just unsustainable, that's nearly impossible. Chiasson scored in bunches early, then went cold for almost two months before potting a few more near the end of the season. Chiasson is far more likely to score 10 goals next season than he is 20.
For fans of the Edmonton Oilers, who are wondering whether or not the team can make the playoffs this year, ask yourselves this question, "are the players who are likely to be risers going to outweigh the fallers?" Looking at the names on these lists I personally find that unlikely. The top end players who carried the play for Edmonton last season all had career years and it is unlikely to see that repeat or even be sustained.
The wild card here will be the new additions. Players like Gaetan Haas, Joakim Nygard, Tyler Benson, and even perhaps Jesse Puljujarvi who could become difference makers. Nevertheless Holland and the Oilers organization are taking a massive risk leaving the roster as it is.