The championship premise of the Oilers is fairly straightforward. With two MVPs both in the lineup and in the prime of their careers, this is a rare window that the Oilers find themselves in. Many franchises haven’t had two MVPs in their history, let alone simultaneously. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl bring both the power and pressure to compete at the highest levels to their franchise. It is their talents that form the foundation of any and all of the Oilers’ current successes.
Yet, the truly elite talents of the sport, of any given field really, are able to continue their evolutions, transforming themselves beyond their already stratospheric heights. When projecting forward, we might not yet see the final destinations for either player in great clarity, but the Oilers recent return to playoff prominence was in no small part to the superstar duo reaching new individual levels.
The outlook for McDavid
To start, and most notably, Connor McDavid has seen his commitment to and effect on defence continue to take strides. Last season’s playoffs revealed an incredible level of off–puck effort, using his blazing speed as a checker through the neutral zone, even throwing his weight around with a physical intensity we hadn’t yet seen from the captain.
Although his defensive impacts are often buoyed by the strong defensive play of frequent winger Jesse Puljujarvi, it is evident to even the naked eye that McDavid’s commitment to winning with defence is growing. Of course he doesn’t need to win a Selke Trophy (awarded to the league’s top defensive forward) to be considered the world’s top player. This diversification of McDavid’s avenues to impact the game will push the boundaries of what a centre can bring to the ice.
As well, it should be noted that McDavid has continued to expand his abilities as a goal scorer. It is entirely possible, expected even, that McDavid can achieve a 50 goal season. More than his Selke candidacy is plausible at some point, his winning a Rocket Richard (awarded to the league’s top goal scorer) might even be more believable. Continued improvements to his shot, or perhaps more so the willingness to use it, have seen McDavid reach a new career high of 44 goals last season.
As a transition attacker and as a playmaker, McDavid is already in a class of his own, sublime, and unique. Going from solid to strong in the other facets of the game, broadly defending and goal scoring, McDavid is driven enough to continue improving his already otherworldly game and have an even stronger effect on the Oilers overall level of play.
During the 2021–2022 season, McDavid finished with a career high of 123 points. Though it might be a bit much to think that he’ll exceed last season by much more – 140 would be absurd, 150 obscene – more offence, specifically more assists, might not be the most meaningful improvement that McDavid can undertake.
To project an optimistic, and measured, expectation for McDavid’s point totals this season I would suggest reaching 50 goals and maintaining an assist per game, for a final stat line of 50 goals and 132 points. This is no small feat, but as he and the Oilers continue to ascend, the potential of this gaudy total is quite well earned.
What’s to come for Draisaitl
Naturally, the simple fact that Leon Draisaitl is not the best player on his team is quite special and speaks to the opportunity the Oilers are afforded by the presence of their stars. What’s more is that Draisaitl is somewhat of a stylistic opposite to McDavid. To have them achieve their results in such differing manners offers an interesting contrast to contemplate.
Where McDavid is all about speed, Draisaitl is almost in slow motion. Using his strength and power, Draisaitl is able to navigate through checkers with deception, anticipation, and patience alike. While McDavid is thought of as a playmaker who can score, Draisaitl might be thought of as a scorer with elite playmaking abilities.
Occupying a spot on his off side on the power play, this all but ensures that the Oilers will have a lethal unit with the extra man. Draisaitl’s effectiveness here gives him an absolute floor of at least 30 goals for this upcoming season.
Though he suffered an ankle injury in the playoffs, Draisaitl was able to maintain his high level of play, perhaps offering a glimpse of how he might be an effective player into his later and less mobile years, which are still a ways away.
Two years older than McDavid, turning 27 this season, there is still a chance, though waning, that Draisaitl’s most productive offensive seasons are ahead of him. As McDavid continues to improve his defensive play, some growth from Draisaitl in this area could help too, as will the growth of the Oilers’ lineup as a whole.
If there is an area of the game that Draisaitl could use some guidance in, it might be offensive transitions. Of course, this is but one of the reasons McDavid and Draisaitl play so well together, but it also helps us understand why the speed and playmaking abilities of Ryan McLeod fit so nicely on Draisaitl’s wing.
It’s not unfathomable that Draisaitl reaches the 60 goal mark at some point over the next couple of seasons. In both the 2019–20 and 2021–22 season, he hit his career high of 110 total points. His career high of 67 assists from three seasons ago, tells us that he might be able to increase his career high total to 130 points if he’s able to hit new highs in goals and assists during the same season.
Of course not every season can yield career best results, but there’s very little reason to believe that Draisaitl can’t come close to such a performance. Considering McDavid’s continued growth as a goal scorer, and the improved scoring depth of the Oilers as a whole, it is more likely we’ll see Draisaitl increase his role as a passer than a shooter. With that, an optimistic yet reasoned projection would be for Draisaitl to score 50 goals and 120 points.
McDavid and Draisaitl should continue to be two of the top picks in your fantasy drafts as it is highly likely that they will find themselves top ten, if not top five, in individual scoring this season. This of course is nothing new, but the real growth is likely to occur outside the individual statistics as the duo looks to translate their consistent successes as individuals into ultimate success as a team.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire