Edmonton Oilers

Oilers Sunday Census: Edmonton’s third star of October

The first month of the NHL season is in the books. Perhaps it was the most chaotic month given each NHL team is finding its legs for the 2022–23 season. Though it is too soon for the general standings to have stabilised, it is not too soon to have seen some surprises in the realms of both individual and team performances.

The same can be said for the Edmonton Oilers, who got off to a wobbly start. Though the early weeks of the season felt a measure of panic begin to bubble across Oil Country, the team has pushed back with an increased level of play, one more becoming of the Oilers championship aspirations.

Hockey is a team sport, yet there have been some early standouts for individual Oilers that have aided the transition. Naturally, the pair of MVPs, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, are leading the charge to the surprise of no one. This leaves us with this week’s Sunday Census question: who has been the Oilers third star of the month? We asked, you answered.

Want to take part in Sunday Census polls? We send them out every week on our Twitter at @oilrigEDM. Follow along or send in ideas for the next poll!

The Oilers’ third-best player

Let’s take a look at the general temperature and results on who else is viewed as a big factor to the Oilers’ October results. In the poll, Stuart Skinner, Darnell Nurse, Zach Hyman, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were selected to be in the running as the third best player.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Leading the vote is RNH, who we recently proclaimed to be Edmonton’s secret weapon, and even more recently potting his 200th career goal. The Nuge has been on a 20-goal pace for most of his career, but could set new highs in goals, assists, and points now that the Oilers have enough depth to play him on McDavid’s wing in good conscience.

Nugent-Hopkins is a versatile and well-rounded playmaker—a bastion of consistency that stabilises the Oilers lineup no matter his deployment. Prior to the season beginning we ran a poll on “the Oilers 3rd best forward”, which RNH did not win. The recent uptick in appreciation is no doubt thanks to his strong performance in October, not to mention that the 2011 first overall pick has a game built more on substance than style.

Stuart Skinner

Perhaps the biggest surprise in this census is the ascendant Skinner. He has consistently outperformed expectations throughout his career, and has proved any hesitancy in his slotting as the backup goalie with his strong October.

It will take more than a month for Skinner to supplant creasemate Jack Campbell as starter, but it is certainly a possibility, if not expectation that Skinner does so over the five years of Campbell’s contract.

Despite his consistency, goaltending can be mercurial and unpredictable. Skinner will likely hit some rough patches in the future, as Campbell has this month, but Oilers fans should feel confident that they have a strong and affordable tandem in net this season.

Zach Hyman

Like RNH and Skinner, Hyman is another reliable performer for the Oilers. Hyman has continued to add to his game throughout his career, meaning his contract might age more gracefully than his age suggests.

Hyman’s workmanlike effort gives the Oilers a strong option to complement any centre he is deployed with. For now, he finds himself on a line with RNH and McDavid, a promising trio. Hyman has shown great chemistry with Nugent-Hopkins, as the two seem to bring out the best in each other’s play.

Although there has been little surprise in how Hyman has performed early this season, the reliable efforts of the winger is enough to keep him relevant in such conversations.

Darnell Nurse

Especially early on, Nurse has been part of his share of miscues. Certainly, the expensive extension that kicked in this season won’t further endear him to Oilers fans, nor does the serious hip injury he suffered at the end of last season help his condition early this season. These negatives highlight much of why Nurse sees himself in a distant fourth on this poll.

All that said, Nurse is still far and away the Oilers best option on the blueline, and provided strong play in big minutes over the course of October 2022. Leading the Oilers in icetime, at an average of 23:55 through eight games, playing the top defensive assignments, and with a strong 53.7 xGF%, Nurse is an invaluable contributor to the Oilers success.

With two goals and five points already, Nurse has delivered both offensively and defensively. Maybe it hasn’t been very flashy or unexpected, but Nurse deserves a lot more credit in this poll than he’s received.

Oilers very own

The month of October has seen a lot happening for the Oilers. With a team like Edmonton, water is wet, oil floats on water, and McDavid and Draisaitl will always be the top-two performers. What has made October special for this team though, is under Jay Woodcroft they have seemingly broken free of the “two-man team” mentality and are seeing their other stars step up.

Let’s see who else can do the same following RNH in the months to come.

Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire

Gregory Babinski

twitter: @axiomsofice

Leave a Reply

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: