After a massive 3–2 win over the league-leading Boston Bruins on Thursday, the Edmonton Oilers now have a record of 36–22–8 and still sit in the first wild card spot, tied with the Seattle Kraken with 80 points in 66 games. The Oilers have been rolling since the new year, posting a 16–6–6 record, this is attributed to the team working together to find a way to win and rally for those points, even with subpar goaltending from Jack Campbell. In addition, we have certainly seen an increase in their ability to defend since acquiring Mattias Ekholm and Nick Bjugstad, who recently went 10/10 in the face-off circle against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.
With the trade deadline now over and the zero cap space left for any further moves, we want to know, who will be the Oilers’ best defenceman heading into the playoffs this season?
We asked, you answered! lets take a look!
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7% of poll voters believe that Darnell Nurse will be the Oilers’ best defenceman heading into the postseason. This is a surprisingly low number considering Nurse has been classified as the Oilers number one d-man when considering the level of competition he plays against on regular bases. That being said, Nurse severely struggled before the new year, notably finding himself out of position or laying on the ice in front of his own net while the puck is going in the net below him.
Thankfully since the new year, Nurse has managed to get his defensive play back on track and has found consistency on both sides of the ice. Nurse currently has seven goals, including last game’s game-winner against the Bruins, and 34 points on the year with a plus-minus of 20.
A small portion of voters believe that Evan Bouchard will be the Oiler’s best defenceman heading into the postseason. These results seem pretty in line with his play so far this season. Bouchard struggled for most of the 2022–23 season, usually playing in a second/third pairing role. During this time, he was partnered with the likes of Brett Kulak on the second pairing, Vincent Desharnais, or Philip Broberg on the third pairing.
Since the addition of Mattias Ekholm at the trade deadline, Bouchard has been paired with him on the second line and has excelled. Having a solid veteran defenceman, similar to last season with Duncan Keith, to help Bouchard on the defensive side of the puck seems to be the key with him. Bouchard now has four goals and 25 points in 66 games played this season and has a plus-minus of -2.
Almost three-quarters of Oilers fans believe that newly acquired Mattias Ekholm will be the Oiler’s best defenceman heading into the postseason; even though this number seems extremely high, his play on the ice has spoken for itself. Ekholm currently has five goals and 20 points on the season with a plus-minus of 7. During his short time with he Oilers, Ekholm managed to get his first Oiler point in his first game and now has two points in five games played with a plus-minus of 7.
The Oilers have been looking for defencemen with Ekholm’s abilities for years, and now that they have him, his impact has been felt immediately. Ekholm’s smart defensive capabilities, paired with his rugged style of play, have helped not only Bouchard’s play but the entire team–this was evident in the win over the Bruins earlier this week.
A minuscule number of voters believe Cody Ceci will be the Oiler’s best defenceman heading into the playoffs. Ceci’s game is not flashy, but for the most part, he is where he should be when playing in his own zone and recently has found some offensive success potting three assists in the last five games.
When looking at last season, Ceci was able to hold on to a spot on the top pairing with Darnell Nurse and was fantastic during the 2021–22 playoffs, where the team made it to the Conference Final. During that time he put up seven points in 16 games. This season Ceci has been as advertised getting one goal and 13 points in 66 games, he also has plus-minus of 10.
That’s a wrap
Who do you feel will be the Oilers’ best defenceman heading into the playoffs this season? Let us know in the comments!
Thank you to everyone who took part in the poll, stay tuned for next week’s Sunday Census!
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire