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2022–23 NHLPA Player Poll: How did the Edmonton Oilers fare?

The NHLPA released the results of its annual player poll this week, giving us a glimpse into how NHL players view and rank their colleagues. These polls are always a good way for fans to get a gauge on who the players value the most in these categories. Often times, the players have similar views to the fans, which is always a good confidence boost that the takes may not be as hot as once thought.

This year’s results feature a strong Edmonton Oilers presence as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl take their game to new levels and are getting recognition from their peers. The former has found his way into a large portion of the categories, while the latter also makes an appearance in one award.

Which goalie would you want if you need to win one game?

Widely regarded as the best goalie in the league, one of the best in the generation, a future Hall of Famer, and probably one of the best of all-time, Andrei Vasilevskiy ran away with this category. He captured over 50% of the players vote as the goalie they would want on their team to win one game. With a resume like his, would this vote have gone any other way? Also receiving some recognition were Igor Shesterkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Connor Hellebuyck, and Ilya Sorokin.

Which forward would be the most impactful in a must-win game?

The first appearance by an Oiler is a good one. McDavid was by far the preferred choice amongst his peers. He received 59.3% of the votes for this category. And who can blame them? He is easily the most talented player in the league right now. His point pace this season leaves him finishing with an amount of points only seen by all-time legends of the game. And, when his team is down, he is the guy who puts the team on his back to try and make things happen. In the first two rounds of last year’s playoffs, he scored the final goal of the series, one of which was the overtime winner against the Calgary Flames.

McDavid is in a league of his own right now leading the Oilers into what is hopefully another lengthy playoff run.

Sidney Crosby, having yet another magnificent season as he tries to carry the Pittsburgh Penguins into the playoffs, received 11.3% of the vote. While Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov, Patrice Bergeron, and Auston Matthews also received votes.

Who is the top defenceman in the game?

Cale Makar has taken over as the player voted top defender in the league by his peers by a wide margin, with over 63% of players voting for him. He perfectly encapsulates what traits the ideal defender possesses in today’s game. He is an elite skater with unmatched offensive instincts. He can carry, drive, and create plays up the ice but definitely does not lack in defensive pedigree as his positioning and stick work are among the best.

He takes over the throne from Victor Hedman, who finished second with 11.4% of votes. Roman Josi, Erik Karlsson, Adam Fox, and Rasmus Dahlin also received some recognition as top defender.

Who is the best stickhandler?

Patrick Kane, now of the New York Rangers, was voted best stickhandler by 46.1% of players. He has long been regarded as one of the best players in the league while in control of the puck as he skates circles through the offensive zone and around all the defenders.

McDavid makes another appearance on this list as he finished second with 28.7% of the votes. With how McDavid controls the puck at top speeds as he goes through the opposition, his contention for this award grows every year.

MacKinnon, Trevor Zegras, and Kucherov were other players receiving votes for this category.

Who is the best passer?

Two Oilers make an appearance here. Draisaitl wins the passing category with an even 25% of the vote while McDavid received 7.7%.

Even though Draisaitl might be best known for his shot, specifically the one-timer from the low-circle that nets him a lot of goals, his passing game is probably even better than the scoring. For years, he has been regarded as the best passer and playmaker in the league. It dates back to when he first started showing up at All Star games and was the go-to player to participate in the passing competitions. His ability to get the puck through traffic is unparalleled. And his saucer passes are out of this world.

The player with the most assists on the Oilers, however, is McDavid, whose vision and hockey IQ are unmatched. He can find lanes and angles that no one else would even perceive, nevermind make a play through.

Kane took home second place in this category while Kucherov and Artemi Panarin also received some votes.

Who is the most complete player?

The well-rounded game that Crosby has developed and fine tuned over his lengthy career has earned him plenty of praise from his peers as he was voted as having the most complete game. As he approached 1500 career points, he has found remarkable consistency as an 80-90 point player for years. His physicality and ability to grind and battle adds an element to his offensive game that not many superstars can utilize, and it also helps him possess an edge to his playstyle defensively.

McDavid is also getting some attention in this category now as he works on rounding out his game. 11% of players voted for him this season, giving some recognition to the effort he has put in to work on his defensive play. If he is now getting some attention for two-way play, could it be the foundation for some Selke consideration in the near future?

The perennial Selke Trophy favourite, Bergeron, finished second while Aleksander Barkov and MacKinnon got a few votes as well.

Which player do you least enjoy playing against, but would love to have on your team?

Most of this category is players that would be considered pests or highly physical players. Understandable given that is not going to be easy going up against those players. Which is why Brad Marchand won the category with 36.5% of the votes with Tom Wilson, Matthew Tkachuk, and Hedman rounding out the category.

But sitting second is McDavid. A bit of an outlier in the category, but given how dangerous he is offensively, one could reasonably assume that a lot of the defenders that have to face him on a regular basis would vote for him. It would likely help their stress levels knowing that they wouldn’t have to deal with McDavid blazing down the ice towards them multiple times per shift and always having the potential of ending up on the wrong end of a highlight reel goal.

Who affects the game most around the net?

Long regarded as the best shot deflector in the league, Joe Pavelski earned the nod in this category with 21.4% of players voting for him. His ability to set up shop in the slot and deflect with accuracy or pick up rebounds has led to a late-career resurgence as the Dallas Stars have found some ideal linemates and found the way to best utilize his talents.

Once again, McDavid makes an appearance in this category. He is near the top of the league for his stick handling abilities in close quarters, so him making an impact in a small, crowded area in front of the net makes sense. One of his favourite moves lately is skating down near the slot, making a subtle but quick move to open up a shooting lane, and scoring low in the zone. And then factoring in his playmaking skills getting the puck on net or to players in the slot, its no wonder why some of his peers think he can affect the game the most around the net.

Chris Kreider, Tkachuk, and Anders Lee also received some recognition in this category.

Who is the most underrated player?

Barkov, long regarded as one of the more underrated players in the league, continues his time dominating in this category as he received 23% of the vote. A player who averages over a point per game and has won a Selke Trophy and Lady Byng in the past should receive quite a bit of recognition for being such a high calibre player. But he is not quite there yet.

Tage Thompson, Mika Zibanejad, Sebastian Aho, Brayden Point, and Jesper Bratt also received some votes here.

One name suspiciously missing from the list is the Oilers unsung hero, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who is able to do everything for the team and is currently having a career season, on pace for nearly 100 points. But due to being behind McDavid and Draisaitl, he does not get nearly the recognition he deserves for what he is and does for the Oilers franchise.

It is a good sign that the rest of the players in the league can evaluate and see the value in McDavid’s game, in all facets, not just his offence. It shows the rest of us that this team is turning a corner when the players (well, mostly just the one) are on the minds of the competition.

Which Oilers should have gotten more consideration or votes for these awards? Are any of the winners surprising?

Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire

Sean Laycock

Sean is a stubborn, lifelong Oilers fan who lives by the motto "There is always next year".

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