This is a good set of numbers to have.
I don’t exactly know why I love the 70s on the back of a hockey jersey, it just seems to satisy some weird itch that I have in my brain. In other words, it just feels right.
It might have something to do with this group of players. Among them are some of my favourite Edmonton Oilers of all-time. Much of my teenage years were spent idolizing one of these players and another has blossomed into one of my favourite current Oilers.
Thinking about it, that’s probably exactly why I am enamoured with 70s….or maybe it’s because the team was established in ’79?
I’ll let that mystery continue to stew. For now, let’s get into today’s instalment.
#71 – Ryan McLeod
Not only is Ryan McLeod appearing on this list twice, he is actually doing it in back-to-back spots. He was also the best Oiler to wear the #70 (but you would know that as you’ve read every instalment, right?)
Because of that, I’ll keep it brief. McLeod has done fairly well as a homegrown second-round pick. He paid his dues with a few years in the AHL and is now blossoming into an important part of the team’s bottom-six. There was anxiety this summer due to his RFA status, but a two-year deal is about as good an outcome as any.
He has a chance to anchor the team’s third-line behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for some time.
#72 – Nick Bjugstad
His time was brief, but Bjugstad still recieves the honour of best #72….and, uh, the only #72 at that.
No other Oiler has worn the number in NHL games before Bjugstad was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes at the 2023 Trade Deadline. He didn’t light the world on fire during his half a season with the Oilers. In 19 regular season games, he notched six points and played decent in a depth role.
He was also able to pitch in for three goals in 12 playoff games. It would have been nice to keep him around, but Edmonton couldn’t make the money work so he took his talents back to the desert.
#73 – Vincent Desharnais
This didn’t really seem possible a year ago, but a coming-out party from Vincent Desharnais this past season made it possible.
Desharnais was drafted in the seventh-round in the 2016 NHL Draft and finally made it into an Oilers uniform this past season in 2023, at the spry young age of 27. His tools as a physical defensive defenceman seemed to steady the Oilers third pair throughout the season and earned him a permanent spot on the club for the second half of the season and the playoffs.
Though he had his fair bit of struggles in the playoffs, that should probably be expected of an inexperienced thrust into the spotlight of the NHL playoffs. The hope is that the experience will make him better going forward.
I do owe him thanks for saving me the hassle of writing interesting things about Valentin Zykov’s time as an Oiler.
#74 – Stuart Skinner
Speaking of breakout players last season, Stuart Skinner takes the cake for the Oilers.
Born and raised in Edmonton and growing up an Oilers fan, it seemed like Skinner becoming an Oilers was a matter of fate. Taken 78th overall in 2017, it was a flyer that has already paid off for the club.
It took a bit of time for Skinner to get to the NHL. His first few pro seasons did not inspire a lot of confidence as he failed to record a save percentage above .500 and saw a few brief stints in the ECHL. Despite that, Skinner found a way to refocus his game and turned in a fantastic 2020–21 season that saw him help the Bakersfield Condors win their division.
This earned him 13 NHL games the following year in relief, putting up ok numbers before being sent back down. His AHL numbers that year ballooned yet again which helped him earn a permanent spot on the NHL team in 2022–23.
Initially expected to be the backup to Jack Campbell, Skinner did the unexpected and wrestled away the starters position midway through the year. In doing so, he helped the Oilers overcome a disappointing start to the season, putting up a .914 SV% and a 29–14–5 record in 50 appearances.
This breakout year helped him finish second in Calder Trophy voting for the season and earned him a multi-year contract with the club. He has positioned himself as the goalie of the future for the Oilers and there are high hopes going into next season that he can further improve.
#75 – Evan Bouchard
Ah yes, no Oilers team is complete with an offensive defenceman.
Evan Bouchard has more than paid his dues up to this point. He was the team’s top pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and just started getting regular NHL time in 2021–22. The impact was immediate as he quietly put up 43 points on the second pairing with limited power play time in his rookie season.
2022–23 started on a rocky note, as the team relegated him into a bottom-pairing role, but that all changed when Tyson Barrie was dealt at the deadline. Suddenly he was the team’s PP quarterback and their top right-handed defender. Oh, and Mattias Ekholm was his new partner.
All these factors helped him explode offensively, and made a lot of people forget his slow start. His game really blossomed in the playoffs where he led all NHL defenders in scoring with 17 points, despite being eliminated in the second round.
Bouchard remains unsigned this summer but all signs are pointing to a deal getting done sooner rather than later. This has been a sentiment echoed by both Ken Holland and, new CEO of hockey operations, Jeff Jackson.
The offensive tools were always Bouchard’s calling card, but if you watch his game closely, there is a lot of defensive ability in his game as well.
I do kinda wish he kept #75 just for the pure uniqueness of the numbers.
#76 – Bryan Young
Yea, this one isn’t going to offer a whole lot.
Bryan Young was drafted 146th by the Oilers in 2004 and appeared in a grand total of 17 games with. the team where he score zero points and was a minus nine. I hate plus-minus as a stat, but that’s the only other notable thing about Young’s career with Edmonton.
He had a longer career in the AHL and ECHL, but no seasons where he really showed anything to suggest he could have had a chance at a fruitful NHL career.
His claim to fame comes from being the only Oiler to wear #76.
#77 – Oscar Klefbom
For a long time, I considered Oscar Klefbom the best defenceman to play for the Oilers since Chris Pronger. I am a huge fan of Klefbom and own multiple jerseys with his name on them, so I admit full bias for this pick.
The Oilers selected Klefbom #19th overall in 2011 with a pick acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Dustin Penner. He made the jump to he NHL in 2013–14, and after a few seasons, developed into the club’s de-facto all situations defender and their top-pair LHD.
Luckily he didn’t have to handle those top-pairing minutes alone, as he enjoyed his final few seasons beside countryman Adam Larsson.
There was something so satisfying watching Klefbom play. He was a smart and versatile player who could move move the puck, make good defensive plays, and chip in offensively. He never did anything exceptionally, though he did do everything good if that makes sense.
Unfortunately, his career was cut short due to a few freak injuries that included almost losing a foot to a staph infection and then developing a degenerative condition in his shoulder. It’s a shame that such a good player’s career was cut so short and it’s painful to imagine how much this current team would benefit if he was still playing.
I’ll be wearing the Klefbom jersey to Rogers Place for years to come, nonetheless.
#78 – Marc Pouliot
The most painful part of Marc Pouliot’s career with Edmonton had nothing to do with his play on the ice, but the circumstances that led him to becoming an Oiler.
Unfortunately, he will always be known as the player that the Oilers traded the Zach Parise draft pick for. The team decided to trade the #17 pick in the 2003 Draft to the New Jersey Devils for the #20 pick with which they took Pouliot. Hindsight is a [expletive].
Pouliot did play in a decent amount of games with the Oilers (176) but could never live up to his first-round billing. He scored a 53 points with the club over five seasons before heading to Tampa Bay and Phoenix to the Swiss-A league where he is still playing at the age of 38.
It’s nice to see that was able to find a long career in professional hockey after a rocky NHL tenure.
#79 – Dillon Simpson
The son of Craig Simpson, Dillion Simpson could not quite cut it as an NHLer.
A fourth-round draft pick of the club, Simpson appeared in just three games with the Oilers in 2016–17 but could not stick. Instead, he has become. a veteran AHL player, playing in just under 500 games in the league.
He is now in the Columbus Blue Jackets organization playing with the Cleveland Monsters. He has actually served as the team’s captain for the past two seasons.
#80 – Ilya Bryzgalov
Did anyone else forget about this bizarre segement of Oilers history?
Yes, hockey’s favourite weird goalie did play for the Edmonton Oilers for a short 20-game stint back in 2013–14. The weirder part is that he was actually kind of decent as well. He had a losing record (5–8–3) but he managed a .906 SV%, which was hard to do for an Oilers goalie at the time.
It was good enough that the Oilers traded him off as a rental piece to the Minnesota Wild for a fourth-round pick that eventually turned into William Lagesson.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire