This is the end, beautiful friend.
We have finally reached the final instalment and have completed our journey through every single jersey number in Edmonton Oilers history. And what a ride it has been.
I will be honest in saying that I didn’t expect to have as much fun doing this series as I ended up having. It seems like a pretty standard exercise to go about during the offseason, but the amount I learned about certain obscure players and re-visiting old favourites was an absolute blast.
It peaked when Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers himself read and liked my praise of him way back in the 30s.
This last instalment will not disappoint. The Oilers have, historically, had some of their most iconic players, from all eras, choose jersey numbers in the 90s. This one is jam-packed with star-power and is easily the most iconic set of numbers in franchise history.
For the last time, let’s get at it!
#91 – Evander Kane
We start the list with one of Edmonton’s more controversial players.
Evander Kane signed on with the Oilers in the middle of the 2021–2022 season after having his contract in San Jose terminated. The deal was relatively cheap and afforded the Oilers a nice top-six piece for their upcoming playoff run. Things clicked immediately.
Kane produced a torrid pace and became an offensive machine for the club down the stretch with 22 goals and 39 points in 43 regular season games. He was even deadlier in the playoffs, scorching the competition with 13 goals and 18 points in 15 games. This earned him a four-year extension.
The expectation going into last season was that he could flirt with the 40-goal mark. Yet, a slow start and a terrifying wrist injury limited both his time and ability on the ice.
His numbers were still decent, scoring 16 goals and 28 points, but nowhere near where people expected him to be at.
The talent is still there but a lot of what he can do with the Oilers will depend on how his wrist heals up.
#92 – Tomas Jurco
There isn’t much to be said about Tomas Jurco’s time in Edmonton.
The Slovakian forward signed on with the team in the summer of 2019 as a depth forward option…and that is exactly what he was, if not a bit less.
He only appeared in 12 games with the team and recorded two assists. Jurco had an even briefer stint with Vegas the following season but has been in the KHL ever since.
#93 – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
There is a real chance that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could be the longest tenured Oiler of all time.
The man they call “Nuuuuuge” was drafted first overall by the Oilers in 2011. He survived the team’s mass exodus of the “HOPE” years and has become one of the most beloved members of the team.
His rookie season was impressive, putting up 52 points and just missing out on the Calder Trophy. He then settled into a reliable secondary scorer and was the team’s top line centre in the years before Connor McDavid’s arrival.
For a while it seemed like RNH’s ceiling would be a pair of back-to-back 56 point seasons in 2013–14 and 2014–15. His point totals seemed to stall out and injury problems prevented him from hitting 50 points for the next three seasons.
Though, as he aged and eventually found himself playing on the wing, that offensive spark returned in 2018–19 where he put up career highs in goals (28) and points (69).
He obliterated those highs in 2022–23 as he had an incredible, completely unexpected season where he dominated on the PP and scored 104 points. An insane, over 50-point increase to his totals the season prior.
It would be wildly unfair to expect that from RNH again, but it’s a testament to just how talented of a player he is.
Overlooking Nugent-Hopkins is easy to do when McDavid and Leon Draisaitl also play for the team, but with 801 games and 632 points with the Oilers, he is, without a doubt, one of the best players to play for the franchise.
#94 – Ryan Smyth
This is a number I am surprised is not already retired.
I understand that the Oilers have a rule that only Hall of Famers get their numbers retired, but an exception should be made for Ryan Smyth.
Smyth embodied what it meant to play for the Oilers. A local boy drafted sixth overall by the the club in 1994, Smyth’s history with the team actually began in the ‘80s when he served as a stick boy for the dynasty Oilers.
He made his debut in 1994–95 appearing in just three games and then became a full-time NHLer the following season. Smyth was never going to be hitting the heights of teammate Doug Weight, but for what he lacked in pure skill he more than made up for in passion, determination, and good ol’ fashioned heart.
The thing that most Oilers fans, and opposing goaltenders for that matter, will remember about Smyth is his willingness to go to the toughest parts of the ice and lay it on the line. He was among the most formidable net-front presences in the league and battling in the corners with him was something even the most experienced defenders dreaded.
Smyth was a grinder’s ideal version of a grinder. This doesn’t mean he didn’t score, he was a very productive player for the Oilers for a very long time. His peak came in 2000–01 with a 70-point campaign, but he registered 50 or more in 10 of his 19-year career.
Along the way he picked up some trademark offensive moves, from a instantly recognizable slap-shot wind-up to a tried and true wraparound method. I remember playing street hockey and yelling “Smytty slapper” as my friends would clear the way.
Through 971 games with the Oilers, Smyth 631 points, which is good enough for second in franchise games-played and ninth all-time in franchise points.
The love that the city feels for #94 was beautifully displayed on the night when he played his final NHL game in front of a sold out crowd at Rexall Place. Not a single person in that arena had a dry eye as he circled the ice.
He wasn’t Wayne Gretzky, he wasn’t Mark Messier, and he sure wasn’t Connor McDavid, but Ryan Smyth was truly in a class of his own when it came to being an Edmonton Oiler.
#95 – (Vacant)
No #95s have ever graced NHL ice for the Oilers during the regular season. Not one.
In fact, the only #95 in the league that comes to mind is Matt Duchene while he was with Nashville, Ottawa, and Columbus.
Oh well, nothing for the Oil.
#96 – (Vacant)
Back-to-back vacancies for the first time all list!
Yup, it appears that the mid-90s are not all that popular with Oilers players. As a bonus I’ll name Mikko Rantanen as the most notable active #96 while Tomas Holmstrom can take the cake as the best ever to wear the number.
Satisfied? Me neither… hopefully the next guy is good.
#97 – Connor McDavid
What more can be said about Connor McDavid? That isn’t rhetorical, I actually want to know.
Ever since Peter Chiarelli called his name at the 2015 Draft, the entirety of the NHL belonged to McDavid. He has proven time and time again that. he is the most talented and skilled player to ever play in the NHL. From blazing speed, incredible on-ice IQ, pin-point passing, and, as we all seen last year, a shot that is both equal parts accurate and deceiving.
His talent shows up in more than just my words, of course. Since entering the league, McDavid has put up six 100-point seasons, has won three Hart Trophies, and has led the league in scoring five times. Oh ya, and he was also responsible for the highest scoring season in 28 years with 153 just last year.
This is also under the assumption that we haven’t seen the absolute peak of McDavid’s performance yet. He has improved every single year he has been in the league and there is nothing to say that won’t continue into the years to follow. It’s a terrifying thought for everyone not in Edmonton.
I feel like there should be more to say about McDavid, but the fact is that he is just very good, perhaps the best we’ve ever seen from a pure talent standpoint.
The NHL has never had a player quite like McDavid and if he didn’t play another game in his career, he’d be in the Hall of Fame. The Oilers would be smart to make some room in the rafters as well.
#98 – Jesse Puljujarvi
I love Jesse Puljujarvi and I commend him for taking a number as unconventional as this.
Though things didn’t ultimately work out for Puljujarvi in Edmonton, he was as unique and as likable as they come.
Drafted fourth overall by the Oilers in 2016, Puljujarvi was billed as a highly skilled playmaker with some size. He wowed at the World Juniors in his draft year, taking home MVP honours, and was seen as the consenus pick after Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.
When the Columbus Blue Jackets opted for Pierre-Luc Dubios instead, it seemed like a coup for the Oilers. Things started well, with Puljujarvi scoring in his first game in the NHL, but things just couldn’t quite stay consistent for the Finnish winger. Puljujarvi struggled to live up to his high draft position, and after a few less than ideal seasons plagued by injury, he opted to go back to Finland for a full season in 2019–20.
He would return to the Oilers in 2020–21 and put up better, but still not quite good enough numbers. His underlying analytics were sparkling and it seemed to indicate that there was still a good player to be had, but it just wasn’t translating. A 36-point campaign in 2021–22 was the best he could muster in an Oilers uniform, and after a lacklustre start to 2022–23, he was eventually traded to Carolina at the trade deadline.
Puljujarvi is a player I really pulled for during his tenure in Edmonton. He seemed to have all the tools you could ask for, he just couldn’t quite figure out how to use them in the NHL.
#99 – Wayne Gretzky
As if it was ever in doubt. I could be a smartass and say that #99 goes to Wayne Gretzky as a result of him being the only player to have worn it for the Oilers, but I won’t do that.
Gretzky is, quite simply, the most dominant player to ever grace professional sports. Not one athlete in any other sport has ever completely and utterly rewritten the record books of their respective sports. One of the many unbelievable realities of Gretzky’s dominance is that if he hadn’t scored a single goal in his career, he would still be the all-time leader in NHL points just through his assists, which equal 1963—just a bit more than Jaromir Jagr’s 1921 total points.
99’s arrival also changed how the game was, and still is, played. He entered the NHL during the end of the reign of the broadstreet bully Philadelphia Flyers. It was a tough man’s league through and through, something that seemed to work against an undersized Gretzky. Yet, he led an Oilers squad that beat teams through speed and skill. It’s a style of game that has helped the sport evolve to where it is at now.
You could argue all day about who the second-best NHL player is because the top spot is undisputed. Wayne Gretzky is the best there ever was.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire