As summer fades and the North American sport schedule coming to life, it is important to remember the chaos inherent in competition. Winning the offseason gains no points in the standings, in fact, down to individual performance the only certainty we are ever afforded in predicting the future is uncertainty.
Still, the joy of pursuing knowledge is the pursuit itself. Through the folly of chaos known as the NHL, we can still try to envision how it all might go. To tap into a consensus opinion, let’s take a look at some of the individual awards odds via FanDuel for Edmonton Oilers players in the upcoming 2023–24 NHL season.
Art Ross Trophy
McDavid -205 v field +162
Connor McDavid is clearly in a class of his own, the favourite to defend his title as the Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner. To have a special prop against the field, as in the rest of the NHL, speaks to his run of dominance rarely seen in the sport.
Draisaitl +1200 (5th)
To this point McDavid has only continued to improve, in many ways redefining what we know as possible on the ice. After leading the league with 64 goals last season, it is difficult to imagine that preseason talk a year ago surrounded whether or not McDavid could reach 50 goals. McDavid seems to be continuing to improve each season, and his status as front runner for leading scorer and MVP are as solid as ever.
Never far behind, Leon Draisaitl is well represented in his own right, placing fifth on this list of Hart candidates. Narratively, Draisaitl often has the disadvantage of being on the same team as McDavid, so their fates are tied together as Hart candidates. Given how slim the margins are, it is a testament of skill and timing that Draisaitl has already won a Hart Trophy, something that many of the finest players of all time have never accomplished. Steadily cementing a legacy of greatness, Draisaitl is full value as one of the world’s best.
Rocket Richard Trophy
Draisaitl +400 (3rd)
McDavid, the reigning Rocket Richard winner, is the favourite here too, although by a decidedly smaller margin than the Art Ross or Hart Trophies. Conversely, Draisaitl jumps up to third for Rocket Richard Trophy odds.
While McDavid outscored Draisaitl last season, it was the first time that such was the case. We will have to wait to see how it plays out, but it wouldn’t be that surprising to see Draisaitl lead the Oilers, if not the league, in goals. Again, the main takeaway here should be how special it is to have two players that are, quite frankly, expected to score 50 goals each in the same lineup.
Though all three of the Oilers top defencemen are quite far down the list of Norris odds, it is a really encouraging sign that the Oilers have a lot to work with on the back end. There is a chance that the Oilers blueline starts getting some recognition as one of the better groups in the NHL.
Evan Bouchard leads the group in odds, and based off of Erik Karlsson’s win of the Norris Trophy in 2023–24, this makes a lot of sense. Often offensive production is a huge piece of a Norris candidacy, and Bouchard is positioned to be among the leading point scorers for defencemen, especially now that he is poised to man the top power play unit full time.
Mattias Ekholm and Darnell Nurse form a fantastic one-two punch at left defence, and both might be better overall players than Bouchard at this point. Both Nurse and Ekholm have some offensive upside, but are not likely to be among the leading point scorers for defencemen. Their inclusion here is due to a respect for their overall quality of play, though a Norris win would be shocking
The Oilers will certainly be hoping for a bounce back season from Campbell, whose time in Edmonton has not gone according to plan. At the very least Campbell played well in his playoff appearances last season, spawning some hope that a higher level of play is still in the realm of possibility.
Meanwhile, Skinner has gone four consecutive seasons in surpassing expectations. This might not be a sustainable trend, but perhaps it should not be too shocking to see Skinner go above and beyond once more. It might be said that Skinner wore down a bit in the playoff run of last season, so while limiting his starts might hurt his Vezina chances, it might be the right move for the Oilers as a team.
With McDavid and Draisaitl on the team, there might never be enough room for an Oilers goaltender to truly push for the Vezina, at least from a narrative perspective. The hope, rather, should be that both goalies seem worthy tandem starters, where the Oilers can find an optimised balance between prioritising rest and riding the hot hand.
Jack Adams Trophy
Woodcroft +1100 (5th)
Perhaps even more so than most awards, the Jack Adams Trophy is as much about narrative than it is anything else. Most of the time recognition is given to the coach whose team improves most over the regular season prior. This an area where Jay Woodcroft will receive no consideration, as the Oilers have been one of the league’s best teams in the season and a half of his tenure behind the bench.
The other popular archetype for Jack Adams winners is coaches of the Presidents Trophy winning teams, particularly those who run away with the league’s best regular season record by a clear margin. Any consideration of Woodcroft winning this award likely comes with the caveat of the Oilers pacing the league for multiple months over the course of the season.
Despite these narrow margins, Woodcroft’s odds as the fifth most likely Jack Adams winner is indicative of a couple things. First, that the Oilers are among the small number of elite teams in the league, a perennial contender. Second, is that Woodcroft has put together a fantastic start to his head coaching career, winning playoff series in each of his two seasons.
The most telling statistic to monitor will be the Oilers penalty killing percentage, which might have been the Oilers biggest team flaw last season. If Woodcroft is able to bring the Oilers up to a top 10 penalty kill percentage it will help the team towards becoming the indomitable force required of a Presidents Trophy, or Stanley Cup winning teams, but so too will it be a sign of strong coaching by Woodcroft and his staff.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire