It is always a most welcome sight when the fantasy hockey league notifications start popping into our inboxes. An exciting sign of the impending start of the upcoming hockey season.
With these notifications comes the need for a refresher on players. Who to draft early. Who to avoid. Sleeper picks you might be able to snag late in the draft. And players to target depending on your league scoring settings.
So as a quick tool for preparing for your draft as an Edmonton Oilers fan, here is a quick Oilers fantasy hockey preview for 2023–24.
Edmonton Oilers must-draft players
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl
Quite obviously, the Oilers have a couple of players who are must-draft: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Both will certainly be gone within the top five picks, if not taken one-two, so for many fantasy hockey managers, they are inaccessible.
If you do happen to luck out (or are trying to recover from a bad season in 2022–23), having one of these two players on your roster is sure to give you an amazing chance at finishing high in the standings.
With McDavid coming off of a 64-goal, 153-point season, his one roster spot gives the point production that would take most other managers two spots to replicate. He is destined for another amazing season, likely hitting well over 140 points again as he enters the year even more motivated to win.
Same goes for Draisaitl, with his 52 goals and 128 points. Taking him also comes with the added benefit, if your league scores these, of faceoff wins. His faceoff winning percentage is near the top of the league and his 807 faceoff wins last season were ninth overall.
A new addition to this list is defender Evan Bouchard. Fresh off of a two-year contract extension, he has found himself skyrocketing up the rankings charts with what his 2023–24 season is expected to look like.
He will be taking on a much larger role on the Oilers’ defence, likely playing top pairing minutes with Mattias Ekholm. But most importantly for fantasy hockey managers is his role quarterbacking the league’s most dangerous power play. Bouchard can easily be expected to jump up to at least 60 points this season, many of which will be power play (even better for some fantasy leagues.)
In his short stint in this bigger role at the end of last season, Bouchard had five goals and 19 points in 21 games during the regular season and another 17 points in 12 games in the playoffs. Do not miss your chance to snag him.
Sleeper picks you should be able to draft late
There are a few possible sleeper picks that might get overlooked in most leagues that could prove to be a difference maker for your team.
For starters on this list, the aforementioned defensive partner for Bouchard. Ekholm has joined a high scoring team and plays a big role for them. It seems likely that he will put up some big numbers this season just by being on the ice with McDavid or Draisaitl.
Ekholm is a perennial 30-point scorer and does find himself rostered in some deeper leagues. But with 14 points in 21 games after his trade to Edmonton—a pace that would set a career high with around 55 points— he could be someone who gets overlooked in many leagues but could prove incredibly useful. If your league counts blocks and hits, he could be even better.
A talented offensive player with great instincts, Holloway never really received much of a chance to shine in his rookie year. He played less than 10 minutes per game, often in the bottom six. In one game where he finally played with McDavid, he scored almost immediately, just under three and a half minutes into the game.
Although the Oilers’ top six is a bit cramped right now, there is absolutely a spot for him on the wing on one of McDavid or Draisaitl’s lines. Holloway will be a player to watch through training camp because if he gets a shot in the top six, stays there regularly, and gets actual playing time, he could be a late round draft pick in deeper leagues that turns out surprisingly productive.
The biggest offseason acquisition for the Oilers was Connor Brown. He typically isn’t a flashy, high profile player, so he may fly under the radar of many fantasy managers who don’t closely follow this team.
But those of us in the know realize that he is a player who can (and has) put up 20 goals and 40 points on his own. This season in Edmonton, Brown is expected to join McDavid’s line as the two of them played together in junior and had chemistry back then.
With the speed and style that Brown showcases in his game, it is easy to see him taking a huge leap forward in production, similar to what was seen in Zach Hyman‘s game.
He likely won’t be taken too early in many leagues, but keep an eye on Brown because he will be put in a situation early to rack up a ton of points.
Must haves in banger and categories leagues
Does your league count hits, blocks, and penalty minutes? The Oilers have a couple of players that may pique your interest.
Evander Kane was brought in a couple seasons ago to help with the offensive depth and grittiness on the team. All areas he has helped significantly. But for fantasy hockey purposes, Kane is one of the most highly targeted players in banger league set-ups. He is a high volume player when it comes to hits, shots, and penalty minutes.
Kane played exactly half of the season and had 124 hits. Paced out over a full season, the 248 would place him in the top 10 in the league. And this is with a few major injuries throughout the season that would have impacted his ability to play physical.
He has the added benefit of being an offensive threat as well. So not only do you get a ton of peripheral stat categories covered with Kane’s game, he will also help out in standard goals and assists leagues as he was on pace for over 30 goals and 50 points.
Another player to target in these leagues is Darnell Nurse. He has historically been a player who hits a ton, shoots a lot, and takes a lot of penalties. All great traits if you’re filling out a roster in a categories or banger league. Like Kane, he also possesses an offensive side to his game. He is easily able to record 10+ goals and almost 40 points per season.
In the 2022–23 season, Nurse led the team in blocks, was second in hits, had the most shots by a defender (fourth on the team overall), and led the team in scoring by a defender. If you need someone on defence to fill out a banger/category league statline, he is just the player to target.
Players to watch for regression
Sometimes, players have incredible seasons and it raises their draft stock a ton. Maybe just a bit much, however. When approaching your draft, be mindful of the next few players.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is coming off of an incredible career season that saw him eclipse the 100 point mark for the first time in his career. It shattered his previous career highs, and for that reason, it begs the question of how sustainable his performance in 2022–23 was. Will he be able to replicate that? Or is he due for a huge regression?
It is unlikely he falls all the way back to the 50 or 60-point player he had been in the past. But it is likely that Nugent-Hopkins’ projected draft position will be a lot higher than where his actual performance will fall. And there may be better, safer players to take around that spot in the draft.
Another player who had an insane career year is Hyman. For many of the same reasons as with Nugent-Hopkins, he may have an inflated draft ranking that could end up backfiring if he regresses a bit.
Hyman is still a safe pick and someone you should absolutely have on your team, but it is important to be mindful that his career average falls more around 20 to 25 goals and 40 points. Not the 36 goals and 83 points he had last season. The impact of playing with such a high powered offence and getting ice time with McDavid and Draisaitl (and still being in that situation) indicates he should be a top producer. But he also had 27 goals and 54 points in his first year in Edmonton.
One last player to watch for in regression is Nurse. Although he is still a valuable player for banger and category leagues, his role this upcoming season will be reduced and he will be getting less ice time. This will directly impact his ability to put up points and record other stats (hits, shots, blocks.)
Nurse’s history in these types of leagues is likely to have him ranked fairly highly, among the top defenders. But those rankings may not reflect his changing role within the Oilers defence for 2023–24.
That covers just a few of the important Edmonton Oilers for fantasy hockey purposes. With drafts starting up within the next month, preparation is key so you don’t panic select the wrong player or blindly follow the platform’s rankings and suggestions. Which other players would you place into these categories? Drop a comment down below!
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire