The NHL season is less than a week away and when it arrives it will be far overdue for much of the fanbase.
Yes, the offseason can be fun at times and preseason is privy to bringing a few intriguing stories to light, but nothing beats the rush of games that count. The Edmonton Oilers are poised to take part in very important season, one that many around the team think will have Stanley Cup aspirations surrounding it.
There is no doubt that the Oilers are among the very best in the NHL right now. Led by the world’s best player in Connor McDavid, the team will be more or less running back a similar roster than last year’s. Of course, new addition Connor Brown will change how the top of the roster looks, but as we progress into the bottom six, guys like Derek Ryan and Mattias Janmark will once again strap in for another tour in Alberta’s capital city.
So, how will these players perform this year? No one can be certain, though it is fun to throw a dart at the board and make an educated guess. So, let’s do just that…
There is absolutely no reason to expect regression from the Oilers captain this season.
Despite putting up a historic 153 points last season, many pundits are expecting McDavid to either match or surpass that total over the course of the upcoming season, which is completely fair.
McDavid is a freak when it comes to his ability to take over games on a nightly basis. It’s become so regular during his NHL career that a game where McDavid is held off the scoresheet generates a reaction from the media. He is so good that not scoring a point in a single game is considered to be unusual.
Perhaps the scariest thing is that McDavid has found a way to improve his game every single season he has been in the league. In the summer of 2022 he decided to work on his shot which resulted in a 64-goal season, the highest the league has seen since Alex Ovechkin put up 65 in 2007–08.
Word around the league this summer was that much of his offseason was focused on the defensive side of the puck which obviously means a Selke season is waiting in the wings.
2023–24 is going to be another memorable one.
McDavid 2023-24 prediction: 81 games, 65 goals, 100 assists, 165 points
The newest Oiler is in for what might be a career year saddled next to either McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.
Brown is coming off a season lost to injury in Washington, appearing in just four games and scoring no points in the process. Before this, Brown was a 30+ point scorer in Ottawa and Toronto and peaked with 43 in 2019–20.
His tenacious style of play and incredible work ethic has prompted plenty of comparisons to Zach Hyman, though many view Brown as a more responsible two-way player. There is no question he will be getting a lot of opportunity in one of the league’s most lethal forward groups and it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he could land on the the NHL’s best-ever power play unit at times as well.
During the preseason we have seen Head Coach Jay Woodcroft play Brown with McDavid and Evander Kane on the top line, and that has shown some promise, so the expectation is that he will start there. I also don’t think it is wild to say that, if this sticks, we could bear witness to a career year by the 29-year-old Toronto native.
The opportunity has never been better and the skill is there to take advantage of it. Injuries will be a concern but hasn’t been an issue in the lead-up to the season thus far.
It’s going to be an interesting year watching Connor Brown.
Brown 2023-24 prediction: 75 games, 22 goals, 32 assists, 54 points
The Oilers bottom six is set to be as competitive as it’s ever been, which could go either way for Mattias Janmark.
The Swedish vet seems to have his fair share of fans within the organization as he was rewarded with a contract extension the day before free agency opened up last summer. The appeal is obvious on the surface as he represents a steady veteran presence who won’t surprise you with any remarkable or disastrous plays. He’s the safe option.
Though that could work against him as other players with more to prove vie for a spot on the team. Sure, he has the advantage contract-wise, but guys like Raphael Lavoie and Lane Pederson have impressed in camp while Janmark has just carried water.
The old adage that preseason hockey doesn’t mean much might ring true for the upper echelon of the roster, but for guys at the edge of the roster, that thinking loses traction.
I still expect Janmark to make it into a lot of game this year, but not quite as much as last season. He may start as a regular but I have a seeping suspicion that he may get relegated to a Devin Shore role in the postseason.
Janmark 2023-24 prediction: 56 games, 8 goals, 9 assists, 17 points
There might not be a current NHL player with a more interesting path to the league than Derek Ryan.
Ryan spent the bulk of his early hockey career playing with the University of Alberta Golden Bears before heading to Austria for a couple of years before heading to the NHL in 2015–16 where he has been ever since.
That is no mistake as Ryan is a very good player in his role. He is known for being a very reliable defensive centerman that can also contribute on the offensive side of the puck as well. Despite being 36, last season Ryan scored 13 goals, just two shy of his career-high. He’s a pro’s pro that brings a steady presence to the team’s depth forwards.
That being said, age waits for no one and this could be the year we start to see numbers dip a bit and injuries start to become more of an issue. Ryan has typically been a sturdy player, he appeared in 80 games with Edmonton last season, so perhaps all will be fine. It is wise to err on the side of caution in this case, however.
Ryan 2023-24 Prediction: 72 games, 7 goals, 9 assists, 16 points
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire