A ‘more comfortable’ Connor McDavid could put Edmonton’s playoff drought to bed in 2016-17

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This post is part of Edmonton Oilers day on PHT…

As many expected, Connor McDavid had a fantastic rookie year. Despite suffering a fractured clavicle in November, the 19-year-old was able to finish the year with 48 points in 45 games in his first NHL season.

The numbers are impressive, but with McDavid’s impact only having been felt for a little more than half a season, the Oilers still couldn’t get back to respectability on the ice.

Can a healthy McDavid get Edmonton back to the playoffs as soon as this season? Even though it seems like a long shot, the idea can’t be dismissed.

Of all the players that played 41 games and up in 2015-16, McDavid ranked third when it came to points-per-game. Only Patrick Kane (1.29) and Jamie Benn (1.09) were ahead of McDavid (1.07) in that category.

Now that he’s a year older and a year wiser, it’ll be interesting to see just how much of a leap McDavid can make next season.

“I’m really excited. I definitely feel a little bit more comfortable this summer than I did last summer, not knowing basically what to expect about anything,” McDavid said in July, per the Toronto Sun. “And now you come back and you have a season under your belt, you can kind of feel a little more comfortable and have a better understanding for certain situations.”

There’s no guarantee that McDavid would have been able to keep up his 1.07 points-per-game pace, but for the sake of argument, let’s take that number and pro-rate it over 82 games. That’s an 87-point season for a guy who only turned 19 in January.

Can we rule out a 100-point season for McDavid in 2016-17? Absolutely not. If he stays healthy, it’s entirely possible. But does a 100-point season from McDavid make Edmonton a playoff team (something they haven’t been since 2005-06)? That remains to be seen.

Since the last lockout, two players have surpassed the 90-point mark. Chicago’s Patrick Kane did it last season and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby did it in 2013-14. In both instances, their respective teams made the playoffs. That’s not to say that the Pens and ‘Hawks were in the same situation as the current Oilers, but getting that type of production from your top player can only increase your odds of making the post-season.

That’s also not to say that the hopes and dreams of next year’s Oilers fall solely on McDavid’s shoulders. Most people may not have liked the Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson swap, but it’s clear that Larsson makes Edmonton’s defense better.

An outstanding year from McDavid, the addition of Larsson and some improved play from young defensemen like Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom could signal the end of the Oilers’ playoff drought.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.