Edmonton Oilers 2020-21 NHL season preview

Edmonton Oilers 2020-21 NHL season preview
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The 2020-21 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to preview all 31 teams. Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at how the offseason affected each team, the most interesting people in the organization, and the best- and worst-case scenarios. Today, we preview the Edmonton Oilers.

Edmonton Oilers 2019-20 Rewind

Record: 37-25-9 (83 points); second in the Pacific Division; fifth in the Western Conference.

Leading scorer: Leon Draisaitl (43 goals, 110 points).

It’s not unusual to describe an Oilers season as “shaky for a team, great for an individual.” It is unusual when it’s someone other than Connor McDavid dominating the headlines.

Granted, McDavid soared and scored in 2019-20. Number 97’s 97 points ranked second in the NHL. However, McDavid was looking up at Draisaitl. For all the deeper criticisms of Draisaitl’s overall game, his season remains astounding. Not only did Draisaitl become the only player to reach 110 points, he was also the only one to clear the 100-point barrier. He was even starting to push for the Maurice Richard with a late surge in goals. (Draisaitl’s 43 left him fourth in the NHL.)

So, the specifics of who ranked at the tippy top of Oilers scoring changed. Also, with a stronger regular season, Edmonton seemed to make some progress. With a few bounces, they might have been able to fight for seeding.

Unfortunately, those positives dissolved when the games mattered the most. During the Qualifying Round, the Oilers got outgunned by a Blackhawks team that was basically an alternate version of themselves. Like Edmonton, Chicago struggled mightily on defense, hoping to make up for that with scoring. In Chicago’s case, they could lean more on goalies to bail them out.

Between keyed-in top players (including vintage Jonathan Toews) and sloppy Oilers play, the Blackhawks bounced the Oilers in just four games. Such a finish soured much of the optimism — muted or not — that the Oilers built up.

Shackled by salary cap constraints, the Oilers settled for incremental improvements. If everything works out, they might finally give McDavid, Draisaitl, and a few others at least some more support than usual. It’s unclear if that will be enough for a deeply flawed team to look closer to complete this season.


Tyson Barrie (free agency), Kyle Turris (free agency), Dominik Kahun (free agency), brought Jesse Puljujarvi back to North America (free agency).


Andreas Athanasiou (free agency), Matt Benning (free agency), Riley Sheahan (free agency).

Edmonton Oilers 2020-21 NHL season preview Puljujarvi McDavid
(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

3 Most Interesting Edmonton Oilers

• Draisaitl – McDavid

Filling up two of the three most interesting Edmonton Oilers spots with McDavid and Draisaitl would take too much away from what’s changed. Not mentioning them at all when they’re the engines that run this team would also feel wrong. So let’s combo the two.

After all, Draisaitl winning the Hart Trophy could drive some friendly competition against McDavid. As explosive as the two were on the same line, that volatility burned Oilers on defense one too many times. Once they centered a line apiece, the Oilers become a more threatening team overall.

Asking Draisaitl to follow up that 110-point masterpiece would be a little much. Still, he might be able to clean up his defense a bit, and opponents face headaches in trying to account for one superstar line each.

Honestly, it feels bold to ever wonder if McDavid isn’t the best player in the world. With players like Nathan MacKinnon pushing him, and Draisaitl outscoring him as a teammate, McDavid likely feels as challenged as ever. That tension could translate to some must-watch hockey from McDavid.

• Tyson Barrie

It’s tempting to look at Tyson Barrie as something of a missing piece for the Oilers defense. Think of it as a classic situation where both sides need each other. Powering the Oilers power play could redeem Barrie’s free agent market value. Meanwhile, having a defenseman with Barrie’s offensive skills may help the Oilers at least approach last year’s seemingly unsustainable 29.5-percent power play success rate.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just a case of pure improvement.

For one thing, Barrie’s difficulties in the defensive end are well-documented. Barrie has a chance to be a net-positive overall, but those criticisms are justified.

The larger concern is really outside of Barrie’s control. With Oscar Klefbom expected to miss the season, the Oilers defense could be even worse. Perhaps someone like Evan Bouchard can step up and help, but in this context, Barrie feels more like a Band-Aid than a boost.

If nothing else, Barrie headlines the Oilers’ push for interesting reclamation projects. Maybe Kyle Turris will benefit from a change of scenery even more?

• Jesse Puljujarvi

Over the last couple of years, it sure seemed like Jesse Puljujarvi’s Oilers days were over. This wasn’t Hall of Fame GM Ken Holland’s first rodeo with a slightly/very unhappy young free agent, and eventually the two sides patched things up. At least for now.

While Puljujarvi struggled at the NHL level so far, it’s also fair to wonder how much of the blame should fall on the Oilers. After all, the franchise hasn’t always hit all the right notes with player development. At least beyond no-brainers like McDavid and Draisaitl.

More than anything else, it’s been frustrating to see Puljujarvi stuck in limbo. His best chance to prove himself is in the NHL, even if he may have regained some confidence overseas.

At first, Puljujarvi may still need to battle for ice time and opportunities. The Oilers seemed to find some nice linemates for McDavid and Draisaitl, so Puljujarvi seems likely to land in the bottom six, and maybe the fourth line. Eventually, he might get shots with the top guys.

Can Puljujarvi make the most of these opportunities? It will be intriguing to see how that goes.

Best-Case Scenario

When you have two absolute superstars, and some nice players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, it’s not outrageous to dream big. The Edmonton Oilers benefited from a top-heavy Pacific Division, and the all-Canadian North Division presents other potential perks. Maybe the Oilers pieced together just enough of a supporting cast to allow McDavid & Co. to have a deep playoff run?

Worst-Case Scenario

Despite observing one of the most robust free agent goalie markets in recent memory, the Oilers instead stuck with the same shaky ingredients in net. Mikko Koskinen quietly performed nicely, but at 38, Mike Smith might be well beyond his expiration date. This isn’t necessarily the most nurturing atmosphere for goalies, either, unless Dave Tippett finds magic he couldn’t conjure in 2019-20. Quite a few elements of the Oilers seemed to max out potential last season. What if Draisaitl and that power play cools off? Could we experience another disastrous season where people are left wondering if McDavid is subtly or not-so-subtly angling for a trade? This imbalanced roster often seems to be wobbling toward collapses.

Pointsbet – Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup odds

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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Teravainen scores late, Hurricanes rally to beat Rangers 3-2

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    NEW YORK – Teuvo Teravainen scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period, Frederik Andersen stopped 29 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the New York Rangers 3-2 on Tuesday night.

    Jalen Chatfield and Stefan Noesen also scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes, who won for the third time in four games.

    With the comeback win, the Hurricanes became the second team – following Boston – to reach the 100-point mark this season as Carolina increased its Metropolitan Division-lead over second-place New Jersey to two points and the third-place Rangers to eight.

    “That was a great effort. All 20 guys contributed and we got what we deserved,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “If we play like that, we’ll be in good shape. This time of year it gets tougher and tougher.”

    Tyler Motte and Kaapo Kakko scored for the Rangers, who had won four straight were 6-0-1 in their last seven. Igor Shesterkin finished with 36 saves as the Rangers played their third game in four nights – the previous two shutout wins at home.

    “Igor kept us in there as long as he could and we just didn’t have enough in the tank,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. ”They won more battles and played a hard game.”

    Teravainen scored his 11th goal with 2:33 left on a pass from defenseman Brent Burns, redirecting the puck past Shesterkin. The Hurricanes, who trailed 1-0 and 2-1.

    “Somehow they left me open in the back side, great pass by him,” Teravainen said of the winning-goal pass to him in the slot. “We knew this would be a tough night. They have a good team. We knew we had to battle to win this game.”

    The Rangers led 1-0 entering the third and were vying for their third-straight shutout before Chatfield tied the score at 9:49 – the first goal the Rangers allowed in more than eight periods. New York was coming off a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night with Shesterkin in goal and a 7-0 triumph over Nashville behind Jaroslav Halak on Sunday.

    Kakko then put New York back ahead 31 seconds later with his 13th goal, only to have Noesen answer right back 18 seconds later to tie it 2-2.

    Motte opened the scoring at the 17-minute mark of the first, knocking the puck past Andersen for his third goal in four games and sixth of the season overall.

    The Rangers hadn’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 defeat on March 4 at Boston.

    “Tonight we didn’t play near well enough to beat that team,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”Honestly, the whole game they outplayed us. They were a lot quicker. They managed the puck real well … We didn’t play our game.”


    Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal played his 729th game with Carolina on Tuesday, tying defenseman Glen Wesley for the second-most games played in franchise history since relocation from Hartford in 1997. Staal, 34, trails only his brother Eric, who played 909 games for the Hurricanes from 2003-16.


    Hurricanes: Host the Rangers on Thursday night to finish the home-and-home set in the opener of a four-game homestand.

    Rangers: At Carolina on Thursday night to open a two-game trip.

    Ullmark’s 40 saves carries Bruins past Senators, 2-1

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    BOSTON – Linus Ullmark made 40 saves, Jake DeBrusk had the go-ahead goal and the NHL-best Boston Bruins continued their pursuit of the league’s record for regular-season victories with a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

    “I thought he was outstanding and he needed to be,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said of Ullmark. “Unfortunately we gave up a lot of good looks, a lot of odd-man rushes because of our puck management and he bailed us out like he has all year.”

    David Krejci added a power-play goal for Boston, which won its fourth straight.

    Dylan Gambrell scored for the Senators and Mads Sogaard made 33 stops.

    “We had a shooters’ mentality for two periods,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “The third period, they’ve won 54 games now, they’re not going to give you an odd-man rush, they’re not going to give you anything. You’re going to have to earn it.”

    The Bruins posted their 54th win and with 12 games left are on pace to break the mark of 62, set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-96 and matched by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018-19.

    Chasing the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, Ottawa has lost six of seven following a season-high, five-game winning streak.

    Coming off a 3-2 road trip where they won the last three games by a combined score of 15-2 that included two shutouts by backup Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins converted on a two-man, power-play advantage to tie the game at 1 midway into the opening period when Krejci poked in a rebound from the edge of the crease.

    DeBrusk completed a nifty play with Brad Marchand when he collected a pass cutting down the slot at full speed, shifted and tucked a rebound past Sogaard at 15:52 of the first period for his 23rd goal.

    “It was ‘all world.’ I saw him and he fed it through a lot of guys for a breakaway,” DeBrusk said of the pass. “It was one of those passes where I didn’t know what to do. I was going to point at him (after) but I was going too fast.”

    Gambrell’s wraparound score gave Ottawa a 1-0 edge.

    “I thought I played a good game today,” Sogaard said. “I just battled and stayed with it the entire way. … These ones are tough because we were so close.”


    Ullmark stopped 22 shots in the second period with at least a dozen of them high-quality chances. During an Ottawa PP, he jumped from a crouch to make a right-shoulder stop on Alex DeBrincat’s bid from in close.

    “We talked about it,” defenseman Hampus Lindholm said of the second period. “We know we’re a good team in the third and wanted to tighten it up for him. … They got a lot of chances that were our own fault in the second.”


    The Bruins highlighted women who work and compete in the sports community, having Olympic gold medalist and Boston Pride defender Kali Flanagan accompany Bruins players during pregame walk-ins along with local high school scholastic award winners. In addition, in-arena host Michaela Johnson handled the PA for the night and they also left yellow roses at the seats of female reporters.

    NOTES: The Senators entered the game as the only team holding an advantage in their series against the Bruins this season, winning twice in three games. … Montgomery said after the morning skate that defenseman Derek Forbort would likely be sidelined with a lower-body injury at least through the rest of the regular season. … DeBrusk, playing on the top line most of the season, is four off his career-high goal total, set in 2018-19.


    Senators: Host Tampa Bay on Thursday.

    Bruins: Host longtime rival Montreal in an Original Six matchup Thursday.

    Boldy’s goal with 1.3 left in OT lifts Wild over Devils

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    NEWARK, N.J. – Matt Boldy scored with 1.3 seconds left in overtime and Filip Gustavsson made a career-high 47 saves to give the Minnesota Wild a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

    The game was a chippy, defensive struggle. After two scoreless periods, the Devils were outshooting the Wild 22-19.

    Minnesota finally broke through 6:41 into the third when Mason Shaw scored his seventh goal of the season on a wraparound.

    Timo Meier answered for the Devils five minutes later with his 35th goal of the season on a wraparound of his own.

    New Jersey was unable to convert on a late power play, and the teams went to overtime.

    It was a back-and-forth five minutes of extra hockey, with both goaltenders making good saves. After Jack Hughes hit the post for the Devils, the puck caromed off a post to Boldy and he beat the buzzer with his 23rd goal of the season.

    Vitek Vanecek stopped 27 shots for New Jersey.

    NOTES: The Devils are 10-4 in overtime, while the Wild improved to 4-5.


    Wild: Play at Philadelphia on Thursday night.

    Devils: Play at Buffalo on Friday night.

    Avalanche coach Jared Bednar signs extension through ’26-27

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    DENVER – Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar has signed a three-year extension that will keep him in charge of the reigning Stanley Cup champions through the 2026-27 season.

    The new deal for the winningest head coach in club history kicks in once the current contract runs out after the 2023-24 season.

    Bednar, 51, is the only person to win championships in the ECHL, AHL and NHL as head coach. He directed the Avalanche to their third Stanley Cup title in team history last season by beating Tampa Bay, the two-time defending champions.

    This season, the Avalanche have dealt with an array of injuries, which include missing captain Gabriel Landeskog all year after he underwent knee surgery in October. But they’re starting to creep closer to being healthy – and working their way up the standings. Colorado is riding a six-game winning streak to remain in a tight race with Dallas and Minnesota for the Central Division crown. The top spot in the Western Conference is in play, too.

    “Jared has done a tremendous job behind the bench and certainly deserves this extension and to continue as the leader of our team,” Joe Sakic, the team’s president of hockey operations, said in a statement.

    It wasn’t the prettiest of starts for Bednar in his inaugural season for Colorado. In 2016-17, his team amassed only 48 points (22-56-4) to finish last in the league. Since then, it’s been full steam ahead for Bednar and the Avalanche. They became the first NHL squad to go from worst to first in a span of four seasons or less since the 1970-71 Bruins, according to research by the team.

    In addition, Bednar has led the Avalanche to five straight playoff appearances – and is closing in on a sixth – to become the first Avalanche coach to accomplish the feat. His 40 postseason wins are the second-most in team history, trailing only Bob Hartley (49).

    “His strength as a communicator, his relationship with the players, the way he prepares each and every day is a huge reason our team has been so successful,” general manager Chris MacFarland said. “He is an exceptional leader.”

    Bednar is currently the third-longest tenured coach in the league, behind only Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan (December 2015).

    “Being able to lead this team over the last seven years has been a privilege,” said Bednar, whose team faces the Penguins on Wednesday. “I am grateful and excited to have the opportunity to continue building on what we’ve accomplished so far.”

    Bednar captured a Kelly Cup (ECHL) with the South Carolina Stingrays in 2009, along with a Calder Cup (AHL) with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2016.