NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers. Coverage begins at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
After back-to-back disappointing seasons the Edmonton Oilers are finally in position for a return trip to the playoffs.
They enter Thursday’s game (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN) against the San Jose Sharks in second place in the Pacific Division and just three points out of first with a game in hand. They’re still probably not where they want to be, but the overall quality of their division has given them an opportunity to not only get in the playoffs, but potentially go on a deep run once they get there as nobody in the Pacific is clearly better than them.
At the center of the Oilers’ success is, of course, their two-headed monster of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
After both finished in the top-four in the scoring race a year ago, they have a chance to take their offensive dominance one step further and literally finish as the top-two scorers in the NHL this season.
That is where they enter play on Thursday, with Draisaitl pacing the league with 83 points in 53 games (127 point pace) and McDavid sitting just behind him with 79 (122-point pace).
The only other player in the NHL currently on pace for more than 115 points this season is Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon (117 point pace).
So they have a pretty sizable lead.
If they are able to hold that lead it would put them in some pretty exclusive company as teammates to finish first and second in the league in scoring.
Here are the only players to do it in the post-Original Six era.
- 2012-13 (48-game season): Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning)
- 1995-96: Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr (Pittsburgh Penguins)
- 1991-92: Mario Lemieux and Kevin Stevens (Pittsburgh Penguins)
- 1986-87: Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri (Edmonton Oilers)
- 1984-85: Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri (Edmonton Oilers)
- 1983-84: Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey (Edmonton Oilers)
- 1974-75: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
- 1973-74: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
- 1971-72: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
- 1970-71: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
- 1969-70: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
That would be a pretty impressive list to be a part of, especially since only three of those have happened since the start of the 1990 season (and only two of those duos were over an 82-game season).
As they have for the past four years, McDavid and Draisaitl still represent a significant portion of the Oilers’ offense. At least one of them has been on the ice for 124 of the Oilers’ 170 goals this season (73 percent), while both of them have been on the ice for 81 of those goals (48 percent of the goals). While they both have 79 points individually and are each on pace for more than 120 points, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the only other forward on the team that currently has more than 30 points and is on pace for more than 50 points.
So, yes, they still have some depth concerns that need to be addressed.
Even so there are still some positive developments around McDavid and Draisaitl that have made a difference this season.
James Neal has cooled off considerably from his great start in October, but still provides another goal-scoring presence on the power play when he is healthy.
After missing 15-plus games in each of the past two seasons, top defenseman Oscar Klefbom has been healthy this season, while rookie Ethan Bear has made a really nice impact on the blue line.
Mikko Koskinen has also bounced back and played well enough to help justify the bold contract extension he received from the team a year ago.
Randy Hahn and Jamie Baker will call the action from Rogers Place in Edmonton. Kathryn Tappen hosts studio coverage on Thursday with Anson Carter and Colby Armstrong.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.