Mikko Koskinen

Edmonton Oilers: This season’s biggest surprises and disappointments

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the surprises and disappointments for the Edmonton Oilers.

We didn’t see Draisaitl’s peak in 2018-19

Last season, Leon Draisaitl adjusted what we believed to be his ceiling. It was already clear that he was a gem for Edmonton before, but a 50-goal, 105-point season? That was more than many projected.

And it wasn’t even the most he’s capable of. Draisaitl put himself in the Maurice Richard Trophy race with 43 goals in 2019-20, while he remarkably reached 110 points despite the season hitting that mid-March pause.

If you translate 110 points in 71 games to an 82-game season, Draisaitl would’ve reached 127-128.

The larger Hart Trophy debate can be a little thorny.

And it’s true that Draisaitl’s been living large on puck luck for two seasons now. He generated a 21.6 shooting percentage in 2018-19 and a 19.7 percent rate this season, while enjoying high on-ice shooting percentages too (12.4 in 2018-19, 14.4 in 2019-20, vs. 10.6 for his career). But it seems clear that he’s going to be a nightmare for defenses to deal with, whether he lines up with Connor McDavid or drives his own trio.

(Interestingly, evidence points to Edmonton being better off keeping their two mega-powers together.)

The Oilers dominating on special teams definitely ranks among surprises

With McDavid and Draisaitl on the roster, it’s not that surprising to see a dominant Oilers power play.

Granted, leading the league in PPG (59) with far and away the most efficient unit (29.5 percent, Boston second at 25.2) was a surprise. (After all, the Oilers managed a 21.17 rate in 2018-19, and was putrid at 14.76 at 2017-18.)

But the Oilers being so stingy on the penalty kill ended up being one of their biggest surprises. Edmonton tied with Columbus for the least power-play goals allowed (31) this season, while the Oilers’ 84.4 percent kill rate was second-best in the NHL. (For all that went wrong for the Sharks, theirs was the best at 85.7.)

Combining special teams percentages only tells you so much, but it’s a quick way to illustrate just how exemplary Edmonton’s units were. If you add that PP% (29.5) to that PK% (84.4), you get 113.9. The Bruins (109.4) and to a lesser extent Hurricanes (106.3) were the only other teams really in the Oilers’ ballpark.

McDavid + Draisaitl with semi-competent supporting cast members figures to be a formula for a strong power play most seasons. Maybe not “flirting with 30 percent” strong, but strong nonetheless.

Repeating such penalty kill success seems unlikely, however. Maybe Dave Tippett can manufacture at least a decent unit most seasons, though?

Oilers struggle enough at even strength to nearly negate positive surprises

One knock on Draisaitl’s Hart argument is that the Oilers give up almost as much as they create with him on the ice. The high-event back-and-forth is illustrated graphically by Draisaitl’s RAPM chart at Evolving Hockey:

Oilers surprises Draisaitl give and take

Even that vaunted power play drives home the risk-reward point. The Oilers allowed 10 shorthanded goals this season, tied for third-most in the NHL.

Despite Draisaitl enjoying an incredible season, McDavid being McDavid aside from an injury absence, and possibly unsustainable special teams dominance, the Oilers only managed a modest +8 goal differential in 2019-20.

What happens if Draisaitl cools off a bit, and they stop getting so many saves on the PK?

It’s foolish to fully dismiss any team with McDavid and Draisaitl on hand, particularly since the Oilers boast a few other helpful factors (including intriguing defensive prospects Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg). Still, those two carry such a burden, and the Oilers have enjoyed enough luck in certain areas, that one can’t help but wonder if disappointments will be more abundant than positive surprises in the near future.

MORE ON THE OILERS

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.

The Buzzer: McDavid and MacKinnon miss time; Kings’ royally surprising streak

McDavid MacKinnon illness injury PHT Buzzer
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Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon miss time; unclear if they will be out longer

As of this moment, it’s unclear if anything serious happened to McDavid or MacKinnon. Yet, consider the star power of both centers, the situations are both worth monitoring.

In McDavid’s case, he missed Monday’s significant game against the Golden Knights because of an “illness.” Despite waves of coronavirus jokes splashing around, the specifics remain unclear.

Speaking of unclear, it’s not immediately obvious how badly Nathan MacKinnon is hurt. He left the Avalanche’s loss to the Kings with a lower-body injury and did not return. Injuries are really piling up for Colorado, so the Avs have to hope this is only a minor setback.

“He leaves the game, I’m concerned right away. I have no idea (of the severity),” Jared Bednar said in his postgame press conference, via the Denver Post’s Mike Chambers. “Honestly, I just went (into the coach’s room) and came out here. I know he wasn’t good enough to come back in the game tonight. So, yeah, there’s some concern.”

Here’s hoping that neither this illness for McDavid nor this injury for MacKinnon costs either star much time.

Coronavirus causes disruptions for Sharks, media

Monday’s most noteworthy bits of information often didn’t revolve around Monday’s games.

Santa Clara County called for a ban on meetings involving 1,000 people or more, which puts the Sharks in a pickle. The Sharks provided a statement on the matter, with the basic takeaway being “TBD.”

On a related note, the NHL joined other sports leagues in prohibiting media and other “nonessential” people from locker rooms in hopes of limiting the chances of the virus spreading.

Three Stars

1. Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets

Ehlers spearheaded a spirited comeback after the Jets fell behind 2-0 to the Coyotes. Ehlers generated one goal and two assists to help Winnipeg earn a crucial win against Arizona, and in regulation to boot.

After failing to score a point in three straight games, Ehlers now has one goal in each of his last two contests, and five points during that two-game span. With 25 goals and 57 points, Ehlers could match or exceed career-highs (29G, 64P).

Cody Eakin (GWG, 1A) and Tucker Poolman (1G, 1A) were also instrumental in the win, while Nick Schmaltz scored two goals in a losing cause for Arizona.

2. Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers must have groaned heading into Monday’s game. They didn’t have McDavid in the lineup with a Pacific Division lead on the line against the Golden Knights.

Vegas did indeed dominate Monday’s game, and they ultimately won after Shea Theodore scored the overtime game-winner. Even so, Koskinen made 45 saves to secure a useful standings point for Edmonton. Considering McDavid’s absence and the Golden Knights’ 48-24 shots on goal edge, the Oilers should be thankful.

3. Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres

Dahlin generated two assists despite pretty brief-for-overtime usage (17:16 TOI) and then generated a shootout goal as the Sabres beat the Capitals. You could definitely give some of the credit to Linus Ullmark, too, as he made 33 saves.

Alex Ovechkin was productive in defeat, scoring his 48th goal and adding his (heh) 19th assist to improve to 67 points in 68 games. Ovechkin is right in the thick of the Maurice Richard Race, but it wasn’t enough to get the Capitals a win or Ovechkin a third star nod.

Highlight of the Night

The Kings beat the Avalanche on Monday, giving Los Angeles a most-unexpected six-game winning streak. They aren’t just knocking over (other?) tomato cans, either. The Kings defeats the Avs, Penguins, Wild, Maple Leafs and Golden Knights for five of those wins. Yes, the Devils do account for one of those wins, but even New Jersey’s been scrappier lately.

Jonathan Quick didn’t need to be all that busy as the Avs were shorthanded with MacKinnon out on Monday, but this was quite the sequence:

NHL Standings update

East (after significant win for Panthers)

West (after Jets beat Coyotes in regulation, etc.)

Scores

BUF 3 – WSH 2 (SO)
WPG 4 – ARI 2
FLA 2 – STL 1
VGK 3 – EDM 2 (OT)
LAK 3 – COL 1

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.

The Buzzer: Hats off to Dustin Brown; Saros shuts out Stars again

NHL Scores
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Three Stars

1. Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have nothing to play for at this point, they traded several key players before the NHL trade deadline, and they are all of a sudden playing their best hockey of the season. With Saturday’s 7-3 win over the Minnesota Wild they are now 8-2-1 in their past 11 games and have won five games in a row. Those wins during that stretch have come against Calgary, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Florida, Vegas, Toronto, and Minnesota. All teams either in a playoff spot or competing for one. The big star for them on Saturday was veteran winger Dustin Brown who scored three goals, an assist, and five shots on goal

2. Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators. The Predators picked up back-to-back massive wins against the Dallas Stars in their past two games, and it was Saros leading the way in both with consecutive shutouts. After stopping all 33 shots he faced in a 3-0 win on Thursday, he was even better on Saturday by turning aside 37 shots in a 1-0 win. Ryan Ellis scored the only goal for Nashville on Saturday. With the Predators fighting desperately for a playoff spot, Saros turned aside all 70 shots he faced in two games against one of the league’s best teams. That is called coming through when your team needs you most.

3. Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers. Koskinen was nearly flawless for the Oilers on Saturday, stopping 46 out of 47 shots from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 4-1 win. The win moved the Oilers back into first place (by tiebreaker ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights) in the Pacific Division as they have won four out of their past five games.

Other notable performances from Saturday

  • The Philadelphia Flyers extended their winning streak to nine games thanks to two goals from Claude Giroux and another huge game from Carter Hart. Read all about it here.
  • Nic Dowd scored two goals for the Washington Capitals as they dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins.
  • The New Jersey Devils played spoiler on Saturday by beating their arch-rivals, the New York Rangers, thanks to two-goal efforts from Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri.
  • The Florida Panthers kept their playoff hopes alive with a big 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

Highlights of the Night

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-3 win over the Boston Bruins had a lot of chaos, including this stretch where they scored two shorthanded goals in 62 seconds. You can read more about the chaos from this game right here.

Blooper of the Night

Sabres goalie Carter Hutton had a bad time on this play.

Controversial play of the Night

The Carolina Hurricanes snapped their losing streak with a huge overtime win against the New York Islanders. It was not without its controversy. It sure looked like Andrei Svechnikov set up the game-winner with a high-stick, but after review it was ruled that he did, in fact, make contact with the puck below his normal shoulder level. Do you agree?

Playoff Push

Scores

Carolina Hurricanes 3, New York Islanders 2 (OT)
Washington Capitals 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 2
Nashville Predators 1, Dallas Stars 0
Los Angeles Kings 7, Minnesota Wild 3
Ottawa Senators 2, San Jose Sharks 1 (OT)
Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Boston Bruins 3
Florida Panthers 4, Montreal Canadiens 1
New Jersey Devils 6, New York Rangers 4
Philadelphia Flyers 3, Buffalo Sabres 1
Edmonton Oilers 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 1

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Morning Skate: Hockey community rallies for Nashville tornado relief

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• People are stepping up to help those affected by the Nashville tornadoes. That includes the Predators’ Alumni Association donating $20K, but not just that team. Both the Wild and current Wild owner/former Predators owner Craig Leipold are donating $25K apiece in tornado relief efforts. The NHL announced that it is matching that $50K for tornado relief as well. Fantastic stuff stemming from that terrifying natural disaster. (The Tennessean)

• How did the Lightning turn their season around? Can this season’s team compare to the 2018-19 version that stomped through the regular season, and what about the playoffs? (ESPN)

• Some of the Lightning’s turnaround boils down to Andrei Vasilevskiy getting on track. This post looks at a similar trajectory for Mike Smith, who is heating up while Mikko Koskinen stays steady. Between the two, the Oilers have enjoyed reliable goaltending lately. (Oilers Nation)

Bryan Rust‘s breakout season boils down to combining his talent with the Penguins giving him a better opportunity to succeed. (Pensburgh)

• The Maple Leafs look better by a lot of metrics since Sheldon Keefe took over, but goaltending hasn’t been panning out. How much might it help to lighten Frederik Andersen‘s burden? (Rotoworld)

• Speaking of underlying numbers, these smile upon the chances for both the Wild and Hurricanes making late-season playoff pushes. (NHL.com)

[HURRICANES FACE FLYERS ON NBCSN ON THURSDAY; WATCH IT LIVE]

• Now, while goaltending has been letting the Leafs down lately, GM Kyle Dubas views defense as a “long-term need.” (TSN)

• Are the Flames on the verge of a goalie controversy? (Sportsnet)

• In standing firmly behind Claude Julien going forward, Habs GM Marc Bergevin is also gambling on himself. (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

• No, Valeri Nichushkin hasn’t generated the kind of offense that was expected of him as the 10th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft. Nichushkin has, however, become a useful play-driving forward as he settles into a still-fairly-new niche as an Avalanche supporting cast member. (The Hockey News)

I mean, look at these almost-off-the-charts Evolving Hockey RAPM charts for Nichushkin:

Kevin Fiala continues to be a catalyst for the Wild’s surge. (Pioneer-Press)

• Breaking down the Flyers’ elite penalty kill. (Broad Street Hockey)

• What’s been different about Cory Schneider during his latest return back with the Devils? (NJ.com)

• Hm, it’s been a while since the Senators experienced some drama … (The Score)

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.

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Kovalchuk, Toffoli among this week’s top adds

Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. As always, the goal here isn’t to recommend 10 players you must add and five players that need to be dropped. Context is everything and the context of each league is different. What this is instead is a guideline so that if you’re looking to make a change, you have potential players to target and if you see players I’ve suggested to drop, you can evaluate your potential alternates.

Players Worth Adding

Ilya Kovalchuk, Canadiens – LW/RW: Kovalchuk didn’t work out with the Los Angeles Kings and that eventually ended with his contract being terminated. However, he still clearly can offer something offensively in the right situation. That situation seems to exist with his new team, the Montreal Canadiens. Through four games they’ve given him an average of 19:57 minutes and he’s rewarded him with a goal and four points.

Jake DeBrusk, Bruins – LW/RW: DeBrusk is in his third NHL season and though he’s been a solid contributor right from the start, he hasn’t found that next level yet. His upside makes him interesting to watch, but if nothing else, he’s at least a good short-term grab with three goals and five points in his last three games. He wouldn’t be terrible to own even after he cools down, but you certainly shouldn’t feel obligated to keep him.

Nathan Gerbe, Blue Jackets – LW: Gerbe is a roll of the dice, but an interesting one. The 32-year-old was a regular in the NHL from 2010-11 through 2015-16, but from 2016-17 through 2018-19 he played in all of two NHL games. During that time he had a stint in the Swiss league and spent time with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters. He’s been putting in the time though in hopes of getting another shot. In 2018-19 he had 32 points in 41 AHL games and then he had 25 points in 30 AHL games this season. That led to him getting a call up on Dec. 22nd and he’s stuck with the Blue Jackets since. He’s been a regular contributor since then with three goals and six points in 10 contests while averaging 14:32 minutes. That offensive production has been spread out with him not being held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games yet. There’s enough to like here to give him a chance if you’re hurting for a left winger, though he’s definitely a high-risk pickup given that he might not even stay in the NHL.

Vincent Trocheck, Panthers – C: Trocheck is on a four-game point streak and has two goals and 12 points in his last 12 games. He’s worth grabbing while he’s hot, especially given that this might develop into a strong second half overall for him. Trocheck isn’t that far removed from his amazing 2017-18 campaign when he scored 31 goals and 75 points in 82 games and while he won’t come close to those totals this season, he’s still capable of being an asset in fantasy leagues.

Esa Lindell, Stars – D: Lindell is one of those players who is more valuable to his team than he is to fantasy owners. He contributes offensively, but not to the extent that he’s more than a borderline option in standard leagues. Lately he’s been far more than that though. He has eight assists in his last six games. He’ll cool down and at that point you’ll want to look at your other options, but for now he’s a solid gamble.

Derek Ryan, Flames – C: Ryan is on a hot streak right now with two goals and five points in six contests. He’s not worth owning outside of his hot streak, in part because of his center-only eligibility, but on the plus side this season is shaping up to be a step forward for him. He has eight goals and 24 points in 47 games, putting him well on his way to topping his career-high of 38 points, which he set in 2017-18 and matched in 2018-19.

Matt Martin, Islanders – LW: If you’re ever hurting in the hits category, Martin is the answer. He won’t do much else, but with 141 hits in 31 contests, he’s one of the best sources of hits in the league. If you are going to pick him up, now is a particularly good time because of the Islanders’ packed schedule. They’ll play against Detroit on Tuesday, the Rangers on Thursday, Washington on Saturday, Carolina on Sunday, and the Rangers again on Tuesday, Jan. 21st before they finally get a breather for the All-Star break. The end result is that you should get plenty of hits out of Martin in a short span of time and after that you can replace him with a player who will help you in more categories.

Tyler Toffoli, Kings – LW/RW: Toffoli got off to a slow start this season with six goals and 13 points in 30 games, but he’s heated up with six goals and 14 points in his last 16 contests. He’s been something of an inconsistent player in his career with him never matching his highs of 31 goals and 58 points set back in 2015-16. His more recent success does give some reason for cautious optimism in the second half of the campaign though.

Nico Hischier, Devils – C: Hischier has been at the top of his game lately with six goals and 10 points in his last nine contests. It’s been interesting because this jump started after the Hall trade. At least in part, this is probably a hot streak from Hischier and he’ll fizzle out, but there’s also a chance that he’s taking the lead a bit more in the post-Hall Devils.

Dominik Kubalik, Blackhawks – LW/RW: I mentioned Kubalik last week too, but because he’s still only owned in 15% of Yahoo leagues, he’s worth bringing up again. The rookie forward has been outstanding lately with eight goals and 13 points in 11 contests. A contributing factor to his recent success has been him playing on a line with Jonathan Toews. As long as that continues to be the case, he should be a significant fantasy asset.

Players You May Want To Drop

Nick Schmaltz, Coyotes – C/LW/RW: Schmaltz has had a couple amazing stretches this season with his most recent coming from Dec. 17-Jan. 4. Over the nine games he played during that span, he scored a goal and 12 points. The problem is that he’s also been inconsistent this season. From Nov. 9-Dec. 6, he had just six points in 15 games. So you have to wonder if we’re in the start of another prolonged cold streak given that he’s now gone four straight games without a point.

Clayton Keller, Coyotes – LW/RW: It shouldn’t come as much surprise that Schmaltz’s regular linemate is also struggling. For Keller though, he’s been cold for significantly longer. Keller has just two goals and three points in nine contests. He’s something of a frustrating player because his rookie season was so good, but he took a significant step back as a sophomore and while his third campaign is shaping out to be better, he’s still falling shy of his promise. He’s 21-years-old so it wouldn’t be shocking to see him breakout in the future, but for now he’s very much a mixed bag.

Mikko Koskinen, Oilers – G: Koskinen endured a rough stretch from Dec. 21-31 where he allowed at least three goals in four straight games. After that slump, Mike Smith started in four consecutive games and took full advantage of the opportunity, posting a 3-0-1 record, 2.49 GAA, and .926 save percentage in that span. Koskinen finally got another shot on Saturday, but allowed four goals on 33 shots in a 4-3 loss to Calgary. There will be other chances for Koskinen, but he’s pretty mediocre anyways so you should always be examining your other options.

Anthony Duclair, Senators – LW/RW: Duclair has already set a new career-high this season with 21 goals in 44 games, but that’s largely due to an incredible stretch from Dec. 4-21 where he scored 11 goals in nine contests and was enjoying an unsustainable 36.7 shooting percentage. Since then he hasn’t scored another goal and because his value is so heavily dependent on goals, that’s a big problem. To be fair, he’s been a pretty intriguing player for a long time now and he’s enjoying a bigger role with the Ottawa Senators than he’s ever had, so there are reasons to hope for him to have a strong second half. However, given his streaky nature, it’s not unreasonable to regard him as a situational pickup who has fallen out of favor for now, but may be worth scooping back up later.

Anthony Cirelli, Lightning – C: With nine goals and 27 points in 44 games and just eligibility as a center, Cirelli isn’t a particularly good option in fantasy leagues. He has enjoyed some great stretches though, which makes him worth keeping an eye on. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. He’s gone six straight games without a point immediately following a far more pleasant stretch of two goals and five points in four contests.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey.

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.