It hasn’t always been pretty but grading victories is not something the 2019-20 Edmonton Oilers can concern themselves with. Two games, two wins and both coming by the narrowest of margins. As expected, the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl has done the so-called heavy lifting but the emergence of some secondary scoring has been a welcome addition to the equation.
With a goal and four assists each through a couple of games, both Draisaitl and McDavid appear poised to put up numbers that will approach or eclipse their totals from a season ago. And that should surprise no one. However, the most intriguing part to the start of the Oilers season has been just how many players have managed to find their way onto the scoresheet.
The Draisaitl- McDavid Effect
Six periods into the season and Edmonton has already had six different players light the lamp and ten guys hit the scoresheet. In comparison, it took them until late into Game 4 to have a sixth player score in 2018-19 and midway through Game 5 in 2017-18, In other words, this kind of “offensive explosion” has been far from the norm in these parts.
Related: The James Neal Experiment
Does the fact they played an extremely underwhelming Los Angeles Kings side, which featured Jonathan Quick nowhere near his best, play into this? It certainly does and to be fair, the tandem of Zack Kassian and James Neal have already potted a pair of goals each, and all four have come with one or two of Draisaitl, McDavid or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the ice.
In other words, scoring depth will still be an issue for this lineup but we have already seen some positive signs. One being the aforementioned production of the complementary wingers playing on the Oilers top two lines. Neal has made a career of scoring goals when playing with elite linemates and Kassian appears to have found a home playing alongside one or both of Draisaitl and McDavid.
Though neither of those should have been viewed as sure bets, if things work out in their favour, no one can point to either one as being a big surprise. The development that has been so refreshing is how much Joakim Nygard has improved. We saw flashes as the Oilers pre-season moved along and after a so-so debut, the talented Swede looked even more comfortable against the Kings and scored his first NHL goal to boot.
Add the afterthought that was Gaetan Hass to the puzzle, who went from a couple of minutes of ice-time in the season opener to just over twelve and a look-see on the man advantage against the Kings, not to mention Tomas Juro and Edmonton at least has something to get excited about. While the early goals are great, it is the addition of more skill and some much-needed speed that is so interesting.
Let’s not forget, the Oilers were also missing three supposed regulars against Los Angeles, in the injured Riley Sheahan and the pair of Josh Archibald and Alex Chiasson, both suffering from flu-like symptoms. Neither one of Jujhar Khaira or Colby Cave has looked good to start the season and it could make for interesting decisions moving forward.
Competition, Competition, Competition
As limited as this roster is, the competition for playing time might actually become a real thing. Could that lead to few more goals and improved play from guys who no longer view their spot in the lineup as a guarantee? It just might and that itself would be a major win for Dave Tippett and company for the 2019-20 campaign.
With that said, make no mistake, the Edmonton Oilers will only go as far as Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and their goaltending can take them. That won’t change at any point this season but if the so-called extra pieces can find a way to help lighten the load on their top players, even if we are talking every three to four games, this team will have a shot at staying relevant in what is a truly underwhelming Pacific Division.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.