The Edmonton Oilers made it official on Friday night, selecting forward Connor McDavid with their first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The Buffalo Sabres followed up by selecting Jack Eichel with the second overall pick in the draft. Both of these players will help transform their new teams, which have had their share of struggles in recent years.
According to NHL.com, Edmonton and Buffalo combined for 95 losses last season. The Sabres finished in 30th place with a 23-51-8 record, while the Oilers finished in 28th place with a 24-44-14 record. Both clubs also finished near the bottom of the NHL in many statistical categories.
Buffalo and Edmonton became instantly better with the addition of these highly touted prospects. These clubs indeed have struggled and it will likely still take a good deal of adjustments before either club returns to playoff contention. However, the eyes of the hockey world will be focused on the Oilers’ and Sabres’ new additions as both of their potential superstars come to fruition. The 2015 NHL Entry Draft has transformed two of last season’s basement dwellers into must-see TV for hockey fans.
[See Also: Buffalo Sabres Recent Draft History]
The NHL’s 2014-2015 Basement Dwellers
The Oilers had their share of issues last season. Edmonton finished 26th in the NHL in goals scored with 198 and dead last in goals allowed with 283. This illustrates one of the club’s biggest issues, which was goaltending.
According to the official site of the Edmonton Oilers, five goaltenders suited up over the course of last season for the Oilers. Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens played most of Edmonton’s games and both finished the year with save percentages below .900.
GeneralFanager.com shows that Fasth will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, while Scrivens has one more year left on his current contract. The Oilers’ management will need to make improvements between the pipes during the offseason to help boost Edmonton’s position in the standings.
Meanwhile, Buffalo struggled mightily in virtually all facets of their game last season. The club scored an NHL-worst 161 goals while allowing 274 goals against for a whopping minus-113 goal differential. Goal scoring was a major issue last season and it was a byproduct of the team’s poor puck-possession numbers.
According to NHL.com, during the regular season, the Detroit Red Wings led the NHL in the statistic known as shot attempts percentage close, or Corsi For percentage close, with 56.26 percent. The Buffalo Sabres finished the season with the NHL’s worst numbers in this statistic at 37.43 percent. Analysts have used this statistic in the measurement of puck possession.
Puck possession is believed to be related to a team’s goal scoring and their ability to prevent the opposing team from scoring goals. Buffalo’s poor puck-possession numbers help to explain the Sabres’ struggles in goal scoring last season. The Sabres will need to improve in this regard in order to move up in the standings.
McDavid & Eichel Immediately Improve their New Clubs
With the arrival of Connor McDavid in Edmonton, the Oilers have added a significant piece on offense that immediately improves their hockey club. McDavid is considered a generational talent due to his high level of offensive skill. He has an uncanny ability to read plays in generating offense and this is most clearly demonstrated by his offensive statistics.
The 18-year old played for the Erie Otters of the OHL during the 2014-2015. He finished the season with 44 goals and 120 points in 47 games, according to Eliteprospects.com. His insane numbers continued during the OHL playoffs, where he notched 21 goals and 49 points in just 19 games. Many believe that McDavid’s offensive talent will allow him to challenge for the NHL scoring title as early as next season.
Jack Eichel is a perfect fit in Buffalo. The native of Chelmsford, Mass. also has elite-level offensive talent that has led to big offensive production. Many scouts and analysts have noted that if it weren’t for McDavid’s presence in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft that Eichel would more than likely have been the No. 1 overall pick.
Eichel had a huge year himself at Boston University. According to Eliteprospects.com, Eichel scored 26 goals and 71 points in 40 games. He received a host of accolades, including the Hobey Baker Award – Eichel is the first freshman to receive this honor since Paul Kariya.
The 18-year old also demonstrated that he can compete with NHL-caliber players. Eichel played as a member of Team USA and he helped his club win a bronze medal at the world championships. Brian Pinelli of USA Today reported that Eichel became the first player eligible for the draft to suit up for Team USA in the world championships since former Sabres defenseman Phil Housley. The youngster finished with two goals and seven points in 10 games.
Edmonton & Buffalo: Must See TV
Last season’s matches between the Sabres and Oilers were clashes between the NHL’s worst clubs. However, this season is completely different. While nothing is official just yet, both McDavid and Eichel will very likely be active members of their new teams when they meet in Edmonton on Sunday, December 6. The Oilers and Sabres will meet again in Buffalo on March 1.
Eichel & McDavid are two very talented hockey players that will become the focal points of the new chapters of their respective NHL clubs. They will also become the new faces of Team Canada and Team USA hockey, placing them in the spotlight of the hockey world for years to come.
Hockey fans may have not paid a whole lot of attention to the Buffalo Sabres or Edmonton Oilers in recent years. The additions of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will change this status. There is still a lot of work to do by management before Edmonton and Buffalo contend for a playoff spot. However, hockey fans will definitely want to watch the Oilers and Sabres, as their two kids grow and realize their potential to work towards emerging superstars in the NHL.
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW