It’s hard to tell how good of a hockey team you have one month into the season. On paper and in the standings the Edmonton Oilers are looking good as October draws to a close. They might not have as good of a winning percentage as the Calgary Flames, but the Oilers are staying close to both the Flames and the Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific Division. So where will they be in a month?
Looking ahead at the Oilers’ schedule, they face one of their most difficult road trips of the 2022-23 season during the second week of November. They play the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning on back-to-back nights, Nov. 7 and 8, and finish off the week by playing the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 10 and the Florida Panthers on Saturday, Nov. 12. The games against the Lightning, Hurricanes, and Panthers will be especially interesting to watch.
Last season the Oilers played well against all three of the Eastern Conference powerhouse teams but ended up losing to Lightning and Hurricanes while beating the Panthers 4-3 in a game where Derek Ryan got his first career hat trick, and former Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen played one of his best games in an Oilers uniform. That road swing last season was also a real test for new head coach Jay Woodcroft who had taken over from former head coach Dave Tippett earlier in the month of February.
This season’s road trip through the southeast United States offers the Oilers a chance to make a statement about being considered one of the top teams in the NHL. If they can come away with two wins or a minimum of three points, it could be considered a success and instill more confidence in a team that seems to be poised for great things ahead. It’s good for the soul of the Oilers to look ahead, to not focus on last season and what’s gone but instead embrace the good things to come. The way the team has been playing lately, it looks as though they’re doing exactly that.
Strong Performances From Certain Oilers Early in the 2022-23 Season
Watching the Oilers over the first month of the season, you can tell that this team has a quiet level of confidence. You can see it in Connor McDavid’s drive to score 50 goals for the first time in his career and Leon Draisaitl’s focus in the offensive zone. Both McDavid and Draisaitl currently sit among the top five NHL points leaders, and you know there’s more to come from the superstar duo. It’s also important to note that goaltender Stuart Skinner currently sits in the top five for goals-against average and save percentage.
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Skinner has looked poised and solid, and you get a sense there are more good things to come from the young keeper. He also rocks a great mustache. In fact, he looks so cool, he could pass as the twin brother of Scott Holiday, lead guitarist of the band Rival Sons.
Another Oilers player who deserves kudos early in the season is defenceman Brett Kulak. He looks calm under pressure and continues to make the right play to get the puck out of the zone. With every passing game Kulak is looking like he’s well worth the $2.75 million per season that the Oilers signed him for in the offseason. After a bit of a slow start to the season, he has been their best and most consistent defenceman in the past four to five games.
Looking Ahead to November
There might be something special happening with the Oilers’ third line of Ryan McLeod, Jesse Puljujarvi, and Warren Foegele. They seem to be forging real chemistry reminiscent of the Oilers’ “Kid Line” of the 1990s that featured Joe Murphy, Martin Gelinas, and Adam Graves. If the third line continues to improve and gel like they are, you can expect big things in the month of November and beyond.
Related: Oilers’ McLeod Showing Off His Scoring Touch in Second Season
There are more players on the Oilers to keep your eye on in the month ahead. Evan Bouchard has shown improvement in his game as of late and may be starting to reach the potential the Oilers saw in him when they drafted the young blue liner in 2018. It’ll be interesting to see if Philip Broberg will get a call-up with the Oilers in November. After being on injured reserve, he will be back in the lineup for the Bakersfield Condors when they play at the Ontario Reign in American Hockey League action on Oct. 29. Broberg may need some time to round into form on the farm, but from all accounts, the Oilers are high on him and he will get another chance to join the big club, it’s just a matter of when.
Under Oilers general manager Ken Holland and assistant general manager Keith Gretzky’s guidance, the Oilers have developed their draft picks and prospects in the right way by not rushing them to the NHL. With smart choices made in player development as well as through free agency, you get the feeling the Oilers are building something special. This upcoming month could provide a clear benchmark for where the club is at, and reveal just how far they have come.