It almost still feels like yesterday that Artturi Lehkonen scored on Mike Smith moments into overtime of Game 4 of the 2022 Western Conference Final series, giving the Colorado Avalanche a 4-0 series sweep of the Edmonton Oilers.
But incredibly, the beginning of August means that the Oilers are now closer to their next game than their last: Game 4 against the Avs came on June 6, exactly eight weeks ago from Aug. 1; Edmonton’s first pre-season game, a match-up with the Winnipeg Jets, is scheduled for Sept. 25, which is seven weeks and six days from Aug. 1.
So while Oil Country may still be basking in the Oilers’ longest playoff run since 2006, it’s time to look forward to what fans hope is a ride that won’t end until the Cup is in captain Connor McDavid’s grasp next June.
Along the way, there is the potential of some big moments for several members of the team who are nearing historic accomplishments. With the countdown to the new season beginning, here’s a look at five Oilers who could reach career milestones in 2022-23.
Barrie begins his third season with the Oilers, and 12th in the NHL, with 95 career goals, five away from the century mark. The former Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs rearguard has notched at least five goals in nine straight seasons, so the odds he’s going to score career goal No. 100 at some point during the 2022-23 schedule are pretty high.
There are currently only 106 defensemen with at least 100 goals in their NHL career. Of that group, an impressive 12 have played at some point for the Oilers: Paul Coffey, Mike Green, Roman Hamrlik, Duncan Keith, Reed Larson, Dave Manson, Marty McSorely, Fredrick Olausson, Chris Pronger, Reijo Ruotsalainen, Sheldon Souray, and Lubomir Visnovsky.
If he continues to produce in 2022-23 at a rate similar to his explosive output over the last four seasons, Leon Draisaitl is going to reach three milestones in the months to come: 300 goals, 400 assists, and 700 points in all-time Oilers regular season games.
The German forward heads into his ninth season in Edmonton with 254 goals and 362 assists for a total of 616 points. Since the start of 2018-19, he’s averaged 50.8 goals and 65.3 assists per 82 games.
Currently, there are just four members of the Oilers 300-goal club: Glenn Anderson, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, and Mark Messier. That same quartet of players also comprise Edmonton’s 700-point club. Meanwhile, seven players have recorded at least 400 assists in Oilers regular season action: the aforementioned four, plus Coffey, McDavid, and Doug Weight.
Before Draisaitl joins the 700-point club, his good buddy McDavid will increase its membership by one: the superstar center needs only three points to reach that benchmark, as he enters 2022-23 with 697.
Unless he misses some games over the first part of the season, McDavid will hit 500 career assists well before the midpoint of Edmonton’s schedule. He’s got 458 apples in 487 games and will become only the fourth player all-time to record 500 assists in an Oilers uniform.
That would affirm his status as a future Hall-of-Famer (HOF), as the other three are in the HOF: Gretzky, Kurri, and Messier. It would also validate McDavid as a generational talent, as it’s been more than 30 years since anyone recorded assist No. 500 in an Edmonton uniform, as Kurri and Messier both reached that milestone during the 1988-89 season.
If Nugent-Hopkins plays 81 games next season, he will become just the fifth player in Oilers history to suit up for 800 NHL regular season games for the franchise. But if the veteran winger does reach that benchmark in 2022-23, it won’t be until the second-to-last game of the season, against the Avs in Denver on April 11, one day before he turns 30.
On the flipside, as soon as he skates his first shift of 2022-23, Nugent-Hopkins will become just the seventh player to suit up for the Oilers in at least 12 different seasons. That exclusive club is currently limited to Kevin Lowe (15 seasons), Ryan Smyth (15), Kelly Buchberger (13), Anderson (12), Shawn Horcoff (12) and Messier (12).
The first overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Nugent-Hopkins made his NHL debut at the outset of the 2011-12 season and has been a fixture in Edmonton ever since.
Once again speaking about how time flies, it also feels like yesterday that the Oilers drafted Nurse seventh overall in 2013. He’s now about to start his eighth season as a full-time NHLer, having played 477 regular season games with the Oilers. When he suits up for NHL game No. 500, he will become only the sixth defenseman in franchise history to reach that mark, following in the carved ice of Coffey, Lee Fogolin, Charlie Huddy, Lowe and Jason Smith.
The 27-year-old is already fourth all-time on the Oilers in goals by a defenseman with 54, and in 2022-23 he’ll most likely move into the top five for assists by a blueliner, as Nurse has 138 helpers, only 16 behind fifth place Janne Niinimaa. There’s also a chance he passes Steve Smith (172 assists as an Oiler) for fourth place, but that would require a career high of 37 apples.
Expectations for the Oilers in 2022-23 are as high as they’ve been since Edmonton reeled off five Stanley Cups in seven playoffs from 1984 to 1990. For all the milestones Oilers players will achieve in the season to come, just one milestone matters: winning the sixth Stanley Cup in franchise history, which would tie for the fourth most all-time, and the most of any non-Original Six club.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.