The Edmonton Oilers are a dynamic offensive team that can, and will, score lots of goals. Not only that, but they will also provide other much-needed stats for those leagues that have more specific categories. I will relate much of the trends and stats back to Yahoo Fantasy Hockey and ESPN Fantasy Hockey. Playing a large part in the decisions will be the effect of the Oilers’ power play which has clicked at a league-best 28.6%, 4.8% higher than the next closest team.
There are two obvious choices that you all know will appear on any list. But after the former Art Ross winners in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, we look to the wings and the defense for viable options in any league. Whether it is points, power-play points, shots, hits, or penalty minutes, you will be covered.
5. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Center/Left Wing
Nugent-Hopkins’ value will come in his exposure to the best players in the world. He is a fixture on the left wing of Draisaitl’s line but has been known to play with McDavid in the past and play some of the best hockey of his career. He has formed great chemistry with both of these centremen, so whoever he plays beside should keep his value up.
The only cause for concern will be if Oilers head coach Dave Tippett decides to run with Nugent-Hopkins as the third line center. That hasn’t worked in the past because the depth wingers haven’t been relied upon to create offense. As a player who is looked at to provide secondary scoring behind McDavid and Draisaitl, we’re unlikely to see these three center their own lines. This is especially with the additions of Derek Ryan and Ryan McLeod holding down those spots in a new look this season.
He also has a spot locked down on the first power-play unit for the Oilers. He is known to slide up and down on the left side of the ice when on the power play and be a target for an in-close pass or open himself up to a high danger shot attempt.
4. Tyson Barrie: Defense
The leading scorer among defencemen last season, but Barrie failed to receive even one vote for the Norris Trophy. Luckily for you, the part of his game that held him back from being in contention doesn’t matter too much in fantasy. Points are points, and he gets a lot of them. Mind you, most of them come from feeding the puck to McDavid or Draisaitl, but he was brought into Edmonton to fill that exact role.
The Oilers needed a defenceman who was a power-play specialist and could run the point in the absence of Oscar Klefbom. Barrie’s offensive zone start percentage was 59 last season (oZS%), which is excellent for being in a position to produce points, get shots, and increase plus/minus.
As the man on the point on the top power play in the league, he projects to record 60+ points this season and could even top 30 power-play points, as he recorded 23 in 56 games. Like Nugent-Hopkins, Barrie will provide little in the way of penalty minutes and hits. On an Oilers team with loads of young talent that is only getting better, expect the offense to increase even more overall, which will give him an excellent opportunity to produce at a higher rate.
3. Darnell Nurse: Defense
Nurse is the most well-rounded player for fantasy on this list, as he generates stats for every category. The only downfall in choosing him is that he is slotted in on the second power-play unit, so the exposure to the top group is limited. When McDavid and Draisaitl stay out there for the entire power play, the good thing is that Barrie will change and get Nurse out there for a little extra time.
He is a stellar even-strength performer since that is where most of his production comes from. That, in turn, boosts his plus/minus, where he was a plus-27 last season. He is a player that will almost always jump up in the rush if given the opportunity. It works well for him, as he scored 16 goals last season, the second most from a defenceman behind Jakob Chychrun.
To round out his fantasy value, Nurse hits a lot, takes a good amount of shots, and his physicality results in penalty minutes to rise. He is someone that represents toughness on the Oilers, so he is looked to as someone who will fight when needed, and he is always protecting his net hard. After finishing last season as the 24th ranked player, including skaters and goalies, his preseason ranking is 100th according to Yahoo Fantasy Hockey. Having a player that can perform offensively and nail down some of the more difficult categories to win is a huge plus. There aren’t many of these players out there. He will have great value for the position he is taken at, so make sure to be all over that.
2. Leon Draisaitl: Center/Left Wing
If you are participating in a league that has position-specific spots such as center, left wing, and right wing, Draisaitl adds a bit of flexibility to your team. He will be someone who goes in the top-five of almost any pool, but I would rank him in the top-three overall. The next man on our list is No. 1, but then it’s up for debate about the better choice between him and Nathan MacKinnon.
A tidbit of information that may slit your mind is health. Draisaitl is a player who has missed next to no games in his career and hasn’t sat out a game since 2017-18. On the other hand, MacKinnon has missed a total of 17 games over the past four seasons. This may not seem like a lot, but they can prove to be fatal if untimely. Just last season, MacKinnon missed eight games. An injury could prevent your team from catching up in the shot category or prevent you from adding those couple of points that you know he can put up. A top player on your fantasy team needs to play in as many games as possible because he was ranked and chosen that high for a reason.
Looking past the games played, Draisaitl brings value to almost every category you would generally see in fantasy leagues. He will always be among the league leaders in goals, assists, and points, as well as average time on ice (ATOI) if that applies. A monster when it comes to logging minutes, he will play in all situations, even the penalty kill (“Secrets revealed by the coach about excellent Edmonton Oilers penalty kill in 2019-20,” Edmonton Journal, 3/4/20).
Draisaitl has hit the 100-point mark in two of the past three seasons and scored 50 goals in one of them. As a huge part of the best power play in the league, he is a lock to easily record 30+ power-play points in a season. Not only that but if power-play goals have any boosted fantasy points compared to power-play assists, there’s no shortage of them from this player. ESPN has plus/minus as a default in leagues with categories. As a player that was so dominant on the power play, you wouldn’t expect them to also be at the top of the league in plus/minus. Think again, because he finished tied in second with a rating of plus-29, which just shows his level of play on the man advantage or at even strength.
1. Connor McDavid: Center
An incredible display of skill last season by the Oilers’ captain, McDavid, looks to build off the tear he was on. He has been projected to score between 130 and 160 points this year, which is insane for the era we are in. He proved last year that he is on another level as far as natural talent goes.
McDavid looks to become a 50-goal scorer for the first time in his career, and there’s not much stopping him with how he has just gotten better with every season. A two-time 40-goal scorer, he has also reached 30 goals in five consecutive seasons. It is scary to think what he can do with a full season after his points per game have only been on the rise since entering the league.
McDavid comes in at the top of this list not only due to his offensive ability, though it’s a massive reason, but also due to his physicality coming into effect more than other top scorers. Of the top-10 projected players to go in drafts, he has the second-most hits to only Brad Marchand, and not by a wide margin. He also happened to have the fourth most shots in the league last year with 200. He has the speed to get himself into a great scoring position at any given moment, so more shots should generate more goals.
Honourable Mentions: A Few Oilers to Look For
There may be a trial period for the final spot on the power play, but whoever receives time on the top units should generate a good amount of points by being around the net. Any exposure to McDavid or Draisaitl should boost the value of players as well, seeing as they can dominate at 5-on-5. Here are a few names to watch for and look for in my upcoming look at sleeper picks for the Oilers:
- Zach Hyman
- Jesse Puljujarvi
- Kailer Yamamoto
- Evan Bouchard
- Mike Smith
The Oilers roster should be a gold mine for anyone looking for good value in your picks. Some of these guys may be overlooked and passed on when they should be taken, but you can guarantee that McDavid and Draisaitl will be snatched up as soon as someone gets the chance. There is value in the defensemen on this list because, at the very least, they will be on the ice with one of the top-two lines most of the game and will have the most offensive draws of the defense pairings.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
You can find more of his work here.