It’s past the point of reality now. The start of the Edmonton Oilers’ 2021-22 NHL season officially turned surreal the moment Connor McDavid maneuvered around, through and past four defenders to score in Edmonton’s latest win, 6-5 over the New York Rangers at Rogers Place last Friday (Nov. 5).
The Oilers are now 9-1, their best 10 game start in franchise history, with Leon Draisaitl and McDavid leading the charge. Draisaitl has 10 goals and 13 assists to sit first in the NHL with 23 points, just ahead of McDavid, who has 22 points from eight goals and 14 helpers.
Such offensive brilliance is impossible to fully appreciate, if only because nothing like it has been seen for decades. So as the hockey world looks ahead, gleefully projecting the number of points Edmonton’s superstar duo can pile up this season, looking backward helps to provide context.
Keeping Company With Gretzky and Kurri
Over Edmonton’s first 41 years in the NHL, only two different players had scored 20-plus points in the season’s first 10 games. That exclusive club has now doubled its membership with Draisaitl and McDavid joining Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri.
Kurri scored 20-plus points in the season’s first 10 games once, in 1983-84. Gretzky did it six straight seasons from 1982-83 to 1987-88, with his most being 30 points in the first 10 games of 1984-85.
After his hot start in 1983-84, Kurri recorded 90 points over his last 54 games, finishing the season with 113 points in 64 games. As for Gretzky, every season he blasted out of the gate with 20-plus points in the first 10 games, The Great One maintained an average of well above two points per game the rest of the way. In four of those seasons, Gretzky surpassed 200 points.
Draisaitl and McDavid are on an 82-game pace for 189 and 180 points, respectively, which would be the seventh and ninth-highest single-season totals in NHL history.
Draisaitl and McDavid Are Rare 20-in-10 Teammates
Throughout much of the 1980s, the Oilers’ lineup included five explosive scorers that were bound for the Hall of Fame in Gretzky, Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, and Mark Messier. At least two Oilers scored 100 or more points every season between 1981-82 and 1988-89, and at least three reached triple figures each of the five seasons from 1983-84 to 1987-88.
And yet, only once during this era of offensive prosperity did two Oilers each score 20 points in the first 10 games of a season; Gretzky had 25 and Kurri had 23 in 1983-84, at the outset of the season that would ultimately end in the Oilers winning their first Stanley Cup.
Looking across the league, this is the first instance in the last 25 years of teammates with 20 points in their teams’ first 10 games. Incredibly, three players did it for Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96: Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis.
Draisaitl Is Scoring a Goal Per Game
Draisaitl scored the overtime winner against the Rangers on Friday, giving the 26-year-old German 10 goals through the opening 10 games of 2021-22.
Scoring 10 or more goals in the Oilers’ first 10 games of the season was a feat that had only before been achieved by four different players in Oilers history: Gretzky (12 in 1983-84 and 11 in 1984-85), Anderson (11 in 1985-86), Kurri (10 in 1984-85) and Messier (10 in 1981-82).
In each of those prior those five instances, the player went on to finish the season with 50 or more goals; Messier had 50 in 1981-82, Gretzky potted 87 in 1983-84 and 73 in 1984-85, Kurri notched 71 in 1984-85, and Anderson had 54 in 1985-86. Draisaitl already has one 50-goal campaign under his belt, in 2018-19 when he scored with six goals in the first 10 games.
Draisaitl has also joined Gretzky and Kurri as the only Oilers to have at least 10 goals and 20 points in the first 10 games of a season.
Oilers Taking Their Show on the Road
After hosting seven of their first 10 games at Rogers Place and playing just once so far on back-to-back dates, the Oilers begin a five-game, nine-day road trip on Tuesday (Nov. 9) when they visit the Detroit Red Wings.
This is the first truly challenging portion of the schedule for Edmonton, and maybe the high-flying Oilers will be brought back to earth. But If Draisaitl and McDavid can continue producing at such a torrid pace, maybe the sky really is the limit.
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.