The Edmonton Oilers should be even better next season and as a result, one of the favourites for the Stanley Cup. That being said, there are things that could go very right or horribly wrong. I am going to provide three hot takes involving the Oilers’ players for the 2022-23 season and discuss why each is very possible.
Broberg Follows Bouchard & Earns Top-4 Minutes By the End of 2022-23
For those who forgot how last season started for the Oilers, Evan Bouchard was in the exact same position Philip Broberg is in now for the coming season. Bouchard was almost guaranteed a spot on the team and slotted into the third pairing. Broberg will have the same opportunity and start on the bottom pair so that he isn’t thrown right into the fire.
Bouchard quickly proved he was much improved and moved up to play both top pairing minutes and settle in on the second pairing. This was able to happen due to the struggles of Tyson Barrie early on the right side. With Bouchard, there were two top-four defencemen in his way, but neither were solidified, first-pairing players. With Broberg, Darnell Nurse has the top pair locked down on the left side, but Brett Kulak played on the bottom pair last season. He is expected to slide up and play on the second pairing alongside Bouchard, which leaves Broberg to be paired with Barrie.
Broberg had a very good season in the American Hockey League (AHL) last season and even got the call-up to the Oilers when the team was decimated with injuries on the back-end. He played some second pairing minutes and has a little experience there, but more so played on the third pairing and when the team opted to dress seven defencemen.
As a young and talented prospect with lots of potential, this former top-10 pick has the tools to quickly learn the league and adjust. He is such a smooth skater and has both offensive and defensive potential. It won’t be a knock on Kulak either if Broberg earns top-four minutes, as Kulak played very well with Barrie and made him much better while being paid a fair amount for wherever in the lineup he plays.
Jack Campbell is a Top-5 Goaltender Next Season
Do you remember when Jack Campbell was on another level and right in the mix for the best goaltender last season before the All-Star break? He was 23-6-3 with a .925 save percentage (SV%), 2.30 goals against average (GAA), and four shutouts. Outside of the All-Star break, he wasn’t the only player who struggled, as Petr Mrazek did just as bad and the Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t giving Campbell as much support defensively as they did earlier in the season.
By April, Campbell had gotten back on track and went 7-0-2 with a .915 SV%. That led to the playoffs where he performed well against the then two-time defending Stanley Cup champions. Every goaltender in his career has had stretches where he has struggled, but Campbell bounced back strong.
Campbell finished the 2021-22 season with a record of 31-9-6 and a .914 SV%. Considering he was battling through injuries while he was struggling, that is a solid season overall. Now the starter for the Oilers, Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson will only have positive effects on Campbell as they both did for the defensive system after they arrived last season. Mike Smith went on a run that saw him become one of the most dominant goaltenders in the NHL over the last month while Mikko Koskinen showed improved numbers as well. The Oilers’ defence is solid and they have Nurse, Ceci, and Kulak to lead the charge defensively. Woodcroft has also preached that every forward should be skating hard back into their own end; which made a noticeable difference and will continue to help the goaltending in 2022-23 (from “Lowetide: Oilers’ expectations of Jack Campbell in his first Edmonton season”, The Athletic, Aug. 3, 2022).
There are some regular names you will see near the top with goaltenders including Igor Shesterkin and Andrei Vasilevskiy, but Campbell’s name should be in the mix along with goalies like Jacob Markstrom, Frederik Andersen, Jusse Saros, Jake Oettinger, and Ilya Sorokin. If Campbell can improve his numbers on the road from last season, things will be looking up, as the Oilers have been one of the stronger teams away from home over the past few seasons.
Evander Kane Scores 45 Goals, 3 Oilers Finish Top-10 in Goals
Evander Kane scored at over a 40-goal pace last season once he joined the Oilers mid-season, as he was immediately put with Connor McDavid and gained instant chemistry with him. McDavid also got a player who could finish a ton of the amazing passes and wide-open chances he gave his wingers. Not only did the two click and Kane scored 22 goals in 43 games during the regular season, but he also added 13 goals in 15 games in the playoffs where it is even harder to score. Take this into account. Kane isn’t even on the first power-play unit and he was putting up those numbers which show exactly how dominant he and McDavid are together. Kane has the speed and finishing ability to complement McDavid perfectly, and it showed. Next season should only be better.
As for the other two players who I’m predicting will finish next season in the top-10 in goals, Leon Draisaitl and McDavid of course. Draisaitl has now scored 50-plus goals twice in his career, both coming in the past four seasons. He is also the go-to player McDavid finds on one of the best power plays in the league. Draisaitl has scored 179 goals and 71 power-play goals over the past four seasons (289 games) and set the Oilers’ franchise record for most power-play goals in a season. He has also missed just two games over the past four seasons.
McDavid is widely regarded as the best player in the game despite winning the Hart Trophy only twice in the past six seasons. He regularly finished first or second in scoring which also entails him scoring lots of goals (from “Lowetide: Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid and his Art Ross dominance”, The Athletic, July 29, 2022). Since the start of his sophomore season, he has scored 40-plus goals three times and 30-plus all six. Last season, the Oilers’ captain also finished with 44 goals, the most he’s scored in a season. That was good for seventh in the NHL. Look for a couple of players ahead of him to regress as well, including Chris Kreider and Alex Ovechkin, while McDavid is only going to get better with each passing season.
None of the three hot takes are too crazy. The second may be the least likely of the three. But if all of them come to fruition, the Oilers will be looking very good next season and could even go all the way.
What do you think, any hot takes of your own? Let me know in the comments below.