We’ve entered the stretch drive of this abbreviated 56-game National Hockey League season, with much still to be decided in the North Division, where the Edmonton Oilers have more or less locked down a playoff berth but could still finish anywhere within the top four.
Edmonton is in third place, one point behind the Winnipeg Jets (with one game in hand) and seven points back of the division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs (with two games in hand), while holding a seven-point lead over the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens (who have a game in hand).
The Oilers are off until Monday (April 26) when they take on the Jets at Bell MTS Place, beginning a stretch of 11 games in 20 days to close the regular season.
While the chase for a high playoff seed unfolds in the standings, several Edmonton players are closing in on personal milestones. Here’s a look at five Oilers who can make some personal history over the next three weeks.
A hat trick of benchmark numbers is within sight for Draisatil, who is 10 goals from 200, four assists from 300, and 14 points from 500. While he likely won’t score No. 200 until next season, it’s a safe bet he records his 300th career assist at some point in the next three weeks, and if he continues to produce at his 2021 rate of 1.42 points per game, Draisaitl will have 502 for his career by season’s end.
The center from Cologne is also one point from tying and two from overtaking Marco Sturm as the NHL’s all-time points leader among German skaters. Sturm, who played in the NHL from 1997-98 to 2011-12, totaled 487 points (242 goals, 245 assists) in 938 career games, which is more than twice as many as the 467 Draisaitl has played to this point.
Chiasson is also verging a trio of milestones for his career and could achieve all three any game now. The veteran of more than 550 NHL games needs one goal to hit 100, two assists to reach 100, and three points to get to 200. In 34 games this season. Since signing with the Oilers in 2018, Chiasson has 40 goals and 33 assists.
It remains a real possibility that McDavid reaches 100 points in this shortened season, which would be one of the greatest individual offensive accomplishments in hockey history. With one goal and two assists in Edmonton’s 4-3 loss to the Habs at Rogers Place on Wednesday (April 21), McDavid’s now has 77 points through 45 games and needs to average just above two points the rest of the way to finish with 100.
Now in his sixth NHL season, Edmonton’s captain already has three 100-point seasons to his credit. A fourth would give McDavid the fourth-most in franchise history, behind only Hall-of-Famers Wayne Gretzky (nine 100-point seasons as an Oiler), Jari Kurri and Mark Messier (five each).
After scoring against the Canadiens on Wednesday (April 21) in his first game back from an upper-body injury, Nugent-Hopkins now has 182 goals and 472 points in his NHL career, leaving the 28-year-old forward just three goals back of Craig Simpson (185) for ninth all-time on the Oilers, and five points behind Ales Hemsky (477) for 10th in franchise history.
It may be now or never for RNH to overtake those Oilers greats. As an impending UFA who reportedly declined Edmonton’s recent contract offer, Nugent-Hopkins could be playing his final few games with the team that drafted him first overall in 2011.
Pretty much everything that happens over the next while will be a milestone for the 21-year-old McLeod, who has been recalled by the Oilers from the Bakersfield Condors: first NHL game, first goal, first penalty, etc., etc.
The rookie center, who has 28 points in 28 American Hockey League games this season, will be eligible to play for the Oilers after clearing quarantine and is expected to suit up for at least a few games before the end of the NHL season so that he could rack up not only a few “firsts” but perhaps a couple “seconds” and “thirds” too.
As far as team milestones go, the Oilers haven’t finished atop their division in the regular season standings since 1986-87, when Gretzky and Co. were the class of the Smythe Division. But while it would be nice to end that drought, Edmonton is really only concerned about winning its first Stanley Cup in three decades.