This upcoming 2021-22 season for the Edmonton Oilers should prove to be an exciting one. With new faces and a new franchise joining their division. It features important matchups, familiar faces making returns, and lots of fans. You don’t want to miss any Oilers action, but here are the 10 must-watch games of the regular season.
Oct. 13 vs. Vancouver Canucks
The game that kicks off the 2021-22 regular season for the Vancouver Canucks and the Oilers. Teams will look for a good start to the season, and it can begin with a win in the first game. This happens to also be the Oilers’ home opener, and the team will be playing in front of a packed arena. These teams play each other in the final two preseason matchups, so they will have gotten used to one another by then. Late in the preseason is where teams make most of their cuts and will be made up of generally what the opening day roster will look like.
Something to watch out for is pending restricted free agents Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, who are both two of the top names still unsigned for the upcoming season. Without being signed to new deals, neither have been able to show up at training camp. If contract talks don’t progress and they don’t agree to deals, this could be a shorthanded Canucks team for opening night against the Oilers. This team needs to be at full strength offensively to keep up with the explosive Oilers’ roster. On TSN’s Overdrive, the group talked about the difficulty in signing not only one but both of them.
Last season, these teams played in 10 games. The Oilers took the season series, winning six of the games, but dropping two of the final three. By the time these teams were playing in their final regular-season game, all the American teams had started their playoff games. The Oilers had already clinched a playoff spot, and the first-round matchup was set, so there wasn’t much to play for other than getting in the reps in preparation for the postseason.
Oct. 16 vs. Calgary Flames
You don’t have to wait too long to be able to experience the next must-watch game of the Oilers’ 2021-22 schedule. This game comes only three days after the first game of the season, and this game features the Calgary Flames. After a long-awaited return, fans should be filling the arenas, home and away, for the Battle of Alberta that should prove to be exciting hockey to watch. To make it even better for Oilers fans, the game is at home, so the team will have the support of the fans.
Last season the Oilers got the better of the Flames, taking the season series 6-4. This was the only other opponent that Edmonton had played 10 times in 2020-21, and they came out victorious again. It didn’t feel like the intensity and level of excitement was there in the Battle of Alberta, as fans are used to seeing and now expecting out of every matchup. With a healthy Zack Kassian inserted back into the lineup, and a player in Matthew Tkachuk looking to rebound, they should lead the charge in electrifying the building. In the first of four matchups with the Flames this season, games should be electric, as both teams are looking to be contenders to make the playoffs in a close Pacific Division this season.
Nov. 1 vs. Seattle Kraken
Though the Seattle Kraken would have played some games to this point, fans should be excited to watch how this first-year team matches up against this Oilers team. This will be the first time Adam Larsson will be on the other side of the ice from the team since being selected and signing with the Kraken. We will have to keep an eye on how his play translates to the Kraken’s roster. The other former Oiler in the team is Jordan Eberle, one of the highlights of the players Seattle selected. He will be looking to score on the team that traded him years ago.
Not only will it be the first time these teams face off in their history, but it’s even more important since it’s a divisional matchup, and every one of those counts, especially in a wide-open Pacific Division. If we take it back to the last expansion team, the Oilers had success against them in their inaugural season — they won the season series 3-1 in games. The Oilers hope to have similar results against the newest expansion team. The Kraken will be compared to the Golden Knights at every turn, whether it’s realistic or not.
Nov. 16 at Winnipeg Jets
This is the first time the Oilers will be returning to Winnipeg for a game that matters since being swept by them in the first round of the 2020-21 playoffs. Both teams have made some key additions to their lineups and only look to improve on last season. They won’t see as much of each other as they did in 2020-21, but the games will be high-paced and should feature many goals.
This is the first time the Oilers will see the Jets, and it’s also the first game of a home-and-home against them, with the second game being played two nights later in Edmonton.
It was a lopsided regular-season series between these two teams, as the Oilers took seven of the nine games played. The year started off in favour of the Jets, as they won two of the first three games. Then the Oilers went on a tear and ran over the Jets for six consecutive victories to close out the season series. Fortunes changed for both teams, as the regular season didn’t seem to matter, and the Jets shut down the Oilers and took the Round 1 matchup in four games. This may have brought back bad memories of older fans who experienced the last time the Oilers were swept in the playoffs. The Oilers will look to rebound from that defeat at the hands of the Jets, and hope to have a strong showing in their games again this season, starting with this one.
Dec. 1 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
This is always a highly anticipated matchup when two of the faces of hockey over the past decade and a half, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, face off. Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Oilers for the one and only game in Edmonton between the clubs in 2021-22.
In one of the games of the year back in 2018, Crosby put on a show in a game that needed overtime to decide it. Both teams are looking for bounce-back seasons after failing to do anything in the playoffs in 2020-21. The hope is by then, both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can be healthy and make for a great game in front of the home crowd. Former Penguins defenseman Cody Ceci will also be playing his first game against the team that seemed to rejuvenate his career after a tough time in Toronto.
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Jan. 5 at Toronto Maple Leafs
There will be a couple of very interesting storylines to watch for between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Oilers. Not only the game, but the season will feature Hart Trophy contenders, Rocket Richard Trophy contenders, Art Ross contenders, highly touted rookies, and a former Maple Leaf return home.
The reason this game will have more hype around it is that Zach Hyman, a former Maple Leaf and hometown boy, will be returning to Toronto for his first game in a different uniform playing at Scotiabank Arena. He used to line up with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner on the top line, but he will now be lining up opposite of them on McDavid’s left wing. Hyman should receive a warm welcome from fans in his first game back.
Among the players on each of the teams, there are four of them you should be on the lookout for to get you out of your seats. These names include McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the away side, and Matthews and Marner at home. All of these players have the skillset to compete for the Art Ross Trophy, as they finished the 2020-21 campaign as four of the top five leading scorers.
In contention for the other two trophies mentioned are more likely all these names, excluding Marner. Matthews won the Rocket Richard Trophy last season, and coming in at No. 2 & 4 were McDavid and Draisaitl. The Oilers have the previous two Hart Trophy winners on their side, while Matthews finished second in voting last season. This is must-see hockey.
March 3 at Chicago Blackhawks
This matchup is special because we get to see the return of Duncan Keith to Chicago. After shuffling up their defence group, Keith ended up in western Canada on the Oilers. After playing 16 seasons with the Blackhawks, he will find himself opposite of longtime teammates and friends. As a member of the Blackhawks, he won three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, two Norris Trophies, and was a three-time All-Star. He played a total of 1,327 games with the franchise between the regular season and playoffs. He dressed for the most games by a defenceman in franchise history and had the second most points behind Doug Wilson.
The Blackhawks look like a much-improved team from last season, and they turned some heads with their performance after being written off to start the season. They added Seth Jones, Marc-Andre Fleury, Tyler Johnson, and Jake McCabe, while captain Jonathan Toews is set to play again this season after missing all of 2020-21.
This should be a great matchup between two veteran goaltenders while also featuring a crew of dynamic players to watch out for. As a team fighting every night to be a contender again, maybe for the last time before a rebuild, the Blackhawks should give the Oilers a competitive game in the Windy City.
March 21 at Colorado Avalanche
This matchup against the Colorado Avalanche features a player on the opposing side that is another top player in the world. His name is Nathan MacKinnon, and we will see him and McDavid go head-to-head in one of the fastest and most offensive games on the schedule. MacKinnon is widely considered the second-best player in the world behind McDavid, so it will be a treat to watch both players in the same game.
Not only does this matchup have those two players, but their rosters have multiple talented players that should prove to be great action like Norris contender Cale Makar and the underrated Mikko Rantanen, plus Draisaitl and McDavid, of course. This is the first of two meetings between the clubs and comes when teams are starting to turn it up for the stretch run to the playoffs.
April 16 vs. Vegas Golden Knights
As the last matchup between the Oilers and the Vegas Golden Knights, it could prove to be the most important in deciding seeding for the playoffs. Both of these teams are built to roll into the postseason, but it’s not set in stone that the Golden Knights will run away with the Pacific Division this season. This game comes at No. 76 of the regular season and could have an impact on who takes the division and what matchups each ends up with in the playoffs.
These teams will have played three times before this, all spread out, but the Oilers may have the advantage with the final game of the season series taking place at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The Golden Knights are one of the frontrunners to win the President’s Trophy this season, so regardless if there is a division title on the line, this will shape up to be a heavily competitive matchup nonetheless.
April 29 vs. Vancouver Canucks
The final game of the regular season ends the same way it starts, or we can only hope, as it would give the Oilers some momentum going into playoffs if they find themselves in that position. The Canucks should be a bubble team fighting until the last game to see where they finish in the standings. The hope being they are on the inside, and they are battling for seeding at this point.
As mentioned prior, the Canucks will have to be at full strength to help put themselves in this position. They made some big additions to their roster this offseason and hope that along with signing Pettersson and Hughes, Pettersson can stay healthy and contribute the way fans know he can. We could very well see a first-round playoff matchup between these two clubs, so this will be a highly competitive game.
There is plenty to be excited about on this Oilers roster and the 2021-22 NHL season. With tons of great action on the horizon, you won’t want to miss a second of it and be around for what is bound to get you excited to wake up in the morning.
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.