Connor McDavid has taken his game to a level that’s far above everyone else in hockey, certainly now and maybe over a generation. Leon Draisaitl, despite being less than 100 percent health-wise, is still playing as good as, if not better than, anyone other than McDavid.
The Dynamic Duo is leading the Edmonton Oilers on the team’s best playoff run since 2017, after missing the postseason in 2018 and 2019 and bowing out quickly in 2020 and 2021. After a dominant 4-1 win at Rogers Place on Sunday (May 22), Edmonton leads the Calgary Flames 2-1 in a best-of-seven Western Conference second-round series.
McDavid has 23 points (7 goals, 16 assists), while Draisaitl has 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists) to rank first and second among all participants in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But getting production of the former Hart and Art Ross Trophy winners is nothing new: McDavid was Edmonton’s top point producer in the 2020 playoffs, and Draisaitl led the Oilers in points during the 2021 postseason.
What is new and is the reason the Oilers find themselves two wins away from their first Western Conference championship series appearance in 16 years is the supporting cast that are making their Oilers playoff debuts this postseason.
There was no better example than in Game 3, when all four of Edmonton’s goals came from Zach Hyman and Evander Kane — players who were not with the team 12 months ago when the Winnipeg Jets swept the Oilers in the first round. Here’s a look at some of Edmonton’s 2021-22 additions that have proven to be key contributors for the Oilers in their drive to the Stanley Cup.
Kane, who the Oilers signed in January, registered his second hat trick of the 2022 postseason in Edmonton’s Game 3 victory, giving the winger an NHL-best 10 playoff goals. This postseason, he leads the Oilers in both shots (43) and game-winning goals (2) and trails only McDavid among all NHL skaters with a plus-9 rating.
Kane and any given member of the Flames chirping back and forth between penalty boxes is one of the most common (and entertaining) sights thus far in the second round series, so it’s not surprising that he also happens to lead the Oilers and is tied for third in the NHL this postseason with 24 penalty minutes.
While his former teammates on the Toronto Maple Leafs are sitting at home following another first-round playoff loss this spring, Hyman is providing his new team with everything the Oilers envisioned when they signed the forward to a seven-year contract last offseason. His two-way play and ability to get to the puck and find ways to score is exactly what every championship-aspiring squad needs.
Hyman has six playoff goals (tied with McDavid for third on the Oilers), including four against the Flames, and he scored the winner of Game 2, breaking a 3-3 tie midway through the third period. With 42 shots, he ranks third in the NHL and trails only Kane on the Oilers. Along with veteran Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the 6-foot-1 Hyman is one of two Oilers logging over five minutes per game total in special teams situations (3:17 power play; 2:06 shorthanded).
While the 22-year-old blueliner was with the Oilers during their short stay in the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs, he never got into a game against Winnipeg. This spring, he’s leading what has been an offensive outburst from Edmonton’s defensive corps, who have chipped in with some clutch goals during the playoffs.
Bouchard is tops among Oilers blueliners with 7 points from 2 goals and 5 assists. With his patented “Bouch’ Bomb” slapshot, he’s become part of Edmonton’s No. 1 power-play unit and is third on the team with three power-play points, trailing only McDavid and Draisaitl.
Perhaps Edmonton’s most reliable defenceman in the regular season, Ceci has continued his steady play in the postseason. The free-agent acquisition leads Edmonton in short-handed ice time (3:53 per game) and is third on the team with 20:43 minutes per game during the playoffs. Among Edmonton rearguards this postseason, his plus-7 rating is tied for best with that of Darnell Nurse, and his six points (one goal, five assists) are second to that of Bouchard.
Three-time Stanley Cup champion and 2015 Conn Smythe trophy-winner Keith, who came to Edmonton in a controversial trade last summer, was acquired by Oilers general manager Ken Holland to provide his leadership and experience at this time of year. After an underwhelming regular season, the 38-year-old defenceman is making a bigger impact in the playoffs. Keith scored for the first time since November in Game 2, and it was a huge goal, starting Edmonton’s comeback from an early 2-0 deficit.
A low-key pick-up at the trade deadline, Kulak has emerged as a rock-solid defender on Edmonton’s third pairing. Kulak, who experienced a run to the championship series as a member of the Montreal Canadiens last summer, has three points, a plus-6 rating, and is averaging 16:59 ice time in the postseason.
Edmonton will look for more of the same when it hosts the Flames in Game 4 at Rogers Place on Tuesday (May 24), looking to take a stranglehold 3-1 series lead in the first playoff Battle of Alberta since 1991.
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.