In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, there is buzz surrounding how much Leon Draisaitl can pick up his game and if a good stretch will put him in the Hart Trophy conversation, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is stepping up and there’s news on the trade market and notes before the game as Edmonton meets Tampa Bay on Thursday. Plus, where will the Oilers place Tyler Benson now that he’s back with the team?
Tonight’s Game vs The Lightning
The Oilers are going for win number two without Connor McDavid when they match-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning for their first of an Eastern Conference swing on Thursday night. There is good news on the injury front when it comes to the Oilers having to face-off against Tampa’s best.
The Lightning will be without Nikita Kucherov (lower-body injury). Steven Stamkos and Anthony Cirelli also are out.
Obviously, this isn’t an excuse for the Oilers as they can’t come out flat against a team this good but it does even the playing field somewhat.
Nugent-Hopkins on Fire
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 19 points (7 G, 12 A) in his last 14 games. Clearly, he’s elevating his game and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Oilers who will need him to take on more of an offensive role in the absence of their captain.
Since the Leon Draisaitl, Kailer Yamamoto and Nugent-Hopkins trip came together, “Nuge” is the NHL’s fourth most deadly point scorer. These regular linemates might be what the doctor ordered for Nugent-Hopkins as this line was kept together despite some debate about splitting them to better round out the roster.
Expect Tippett to ride the hot line even though Edmonton’s secondary scoring might be weaker as a result. If this line can get anywhere near the type of production they got against Chicago, the rest of the roster just needs to chip in.
Oilers Recall Benson
The Oilers have recalled forward Tyler Benson from the Bakersfield Condors and placed forward James Neal on Injured Reserve retroactive to Jan. 30.
There is some debate about where to slot Benson in the lineup. Some people argue he needs top line minutes because he’s a top-six type of forward in Bakersfield. Others are suggesting you don’t just slot him into such an important role because it’s going to put too much pressure on him. His last call-up wasn’t terribly successful so head coach Dave Tippett may need to try a few things to see what sticks.
As for Neal, he has suffered a setback in his injury recovery which isn’t great for Edmonton. There’s no word on a timetable for his return.
Draisaitl in the Hart Trophy Conversation
When asked to do even more than he was already doing, Draisaitl went out and got three assists and a goal in his first game without McDavid in the lineup. That now brings his point total to 89 points and seven more than David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins.
Draisaitl is obviously ready to take this team on his back and try to carry them to a playoff spot but at the same time, he’s giving voters serious reasons to consider him as a Hart Trophy candidate this season. At his pace, this will easily become his second-consecutive 100-point season and he’ll have a shot at two seasons of 50 goals.
He likely gets overshadowed being on the same team as McDavid which has its positive and negatives but he deserves consideration and has all season. He’s been right there and sometimes more productive even with McDavid in the lineup.
Trade Targets for the Oilers
In his latest 31 Thoughts article, Sportsnet analyst and hockey insider Elliotte Friedman noted the Edmonton Oilers likely aren’t willing to move a first-round pick or one of their top prospects for a rental at this year’s NHL Trade Deadline. Further to that, Friedman said, “I’m not convinced they’d want to move Jesse Puljujarvi for one.”
So, who are the Oilers targeting? There’s some buzz Edmonton might have an interest in Andreas Athanasiou as the team would have control over the player’s contract and possibly Pavel Buchnevich of the New York Rangers might be an option. The winger has 11 goals and 33 points in 55 games this season and was recently added to TSN’s Trade Bait Board, ranking at No. 12 on the list.
Catch up on all the latest NHL Rumors
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”