In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, Connor McDavid accomplished an amazing feat with the NHL’s regular season now complete. Meanwhile, Slater Koekkoek showed well in the final game of the Oilers season. Where does he fit into the playoff plan? Will Gaetan Haas and Zack Kassian get much playing time and how often will the Oilers look to Mikko Koskinen after a couple of games where he leaked quick goals against?
McDavid Accomplishes a First Since 1988
Just adding to an already incredible season, McDavid set a new high on Saturday. He earned his 105th point of the regular season but it bumped his numbers to a point where he finished the campaign having contributed to 57.38% of the Oilers’ 183 goals in 2020-21. That’s the best in the NHL since Mario Lemieux hit a 57.35% clip in the 1988-89 season.
Of course, Connor also won another Art Ross Trophy with the NHL’s regular season now finally done. He’s only 24 and has won the award three times. Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky are the only others to do that.
Of course, some people will contend he wouldn’t have accomplished this feat in a normal season and playing against all the other NHL clubs. At the same time, who’s to say this season wasn’t more difficult with so many games in short periods of time and against teams who should have had a game plan against a player they’d seen 9 or 10 times during the season?
Koekkoek Gives Coach Tippett Options
It was only one game, but the play of defenseman Slater Koekkoek was good enough to tell his coach that the Oilers have another viable option during the playoffs on their blue line should they need to call upon someone steady. Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal notes that Tippett liked his game and played him with all four right-shot d-men for a period of time.
What the defenceman did was show assistant coach Jim Playfair, who looks after the blueliners, that he’s got the game and the versatility to be a valid option sometime in the playoff series against the Winnipeg Jets if somebody gets hurt or somebody on left side struggles.source – ‘OILERS NOTES: Slater Koekkoek earned trust of coaches in return to lineup’ Jim Matheson – Edmonton Journal – 05/16/2021
Koekkek is not expected to start Game 1 of the series, but he does have some valuable playoff experience and played well in the play-in round against Edmonton last season.
McLeod Likely To Get Priority Over Haas
Up until a few weeks ago, Gaetan Haas would have been the go-to guy for depth down the middle in Edmonton. But, the strong play of Ryan McLeod has likely given the edge to the rookie for the playoffs. McLeod has built some chemistry with James Neal and Alex Chiasson and it appears Tippett will go back to that line for Game 1 of the series against the Jets.
Haas will likely play a backup role and it’s a similar situation as far as Zack Kassian and Devin Shore are concerned. If Shore struggles, Kassian will probably slot in. If a series starts to take a physical tone, Kassian will probably slot in. Otherwise, Kassian might not get a lot of playing time, even if he’s ready to go.
Expect Smith to Play… A Lot
While the Oilers could split games between Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen, expect Smith to get the majority of the starts during the playoffs and as many as he can manage. Koskinen has played well during stretches of games, but the weak goals he’s allowed in succession in recent outings has to be concerning for the Oilers.
That Koskinen seems to crater under pressure is not a great attribute during the playoffs where players now know that going high glove on him is an area they can exploit. There were two things that could have gone wrong in the final game of the season: a serious injury (thank goodness that didn’t happen) or Koskinen having a poor outing. That the second thing happened isn’t great news.
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.”