The Edmonton Oilers have been impressive through the first quarter of the season. With a record of 14-7-3, they currently hold on to the top spot in the Pacific Division, and are two points back of the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Western Conference. There are a lot of guys who have contributed to their early success, from the dynamic play of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, to the surprise performances from the likes of Zack Kassian and James Neal. Today I am going to rank Edmonton’s top-5 players through the first quarter of the season. Without further ado, here we go:
5. James Neal
After scoring just seven goals last season with the Calgary Flames, many believed that Neal’s best years were behind him, and that he was a shell of the player that he used to be. But, Neal was quick to prove those people wrong, as he’s now sitting at 13 goals through 23 games, which puts him in a five-way tie for sixth in the NHL goal-scoring race.
He’s become a huge part of Edmonton’s power play this season, and is a big reason why they are first in the league with the man advantage. His nine power play goals put him just one goal behind Draisaitl for the league-lead.
4. Zack Kassian
Kassian has been able to do it all so far this season, whether it’s setting the tone early with a thunderous hit, or crashing the net to score an important goal. Because of this, he is quickly rising the ranks as one of the best power forwards in the game. Playing along side the dynamic duo of McDavid and Draisaitl, Kassian has recorded 8 goals and 16 points so far this season, which puts him on pace to eclipse his career high of 29 points.
On top of that, he also leads the team in hits (55) and plus/minus (plus-11). Although Kassian’s future as an Oiler is unclear, as he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason, he will continue to play a huge role for the Oilers and their hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
3. Oscar Klefbom
After Adam Larsson suffered a fractured fibula in the season opener, many thought that the Oilers’ blue line would take a serious hit. That didn’t turn out to be the case, though, and a lot of that is due to the play of Oscar Klefbom. The 26-year-old has been the all-star of the team’s defensive core this season, and has been a big contributor to Edmonton’s success as a whole.
He currently sits third on the team in scoring with with 17 points, has a team-high 25:55 time on ice , and leads the team with 58 blocks. If this play continues, he will certainly receive some votes for the Norris Trophy.
2. Connor McDavid
Watching McDavid this season, it’s nearly impossible to tell that he suffered a pretty serious knee injury last April against the Flames. The Oilers’ captain has put on a tremendous showing through the first quarter of the NHL season, recording 44 points in 24 games, good enough to be tied for the league-lead with Draisaitl.
The pair is set to be the highest scoring duo since Mario Lemieux (161 points) and Jaromir Jagr (149 points) in 1995-96. To nobody’s surprise, McDavid is an early favorite for a handful of awards this season.
1. Leon Draisaitl
Draisaitl has been performing well beyond expectations. The Oilers knew that they were getting a stud when they selected him third overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, but I don’t think they expected him to turn out this good. With 16 goals and 44 points so far, he looks like he is well on his way to eclipse his previous career highs of 50 goals and 105 points. He is fresh off of a 13-game point streak where he recorded 10 goals and 18 assists in that span, and he has only been held off of the score sheet three times this season.
He leads all Oilers’ forwards with 22:40 time on ice, and sits second on the team with 14 power play points. He is becoming one of the most dynamic two-way forwards in the league, and has been Edmonton’s best player up to this point.
Ethan Bear: It may be Bear’s rookie season, but he’s playing like a seasoned veteran defenseman. His confidence is getting higher with every game that he plays, and he will definitely receive some Calder Trophy votes in June.
Mikko Koskinen: After a disappointing 2018-19 season, Koskinen has bounced back in a big way, sitting top 10 in goals-against average and save percentage, and a record of 8-1-2. Koskinen has been a key piece to Edmonton’s success.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: He’s been overshadowed by some of his teammates this season, but has still quietly put up 5 goals and 15 points in 23 games. He’s proving himself to be one of the top two-way forwards in the league.
Josh Vold covers the Edmonton Oilers here at TheHockeyWriters.com