The Edmonton Oilers made a number of moves this past offseason, and since the team has reached the Christmas break, we’re going to check in and see which of the newest members have done thus far. Keep in mind, these rankings will be based on what was expected of each player in the role they were acquired to fill.
There are seven new Oilers acquired via trade or signing. Two members of the team were brought in through separate trades: Duncan Keith and Warren Foegele. The other five first-year Oilers were signed before the season started: Zach Hyman, Cody Ceci, Brendan Perlini, Derek Ryan, and Colton Sceviour.
Below is how I ranked each player in comparison to each other based on their performances in the roles they play for the Oilers.
7. Brendan Perlini
We will start with the least impressive new player for the Oilers to this point in the season. I have him lower than Ryan because, though each of them has played poorly, Perlini was sent down to the American Hockey League (AHL) and hadn’t recorded a single point in his first 14 games and was out of the lineup half the time.
Perlini did get his second shot with the Oilers very soon after and brought back what he had learned about himself. He looked like a much more confident player and we saw shades of his play from the preseason. I fully expect him to move up past Ryan by the end of the season, and with his skill set, he will get a better opportunity higher in the lineup to do so.
6. Derek Ryan
Ryan was brought in to be a solid third-line centre for two seasons and stabilize the depth so that the Oilers don’t have to run with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins down the middle. Ryan was also supposed to be relied on defensively while providing some offence that he has given teams in the past.
He has been fine shorthanded, leading the forwards of the Oilers in penalty killing time per game. Everything else hasn’t gone according to plan. His play has gotten him demoted to the fourth line and even out of the lineup for a couple of games (“How is Ken Holland’s “Greybeards” strategy working out for Edmonton Oilers so far?”, Edmonton Journal, Dec. 9, 2021).
This signing, especially for another year after this one, looks like a mistake, as the one thing Ryan has been reliable at, the Oilers can fill. That is the penalty kill. They have more than enough penalty-killers on the team. Ryan has just turned into a player that isn’t providing offence and is expendable this early into his contract.
5. Colton Sceviour
Sceviour has been more than the Oilers could’ve asked for when they signed him to a professional tryout. He has picked up his game as of late, providing the team with some much-needed scoring from their bottom-six to break their losing streak. He has two goals in the past three games and should play the majority of the remaining games on the fourth line for the Oilers this season.
There are other options the Oilers can go to, but Sceviour has been more reliable than players like Kyle Turris, Tyler Benson, and Perlini to this point. Sceviour has played well over half the games this season and has proven to be valuable on the penalty kill, playing the third-most among forwards on the team and a part of the reason why the Oilers’ penalty kill is top-10 in the league.
4. Duncan Keith
There were many critics after the Oilers decided to add a veteran in Keith to the back-end. The contract is a little larger than he is worth at this stage of his career, but he has been effective in a reduced role. Rather than playing on the top pair, top penalty-killing unit, and receiving power-play time, Keith has taken a step back and is relied on to provide better play in the defensive zone for the Oilers.
He is part of a shutdown pair with another player who’s in his first season with the Oilers, Ceci. They have worked very well together and he brings a very experienced presence to the Oilers’ locker room. Though it has taken a little time to get comfortable with the group, Keith is now being a lot more vocal with his teammates.
Keith is always out there while the team is shorthanded, playing the third-most of any Oiler while down a man. Injuries haven’t allowed us to get a complete look at Keith so far, and he could easily move up this list provided he continues his strong play.
3. Warren Foegele
Despite working hard and battling through a lot of bad bounces, Foegele has yet to stop working hard every shift. He started the year with some great initial chemistry with Zack Kassian and Ryan, but injuries and line shuffling screwed that up.
Foegele is a third-line player at worst, and as of late, he has been getting more of an opportunity with a couple of Oilers out to get something going in his game. Though he has played on the top line the past couple of games with McDavid, he can still be considered a bottom-six player and it would be great for Foegele and the team if that production could keep up to some degree when there’s a healthy team.
He has scored three goals in the past two games on the Oilers’ first line, so it could also create an opportunity to spread out the scoring a bit more and keep Foegele in a position to excel. He has averaged just over 13 minutes a night, but over the past three games he has played over 16 minutes, reaching nearly 20 minutes in the Oilers’ last game (“OILERS NOTES: Warren Foegele silences critics with big game in Seattle”, Edmonton Sun, Dec. 20, 2021).
Foegele is on pace for over 30 points this season which isn’t horrible. The hope is that he is finally settling in with the team and finding his scoring touch again. If a third line can provide 30-40 points each, that is the scoring depth any team would be happy with.
2. Cody Ceci
Ceci has been a big surprise for everyone who expected him to be the type of player he was a couple of years ago. A change of scenery can make all the difference, and he has found some great chemistry on the Oilers’ second pairing.
Ceci is another player who is heavily relied on defensively, as he is part of the aforementioned shutdown pairing along with Keith. Ceci has the right side of the second pairing locked down, as he has played well all year. We’ve not only seen him play hard against opponents in the defensive zone but also seen glimpses of offensive talent when he jumps up in the play or carries out the puck.
His ability to break up the opponent’s offence once they are working the puck around has been key in not allowing the other team to create good chances and wear down the Oilers. A simple breakout play can always turn into a scoring chance the other way when the likes of McDavid and Draisaitl are on the team, so Ceci’s ability to make the right play and pass it instead of sending it out to the opposing team every time makes for more puck possession for the Oilers.
1. Zach Hyman
Hyman has been a great addition in all aspects of the game. He finally fills that need on the left wing alongside McDavid that the Oilers have been searching for. Hyman has also taken over the vacant net-front role on the power play while killing penalties alongside Nugent-Hopkins in a very effective duo in their own end and creating chances while shorthanded.
The Oilers are very dangerous when they can control the play in the offensive zone, and playing alongside the league’s best scorers, the more time with puck possession in the opponent’s end the better. Hyman forechecks hard and creates turnovers if the top lines ever elect to dump the puck in, and battles relentlessly to get and keep the puck.
A player like McDavid benefits greatly by having someone with the skills Hyman brings to the ice every game, and it elevates both of them. He also has the speed and finishing ability to keep up and get to the right areas to be able to score. Hyman has already produced 11 goals and 19 points and will look to shatter his career-best totals if he keeps up the pace.
Not all the offseason acquisitions for the Oilers have been good, but more have had a positive impact on the team thus far into the season. Good thing the players who are on contract for more years are the ones who have performed well off the hop, providing a reason to be confident in this squad moving forward.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.
You can find more of his work here.