Although the 2014-15 NHL season marks yet another lost year in the Edmonton Oilers’ recent history, there remains positives which, for the sake of Oilers fans’ sanity, must be emphasized as the team moves forwards into the off-season.
With that being said, let’s take a moment to highlight a number of the bright spots which have emerged from within the Oilers this season.
Most Improved Offensive Player
While some may say Nugent-Hopkins failed to improve this season, given he was only able to match his career high points total with 56, he improved greatly in other aspects of the game. Most significantly so in the goal scoring department, as he reached the 20 goal plateau for the first time, netting 24 on the season. On top of this, Nugent-Hopkins improved drastically in the faceoff circle, nearing 50% on the season.
Essentially, a stronger and healthier Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was one of the Oilers’ most dependable players this season, while his play on the ice indicates that much more should be expected in the coming years from the former first overall pick.
Most Improved Defensive Player
Despite beginning the 2014-15 season with the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League, Oscar Klefbom was quick to establish himself as an everyday NHL defender once the opportunity arose.
While Klefbom did play 17 games in 2013-14, scoring a goal and three points, he truly began to come into his own this season with the Oilers. Although he only scored twice in 60 games, Klefbom did record a total of 20 points while he became one of the Oilers’ leaders in ice time. Averaging 22 minutes of ice time per game, Klefbom ranked second on Edmonton behind fellow youngster Justin Schultz.
Most Skilled Player
In terms of the Oilers’ most skilled player, it comes down to one of Taylor Hall, Benoit Pouliot or Jordan Eberle, however, given his ability to stay healthy and contribute consistently, Eberle takes the trophy.
Eberle is known for his magical hands, and he scored more than one incredibly skilled goal this season, the most notable of which is likely this beauty against the San Jose Sharks.
Although Nail Yakupov garners a ton of criticism for his play as a first overall pick, his work ethic during the 2014-15 season illustrated his determination to continue to improve his overall game.
Most noticeably, Yakupov spent the 2014-15 season working extremely hard to improve his defensive game, skating hard on every backcheck while playing an increasingly physical game in his own zone.
On top of this, Yakupov also set a new career high in points with 33, as his offensive game benefited greatly from the arrival of veteran linemate Derek Roy.
Most Valuable Player
The Edmonton Oilers’ most valuable player for the 2014-15 season in none other than Jordan Eberle. Eberle, who played in 81 games for the Oilers, led his team in points with 63, while his 24 goals were tied for team best with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
A dynamic and incredibly skilled player, Eberle’s consistent play at both ends of the ice made of him one of the Oilers’ most dependable players night in and night out.
If not for an injury plagued season for Taylor Hall, the Oilers’ top line of Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Hall could have quite easily established career high points totals, as Eberle appears to have developed into one of the most dangerous right wingers in the NHL.