Grading Oilers' forwards ahead of 2021-22 season
Despite having two of the best players on the planet, the Edmonton Oilers have failed to build a true contender over the last several years. Connor McDavid is set to begin his seventh NHL season and has just one playoff series win to his name.
After several significant offseason moves, it's starting to look like a make-or-break year. In this series, we'll examine the club's goalies, blue line, and forward group.
We finish things up with the forwards.
*Did not play for Oilers last season
**Did not play in NHL last season
Let's start with the obvious. Edmonton possesses the league's most lethal one-two punch and has a chance in any game as long as McDavid and Draisaitl are healthy. That said, the depth behind the big guns has been an issue for much of the McDavid era, and general manager Ken Holland made a notable effort to address it this offseason.
Hyman is a tremendous fit for the Oilers and could post new career highs through the first couple of seasons of his seven-year contract. With Hyman joining Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, and Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers' top six is formidable, to say the least.
Foegele is a useful addition to a bottom six that's long lacked the capabilities to supplement the Oilers' top dogs. Ryan was a quiet offseason acquisition, but his defensive acumen will be a tremendous asset when Edmonton is on the penalty kill or protecting a lead.
The Oilers reinforced their offense, but some question marks remain. Veterans like Kassian and Turris must contribute far more consistently if they're to make a difference for the team and maintain everyday roles.
If both can bounce back, there aren't many holes in Edmonton's forward corps.
With questions in goal and on defense, Edmonton's firepower up front is clearly its biggest strength. And with two perennial Art Ross threats leading the charge, it's difficult to grade the Oilers harshly for leaning on what works.
But it can't only be up to McDavid and Draisaitl. The unstoppable duo produced at an otherworldly rate in a condensed campaign against weak competition last season; the Oilers can't rely solely on two players over 82 games against a full slate of opponents. All four forward lines will need to be consistently sharp for Edmonton to overcome its deficiencies on the blue line and in net.
The Oilers are likely to boast one of the league's most prolific offenses and a top power play in 2021-22, but neither was ever in question. How well the new forwards gel - and whether the returning pieces can take a step forward - will be key to Edmonton's success this season.