The fantasy season is upon us. Another year of tears of joy and heartbreak.
To help you along, here’s your fantasy outlook for the Edmonton Oilers:
2022-23 Fantasy Outlook: Edmonton Oilers
Last season: 49-27-6, 2nd Pacific, 11th overall. GF: 7th, GA: 18th, PP: 3rd, PK: 17th.
Imagine if the Oilers had made the coaching change earlier. Under Jay Woodcroft, the Oilers registered a .724 P%, which would’ve been third-best in the league, compared to Dave Tippett, who finished his Oilers stint with a .596 P% and could never instill a sound defensive system that had been his hallmark. It would’ve been impossible to do, anyway, with Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen in net, a tandem that held things together only until the playoffs, when it was made abundantly clear the Oilers were still missing some big pieces.
They had made it to the conference final, but it was a shaky road and they needed some luck. The feisty Kings had pushed them to a Game 7 in the opening round, and they owe the Stars some thanks for tiring out the Flames before their second-round matchup. Getting swept by the Avs wasn’t altogether surprising because they were routinely outplayed, and the only chance the Oilers had of winning the series was to hope for Pavel Francouz to implode – which he obviously didn’t. This upcoming season will be the first time in four seasons the Oilers will not have Smith and Koskinen in net, which admittedly does provide a little more reason for optimism.
Best fantasy option: Evander Kane, LW
I’ll avoid the super spicy (AKA obvious) take of picking either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl and go with their top winger in Kane. His off-ice troubles limited him to only 43 games with the Oilers, but he was on pace for a career-high 74 points. He’s a must-have in banger leagues with his high PIM and hit totals, but also really represents the only viable option in the mid-to-high rounds. No other winger in the league is in a better situation than Kane when it comes to scoring opportunities.
Hidden gem: Evan Bouchard, D
Bouchard scored 43 points in 81 games last season, ranking 28th even though he was only one of two defensemen – the other being Tony DeAngelo – to average fewer than 20 minutes per game. His ice time dipped when Woodcroft took over because it’s clear he doesn’t trust Bouchard quite as much at even strength, but he is their best option for moving the puck up the ice. Tyson Barrie was disappointing with 41 points in 73 games, one season after scoring 48 in 56 games, and his high usage on the power play – seriously, how hard could that job be with 97 and 29 pulling the weight – is arguably the biggest impediment to Bouchard’s success. Darnell Nurse is an all-round defender, but still better suited in a matchup role as a bruiser rather than being counted on to score points consistently. According to naturalstattrick.com, Bouchard had the best possession numbers at 5-on-5 among Oilers defensemen, generating 55.34 CF% and 66.20 shot attempts per 60 minutes. All that’s preventing Bouchard from scoring more points is ice time, and hopefully that increases as he earns more of Woodcroft’s trust.
Jack Campbell’s health is a big question mark. Over the past two seasons with the Leafs, he ranked 11th in wins (48), 10th in save percentage (.916) and ninth in GAA (2.49) among 45 goalies with at least 50 appearances. The problem? He started only 69 games, 22nd on the same list when the top-four goalies have all exceeded 100 starts. The workload and pressure are expected to be immense, and there was a stretch between January and March last season where Campbell was below replacement level with a .882 Sv% and 3.63 GAA. That’s not mentioning the Leafs, who are a in a better position to contend, opted to go in a completely new direction with their goalies. There are lot of red flags; if it works out, Campbell’s in line for a ton of wins and could be a top-10 fantasy goalie, but if it doesn’t, it wouldn’t surprise me if Stuart Skinner was pressed into action and forced to be the starter for stretches. The defensive corps hasn’t really been improved, and they’re also counting on Cody Ceci to be a good shutdown defender again.
It’s more of the same until the Oilers can find more quality depth and two or three more top-four defensemen. That’s assuming role players such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto and Zach Hyman continue to contribute regularly, and that Jesse Puljujarvi continues to tap into his two-way play potential. They will be a high-scoring team by virtue of having arguably the two best players in the league in McDavid and Draisaitl, but the talent falls off a cliff after that, and in smaller standard leagues, only Kane and Bouchard are really worth considering.