As painful as it may be for folks in Edmonton, there's a growing Toronto vibe to their hometown Oilers. Obviously all-world captain Connor McDavid hails from the area, but so does former Leafs forward Zach Hyman. And the newest piece of the puzzle is another ex-Leafs player, goaltender Jack Campbell.
From what I heard, Hyman was actually a positive influence on Campbell's decision to sign a five-year, $25 million deal with Edmonton early in free agency and now the Oilers have ticked off a major box this off-season.
With McDavid and Leon Draisaitl leading the offense and Darnell Nurse anchoring the defense corps, the Oilers have been pushing towards major contender status recently and made the Western Conference final this past season. They were swept by Colorado as the Avs went on to win the Cup, but injuries to Draisaitl and Nurse were a big factor. Goaltending was also an issue.
The tandem of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen simply wasn't good enough and the Oilers got a little lucky in the second round when Calgary's Jacob Markstrom - a Vezina-caliber netminder - fell apart on the Flames. That masked the Oilers' inconsistency in net, but the Avalanche eventually made them pay.
In Campbell, there is some risk, but the reward is obvious. The 30-year-old really found his game in Toronto after struggling to live up to his first-round status early in his career. Originally drafted 11th overall by Dallas in 2010, Campbell didn't find a place with the Stars, but showed potential in a stint with Los Angeles before arriving in Toronto.
This past season, Campbell was a rock for the Maple Leafs, though a mid-season injury impacted his results. Nevertheless, he was solid in the first round of the playoffs, where the Leafs lost a seven-game duel with Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On top of his solid play in net, Campbell is also an extremely likable guy in the room. He can be overly hard on himself, but that's part of the competitive fire.
Now, it is fair to note that Campbell still doesn't have a long track record. Due to his late start in the NHL, he has only played in 142 NHL games to date. But if you're the Oilers, you just need a guy who won't lose you games while McDavid and crew do their damage at the other end and Campbell can be that guy.
Assuming the Oilers stay healthy next year, this team should be right back in the mix in the Western Conference and naturally the next step is to play for a Cup. GM Ken Holland continues to hone his roster and with McDavid and Draisaitl still in their superstar primes, the window is wide open for a championship run.
If Campbell can be a steady presence in net, the Oilers will be primed for a run like that.