The Edmonton Oilers are fine right now, but can Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl carry them deep in the playoffs?
If the regular season ended today, the Edmonton Oilers would be firmly in a playoff spot with the fifth-highest point total in the Western Conference. Winning the closely contested Pacific Division is also in play, as they trail the Vancouver Canucks by three points with a game in hand, and on the other end the Oilers would be out of a playoff position with just three fewer points.
The Oilers lost to the San Jose Sharks 6-3 on Thursday night, but they have the top two point scorers in the NHL. Winger Leon Draisaitl leads the league with 83 points,(29 goals, 54 assists; 126-point pace) and Connor McDavid is now at 80 points (30 goals, 50 assists; 121-point pace). It’s not surprising to see that duo toward the top of the league’s scorers, as they both finished top-four last year, but McDavid and Draisaitl are in line to join some special company.
Entering Thursday’s play, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (117-point pace) was the only other player in the NHL who’s even on a 115-point pace. So Draisaitl and McDavid finishing No. 1 and No. 2 in scoring might be a formality.
In the post-Original Six Era, here are the teammate duos who have finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the league in scoring:
- 2012-13 (48-game season): Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning)
- 1995-96: Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr (Pittsburgh Penguins)
- 1991-92: Mario Lemieux and Kevin Stevens (Pittsburgh Penguins)
- 1986-87: Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri (Edmonton Oilers)
- 1984-85: Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri (Edmonton Oilers)
- 1983-84: Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey (Edmonton Oilers)
- 1974-75: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
- 1973-74: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
- 1971-72: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
- 1970-71: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
- 1969-70: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
It’s no secret McDavid and Draisaitl account for a lot of Edmonton’s scoring. And as cited by Adam Gretz of Pro Hockey Talk entering Thursday, at least one of them had been on the ice for 124 of the team’s 170 goals this year (73 percent) and both have been on the ice for 81 of those (48 percent). Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (37 points, 14 goals and 23 assists) is the only other player on the team with more than 30 points, with defenseman Oscar Klefbom sitting at precisely on 30 points entering Thursday.
While James Neal has cooled substantially since a fast start this season (11 goals in October), he’s still a legit threat on the power play when healthy. But is he to be relied on as a consistent supplemental scorer down the stretch or into the playoffs?
The Oilers should be an active buyer as the trade deadline gets closer, with players like Jason Zucker, Tomas Tatar, Ilya Kovalchuk, Tyler Toffoli or even Chris Kreider surely on any shopping list. They have also reportedly “looked into” Tatar.
From that prior list of 11 sets of teammates to finish the regular season No. 1 and No. 2 in scoring, six of those teams won the Stanley Cup. The Bruins won it in 1970 and 1972, and made another appearance in the Final in 1974. The Gretzy-era Oilers won the Stanley Cup in all three years he teamed with someone to form the league’s top two scorers. The Penguins won their second of back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1992, when Lemieux and Kevin Stevens were the league’s best two point scorers.
There is some chance McDavid and Draisaitl can carry the lion’s share of Edmonton’s offense right through a deep playoff run. But general manager Ken Holland should not rest on those questionable laurels when there’s a chance to address a clear weakness and push the team a notch higher, and the addition of a forward (or two?) would make the Oilers a team to be reckoned with.
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