An NHL season is filled with twists and turns for each of the League's 30 teams. Here are five major questions that could define the 2016-2017 season for the Edmonton Oilers.
How productive can Connor McDavid be in his second season?
McDavid missed 37 games last season after breaking his left clavicle against the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 3, 2015. The No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft still finished third on the Oilers in scoring with 16 goals and 48 points in 45 games. McDavid had the best points-per-game average among rookies (1.07) and finished third in voting for the Calder Trophy. With the Oilers trading Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson, McDavid now is the undisputed leader of the Oilers, and was named captain Oct. 5. At 19 years, 266 days old, McDavid is the youngest captain in NHL history. If he is able to stay healthy the entire season, McDavid should lead the Oilers in scoring and could get them closer to a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
What kind of impact will Milan Lucic have?
A Stanley Cup winner with the Boston Bruins in 2011, Lucic signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Oilers, in part, for an opportunity to play with McDavid. Lucic was reunited with Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli, who was Bruins GM when they won the Cup. Lucic provides size (6-foot-3, 233 pounds) and experience to the Oilers roster, which has lacked both in recent years. Lucic is expected to start the season playing on a line with McDavid, which should help boost his offensive totals. Lucic, 28, had 20 goals and 55 points in 81 games with the Los Angeles Kings last season.
Who will make up the scoring lost by the departure of Taylor Hall?
The Oilers were the sixth-lowest scoring team this past season and traded Hall, their leading scorer; he had 26 goals and 65 points in 82 games. Lucic is expected to make up for some of the offense lost with the departure of Hall, while a healthy McDavid, centers Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and forwards Jordan Eberle and Jesse Puljujarvi should make up the rest. Edmonton still needs more offense from their defense, however, and Larsson is not expected to help much in that regard; he had three goals and 18 points in 82 games with the Devils last season. Andrej Sekera led Oilers defensemen in scoring with six goals and 30 points in 81 games and is expected to improve on those totals in his second year with Edmonton.
Video: VAN@EDM: Hall finishes off a great rush to pad lead
How will goaltender Cam Talbot perform in his second full season as a starter?
Despite a slow start, Talbot proved himself worthy of being the Oilers' starting goalie last season. Talbot had never been a No. 1 goalie before being acquired by Edmonton at the 2015 draft in a trade with the New York Rangers. Talbot was 21-27-8 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 56 games. Talbot will, once again, be Edmonton's starter and is expected to play around 60 games if healthy. The Oilers traded for some defensive help in Larsson, but will still require Talbot to have an exceptional season if they are to challenge for a playoff berth.
Will Jesse Puljujarvi be able to contribute right away?
Edmonton felt fortunate to have right wing Jesse Puljujarvi fall to them at the 2016 draft. Puljujarvi was projected to be a top-three pick, but the Columbus Blue Jackets decided to draft forward Pierre-Luc Dubois at No. 3, allowing the Oilers to select Puljujarvi at No. 4. Puljujarvi, 18, played in Finland with Karpat last season and had 13 goals and 28 points in 50 games and won gold with Finland at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. Puljujarvi could begin the season with Bakersfield of the American Hockey League, but will likely get an opportunity to play with the Oilers at some point this season.