EDMONTON, AB - When asked to reveal their top moment of the 2019-20 season, defenceman Darnell Nurse and Captain Connor McDavid went drew back to its beginning.
The Oilers quest to compete for the Stanley Cup was in its infancy, along with relationships in the locker room after an off-season of change that included the arrival of many new players and personalities to the club.
The first road trip is when teammates' tight-knit bonds begin to take shape as players learn more about the individuals they'll share the ice with over an 82-game schedule (and hopefully more) - including away from Rogers Place for 41 games sharing flights, team buses, hotel rooms, and team meals.
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A three-game, six-day road trip stop in the Big Apple in early October provided the Oilers with an important window to form early connections and continue their hot 2-0 start.
"My favourite part I think of each and every season is one of the first road trips," Nurse, speaking by video on a conference call with McDavid, said on Thursday. "When we got to go to New York and go on the road, we got to have dinners with the guys and spend more time (together)."
"Something about that New York road trip, just because there were a lot of new faces and a lot of new names in the group getting to know each other. Seeing how tight of a group we had and how much we wanted to play for each other, I think that road trip was my favourite moment."
There were household names around the NHL that were new to the Oilers fold, like 'The Real Deal' James Neal, who in addition to the weaving of his character and experience into the social fabric of the Oilers locker room, was becoming central to their early on-ice success with seven goals to his name by the time they departed New York - including a four-goal game against the New York Islanders that re-wrote the team rulebook.
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European Showtime - headlined by new additions Gaetan Haas and Joakim Nygard - drew rave reviews early on as the respective Swiss and Swedish-born forwards combined to record their first NHL points in a 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Away from the rink, their teammates learned more about the motivations of the pair that drew them to Edmonton for their first crack at the North American game.
The comradery had its effect, as the Oilers were able to start 5-0-0 for the first time since '85-86 before finishing the month with a record of 9-2-1 and top spot in the Pacific Division.
"Early on in the season is always an exciting time for any team, and obviously we got off to a good start," McDavid said. "Everyone was in a good mood and coming together. We realized we had a shot at putting together a really good team, so that road trip was fun.
"But that whole first month was awesome."