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FIVE THINGS: 2015-16 Preview

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers open the 2015-16 season on Thursday in St. Louis and do so following an off-season full of change. Here are five things to know about these Oilers before they take the ice.

Photo by Andy Devlin.

Two of the top dogs in the Oilers organization, from a hockey operations standpoint, are new faces heading into this season. Bob Nicholson took over as CEO of Oilers Entertainment Group on April 20 and he appointed a new president of hockey operations and general manager just four days later.

Peter Chiarelli takes over that role and the responsibilities that come with it after eight seasons as GM in Boston. Under his guidance, the Bruins made it to two Stanley Cup Finals and won the championship in 2011. Chiarelli has taken the Oilers roster and put his stamp on it through trades and free agency.


In addition to an experienced Nicholson and Chiarelli, the Oilers added a coaching staff with plenty of experience of their own.

Todd McLellan takes over as head coach following seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks, where he compiled a record of 311-163-66. The Sharks made the playoffs six times under McLellan, had four 40-plus win seasons, three 100-point seasons, captured the 2009 Presidents’ Trophy, won three Pacific Division titles and made it to back to back Conference Final in 2010 and 2011.

He brought with him Jay Woodcroft, who spent seven seasons as an assistant in San Jose and was with McLellan when he won the 2008 Stanley Cup as an assistant with Detroit. Jim Johnson followed from the Sharks as well, where he has worked the last three seasons.

Ian Herbers, a championship-winning player and coach with the University of Alberta Golden Bears, joined the staff as well.

Photo by Andy Devlin

2015 first-overall pick Connor McDavid comes to the Oilers with well-documented on-ice talent. In just 47 games last season for the Erie Otters, McDavid recorded 44 goals and 76 assists for an impressive 120 points. He followed it up with an OHL-leading 49 points (21-28-49) in 20 playoff games.


The 18-year-old centre will make the jump to the NHL this year and Oilers fans are excited to see how he will perform as a rookie.


The Oilers off-season of activity also included changing the landscape of their goalie position. Edmonton traded a second, a third and a seventh-round pick in the 2015 Draft to the New York Rangers, in exchange for Cam Talbot and a seventh.

The 28-year-old played behind Henrik Lundqvist with the Rangers, but earned some extended playing time when the starter went down to injury last season. In Lundqvist’s absence, Talbot played well enough to become the Oilers top goalie target this off-season. He went 16-4-3 during that stretch with a 2.16 GAA and .929 save percentage.

Anders Nilsson, 25, also joins the Oilers via trade. Chiarelli sent prospect Liam Coughlin to Chicago, in exchange for the 6-foot-5 goaltender. Nilsson had a strong 2014-15 season in the KHL, posting a 1.71 GAA and .936 save percentage in 38 games. His playoff numbers improved, as he went 13-7 and had a 1.54 GAA.

Nilsson stopped all 53 shots he faced this pre-season.

Photo by Andy Devlin

The Oilers GM went to work, beginning at the draft, to bolster the team’s defence. Chiarelli traded a first and a second-round pick to the New York Islanders to acquire 21-year-old defenceman Griffin Reinhart.

The 2012 fourth-overall pick won a Memorial Cup championship as captain of the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings. Last season, Reinhart played his first eight NHL games for the Islanders and added a playoff game as well. The 6-foot-4 blueliner made a good impression on the Oilers with his poise during pre-season.

At the draft, Chiarelli also brought in 27-year-old veteran NHL defenceman Eric Gryba. The former Ottawa Senators d-man has played 165 NHL games, recording 29 points and 197 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-4 Gryba is expected to bring a heavy, physical presence to the Oilers defence.

In free agency, Chiarelli signed veteran Andrej Sekera to a long-term deal. With nearly 500 games of NHL experience, Sekera instantly becomes one of the more seasoned blueliners on the Oilers. Chiarelli says Sekera can easily play in the Oilers top two if needed.

Those three newcomers join Justin Schultz, Oscar Klefbom, Mark Fayne, Andrew Ference and Brandon Davidson as the defencemen on the roster for opening night.
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