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FEATURE: Be Phenomenal

Leon Draisaitl is remaining focused on individual improvement and Oilers playoff success following his first Art Ross Trophy win

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - By all accounts, it was a @%&#!$ phenomenal season for Leon Draisaitl.

The scintillating Oilers forward gave his approval for Oil Country's support with the exact same designation during a rousing walk-off interview the night he registered his 100th point of the campaign - a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on February 29 at Rogers Place that saw him open the scoring, tie the game, and provide the game-winning assist.

Tweet from @EdmontonOilers: Hey. We have 10 home games in March.Come be @%&#!$ phenomenal. 😏🎟 https://t.co/CFi44ORLeM #homeICEadvantage | #LetsGoOilers pic.twitter.com/UWuhX8JOdb

"You guys were @%&#!$ phenomenal, so keep it going," Draisaitl slipped, before the applause and cheers of the crowd at Rogers Place took over.

The regular season's conclusion earlier this week left Draisaitl in a league of his own offensively, up 13 points in the scoring race on teammate Connor McDavid with a remarkable 110 points in 71 games that would anoint him the first German-born Art Ross Trophy winner and third Oilers player in the last four seasons to take home the hardware.

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BLOG: First road trip feels

An early three-game stop in New York tops list for Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse as best moment of 2019-20 season

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

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.

Video: RAW | McDavid & Nurse 05.27.20

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.

Video: THE DRILL | New York, New York

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."

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BLOG: Dynamic Duo focused on driving team growth, says Holland

"Team success is very important to both young players. These are two players who are great, great players and just comping into the prime of their careers," Oilers GM and Pres. of Hockey Ops Ken Holland said

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - The success of Leon Draisaitl, before Oilers General Manager and President of Hockey Operations Ken Holland's arrival, was well-documented.

To the executive, Draisaitl's awarding of the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's top scorer on Tuesday is a testament to the German's dedication to both individual and collective Oilers improvement that began well before Holland took charge in Oil Country.

"As a 24-year-old player he continues to take steps forward in his career, so it's a tremendous accomplishment," Holland said via video conference call on Wednesday. "It's a tremendous accomplishment by Leon and it's a credit to his commitment, his passion, the hard work he's put in, and his determination over the course of the last three-to-five seasons to take steps forward in his career."

Video: RAW | Holland 05.27.20

A 50-goal, 105-point season in '18-19 from Draisaitl the season before Holland assumed leadership of the Oilers front office put the NHL on notice. But when mulling the decision to depart the Detroit Red Wings after 22 seasons as their GM, the strength Holland saw in the Oilers wasn't limited to one half of the Dynamic Duo. 

Factor in the name Connor McDavid, and the club's foundation was set long before his arrival with this season's top-two point producers.

"As a general manager, and if you're a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, we're very fortunate to have two great players who are 23 and 24 years of age and really probably just coming into their prime years as athletes," he added.

Both are experiencing their fair share of individual success in the front end of their careers, with McDavid boasting two of his own Art Ross Trophies to go along with two Ted Lindsay Awards in 2017 & 2018 and a Hart Memorial Trophy in 2017. 

But their importance on the collective goal of bringing a Stanley Cup to Edmonton is immeasurable.

"Certainly they're driven individually," Holland said. "I think any athlete is driven individually, but team success is very important to both young players. These are two players who are great, great players and just comping into the prime of their careers.

"They have great chemistry off the ice, they respect one another, they're very committed to team success."

With details of the NHL's Return To Play Plan announced, Draisaitl and McDavid are poised to make their return to the postseason in a best-of-five Qualifying Round against the Chicago Blackhawks - set to be played late summer.

"I think that's why we're all excited about the opportunity," Holland said. "We were excited to finish the season to see if we could play our way into the playoffs and see what we could accomplish."

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BLOG: Draisaitl wins 2019-20 Art Ross Trophy

Leon Draisaitl is the 2019-20 Art Ross Trophy winner as League's top scorer following the conclusion of the regular season

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - The NHL's Return To Play Plan on Tuesday didn't delay the inevitable.

Leon Draisaitl is your 2019-20 Art Ross Trophy winner as the League's top scorer.

Tweet from @EdmontonOilers: Your 2019-20 Art Ross winner. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/5MvKz6tvCi

With the official conclusion of the regular season on Tuesday, the German forward ends his sensational campaign with 110 points (43G, 67A) in 67 games and his first major piece of NHL hardware. 

Draisaitl outpaced the League offensively all year to sit alone atop the scoring race, finishing 13 points up on teammate Connor McDavid and 15 ahead of the New York Rangers' Artemi Panarin and Boston Bruins' David Pastrnak.

The 24-year-old exceeded his exceptional standard of 50 goals & 105 points last season to amass 44 power-play points (16 goals) and dominate at five-on-five on a line with Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins during a season where a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup at its end would be the only goal for both Draisaitl and the Oilers.

Later this summer, in a best-of-five Qualifying Round against the Chicago Blackhawks, that opportunity will come.

Draisaitl is the third Oilers player in club history to win an Art Ross Trophy (Gretzky, McDavid) and the first German-born player to achieve the feat. He and McDavid are also the first teammates since 2013 to finish one-two in the scoring race.

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FEATURE: The Good Doctor

Darnell Nurse, with his growing charisma and leadership, played a big part in further fostering culture and success in the Oilers dressing room during the '19-20 season

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Darnell Nurse wouldn't be consulting his crystal ball for any fortune-telling on how the Oilers season might unfold the morning of the '19-20 Home Opener.

But he's always possessed that little bit of magic in his personality.

"If I had a crystal ball? I mean, isn't that what you guys got?" Nurse joked to the media in the Oilers dressing room. "You guys have the crystal balls, no?"

Video: LAK@EDM: Nurse buries strong wrister on the rush

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BLOG: Hemsky cemented Oilers legacy during '06 Cup run

"I think every series, the fans were getting louder and louder," former Oilers forward Alex Hemsky said

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - The Pardubice Prince, after arriving in Edmonton as a first-round pick in 2001, was Oil Country royalty for the 11 seasons he spent in copper, blue, and orange colours.

Former Oilers forward and Czech-born winger Ales Hemsky called quits on his professional career on Friday, leaving behind an on-ice legacy draped prominently in the colours of his most-tenured club and native country.

"I can't complain," Hemsky said, speaking with Bob Stauffer and 630CHED's Oilers Now on Tuesday. "I played everything I could - I've been in the Stanley Cup Finals, played in national teams for the Olympics and World Championships, even in the Czech Republic during lockouts. I've seen it all, so I can't complain."

The 36-year-old suited up in 845 NHL games over 15 seasons - 652 of them in Edmonton, where he recorded 142 goals and 477 points to rank eighth on the Oilers all-time points list. For his home nation of Czech Republic, he drew big praise from names like Jaromir Jagr while winning a bronze medal at the 2006 Torino Olympics and competing in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

But the Czech's coronation came during the conquest of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he contributed 17 points (6G, 11A) in 24 games as the Oilers reached the Cup Finals and fell within one game of claiming the holy grail over the Carolina Hurricanes.

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FEATURE: Keep Calm and Klefbom

Defenceman Oscar Klefbom exceeded his already-high expectations on the Oilers blueline to accumulate more ice time and responsibility in '19-20

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - What more is there to be said about Oscar Klefbom?

The Swedish defenceman's growing influence on the Oilers over his seven seasons in Edmonton have been seemingly matched, every passing year, with a growing affinity from his fans, coaches and teammates for his steady contributions from the blueline.

The 2019-20 NHL campaign became no exception, as the 26-year-old found new ways to maximize the impact of his smooth skating, offensive vision, and defensive poise on the success of the Oilers and their push for a return to the postseason - a place he's only been once over the entirety of his NHL career.

Video: RAW | Klefbom 04.03.20

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BLOG: Benson, Skinner remember Cave as devoted teammate

"He's just one of those guys that was always going to be by your side supporting you, no matter where we were as a team or where you were individually," goaltender Stuart Skinner said

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - To the teammates lucky enough to share ice and a dressing room with Colby Cave, the incredible character and motivations of the late forward never wavered.

Cave earned life in professional hockey with the Bruins and Oilers organizations the hard way as an undrafted free agent from North Battleford, SK who never sat on an opportunity to better himself as a player before his tragic passing last month left the extended hockey world speechless.

Above all, in the intimate moments he shared alongside his Oilers and Bakersfield Condors counterparts between the travel, practices and games, he was an exceptional teammate.

"I think everybody realized that when he smiled, he brightened up the whole room," Condors goaltender Stuart Skinner said from Red Deer via conference call on Wednesday. "Just his positive energy. He's just one of those guys that was always going to be by your side supporting you, no matter where we were as a team or where you were individually. I think he was there to pat you on the back and keep you going.

"He was one of the best in the business and I'm very lucky to say he was my friend."

Video: RAW | Benson & Skinner

You can learn plenty about a player from sharing a dressing room, but you can discover a lot more about the person sharing a stall - a process Tyler Benson experienced in Bakersfield during his second full season in professional hockey.

"All year I was stall mates with Colby, so I got to know him pretty well," Benson said. "He was an amazing person and an amazing teammate."

In what have become common themes - through the testimonials of coaches and teammates who built relationships with Colby - were the 25-year-old's always-present smile and commitment to improving.

Tweet from @TylerBenson_17: Gone from us way too early. Was lucky enough to sit next to you all year in the dressing room always bringing a positive attitude and big smile to the rink. You were a warrior on the ice and a gentleman off it. Thanks for being a great teammate and friend. Rest In Peace Caver https://t.co/xeeXWL7WRZ

"He always showed up to the rink with a big smile on his face and always had a positive attitude that was just infectious to the whole room," Benson continued. "Every time he was at the rink, he was just the hardest worker no matter where it was. Whether it was in Edmonton, where I was able to play a few games with him, or in Bakersfield - he didn't care where it was. He was always showing up to work as hard as he can.

"He was an amazing teammate and it's tough we'll never be able to see him again. He was an amazing person."

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FEATURE: Kassian Country

Zack Kassian has built on his reputation as an Oilers fan favourite this season, posting a new career high in points and reigniting the Battle of Alberta

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Few have embodied Oil Country like Zack Kassian.

It could've been, almost three years to the day on May 7, 2017, that for only a few seconds during Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals - a few earthshaking, electrifying seconds - that connection became spiritual.

The passion and will of the entire Oilers empire surged through him at Rogers Place when he tucked his breakaway five-hole and locked eyes with the seventh man, unleashing a roar of jubilation that was shared in symphony through Plexiglass and television screens alike.

Video: undefined

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FEATURE: Kolossal Rising

Mikko Koskinen's innate attention to detail, combined with a more managed workload in the crease, has led to marked improvements from the Finnish netminder in '19-20

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Ironically, as a netminder who towers over the competition at 6-foot-7, goaltender Mikko Koskinen's strength lies in the little details.

They built the foundation for the hulking Finnish netminder to make his return to the NHL for the start of the '18-19 campaign in Blue & Orange silks following a seven-season absence that was spent sharpening the edges of his game in Europe with clubs like SKA St. Petersburg.

For him, they'd be the key to solidifying his place once he got there as well.

Video: undefined

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