The Edmonton Oilers’ power play was unstoppable in practice Monday morning at Rogers Place.
OK, it was a five-on-zero drill with no goaltender, but there are a lot of reasons to feel confident that the Oilers’ power play will lead the NHL for the third straight season.
Off-season signing Zach Hyman jumps in as the net-front presence, while Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tyson Barrie return from last season. Darnell Nurse, Jesse Puljujarvi, Evan Bouchar and Kailer Yamamoto will rotate in.
“We should have confidence, but at the same time, we can’t take it for granted,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “Yamo, Jesse jumping in there. A lot of guys can rotate in. The good thing about our group is guys can kind of play any spot.”
“I can say with some certainty that you’re probably going to see a little bit more of a second unit this year at times. That’s by design,” said Oilers assistant coach Glen Gulutzan. “Talking with our top guys, we want to make sure we’re spreading everything out a little bit and getting guys a lot of touches on the puck.”
Nugent-Hopkins noted the PP started slow last season, but the slump was short-lived.
After going just 2/14 in the first five games in January, the man advantage clicked at 27.6 per cent last season. It was 29.5 per cent in 2019-20.
When you look back at clubs that had high-powered units, it’s not unreasonable to conclude the Oilers can flirt with 30 per cent for at least one more season:
- Montreal Canadiens,1977-78: 31.9 per cent
- Montreal Canadiens, 1978-79: 28.3 per cent
- Montreal Canadiens, 1979-80: 29.1 per cent
- New York Islanders, 1977-78: 31.4 per cent
- New York Islanders, 1978-79: 31.2 per cent
- New York Islanders, 1979-80: 23.4 per cent (drop off here)
- New York Islanders, 1980-81: 29.3 per cent
- New York Islanders, 1981-82: 27.8 per cent
As the Oilers are going to continue their dominance, they’re going to stick with what has worked. That means shooting the puck and creating chaos for penalty killers.
“One of the best things we’re good at is getting second chances and making plays off second chances and off shots,” said Nugent-Hopkins.
“Everything used to be that you had to establish the point shot. Our power play works on a little bit different premise,” said Gulutzan. “When we talk about running it from the flanks and the sides, we’re prepared to shoot from there. We want to create motion from there.”
The Oilers welcome fans back to Rogers Place Tuesday night when they host the Seattle Kraken in pre-season action.
Catch it on 630 CHED with the Face-off Show at 5:30 p.m. The game starts at 7 p.m.