The Edmonton Oilers’ training camp does not get underway until later this month but a number of players are already skating together in Alberta’s capital. That is something the team’s captain and leading scorer last season suggests bodes well for the mentality needed to build off the club’s success in the 2022 NHL playoffs.
“Last year was a step forward, but we’ve got to come in here and start all over again,” Connor McDavid told reporters Monday after players scrimmaged at the Downtown Community Arena. “There’s lots of expectations this year — both outside and in the locker-room.
“Having everyone up and going right way is important… you can see that commitment just with guys showing up.”
It’s been just over three months since the Oilers were knocked out of the playoffs in the NHL’s Western Conference Final by the Colorado Avalanche, who went on to hoist the Stanley Cup.
McDavid noted how the Avalanche got key contributions from all kinds of players en route to their championship.
“It takes everybody and it takes all season long,” he said. “You look a little bit at what Colorado had… a lot of injuries.
“(Their team) took everything in stride and obviously they were the last ones standing… It takes everybody.”
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McDavid noted that young prospects who may or may not make the Oilers’ NHL club should be ready in the event opportunity knocks, even if they start the season in the American Hockey League.
“Their chance could be at any moment,” said the 25-year-old centre, who led the NHL with 123 points in the 2021-22 regular season, a personal best in his career to date.
Oilers’ forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said the way McDavid works “is good for young guys to see, and pushes the older guys too.”
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“The attitude from everybody has been, ‘We’re working right from the get-go,'” he said. “Connor kind of leads the way in that regard.”
Both Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid were asked Monday about the team having its best playoff run in 16 years last season and how to avoid falling flat like the team did after an impressive playoff run in 2016-17. The Oilers missed the playoffs for two straight seasons after that run.
“We have experience now,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “We’ve learned from that.
“We just want to keep getting better and better… We can’t take anything for granted.”
McDavid noted last season’s playoff run only saw the Oilers win one more game than in their 2017 run since Colorado swept them in their series.
“We’ve still got a long ways to go,” he said, before adding the group is progressing in all kinds of ways. “We’re building a culture here in Edmonton, and it kind of translates from year to year.
“It’s the same core guys each and every year that are setting the tempo, setting the pace and kind of leading the way.”
McDavid said he was happy to see the club ensure key players were brought back ahead of the 2022-23 season and that he has been impressed with the hard work and positive attitude displayed by the team’s new goaltender Jack Campbell.
“Just an amazing guy,” he said. “He’s a guy that you can cheer for to do well.
“(I) certainly like what they’ve (Oilers management) done (with the roster), and now it’s over to the players.”
While not disclosing exact details, McDavid said he has put in work this off-season to round out his game.
“Teams get used to what you’re doing, (so you’ve) got to find different ways to produce,” he said.
Nugent-Hopkins noted his shooting percentage was considerably lower last season than what he has averaged over his NHL career, so he has worked on his shot this off-season.
“(This is the) shortest summer I’ve had so far, which is obviously a good thing,” he said, adding the ultimate goal is to bring the Stanley Cup back to Edmonton. “The buzz around the room is excitement and (players are) eager to get going again.
“We’re as deep (an Oilers team) as I’ve ever been a part of… (We) want to keep growing as a group.”