Hey guys! Sven back with 31 in 31 and the Edmonton Oilers! Over the next month, I will be taking a look at each team’s players to watch out for going into the 2018-19 fantasy hockey season: The 31 in 31 daily segment. This analysis features everything from surefire studs, to sleepers, to prospects that may make an appearance at some point this season. Please let me know if you guys enjoy this type of material! Reminder that the stat totals are from last season.
Connor McDavid – 82GP 41-67-108. No brainer here. McDavid is likely the consensus #1 overall pick in most leagues, and how could you not take this guy. May the draft lottery odds be ever in your favour! (perhaps reach out to Taylor Hall to help you with that)
Leon Draisaitl – 78GP 25-45-70. While his name was once mistaken for “Ladle Draisaitl”, there is no mistake that Leon will produce again this season. Though the Oilers under-performed last season (which was amplified by over-performing the season prior), Draisaitl’s point total did not take too hard of a hit. He is a staple at #2C and will likely continue to get #1PP minutes, and will likely go within rounds four to six of most drafts.
Jesse Puljujarvi – 65GP 12-8-20. Though he certainly appeared to be a steal at fourth overall in the 2016 draft after Columbus selected Dubois at #3, Puljujarvi stumbled out of the gate in his first full season in the NHL. Standing at 6’4” and having a ton of tools, I am confident that he will have plenty of opportunity to have a better sophomore campaign. Likely to compete for a full-time top-six position, Puljujarvi will need to have the confidence to jump up into plays with either McDavid or Draisaitl in order to tack on points. If we see a significant offensive improvement from him and a few other Oilers, more secondary scoring could boost this team to the playoffs. As he will likely play top-six minutes, look for Puljujarvi later in drafts as he is ranked #166 on ESPN.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – 62GP 24-24-48. RNH’s offensive stats had a huge boost down the stretch, with 17 points in March plus two games in April. This was of course due to the shift to #1LW alongside McDavid. If Coach McLennan decides two keep the two former #1 overall picks together on the top line, this could be a real break-out year for RNH. We will know more once we are closer to the season, however he could be a great sleeper option if playing on the top line. ESPN has him just inside the top 100.
Milan Lucic – 82GP 10-24-34. Lucic will be the first person to admit that he under-performed last season, proving to be one of the biggest fantasy busts in the process. With the whole Edmonton team looking to bounce back, Lucic may be able to get back to the 50-point mark this season. His north-south power forward style will likely reward him with middle-six ice time, and he seems to be a favourable net-front option for either PP unit. I am not saying Lucic is going to get back to his 60-point form of 2011, however he will not be nearly as bad as he was last season.
Ty Rattie – 14GP 5-4-9. After being drafted second-round in 2011 and being one of my favourite players to watch at the 2012 WJC for Team Canada, Rattie has yet to break into the NHL for longer than ten or so game stints. After producing respectable numbers in the AHL last season and chipping in with Edmonton down the stretch, the 25-year-old appears to be ready for a full-time role. It is unsure as of now where he will fit in Edmonton’s lineup, however a top-six role playing above or below Puljujarvi could amount to a breakout year for Rattie. I am not expecting a monster year; however, some secondary scoring would immensely benefit this Oilers team. Keep your eyes out for hot streaks!
Oscar Klefbom – 66GP 5-16-21. Alongside Lucic, Klefbom had one of the largest point regressions from two seasons ago to last season. However, he still appears to be one of Edmonton’s key guys. With another injury to Andrej Sekera, Klefbom will likely continue to receive top-four minutes and PP time. If this whole team has a bounce-back season, Klefbom will also see a points boost. However, he is a late pick at best.
Darnell Nurse – 82GP 6-20-26. Nurse’s third season in the NHL was the first he was able to play all 82 games, and had respectable point totals despite a disappointing Edmonton season. Heading into this season, I view Nurse as a sleeper target as he will likely receive top-four, even top-two minutes. The difference maker between him and Klefbom will be who gets to play on Edmonton’s deadly top PP line. I believe Nurse is now comfortable and will blossom into a solid two-way defenceman in the NHL, and this will be his breakout year. I would not gamble on him too early though, as he is ranked 45th among defencemen by ESPN.
Jakub Jerabek – 36GP 2-6-8. The 27-year-old former KHLer was signed by Edmonton on a one-year deal for this season, after spending time with both Montreal and Washington last season. This is a player I know very little about, however he seemed to finish the season off strong, matching his 25-game point total with Montreal in just 11 games with Washington. He appears to skate smoothly and play the game with patience and composure, and can end up being a perfect replacement for the injured Sekera. However, this guy is a mystery to me right now so we will see what he has to offer come October!
Cam Talbot – 67GP 3.02GAA 908SV%. Talbot was an early second-round pick in my 12-teamer last year and I expected regression from the season prior, however I did not expect his numbers to falter this much. This can be attributed to the lack of help in front of him, or the lack of consistency in backup goaltending, however Cam Talbot was still a component of Edmonton’s lacklustre season. That being said, I still think this team is capable of playoffs and that starts with Talbot. Ranked 19th among goalies by ESPN, Talbot may even be viewed as a sleeper target. Edmonton is bound to play better in front of him, and he will be backed up by Mikko Koskinen, who posted great KHL numbers last season. A lot of components of this team have nowhere to go but up, and Talbot will be better this year.
Ethan Bear – AHL: 37GP 6-12-18. Bear was called up towards the last season, chipping in a goal and three assists in 18 games. With the injury to Sekera, I have a feeling the 2015 fifth-round pick will end up competing for a spot with Edmonton going into this season with Kevin Gravel and Jakub Jerabek. Despite a 5’11” frame, Bear appeared confident and did not shy away from any battles. I have a feeling he will get his shot this year with Edmonton, but will likely only play bottom-six minutes.
Kailer Yamamoto – WHL: 40GP 21-43-64. Yamamoto appeared ready to begin his pro career, tallying three assists in nine games down the stretch for Edmonton. Likely to make the starting 12, Yamamoto will likely be given plenty of opportunity to find his role within the Oilers’ lineup. Given his 5’8” frame, he has learned to be an elusive forward that is an incredible passer and a great skater. It may take some time for Yamamoto to adjust to the pace of the NHL, however he could chip in some secondary scoring this year. If he plays alongside McDavid or Draisaitl, his stock will obviously go up. Keep your eye out to see where he ends up in Edmonton’s lineup!
Cooper Marody – NCAA: 40GP 16-35-51. After a three-year tenure with Michigan in the NCAA, the 2015 sixth-round pick appears ready to make his mark in the pro leagues. At 6’0”, he is a centreman that can use his speed to create space and has terrific vision. He also appears to have an accurate shot and good hands in tight to finish off plays. With the Oilers’ current depth at centre (McDavid, Draisaitl, Strome, Brodziak, Khaira, throw RNH in there), it is likely that Marody will spend the full year in the AHL developing. At just 21 years old, perhaps a year to adjust in the minors will benefit him, but the future looks bright for the former Wolverine.
Ostap Safin – QMJHL: 61GP 26-32-58. Jeez, say that name ten times fast. The towering Czech winger was a fourth-round pick in 2017, and is looking to start his pro career in Bakersfield (AHL) this year. His ability to quickly pick up speed and blaze by defenders allows plenty of space for him to shoot or pass. He is a very deceiving and crafty player, and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. He is a prospect that will be interesting to watch develop and transition from major-junior to the Pros. If he has a year like he did with Saint John in the Q, announcers better get used to saying his name now!
Tyler Benson – WHL: 58GP 27-42-69. Yet another Oilers prospect making the jump to the AHL this year, Benson was a second-round pick in 2016 and just finished his fourth year with Vancouver in the WHL. His great shot and stick-handling coupled with his work ethic down low make Benson very exciting to watch, but only time will tell how well that will translate from major-junior to the Pros for the 20 year-old. If Yamamoto does not find his game with Edmonton or an injury occurs, I expect Benson to be the first player to get a call up from Bakersfield.
Cameron Hebig – WHL: 66GP 41-49-90. Signed out of major-junior to play in Bakersfield (AHL), Hebig turned a lot of heads in his four-year career in the WHL. There is no doubt he can finish off plays and has a killer shot, it is my guess that Hebig will need a year in the minors to find his game, much like Marody. It is always tough for players to transition to the pros after being a big fish in a small pond in junior, but this crafty centreman will hopefully find his groove in the AHL sooner than later.
Evan Bouchard – OHL: 67GP 25-62-87. After a breakout season with London in the OHL, it is likely that Edmonton’s tenth overall pick will return to the back end for London again this season. Bouchard plays with a lot of poise and hockey sense, and will hopefully blossom into a great all-around defenceman in the big leagues. With the expiration of a couple bottom-four defencemen for Edmonton in the next two years, I anticipate the hope is that Bouchard will fit nicely into one of those slots either next season or the following. For the time being, I am excited to watch the young right-shot defenceman have another great year in major-junior.
Kirill Maksimov – OHL: 62GP 34-46-80. After a great breakout season with Niagara in the OHL, Maksimov will likely head back to major-junior for another year. A fifth round pick in 2017, Maksimov is a force on the power play from the face off dot and displays a ton of skill in his puck handling and skating ability. Likely to end up in the AHL after this season, Maksimov will be an exciting forward to watch in Niagara this season.