The Edmonton Oilers may have lost a big game to their division rivals in Anaheim last night, but it was a big night for their captain, Connor McDavid.
McDavid scored a goal and three points to increase his lead at the top of the scoring race. He now has 85 points in 73 games, which is four points more than Sidney Crosby has, albeit in 66 games. Brad Marchand and Patrick Kane each have 80 points in 73 games.
While he’s leading the scoring race, a bigger question is where he’s at in the MVP race. While Cam Talbot has been superb for the Oilers this season, there’s no question that McDavid is the main reason for the team’s rise up the standings. The Oilers surpassed last season’s win total in mid-February, and have improved their goal differential by 63 goals. They finished in 29th last season, and are currently sitting in a divisional playoff spot this season. The biggest difference between this year and last? McDavid is healthy and arguably tied with Crosby for the title of best player in the NHL. Winning the scoring race would clear things up; in the past five years, the Hart has gone to either the Art Ross or Rocket Richard winner four times.
If McDavid does end up winning the Hart Trophy for league MVP, he will be the first Oilers player to win a major award since Andrew Ference won the King Clancy Award for off-ice leadership in 2013-14. McDavid would be the first Oiler to win an award for on-ice play since 1989-90 when Mark Messier and Bill Ranford took home the Hart, Lindsay, and Conn Smythe.
- Oilers minor-league centre Anton Lander has signed with Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL for next season, according to KHL insider Aivis Kalniņš. A former second-round, Lander has struggled at the NHL level with just 35 points in 215 games. His only sustained success was back in 2014-15, when he scored 20 points in 38 games. But in the AHL, Lander is dominant. He has 22 goals and 46 points in 31 games this season for the Bakersfield Condors. The deal will be announced after the AHL season ends, and will make Lander one of the highest-paid imports in the KHL according to Kalniņš. Back in October, we reported on the top KHL salaries, and the highest-paid import on the list was Stephane Da Costa who makes approximately $1.3MM USD. That range would be a nice raise over Lander’s current contract which pays him $990K. It seems unlikely that the Oilers will tender Lander a qualifying offer in the spring.
- Taylor Hall may not be in Edmonton anymore, but he can’t escape the questions about his former team. Hall was asked today if he would watch and cheer for the Oilers in the playoffs. His answer? “No.” After six bottom-ten finishes with the Oilers, Hall once again finds himself at the bottom of the standings with the Devils while his former team is going to make the playoffs. Sportsnet’s Luke Fox quoted Hall as saying the situation has “a weird dynamic. You’re happy for your friends, that they’re doing well and they’re going to experience the playoffs, but you can’t help but be a bit jealous.”