With a win this evening, the Edmonton Oilers could move into first place in the Pacific Division. Hands up if you saw this coming back in October.
The Oilers haven’t really had trouble scoring goals over the past few years, but with players like Nikita Nikitin and Andrew Ference playing top-four minutes, and Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth in the crease, the team didn’t have a chance at a winning record. With the additions of Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera, and Kris Russell and the emergence of Oscar Klefbom and Cam Talbot, the Oilers finally have a solid back end. While Larsson cost them one of the best left wingers in the NHL in Taylor Hall, the Oilers offence isn’t hurting.
Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon, and Leon Draisaitl have formed one of the most dangerous lines in hockey. McDavid is leading the NHL in scoring with 91 points in 77 games, Draisaitl is currently tenth with 72 in 77, and Maroon has more than double his previous career-high with 27 goals and 41 points.
While McDavid and Draisaitl’s dominance isn’t altogether unexpected, Maroon’s career-year is. The 20-year-old McDavid is the arguably the best player in the NHL and Draisaitl was the third-overall pick in 2014. But Maroon is a bit of a different case; he was a sixth-round pick back in 2007.
After two up-and-down years in Anaheim with 29 and 34 points and a good playoffs in 2015, Maroon fell to the Ducks’ fourth line. He was dealt to Edmonton at last year’s trade deadline for minor-league defenseman Martin Gernát and a fourth-round pick, with the Ducks retaining 25 per cent of Maroon’s $2MM salary. After just 13 points in 56 games with Anaheim, Maroon scored 14 points in 16 games with Edmonton. The big winger was challenged by the organization to get into better shape, with ice-time alongside McDavid used as a carrot. Maroon lost 25 pounds in the off-season, and quickly played his way onto McDavid’s wing. Even when he’s not scoring, he does other things to help. TSN’s Jamie McLennan pointed to Maroon’s nine fights and physical play, complimenting him for “bringing something else to the table.” He’s been a feel-good story and is the Oilers’ nominee for the Masterton Trophy for dedication to hockey.
McDavid and Draisaitl are both on nine-game point streaks, with 16 points apiece in those nine games. Add in Maroon’s nine points in those nine games and their top line has 41 points in the last nine games. The Oilers are 8-1-0 in those nine games, clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 2005-06 with their sights set on 100 points and the Pacific Division title.