By Andy Eide
The NHL season is two weeks old and as usual, there are teams and players off to hot starts, cold starts, and over-reactions abound.
Perhaps the best early story is the Edmonton Oilers. Despite having the game’s best player in Connor McDavid, the Oilers have been a study in organizational dysfunction over the past few years but things look encouraging.
A new general manger in Ken Holland, a new coach in Dave Tippett, and a resurrected James Neal have all combined to a 6-1-0 start. Oh, yeah, McDavid has been great as well.
In Wednesday’s 6-3 Oilers win over Philadelphia, McDavid scored a goal and added four assists. It was the first four-assist game in his career and he leads the NHL in scoring with 17 points. He joins Mario Lemieux (1995-1995) and Wayne Gretzky (1993-1994) as the only players in the last 26 years to score 17 or more points in their team’s first seven games.
That’s good company for McDavid and he’s not alone in Edmonton’s attack. Leon Draisaitl is second in the league scoring race with 15 points. Edmonton had big years from its two stars last year – the only team with two 100 point players – and will need contributions elsewhere in the lineup in order to make a serious playoff run.
Here are this week’s Weekly One Timers:
WOT 1 – One guy chipping in with the Oilers is Neal. The veteran winger came over to the Oilers this summer in a trade with the Calgary Flames for Milan Lucic. At the time, it felt like the two rivals were merely swapping underachieving guys on bad contracts but Neal’s start is making it look like the Oilers struck gold, or oil, or whatever it is Oilers strike. Neal has the early NHL lead with 8 goals, one more than he scored in 63 games with Calgary last year. He’s shooting an absurd 34-percent to start the season, more than triple his career percentage, so there will be a regression coming, but Neal is getting power-play time and could give the Oilers the secondary scoring they need.
WOT 2 – The Oilers have a Seattle connection. It starts behind the bench with Tippett, who spent over a year as NHL Seattle advisor, but it also includes former Seattle Thunderbirds defenseman Ethan Bear. The 22-year-old Bear, who is Seattle’s all-time leader in goals by a blueliner, spent last season in the AHL but came into camp in the best shape of his life and made the roster. Not only is he on the team but he’s getting top-pairing minutes, playing along side Darnell Nurse. He potted his first goal of the season Wednesday, beating former U.S. Division foe Carter Hart. The last time Bear faced Hart the Philadelphia goalie was with the Everett Silvertips during the 2016-2017 season. They saw each other 13 times that year and Bear scored five goals and added six assists for 11 points.
WOT 3 – Speaking of Hart. If there was a worry that he’d come back to earth after his impressive rookie season, rest easy. Despite a tough night in his hometown of Edmonton Wednesday, the former Silvertip is picking up right where he left off. He shut out the Devils last week, becoming the youngest player in Flyers history to record a shut out, and has come out of the gates with a save-percentage of .920. During that game he made an early bid for save of the year by robbing New Jersey’s Taylor Hall.
Carter Hart with a ridiculous save to rob Taylor Hall on a 5-on-3 pic.twitter.com/M1eAnM5ROE
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) October 10, 2019
WOT 4- We had the Pittsburgh Penguins ranked pretty low in our watchability-excitability rankings and they are quite frankly, making us look bad. Despite losing Evgeni Malkin to an upper-body injury, the Penguins have won four straight and coming off a big win at home over the Colorado Avalanche. Sidney Crosby is picking up the slack from his running mate’s absence by getting on the scoresheet in all seven of the Penguins games. If he records a point in Friday’s game with the Dallas Stars, he’ll tie his personal best point streak to start a season.
WOT 5 – The San Jose Sharks started the season with four straight losses which caused a lot of fin-wringing around the Sharks campfire. Since that start however, they’ve ripped off three straight wins, including Wednesday’s impressive 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Evander Kane – who missed three of those first four losses – recorded a hat trick in the first period on Wednesday. It was the second of Kane’s career and since returning to the lineup for San Jose, he’s recorded at least a point in three of the four games while the Sharks are 3-1.
WOT 6 – Thursday night in New Jersey will be the first head-to-head matchup of the two guys taken at the top of June’s NHL Draft. Jack Hughes, who went first overall to the Devils, host the New York Rangers and the number two pick, Kaapo Kakko. It’s the seventh straight season that the two top picks in the draft have faced each other in the following season. The two will forever be linked but have yet to have an impact on the ice. Hughes has yet to record a point while Kakko has found the back of the net once.
WOT 7 – While the two top draft picks have yet to make an impact there are other rookies who are. Buffalo rookie Victor Olofsson leads all NHL first-year players in goals with six and points with eight. Olafsson was a seventh-round pick of the Sabres in 2014. Last season was the first in North America for the Swede when he scored 30 goals for the AHL’s Rochester Americans.
WOT 8 – Other rookies, who have Northwest ties, are off to decent starts. Former Portland Winterhawks star Cody Glass has a pair of goals and three assists for the Vegas Golden Knights. Bear has a goal and an assist and Bonney Lake native Dylan Gambrell has three assists for the Sharks.
WOT 9 – Not only is Hughes looking to make a splash against Kakko, his Devils are desperate for a win. There was a lot of excitement surrounding the Devils coming into the season but they’re off to a 0-4-2 start. In that stumble – it’s hard to call six bad games a ‘run’ – they’ve managed to blow leads of 4-0 and a 4-1. Things are getting ugly fast and as Sportsnet’s Elliot Friedman reports, Taylor Hall’s contract is hanging in the balance. Hall is an unrestricted free agent after the season and will command top dollar as a former number one pick that is two-years removed from winning the Hart Trophy.
WOT 10 – Sonny Milano of the Columbus Blue Jackets is the early club house leader for goal of the year with this beauty that he pulled off against the Dallas Stars. A rush behind the defense and then a between the legs finish. Doesn’t get much better.
A hotline is being established for overwhelmed fans:
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) October 17, 2019