Preview: Canucks at Oilers
Despite the presence of the world's best player in the lineup, the Edmonton Oilers finished well out of playoff contention in each of the past two seasons, leading to a housecleaning by team management. Dave Tippett will make his debut behind the bench when captain Connor McDavid and the Oilers open the season versus the visiting Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.
Edmonton has missed the playoffs in 12 of the past 13 seasons and new general manager Ken Holland knows he must upgrade the talent around McDavid, the league's second-leading scorer last season. “Ultimately, I know I have a superstar in Connor,” Holland said. “He’s a passionate, motivated leader. These are the key ingredients to building a championship hockey club. Now it’s up to me and Dave Tippett to build the rest around him.” The Canucks have not made the playoffs in four straight seasons but have a budding superstar to build around in Elias Pettersson, the reigning Calder Trophy winner as the league's top rookie. "It's the exciting part of our organization and where we're going," Vancouver coach Travis Green said of the team's young talent. "I've said we're going to be better this year. I fully believe we will."
TV: 10 p.m. ET, Sportsnet, Sportsnet360
ABOUT THE CANUCKS (2018-19: 35-36-11, 5TH IN PACIFIC): Pettersson, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft, had 28 goals and 66 points in 71 games last season and forms a solid nucleus of skilled young players with fellow center Bo Horvat and winger Brock Boeser, who recorded 61 and 56 points, respectively, in 2018-19. Vancouver fortified its depth up front with the signings of forwards J.T. Miller and Micheal Ferland and added a pair of veteran defensemen in Tyler Myers and Jordie Benn to go along with rookie Quinn Hughes, who opened eyes in a five-game sample last season. Jacob Markstrom (28-23-9) returns in net with Thatcher Demko serving as backup.
ABOUT THE OILERS (2018-19: 35-38-9, 7TH IN PACIFIC): McDavid, a two-time scoring champion, amassed a career-high 116 points last season and forms a lethal punch with Leon Draisaitl, who finished second to Alex Ovechkin with 50 goals and collected 105 points. The biggest problem for the Oilers was the disparity throughout the remainder of the lineup -- former No. 1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was next on the team with 28 goals and 69 points, the only other Oiler to wind up with more than 41 points. Added to the mix were James Neal, who had 10 straight 20-goal seasons before dipping to seven last season, and veteran netminder Mike Smith to back up Mikko Koskinen.
1. McDavid has six goals and 21 points in 17 games versus the Canucks.
2. Horvat is expected to be named Vancouver's captain prior to its home opener on Oct. 9.
3. The teams have split eight meetings over the past two seasons.
PREDICTION: Oilers 4, Canucks 3