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Odd Name Ranks Highest Among Most Underrated Oilers to Watch

There are many candidates who could rank highest among underrated Edmonton Oilers to watch this season. Who takes top spot?

On a team that is loaded with offensive talent, but known mostly for being the hosts of the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl show, there are plenty of candidates who could fly under the radar as productive parts of the roster that don’t get enough credit. There’s Zach Hyman, who has an engine that never quits and scored 36 goals last season. There’s Evander Kane, who when he first arrived in Edmonton went on a goal-scoring run for the ages and was the team leader during the playoffs that year. There is Stuart Skinner who was up for the Calder Trophy and, of course, there is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who no one seems to give enough love to, but just posted a 104-point season.

Ryan McLeod of the Edmonton Oilers has the potential for a breakout NHL season
Ryan McLeod of the Edmonton Oilers has the potential for a breakout NHL season

All would be good candidates as underrated talents that will have a big impact on the 2023-24 season. Instead, according to Nick Gould of Daily Faceoff, the honor should go to Ryan McLeod.

In a recent post looking at every team in the Pacific Division, Gould labeled McLeod as the player to watch in this regard. After signing a two-year bridge deal at $2.1 million, he’s slated to play as the team’s third-line center, likely getting some spot duty in the top six as a winger.

Gould writes:

The sky’s the limit for McLeod, who has gradually improved with each passing year since making his debut with the Oilers in 2020–21. McLeod collected 11 goals and 23 points in 57 games last season before adding five assists in 12 playoff contests. He figures to start 2023–24 as the Oilers’ No. 3 center (behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl), but it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the 23-year-old forward end up playing alongside either 97 or 29 if one of the team’s incumbent top-six wingers ends up faltering during the year.

He adds that McLeod brings a coveted combination of speed and size to the NHL, resembling Connor McDavid in his bursts of acceleration. While he has yet to establish consistent performance at the NHL level, his potential is undeniable.

McLeod is Versatile and That Makes Him Extremely Useful

Every team needs to have that one player who can play anywhere and be effective. For McLeod, the belief is he can play with top players, but also be effective in a bottom-six role.

Gould notes that even if McLeod doesn’t secure a spot on one of the Oilers’ top two forward lines this season, there’s potential for him to join forces with the promising prospect, Dylan Holloway. If they can establish chemistry, Edmonton’s third unit holds the promise of becoming a formidable force on the ice.

It will be fascinating to see how big a jump McLeod takes this season. It could be based both on his continued progression as a player, but also the opportunities he’s afforded.

Next: Draisaitl Has Dodgy, But Direct Response to Oilers Contract Query

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