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Oilers Power Play Threat Will Unleash a Potent 2nd Unit in 2023/24

The Edmonton Oilers have the most dangerous first-unit power play group in the NHL’s history, but how good can their second unit be?

The Edmonton Oilers are quietly emerging as a force to be reckoned with, not only boasting one of the NHL’s most potent power plays but also harboring the potential for their second unit to rival or even surpass many other teams’ primary man-advantage squads.

With a power play that has consistently ranked among the league’s best in recent years, the Oilers achieved a milestone by setting an NHL record last season, operating at an astounding 32.4% success rate. This season, they retain the same formidable lineup while further augmenting their depth to bolster the effectiveness of their second unit. The Oilers’ roster is now so rich in talent that either of their power play units could thrive, forcing opposing teams to tread cautiously when they have a man advantage.

The previous season commenced with a power-play lineup featuring Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Tyson Barrie, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, along with a combination of Zach Hyman and Evander Kane. Midway through the season, Evan Bouchard stepped in for Barrie, surprisingly enhancing the unit’s efficiency, a development that many insiders hadn’t anticipated.

Related: Oilers’ Bouchard Extension Close, But with Contract Structure Twist

In the current season, the Oilers maintain the same core five players for their power play, but the second unit possesses considerable firepower. Under the guidance of head coach Jay Woodcroft, this unit can tap into the skills of either Kane or Hyman at the net-front position, accompanied by the likes of Mattias Ekholm or Darnell Nurse on the point. Additional contributions come from the agile and adept Ryan McLeod, as well as the promising shot threat of Dylan Holloway. The potential addition of a motivated Connor Brown, capable of delivering 20-30 goals if healthy, amplifies the Oilers’ offensive arsenal.

The Oilers Are Potentially Missing One Key Ingredient on Their Second Unit

While Edmonton’s power-play prowess is undeniable, the team could benefit from another power-play quarterback. The flexibility of relying on Barrie or Bouchard is no longer present. However, Nurse, Ekholm, and the underrated Brett Kulak offer viable options for point production. In the case of Nurse, arguments can be made that he already plays huge minutes and should focus on the defensive side of his game, but you know he’s chomping at the bit to produce more offensively, earn that $9 million on his contract and get some gravy points on the power play.

Darnell Nurse Edmonton Oilers nhl defenseman
Darnell Nurse Edmonton Oilers nhl defenseman

Opportunities to bolster the mix throughout the season remain on the horizon. Rumors swirl about Patrick Kane considering the Oilers and Sam Gagner being invited to camp on a PTO. Both could potentially quarterback the second unit as forwards.

How Much Did the Oilers Power Play Units Improve Over the Past Two Seasons?

As the 2021-22 season commenced, the power-play units took shape as follows:

Unit 1:

  • Connor McDavid
  • Leon Draisaitl
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  • Zach Hyman
  • Tyson Barrie

Unit 2:

  • Kyle Turris
  • Warren Foegele
  • Jesse Puljujarvi
  • Darnell Nurse
  • Evan Bouchard

Last season, Turris was removed from the equation and Evander Kane was thrown in but injured early on in the campaign. Had he stayed healthy, there’s no doubt that second until would have been already infinitely improved. But, the progress witnessed in these power-play units from the prior season to the present underscores the Oilers’ commitment to dominance, making them a formidable force in the NHL. And, you know they aren’t done adding.

Any chance the Oilers have to maximize the potency of the first unit while giving the second unit a chance to give the top guys rest is a good thing.

Next: Canadiens Open to Goalie Trade Talks, Leveraging Carey Price LTIR

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