Breakout candidates can change a team’s season from good to great. Now is the time for the Edmonton Oilers to build on the progress they’ve made over the past few seasons.
There is many questions surrounding the Oilers performance coming into 2021-22. One of the biggest is if the team can contribute consistently outside of McDavid and Draisaitl.
With every season comes a new opportunity for new stars to shine. Criticism will fade and the Oilers will have a much improved lineup.
In Part 1 I reviewed which Oilers were going to regress. While in Part 2 I went over who was going to improve on bad 2020-21 seasons. In this third and final part, I’ll be naming 3 players on the Oilers who are going to breakout this season.
No player is more primed to be one of the Oilers breakout candidates than Jesse Puljujarvi. Coming off a year where the Finnish winger put up 15 goals and 10 assists in 55 games, and it’s clear to see he’s playing the game with much more confidence.
Puljujarvi has found a home on McDavid’s wing..
Oilers found instant chemistry between Connor and Jesse last year. He started the season between the bottom two lines, however his strong two-way game forced him into the top 6. He played well the whole rest of the season to make sure that’s where he stayed.
Playing with arguably the best player in the game can “inflate” your stats and play. Jesse showed he complements Mcdavid very well with his incredible defensive play. He’s big, fast, has a hard shot and also I don’t think anybody has more fun playing the game. The key addition of winger Zach Hyman also solidifies the Oilers trio as one of the best lines in the NHL.Embed from Getty Images
Coming into the 2021-22 season Jesse has a chance to show that he belongs on the top line. I hope management can sign him to an extension either this season or next summer.
I believe Puljujarvi is finally proving he was worth that 4th overall pick in 2016 and I predict a big breakout season from him.
Newly signed to a 1 year bridge deal, Kailer Yamamoto is in another contract year and has a lot to prove. Kailer is a breakout candidate because of what he showed after being called up in January of 2020. He suited up for 27 games and put up a very impressive 26 points to close out the season.
Reuniting the “DYNamite” Line..
The biggest positive for him is being able to play on the second line with Draisaitl and RNH once again. In 2019-20 when Yamamoto was called up, the Oilers second line was one of the best in the NHL. They had a combined 80 even-strength points in the last 27 games of the season, as a result propelled Draisaitl to a Hart Trophy win.Embed from Getty Images
It was a down season in 2020-21 where Yamamoto only had 8 goals and 13 assists in 52 games. It wasn’t for the lack of chances. He’s great at chasing down pucks and retrieving them against defenseman, despite his size. With his incredible work ethic, he has an opportunity to prove he belongs in the top 6 and help the Oilers improve.
With a new contract to come at the end of the season, expect him to be a breakout candidate and a valuable offensive piece for the Oilers.
Bouchard has taken his time to become an NHLer, and it’s looking like 2021-22 will be his first full season. Drafted 10th overall back in 2018, “Bouch” looks ready to live up to the hype.
He was with the Oilers basically all of last season but only appeared in 14 games, with the bulk of it spent with the taxi squad. Last season he put up a respectable 2 goals and 3 assists in those 14 games.
The Ontario born defenseman is ready to jump into the lineup with the departures of Adam Larsson and Ethan Bear. Being a right handed shot should help the team fill out the top 6 quite well.
Power Play time?
Bouchard has always been known for his offensive capabilities since his days in junior in the OHL. Playing for the London Knights he put up 201 points in 223 games over a 4 year span. He also had 36 points in 54 games with Bakersfield of the AHL in the 2019-20 season.
The Oilers PP has been top of the league for 2 years now and with the addition of Tyson Barrie last year, it improved even more. Bouchard will have a hard time stealing that PP1 spot from Barrie but I think he’ll fit in nicely on the second unit with Nurse on the point.
I expect Bouchard to start the year on the third pairing alongside Slater Koekoek or Kris Russell. Being one of the breakout candidates, don’t be surprised to see him on the top pair with Darnell Nurse by the end of the season.