Game On! Barrie, Koekkoek, Kahun, Turris make Oilers debuts as Edmonton hosts Vancouver GAME PREVIEW: Vancouver Canucks @ Edmonton Oilers Welcome to the 2021 NHL season, where the seven Canadian teams will play a 56-game season without leaving the country. It will be wild, unprecedented and possibly the only time we see all seven Canadian teams in the same division.The Edmonton Oilers will play the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames 10 times and the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets nine times. For the second consecutive season the Oilers open up their season at home against the Canucks. This is the Oilers 41st season opener and the 31st time they will open on home ice. They are an impressive 19-7-4 in 30 season openers on home ice after beating Vancouver 3-2 last year. They are 3-6-1 (tie) in season openers on the road, and overall they are 22-13-5 on opening night. The Oilers will start the season with no rookies in their lineup. Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi are the youngsters at 22 years of age. With Ken Holland in the GM spot don’t expect any rushing of young players. This is a good thing. Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg and other young Oilers prospects will be on the ice soon, but I’d be surprised if we see a teenager as a regular in the Oilers lineup for a long time. The Canucks will be without their leading scorer from last season, JT Miller, tonight. Miller, along with Jordie Benn, are out due to COVID concerns. Miller was living at Benn’s place and reports out of Vancouver is one has tested positive so both are under quarantine. It is an unfortunate reality of the 2021 season, where teams could be without top players for weeks at a time due to quarantine rules. The Oilers have to take advantage of the Canucks being without their best winger. An early win or a possible two-game sweep would be an excellent start for the Oilers. It will be very difficult in a 56-game season, but birthday boy Connor McDavid will try to become the 26th player in NHL history with four 100-point seasons. He would need to average 1.78 points/game, which is a lot. Leon Draisaitl had 89 points (1.58 P/GP) in the Oilers first 56 games last season, so I think a 90-point campaign for McDavid and Draisaitl is very possible, but 100 points would be incredible. McDavid will need a good start and in his last four season openers he has scored one, two, three and three points. I expect McDavid to be flying tonight based on how he looked in camp and the scrimmages. He will give himself a nice 24th birthday present with a multi-point night. Over the past two seasons, Leon Draisaitl has the second most goals in the NHL with 93, McDavid is seventh with 75 and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is 52nd with 50 goals. The top-three Canucks are Elias Pettersson, 28th with 55, Bo Horvat, 55th with 49 goals, and Brock Boeser 89th with 42. Edmonton’s top-three forwards have outscored Vancouver’s 218-146. Edmonton’s supporting cast has combined for 181 goals while Vancouver’s have tallied 171. So Edmonton’s forward group has outscored Vancouver 399-317 and Miller’s 40 goals won’t be in tonight’s lineup. After years of not having adequate scoring depth compared to many teams, the Oilers finally have some balance after their top forwards. They aren’t close to elite depth like Tampa Bay, but Edmonton has finally upgraded the overall skill of their forwards. Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, not just Game 1 of the season for both teams but Opening Night for the National Hockey League as a whole. Seems familiar, doesn’t it? Why it was just last season that these same two teams met up at the same venue to drop the puck on the 2019-20 season. It was a Wednesday night too, the late (8pm Mountain) game on of a nationally broadcast doubleheader. Plus ca change, plus c’est la même chose. Game On! Barrie, Koekkoek, Kahun, Turris make Oilers debuts as Edmonton hosts Vancouver.Close sticky videoVirtually everything has changed in the one short year 469 long days since that splendid Opening Night encounter. Last year, the build-up to the opener was the September ritual of rookie camp, main camp, Joey Moss Cup, preseason games; plenty of opportunities for hardcore fans to see how the sausage is made. It’s been exactly 308 days since the Oilers played in a regular season game. Tonight, they embark on a sprint of a season where they will play 56 games over the next 114. The season will be unique, as the Oilers will play against Canadian based teams in the temporarily named North Division. Of the seven clubs in the division, the top four teams will make the playoffs. They will face the Vancouver Canucks a total of ten times this year. Tonight is the first of those ten meetings. In his first media availability of the season, Coach Tippett was asked what his goal was for this year. Part of his response? Take that next step. The Oilers are going to need somewhere around 65 points in this abbreviated season to make the playoffs; they can begin to take their first step tonight with a win over the Vancouver Canucks.I think our team took some steps ahead all of last year...We created some momentum in our group. Especially in the second half of the year, we were moving in the right direction. We want to come back as a stronger group.” You can call it “unfinished business” if you’d like, but there’s absolutely no denying that the Oilers finished last year with a bad taste in their mouth. Getting bounced in four games from the play-in series by the twelfth-ranked Chicago Blackhawks no doubt had to feel like a kick in the gut. The time to reflect on last season has passed. The time to win? Now. Both Miller and Benn are expected to miss several games in the immediate future due to a close Covid-19 contact. It’s a significant blow to the Canucks. Miller led their club in scoring last season (27-45-72), while having Jordie Benn out will cause the club to play musical chairs on defence. The Canucks have brought defenceman Travis Hamonic to the club on a one year deal; there’s a very good chance we see him debut tonight against the Oilers. Tonight’s affair will not be enjoyed live by a raucous full house, but in an empty barn where the sounds of the game itself provide the soundtrack. But for all that, hockey is back, at least in our collective living rooms. It may be the middle of January rather than the traditional starting date of early autumn, but with snow on the ground and a bite to the air it at least feels like actual hockey season. Unlike the weird coda to the 2019-20 season that for Oilers fans both started and ended in early August with the crushing disappointment that was the locals’ failure to survive even one round of the NHL’s expanded, surreal post-season. A campaign that had carried much promise had ended in ruins, just one more victim of the COVID crisis that has changed our world. But do you recall how it started? Leon Draisaitl made the down payment on what was to become an MVP campaign, scoring the opening goal of the season himself before setting up then-linemates Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid with the tying and winning goals in the back half of the third period. McDavid had a quiet night other than that one time he burst through the Vancouver defence and roofed one past Jacob Markstrom to decide the game in the late going. Other than that, he was quiet. But little did observers realize the miracle of him being in the line-up at all, a truth that emerged later in the season. Adam Larsson paid a physical price of his own that night, breaking a tibia blocking a rocket of a shot during a particularly intense Canucks possession in the late stages of the first, yet hanging in the rest of the way and contributing a key clearance that turned a nearly certain 3-1 goal into a counter attack that resulted in the 2-2 tally. New/old stopper Mike Smith stood tall down the stretch, getting a last-second assist from his crossbar as the Oilers held on for a nail-biting 3-2 triumph. It gave the Oilers an early leg up on their then-Pacific Division rivals in what would become a season-long battle for position.