Leon Draisaitl said he believes the Edmonton Oilers can be the NHL’s top team in Canada for a second straight season.
“I think people tend to forget that sometimes, that we were the best team in Canada last year,” Draisaitl said Tuesday. “Obviously we’re looking to do that again this year. Our division is tough. A lot of great teams. I think every team can really make the playoffs, so it’s going to be a grind, it’s going to be a battle, and I think we’re well-prepared and we’ve got a great group together.”
Among the seven teams based in Canada, who will make up the Scotia North Division this season, the Oilers had the best points percentage (.585) and tied for the most wins (37, with the Winnipeg Jets) last season. Edmonton, the No. 5 seed, was upset by the No. 12 seed Chicago Blackhawks in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, losing in four games.
Edmonton begins this season at the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; SN, SN1, TVAS2).
“I think we’re a better team than last year,” Draisaitl said. “We’ve got a lot more depth. We’ve made some great additions to our team.”
Draisaitl won the Hart Trophy voted NHL MVP after the forward led the NHL with 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists) in 71 games last season. Oilers forward Connor McDavid was runner-up with 97 points (34 goals, 63 assists) in 64 games.
Edmonton added center Kyle Turris, who signed a two-year contract Oct. 9, and forward Dominik Kahun, who signed a one-year contract on Nov. 2.
Kahun, who scored 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in 56 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres last season, will start the season on a line with Draisaitl, his former linemate on Germany national teams.
The 25-year-olds have known each other since they were 13 and growing up in Germany.
“We got to know each other real quick,” Draisaitl said. “We’ve been really good friends ever since.
“It’s funny how it works sometimes, that you find your way back together. He’s obviously a very skilled player, has a lot of hockey sense. He sees everything on the ice. He’s always had that attribute, and obviously we’re looking to him to continue that here.”
Draisaitl said Edmonton is focused on its defense at 5-on-5. It allowed 154 5-on-5 goals last season, sixth-most in the NHL, and 12 in its four postseason games, the highest average (3.00) among the 24 teams that qualified.
“I think we took a step last year,” Draisaitl said. “Obviously we didn’t really show that in the playoffs, but we’re looking to start that off this year, and that’s a priority for our team, a priority for our leadership group, and that’s what’s going to help us win hockey games. I think we’re all buying into that. I think we’re all very excited to show what we’ve got tomorrow.”