McDavid says Oilers need to be ready early as expectations for Edmonton grow for new NHL season – Edmonton
The Edmonton Oilers training camp won’t start until later this month, but a number of players are already skating together in Alberta’s capital. That’s something the team’s captain and top scorer last season suggests bodes well for the mindset needed to build the club’s success in the 2022 NHL play-offs.
“Last year was a step forward, but we have to come in here and start all over again,” Connor McDavid told reporters on Monday after players struggled in the Downtown Community Arena. “There are a lot of expectations this year, both outside and in the dressing room.
“Having everyone on their feet and going in the right direction is important… you can see that commitment just with guys who show up.”
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It’s been just over three months since the Oilers were knocked out of the playoffs in the NHL’s Western Conference Final by the Colorado Avalanche, who won the Stanley Cup.
McDavid noted how the Avalanche received significant contributions from all sorts of players on their way to their championship.
“It takes everyone and it takes the whole season,” he said. “You kind of look at what Colorado had… a lot of injuries.
“(Their team) took everything very closely and it was clear that they were the last ones standing… It needs everyone.”
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McDavid noted that young prospects who may or may not make it to the Oilers’ NHL club should be ready when the opportunity presents itself, even as they start the season in the American Hockey League.
“Their chance could be any moment,” said the 25-year-old center, who led the NHL with 123 points in the 2021-22 regular season, a personal best in his career to date.
Oilers striker Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said the way McDavid works is “good for young guys to watch, and for the older guys too”.
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“Everyone’s attitude was, ‘We’re working from the start,'” he said. “Connor is a bit ahead of the curve in that regard.”
Both Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid were asked Monday about the team that had its best playoff run in 16 years last season and how they could avoid falling flat, as the team did after an impressive playoff run in 2016-17. The Oilers missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons after that point.
“We now have experience,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “We learned from that.
“We just want to get better and better… We can’t take anything for granted.”
McDavid noted that the Oilers won just one more game in last season’s playoff run than in their 2017 run since Colorado defeated them in their series.
“We still have a long way to go,” he said, before adding that the group is making progress in all sorts of ways. “We’re building a culture here in Edmonton, and that translates from year to year.
“It’s the same core guys every year who set the pace, set the pace and lead the way.”
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McDavid said he was pleased to see the club bring key players back for the 2022-2023 season and was impressed by the hard work and positive attitude of the team’s new goalkeeper Jack Campbell.
“Just a great guy,” he said. “He’s a man you can encourage to do well.
“(I) definitely like what they (Oilers management) have done (with the roster), and now it’s over to the players.”
While not disclosing exact details, McDavid said he has put in this off-season work to round out his game.
“Teams get used to what you do, (so you have to) find different ways to produce,” he said.
Nugent-Hopkins noted that his shooting rate last season was significantly lower than the average over his NHL career, so he’s been working on his shot this off-season.
“(This is the) shortest summer I’ve had yet, which is of course a good thing,” he said, adding that the ultimate goal is to bring the Stanley Cup back to Edmonton. “The buzz in the venue is excitement and (players are) excited to get back to work.
“We’re as deep (an Oilers team) as I’ve ever been a part of… (We) want to keep growing as a group.”