Connor McDavid was made the league’s highest-paid player in the offseason and appeared intent on earning every penny after a dazzling performance in the season opener. McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers will play their first road game Saturday night at the Vancouver Canucks, who will be the last NHL team to take the ice this season.
The reigning Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner, McDavid lit up provincial rival Calgary in a 3-0 season-opening victory in his first game since signing an eight-year, $100 million contract. “It’s a pretty big advantage to have the best player in the world on our team,” Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom said of McDavid. “He can just make you look silly, he’s so fast. His control with the puck, it’s really fun to see from our side of the ice.” The Canucks opened last season with four straight victories and it was pretty much downhill from there — they followed that hot start by losing their next nine in a row en route to a last-place finish in the Pacific Division. Henrik and Daniel Sedin have enjoyed long and illustrious careers with Vancouver, but the fact that the 37-year-old twins comprise the team’s top line speaks volumes of the challenges awaiting the Canucks and new coach Travis Green.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, CBC
ABOUT THE OILERS (1-0-0): McDavid, who collected 30 goals and a league-best 100 points last season, unleashed seven shots on goal in the opener and now gets to face an opponent that he peppered for three goals and three assists in five meetings in 2016-17. Cam Talbot, who tied for the league lead with 42 wins last season, made 27 saves in his 19th career shutout. “I would would start the season with a win any day of the week — the shutout is just an added bonus,” Talbot said. “To play the way we did tonight defensively and to start out with a shutout is pretty special.”
ABOUT THE CANUCKS (2016-17: 30-43-9, 7th in Pacific): Vancouver scored the second-fewest goals in the NHL and produced just 11 tallies in a season-ending eight-game losing streak. Bo Horvat was the only player to score 20 goals and joined Daniel Sedin as the only ones to eclipse 50 points, so the Canucks will be looking for Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi to continue their rise after notching career highs of 19 and 18 goals, respectively. Veterans Thomas Vanek and Sam Gagner were brought in to bolster the attack while the hope is that Loui Eriksson can rebound after dipping from 30 goals in 2015-16 to 11 last season. There is talent on the blue line, headed by Alexander Edler and youngsters Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher, but neither Jakob Markstrom nor Anders Nilsson has been a full-time starter in net.
1. Edmonton allowed six goals in going 4-0-1 against Vancouver last season.
2. The Canucks ranked 29th on the power play last season, converting on only 14.1 percent of their chances.
3. Oilers F Leon Draisaitl, who set up two scores in the opener, had one goal and four assists versus Vancouver last season.
PREDICTION: Oilers 4, Canucks 2