Preview: Edmonton at St. Louis
When: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, October 8, 2015
Where: Scottrade Center, St. Louis, Missouri
Expectations are sky high for Connor McDavid as the top overall pick of the 2015 draft makes his NHL debut on Thursday when the Edmonton Oilers visit the St. Louis Blues. How high is the bar set for McDavid? Well, consider the lofty praise heaped on the shoulders of the 18-year-old phenom by none other than Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky.
“He’s as good as I’ve seen in the last 30 years, the best player to come into the league in the last 30 years, the best to come along since (Mario) Lemieux and (Sidney) Crosby,” Gretzky told the Edmonton Journal. “He can definitely change a franchise’s fortunes.” The Oilers are banking on precisely that after the sputtering club missed the playoffs for the ninth straight season before winning the draft lottery in June. St. Louis enjoyed a much better campaign in 2014-15, winning the Central Division before getting unceremoniously dumped in the first round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, RSN (Edmonton), FSN Midwest (St. Louis)
ABOUT THE OILERS (2014-15: 24-44-14, 6TH IN PACIFIC): It likely won’t be long before Edmonton officially hands the keys to McDavid, who collected a stunning 120 points in 47 games with Erie of the Ontario Hockey League last season. With that in mind, defenseman Andrew Ference relinquished the team’s captaincy and elected to join Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as alternates in 2015-16. Offseason acquisition Cam Talbot (New York Rangers) will get the start for Edmonton, which has not been shy about making changes since hiring Peter Chiarelli as general manager and coach Todd McLellan.
ABOUT THE BLUES (2014-15: 51-24-7, 1ST IN CENTRAL): Vladimir Tarasenko parlayed an impressive 37-goal season in 2014-15 into an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old Russian joins Alexander Steen (team-leading 40 assists), Jaden Schwartz and captain David Backes on a potent offense that ranked fifth in the league in goals (239) last season. St. Louis’ primary question resides in goal, with Brian Elliott getting the nod on Thursday before presumably platooning with Jake Allen for the rest of the campaign.
1. St. Louis has won six in a row over Edmonton and 11 of the last 12 meetings.
2. Edmonton yielded a league-high 276 goals last season.
3. The Blues signed veteran C Scott Gomez to a one-year, two-way deal on Wednesday.
PREDICTION: Blues 5, Oilers 3