Predictions get thrown around like candy on Halloween before a season starts, but they usually all get forgotten about months later.
Where’s the fun in that? What’s the point in making them if we don’t see how we did?
I made 11 bold predictions before the 2022-23 season began in October. Now’s the chance to see how I did.
McDavid will score 50 goals
I mean, I was right. But, boy, did I sure sell him short here.
Connor McDavid was the NHL’s top goal scorer all season. He finished with 64 goals — three more than Bruins winger David Pastrnak — as he shattered his previous career high set last season by 20.
McDavid studied video of some of the best snipers in the game like Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews last summer and worked on his shot diligently, too. It all paid off in a massive way.
Throw in 89 assists for 153 points, and McDavid had one of the greatest campaigns in league history.
Kane will flirt with 40 goals but come up just short
It’s hard to judge this prediction with pinpoint accuracy considering Kane missed half the season with two significant injuries. All we can do is prorate his numbers.
Kane scored 16 goals in 41 games, a 32-goal pace. Had his wrist been completely healthy, it’s fair to assume he would have potted a few more. Kane found the back of the net on 11 percent of his 146 shots this season. He had a 14.5 shooting percentage when he scored 22 goals in 43 games in the back half of the 2021-22 campaign.
Couple that with sparse first-unit power-play time upon return from his sliced wrist and it’s no wonder Kane’s pace was a bit low.
The Oilers will win the Pacific Division
So close, yet so far.
Despite a five-point improvement from last season, the Oilers finished second in their division for the fourth year in a row — this time missing out on the top spot in the Pacific by two measly points.
The Oilers did their darndest to get top spot in the second half. They had the best points percentage in the NHL from Jan. 10 onward. They finished the season on a 14-0-1 tear.
Flipping that one overtime defeat to Vegas on March 25 into a victory would have secured them first place. Maybe things would have been different in their series against the Golden Knights if they had home-ice advantage.
Truthfully, though, it was the mediocre 23-18-3 record they took into the December holiday break that cost them the division, something winger Zach Hyman referenced last week.
A more consistent first half is a priority for next season.
Bouchard will take the majority of the PP1 quarterback minutes by 2023
It took a little longer — two months to be exact — but this prediction came to fruition when Tyson Barrie was dealt to Nashville on Feb. 28.
Evan Bouchard got that top-dog role so many Oilers fans were confident he could handle with aplomb — and he proved he was up to the job.
Never was that more apparent than in the postseason when Bouchard recorded 15 of his 17 points on the power play over 12 games. Edmonton’s historically amazing man advantage from the regular season only got better.
Bouchard is a pending RFA and needs a new contract, but he isn’t going anywhere. He’ll be on the blue line of that power play for the foreseeable future.
The Oilers will make a splash at the deadline
I’d say an excellent all-around defenceman like Mattias Ekholm aptly fits this description.
Ekholm was such a difference-maker after coming over from Nashville in that trade for Barrie. He formed a perfect partnership with Bouchard. He provided leadership. He touched all facets of the game.
Consider this: The Oilers outscored opponents 31-10 with Ekholm on the ice at five-on-five in his 21 games on the roster.
The Oilers went 18-2-1 to close out the regular season after Ekholm was acquired. No NHL team had a better points percentage.
Ekholm might not have been the flashiest player to move before the trade deadline, but he almost certainly was the most impactful to his new team. Oh, and he still has three more years on his contract.
Puljujarvi won’t be dealt until the offseason
This got closer to happening than most would have thought, especially partway through the season. GM Ken Holland even offered him a contract extension, albeit at a massive pay cut.
In the end, what everyone knew was coming finally happened on Feb. 28 when Jesse Puljujarvi was sent to Carolina.
The return for Puljujarvi was meagre — low-end prospect Patrik Puistola — but the real reward came hours later. Clearing out Puljujarvi’s $3 million cap hit helped free up some of the necessary cap space to acquire Ekholm.
Puljujarvi had his moments in Edmonton, but not enough of them. Getting Ekholm is all that matters here.
Holland will trade a first-round pick
Not only did the general manager do that, but he also dealt the player he picked in the first round last year, too (Reid Schaefer). Of course, that decision paid off handsomely since it resulted in Ekholm becoming an Oiler.
Next month’s draft represents the first time Holland hasn’t had a first-round pick since 2012. You have to go back to 2008 for director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright. For the Oilers, it’s 2006.
Given Ekholm’s impact and his contract, it’s all worth it even if the Oilers didn’t go as fast in the playoffs as they wanted.
Hamblin will play
more than 10 games this season
Two words. Take out two words and I would have had this spot on.
James Hamblin parlayed an excellent training camp and preseason to get an early-season call-up where he suited up in exactly 10 games for the Oilers, mostly on the wing.
There’s a reasonable chance he’ll get spot duty for the big club again next season. Not bad for an undrafted and undersized player.
Holloway Skinner will finish top 10 in Calder Trophy voting
Would you look at that? What a great prediction!
Oh, who am I kidding? There’s no way I saw this coming from Skinner. I’d like to see the polygraph results from anyone who says they did. Mainly, I just didn’t think he’d play anywhere near enough to warrant consideration for the NHL’s top rookie.
I figured Holloway would get ample chances — and good ones — especially after he was slated to open the season on a line with Hyman and Leon Draisaitl. That didn’t even last a period after Holloway made a turnover that resulted in a goal against. He seldom got top-six minutes again.
Holloway promises to have a much bigger role next season, but that isn’t saying much considering he averaged just 9:35 this season. Players who skated less when they were in the lineup: Devin Shore, Hamblin, Brad Malone and Tyler Benson.
Holloway was underused until he was demoted to the minors on Feb. 17 for cap reasons. He was recalled midway through the playoffs only to be a black ace. It’s hard not to call this a wasted season for him.
Campbell will finish fifth in Vezina Trophy voting
Oof. What an awful call here.
My reasoning seemed sound.
The Oilers were expecting Jack Campbell to start at least 50 games, maybe even 55. They were coming off a trip to the Western Conference final and expected to be even better in the regular season — which they were. All Campbell needed was a couple of down-ballot votes to get into the conversation.
There’s zero chance that happens. He didn’t even end up in the ballpark.
Campbell was downright awful in his first campaign in Edmonton. He essentially lost his starter’s job to Skinner by American Thanksgiving.
We’ll see how Campbell rebounds next season, but this one was a complete write-off — nowhere near Vezina calibre in any way, shape, or form.
McDavid will win the Hart Trophy
The only doubt that remains is if he’ll win it unanimously. McDavid’s third Hart is in the bag.
(Top photo of Connor McDavid celebrating a goal with Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)