MATHESON: McDavid scores the Oilers first penalty shot of the year

Penalty shots called are up 80 per cent through the first 210 NHL games, so it was no surprise at all when Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid got one in Florida when his left leg was clipped by Gustav Forsling as he broke to the net.

The Oilers have had 54 in their NHL days, starting with Stan Weir in 1980. McDavid has had seven, more than any other Oiler. Wayne Gretzky had five in his career here. McDavid easily beat Panthers’ Sergei Bobrovsky with a low shot, blocker side after one-time Oiler draft pick Jake Brenk called for the penalty shot.

He’s 3-for-7, if you’re keeping count. Gretzky was 2-for-5. Ryan Smyth, Taylor Hall

and Mike Comrie had three, with Smyth scoring on two of them, Hall one, Comrie was stopped all three times. Sam Gagner has had two for the Oilers.

Amazingly, Leon Draisaitl’s only had one, against Florida in 2018. A goal.

Through the first 210 games, there were 15 penalty shots called. In 2022-2023 there were 54 in the whole season, 34 the year before, 27 before that.

Evander Kane plays the game on the edge, and leads in the NHL in penalties since 2010-2011, his first NHL year, so should we be surprised by his two minors in the first period in Florida? He’s taken 433 penalties in 870 games, with Washington’s Tom Wilson (421), Chicago’s Corey Perry (407) and Boston’s new captain Brad Marchand (404) next in line. 

Kris Knoblauch’s old junior GM Sherry Bassin said his former coach’s big thing in Erie was accountability though. So when Kane scored the Oilers second goal (eighth of the year) off a nice feed from Derek Ryan but then took two minors in a four-minute span later in the first period (Carter Verhaeghe scored on one of the PP), Knoblauch sat one of his hottest players for a time.

Kane, who has 16 points, played four minutes in opening period, and just 13:30 overall after taking a third-period misconduct. That came in the wake of a Zach Hyman-Sam Bennett altercation by the boards. The misconduct was a killer with Kane back for the last 3.5 minutes in a one-goal game.

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The Oilers need to play .685 hockey in their next 65 games to hit 100 points. Maybe 95 can get in as a wild card in the Western Conference, but they still have to get on their horse, and fast. There’s no cavalry coming and as we all know, teams in the playoffs on American Thanksgiving (after Wednesday’s game in Carolina), make the post-season 77 per cent of the time. 

The Oilers are eight points behind the St. Louis Blues and Seattle Kraken for the a wild-card spot.

Vegas, Vancouver and Los Angeles are comfortably in as top 3 seeds in the West along with Colorado, Dallas and Winnipeg in the Central. Anaheim, Arizona, Calgary, Nashville, Minnesota and the Oilers going for those two wild card spots. Sure, the Oilers are better than the Ducks and Coyotes, but after that…



Almost everybody on the Oilers has a no-trade, no-move clause if you’re talking about any deals (even Jack Campbell has a 10-team no-trade). Warren Foegele and Cody Ceci do not have any trade protection, but Ceci has been their most consistent defenceman after a poor 2022-23 season, and the energetic winger Foegele clearly is one of their top three or four forwards night in, night out. So…

If Oilers are out of it at the March trade deadline, Foegele ($2.75 million cap hit) will  get dealt because he’s UFA. Ceci has this year and next at $3.25 million.


What’s up with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? He did some good work on the PK in Florida but was barely noticeable five-on-five, centering the second line, or on the moribund PP–a kick in the gut with the Oilers having two failed power plays in the third to get the tying goal.
RNH has one goal in his last 14 games (in San Jose), four in his past 29 if you count last spring’s playoffs.
He had six points in his first three games in October, seven in the last 14. After 104 points last year, his game has been a blip on the screen on a lot of nights.

You’re entitled to ask loudly who or what possessed the Oilers to pass on Swedish goalie Jesper Wallstedt, who was outstanding at the world junior, and then fell into their laps at No. 20 at the 2021. They traded the pick to Minnesota for No. 22 and No. 90.
Wallstedt, who turned 21 a week ago, would be sharing duties in Minnesota with Filip Gustavsson today if Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t there in possibly his last NHL season.

As for that potent Oilers power play we saw last year, teams have figured it out. One simple way to fix it: tell Evan Bouchard to shoot all the time. No double-clutching or passing off. That’s his strength, that’s why they thought he was different from Tyson Barrie.
Bouchard isn’t Al MacInnis from the long-ago Calgary days but he can beat a goalie from distance. So fire away and if there’s rebounds his teammates can chase them down.

In case you’re wondering, or you don’t care, but Charlie Huddy, who did a fine job coaching NHL defencemen for 23 years–here, Dallas, Rangers and in Winnipeg– didn’t get a phone call to ask if he might want to come out of retirement to replace Dave Manson here.
Huddy, 64, just named to the Oiler Hall of Fame at Rogers Place, is wintering down south and fine with not working.

The Oilers benefitted from not seeing Aleksander Barkov (left knee, day-to-day) in Florida, on 4-on-4 situations and with Anton Lundell having to go against Draisaitl and McDavid, but this was a blown chance for a victory with the Panthers best player watching.

That scrap between Vincent Desharnais and Jonah Gadjovich was a 40-second dandy with Desharnais holding an ice-bag to his left hand in the penalty box. Desharnais has fought in two straight games (Austin Watson in Tampa). He also dropped the mitts with Arber Xhekaj in Montreal last February, so Desharnais isn’t picking spots. Xhekaj injured his right shoulder in that fight.

Third-line centre Ryan McLeod hasn’t scored in 33 games, counting last spring’s two playoff rounds against LA and Vegas. McLeod’s last goal was last March 9 in Boston against Jeremy Swayman.

Nico Mikkola, who stunningly had two Florida goals Tuesday, was a shutdown D on that fantastic 2016 Finnish world junior team that featured Sebastian Aho, Patrik Laine, Mikko Rantanen and Jesse Puljujarvi, who finished last season in Carolina and needed double hip surgery. Puljujarvi is skating but hasn’t played anywhere this season.