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McDavid the key to Oilers' Stanley Cup dreams


Connor McDavid is the best hockey player in the world and the biggest reason the Edmonton Oilers are in the Stanley Cup Final.

The reigning NHL MVP, face of the the franchise and face of the sport is also the Oilers' best hope of winning a championship for the first time since 1990 and ending Canada's 31-year drought.

McDavid leads all playoff scorers with 31 points in 18 games and is among the top candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy. But he has had help along the way from longtime running mate Leon Draisaitl, breakout defenseman Evan Bouchard and goaltender Stuart Skinner.

An early-season coaching change from Jay Woodcroft to Kris Knoblauch also paved the way for Edmonton’s run to the final. Knoblauch's coaching has already paid off this postseason and gives the Oilers a boost against seasoned Paul Maurice and the Panthers, who lost the Cup final last year.


While McDavid is the league's best player, longtime running mate Leon Draisaitl might also be in the top five. The imposing 28-year-old German can skate alongside McDavid or run his own line, giving Knoblauch an embarrassment of talent at the top of his lineup.

It does not hurt that Zach Hyman is having the most productive stretch of his career with a playoff-best 14 goals. Go deeper into the lineup and Edmonton has grit in winger Corey Perry, a midseason addition and important veteran who is in the final for the fourth time in five years.


Evan Bouchard has been a revelation this postseason, putting up 27 points in one of the most impressive showings by a defenseman in NHL history. His 21 assists are the fourth-most in a single playoffs by a player at the position, behind only Hall of Famers Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis and Brian Leetch.

A bugaboo for the Oilers has been the struggles of Darnell Nurse, which the rest of the team has been able to compensate for. Knoblauch also switched out Vincent Desharnais for Philip Broberg down 2-1 in the West final, and his team has not lost since.


The position that has doomed so many recent Oilers runs has again been eventful, with Stuart Skinner looking unbeatable at times and unplayable at others. Knoblauch went to journeyman backup Calvin Pickard in the second round against Vancouver before putting Skinner back in net.

That trust got rewarded in a big way against Dallas, with Skinner posting a .923 save percentage and allowing just 12 goals in the six-game series win. With two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky at the other end as Florida's most sizable advantage, Skinner needs to be on top of his game to give Edmonton a chance


Knoblauch is a first-time NHL head coach, hired in November after the Oilers lost 10 of their first 13 games, but no stranger to long playoff runs. He won the Western Hockey League championship in 2011 and the Ontario Hockey League championship in 2017.

He's also familiar with McDavid, having coached him with Erie of the OHL for three seasons from 2012-15. The coaching change also brought Coffey on as an assistant, and the former defenseman's impact on the turnaround is crystal clear.


Florida has home-ice advantage, but it will be hard to match the atmosphere in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4. It's the first Cup Final games in Canada with fans in the stands since Ottawa in 2007.

The Oilers have the chance to end the country's Stanley Cup drought that dates to Montreal winning it in 1993.

The Pick

The Panthers are slight favorites, according to BetMGM Sportsbook. But opening the series at the arena he was picked first overall in during the 2015 draft, McDavid lifts the Cup on home ice like Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier did, finally reaching hockey's mountaintop. Oilers in six.


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