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The Wraparound: Oilers - Avalanche stars beyond McDavid, MacKinnon

The Wraparound: Oilers - Avalanche stars beyond McDavid, MacKinnon

DENVER, CO - MARCH 21: Leon Draisaitl (29) of the Edmonton Oilers loses the puck as Mikko Rantanen (96) of the Colorado Avalanche pursues the loose biscuit during the third period of Colorado’s 3-2 overtime win on Monday, March 21, 2022. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Denver Post via Getty Images

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.

• The wait is over for the Lightning to get their 2022 Eastern Conference Final opponent: they’ll face the Rangers. Game 1 takes place at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.

• Fans get treated to a playoff clash of superstars out West. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and the Oilers will face Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, and the Avalanche in the 2022 Western Conference Final. That series begins on Tuesday.

During the weekend, Finland beat Canada for gold at the men’s 2022 World Hockey Championship.

When you rattle off names of the biggest stars in hockey, it won’t take long to reach Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon.

So, it makes perfect sense that McDavid vs. MacKinnon is the headlining “bout” for the marquees heading into the 2022 Western Conference Final. As Game 1 nears on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET), it’s OK to daydream about two highly skilled players who can succeed the modern way. By that, I mean this: as special as McDavid and MacKinnon are at skating at blazing speeds, their ability to make high-skill plays while doing so separates them from almost everyone else.

Sometimes McDavid and MacKinnon look like the NHL’s answer to “Quicksilver.”

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

Now, good luck getting McDavid and MacKinnon to indulge in that matchup hype -- at least beyond platitudes.

If MacKinnon was being a little too “inside baseball” with that escrow comment, he can deflect McDavid questions in the future quite easily. Just focus on the other stars in a talent-heavy series between the Oilers and Avalanche.

[NHL Power Rankings: 2021-22 surprises]

Cale Makar

Check out this Expected Goals (xGAR) leaders chart from Evolving Hockey, and you’ll see an Avalanche player nipping at Connor McDavid’s heels. Only, that player is Cale Makar, not Nathan MacKinnon.


By certain metrics, and amid different hot/cold streaks, Cale Makar comes off as the best Avalanche player instead of MacKinnon. (We’ll get to one other Avs player who can disrupt that discussion, too.)

Of course, it’s more fun to watch an extremely fast, agile player carve up a defense than it is to peruse a chart. Going off “the eye test,” Cale Makar can also use his skating to terrify opponents (and, against McDavid, perhaps to nullify some of their space?). Few teams possess skaters who can neutralize a neutral zone trap. In MacKinnon and Makar, the Avalanche roll out at least two who might just be too elusive to slow down.

Perhaps most delightfully, plenty of other Avs can turn transition plays on a dime, and give opponents little room to catch their breath.

If Avalanche - Oilers breaks down to two teams trading high-speed punches, then fans are in for delicious treats. (We could see action so good it may just drive those escrow payments down.*)

* -- OK, I wouldn’t exactly buy tons of no-carb meals based on this assumption, though.

Mikko Rantanen

Something’s been brewing for a while. Every now and then, Mikko Rantanen receives more serious mentions as one of the Avalanche’s best players, and one of the NHL’s premiere wingers. Then the chatter dies down.

While Rantanen has more than a point-per-game (11 in 10) during these playoffs, he’s only scored one goal. My guess is that lack of puck luck hurts his buzz.

Don’t be surprised if he gets more bounces, and with that, added hype as one of the best. Mikko Rantanen’s already one of those players whose numbers scream “he’s already there, just look closer.”

Leon Draisaitl

Is it fair to call Leon Draisaitl the Jaromir Jagr to Connor McDavid’s Mario Lemieux? Maybe that’s a bit hasty.

But, with physical limitations due to a lower-body injury (possibly an ankle sprain), Draisaitl’s style somewhat resembles Jagr when he was still elite, but slowing down. Both players can possess the puck, then make genius passes. After the Oilers eliminated the Flames, Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft lavished praise on Draisaitl’s elite passing.

Under any circumstances, Draisaitl collecting 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in five playoff games against a strong Flames team would be borderline legendary. Draisaitl doing so while clearly not fully mobile gets us in the neighborhood of “iconic.”

By the way, he became one of the fastest players to reach 50+ points, as Draisaitl scored four points in Game 5 vs. the Flames to give him 53 career playoff points in just 33 games. That blows away even Connor McDavid’s playoff production (48 points in 33 career playoff games).

Overall, the Avalanche - Oilers Western Conference Final is a buffet.

  • You have the obvious favorites in stars like McDavid, MacKinnon, Makar, Draisaitl, and Rantanen.
  • Goalie Mike Smith is an adventure most nights, with the pivotal question being: “Will the ending be happy or sad?”
  • Nazem Kadri ascended to a level among those stars, in his own right. Devon Toews has frequently been a stealth Norris candidate, too.
  • Love scrappy-but-skilled depth players? Load your plate with Zach Hyman, Valeri Nichushkin, Jesse Puljujarvi, and others.
  • Some young defensemen could be fascinating to watch, although it’s unclear if there will be more ups or downs for Bowen Byram and Evan Bouchard.

Fun stuff, right?

You could easily gorge on McDavid vs. MacKinnon alone, yet the Avalanche and Oilers trot out enough flavorful opponents for a four-course hockey meal. (Here’s hoping for more than four games, then.)

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Eastern Conference Final


Game 1 - June 1: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS) Game 2 - June 3: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS) Game 3 - June 5: Rangers at Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS) Game 4 - June 7: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS) *Game 5 - June 9: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (TBD) *Game 6 - June 11: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (TBD) *Game 7 -June 14: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (TBD)

* If necessary

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Western Conference Final

EDMONTON OILERS v. COLORADO AVALANCHE Game 1 - May 31: Oilers at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS) Game 2 - June 2: Oilers at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS) Game 3 - June 4: Avalanche at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS) Game 4 - June 6: Avalanche at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS) *Game 5 - June 8: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD *Game 6 - June 10: Avalanche at Oilers, TBD *Game 7 - June 12: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD

* If necessary