As the consensus top two picks in the 2015 NHL Draft, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel have been compared to each other before they were even in the National Hockey League.
Similar to Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, the two future superstars were pinned up against each other as top young players that the NHL would market around as they went first and second overall.
It has been eight years since then, and Connor McDavid now has over 700 points in his NHL career with the Edmonton Oilers. Things are a little bit different on Jack Eichel’s end. After a rift between him and the Buffalo Sabres regarding injuries to his neck, Eichel is now a member of the Vegas Golden Knights.
But one thing hasn’t changed; both players still don’t have their names on the Stanley Cup.
One year ago today, the Golden Knights made the blockbuster trade to acquire Eichel. Shortly after, we asked the question of which player between McDavid and Eichel would win a Stanley Cup first.
Our analysis then had us favoring Eichel. But we were proven wrong as McDavid, and the Oilers reached the Western Conference Finals in 2022. Alas, it was a completely different star centerman in the NHL, Nathan Mackinnon, who won the Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. So here we are again.
The Case For Connor McDavid
I think it is safe to say that the collective hockey media has run out of words to describe the play of Connor McDavid. In just 11 games this season, he has 12 goals, 12 assists, and 24 points.
That’s on pace for a whopping 178 points season. Only Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux have ever scored more than that in a single season. Both greats have multiple Stanley Cups.
There’s no question McDavid is the better overall player in comparison to Eichel. But that’s not what we are asking here. In his eight-year NHL career, McDavid has made the playoffs four times with the Oilers. Only two of those times have the Oilers won a round.
Last season was a step in the right direction as the Oilers made it to the Western Conference Finals but lost to the Avalanche. It is highly likely that the Oilers will be a playoff team in 2023 again. With 55 points in 37 career playoff games, McDavid has not been the problem. It’s the team around him.
The Oilers’ Shot at the Stanley Cup
Since they drafted McDavid, the Oilers have slowly done a better job of addressing some of their roster needs. They have added scoring depth with guys like Zach Hyman and Evander Kane and switched up their goaltending this season by adding Jack Campbell.
On paper, the Oilers look like a Stanley Cup Contending team. They have two of the best players in the game, McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, at the helm too.
My biggest issue with them is on defense. Outside of Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie, the Oilers have a weaker blue line with a lot of defensemen who struggle in their own zone.
Still, I think this year’s Oilers team is just too talented not to take what they did last year a step further.
They’ll have to go through tough teams like the Calgary Flames, defending Stanley Cup Champion Avalanche, and likely the Golden Knights. But to give you an idea of how I feel about the Oil, they were my pick for Stanley Cup Champions at the beginning of this season.
The Case For Jack Eichel
Given that he was on a struggling Sabres team for six years, Eichel has never even played a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After joining the VGK last season, injuries and inconsistency caused them to miss the playoffs for the first time in team history.
Still, in the Golden Knight’s six years of existence, they have seven playoff series wins, which is more than a lot of teams can account for in recent history.
In his first full season, not only with the Golden Knights but with any team, as he is coming off his neck surgery, Eichel looks great. He has 13 points in 12 games and is on pace for 88 points this season as the Golden Knights’ top center.
Last season might have been an enigma for the Golden Knights, who are built to contend for a Stanley Cup. Eichel may be the missing piece the team needs to get them over the hump as the first modern expansion team to win a Stanley Cup.
The Golden Knight’s Shot at the Stanley Cup
Off to a record 10-2 start, the Golden Knights currently sit atop the NHL standings alongside the Boston Bruins. Last year was a strange season with injuries, and now with a healthy Eichel, Mark Stone, Reilly Smith, Alec Martinez, as well as Bruce Cassidy behind the bench, they appear to be back as contenders.
The comparison to the Oilers is almost flipped as the Golden Knights have one of the strongest defensive corps in the league and weaker offensive depth as opposed to the Oilers.
I have two big concerns with the Golden Knights. The first is goaltending. With Robin Lehner out for the season, Logan Thompson, Adin Hill, and in the near future, Laurent Brossoit are now the team’s goalies. All three are unproven as starters in the NHL but have been great early on under Cassidy’s systems.
The biggest concern for me is scoring depth. Max Pacioretty, Evgenii Dadonov, and Mattias Janmark all left in the offseason, and all the cap-strapped Golden Knights did to replace them was bring in Phil Kessel.
With Chandler Stephenson on the first line and the Misfits reunited, the Golden Knight’s top-six is currently top-heavy, and I would expect them to try and fix this at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline
With the run they went on last season, I think the Oilers are closer than a lot of people think. But based on playoff success and the season they are off to, I wouldn’t count the Golden Knights out, either.
I would love to have this question answered in a Western Conference Final, but for this season, I am going with my gut and picking McDavid and the Oilers to win the cup first.
The key word there is first. I think it is very likely that we see both players win a Cup in their careers.
Who wins a Stanley Cup first
— Owen Krepps (@OKrepps85) November 4, 2022