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Oilers’ early-season accolades are mounting, but focus is on that silver trophy

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EDMONTON — Connor McDavid is the best player in the world. And he’s not even leading his own team in scoring.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins isn’t sure if he’s streaking or slumping — he hasn’t scored a goal yet, but he’s leading the entire National Hockey League with 13 assists.

The power play has been the NHL’s best for two years running and is killing it again this season at 46.4 per cent through nine games. That unit matched a franchise record by scoring a power-play goal in its ninth-straight game to start the season Wednesday, something this organization has seen twice before, in ’79-’80 and ’86-’87.

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You do know who was staffing that power play back in 1986, right? Gretzky, Kurri, Messier, Anderson, Coffey…..

Hall of Famers, all.

Meanwhile, we all quietly thought that Leon Draisaitl’s Hart Trophy interlude two seasons ago was just an interruption of the McDavid hardware train. “C’mon,” you said. “How is that ever going to happen again?”

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Well, Draisaitl may just be the second-best player in the game today, as lethal from his spot on the Oilers’ power play as Alex Ovechkin is from his in Washington.

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And unselfish?

Draisaitl had two goals late in the game against Nashville when he broke in on a two-on-one with Jesse Puljujarvi. An open net awaiting, Draisaitl passed away the hat trick puck, settling for the final assist in a tidy 5-2 win over Nashville.

“I’m more than fine giving the puck to someone else to score,” he said. “I love watching other guys score — love scoring myself too — but I just thought he had a better angle.”

No he didn’t. But Puljujarvi, McDavid’s usual right-winger, hadn’t scored in six games.

“I just thought he was in a better spot than me,” insisted Draisaitl.

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After Wednesday night, Draisaitl (9-11-20) is the first player to have 20 points in the first nine games of a season since Mario Lemieux back in 2002. Like, who is matching Lemieux records, in 2021?

“The confidence is there right now. I don’t know what else to say,” began Draisaitl, who we can attest likes nothing less than to be sitting on a podium speaking to his own fine play.

So he cut to the chase, finally.

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Us writers are here to chronicle every one of these marks, longing for some of those records set by the dynasty Oilers, or Lemieux’s untouchable marks, to fall.

Draisaitl, McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins… They’re averting their eyes when it comes to the early-season accolades.

It’s the big, silver guy at the end of the road they are focused on, and that won’t be contested for months down the road.

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“We’re all here to win,” said Draisaitl, a Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner. “Individual stats, individual awards, I’ve been there and I’ve done that. I’m very proud of it, but that’s not why I’m here. That’s not why Connor’s here. That isn’t why anyone is here.

“This start is great for me, for us as a group. But we’re just looking to help the team win, do the little things right, continue to get better. And win.”

As a team the Oilers are now 8-1 after dispatching of the pesky Predators, perched atop the Western Conference, trailing only the two unbeaten clubs — Carolina and Florida — in the league standings.

Good? It’s not going good in Edmonton right now.

It’s going GREAT, as the Oilers’ 8-1 mark matches the 1985-86 team for a franchise record.

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It’s all very confusing to the longest-serving Oiler, Nugent-Hopkins, who has never enjoyed anything even resembling this kind of success — or been part of a lineup close to this deep — since the Hockey Gods damned him to a decade of futility here back at that 2011 draft.

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Today he’s feasting on apples, yet is goal-starved. Simultaneously streaking and slumping, full and empty all at the same time.

“It’s one of those things, where I have been on streaks, or slumps, like this in my career,” he said, unsure of which he was currently enjoying/enduring. “You just stick with it and you know it will come eventually. I might need one to bounce off of me and go in, but the main thing is that we are winning right now and it is a lot of fun when we are doing that.

“I know it will come… or I think it will come, I am getting less confident in that. You just stick with it and try to make the right play in the situation. When we are winning and people are putting the puck in the net, it doesn’t bother me.”

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The Oilers are 15-5 in their past 20 home games, while McDavid has a point in every game this season. He is working on a 17-game scoring streak, going back to last season (12-28-40).

You want depth?

With Devin Shore’s goal — he moved up to replace Derek Ryan as the third-line centre — Edmonton’s third line has a goal in seven of the team’s nine games this season.

It’s going good here, folks. Real good.

If only the playoffs weren’t so far away.

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