3 Players in the Hot Seat Entering 2023-24 Season
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3 Players in the Hot Seat Entering 2023-24 Season

The Edmonton Oilers are, without a doubt, going to make a push for the Stanley Cup in the 2023-24 season. With that being said, this means they will run a tight ship and do whatever it takes to go all the way and win their first championship since 1990. That could mean short leashes with some players who didn’t meet expectations last season. While a second-round exit isn’t the worst finish and isn’t the end of the world, the team will be going all-in and may have to make some tough decisions around the trade deadline. 

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The Oilers made some solid moves during the off-season. They added Connor Brown, Lane Pederson, Ben Gleason, Drake Caggiula, and Noel Hoefenmayer, which will bring more strength to the top-six forward group and organizational depth. These additions also bring internal competition, making it even tougher if any depth players begin to struggle. The team also recently made the professional tryout (PTO) contracts to Sam Gagner and Brandon Sutter official, making it an even tighter ship. With that being said, here are three Oilers who are in the “hot seat” entering the 2023-24 season and need to perform, or else they risk losing their spot with the team. 

Evander Kane

Evander Kane was brought into the Oilers’ organization with hopes that he would add massive offensive production in the top six, and right away he made an impact. He helped lead the team to the third round of the 2022 Playoffs where the team was eliminated by the Colorado Avalanche, but he played a big role. He re-signed with the Oilers on a four-year contract that began in the 2022-23 season, and he was expected to continue to bring leadership on and off the ice. Unfortunately, an injury that took him out early on kept him out for half the season and he wasn’t able to provide as much as the team expected, but when he came back, fans began to lose their patience. 

Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kane scored 16 goals and added 12 assists for 28 points through the 41 games he played in the 2022-23 season. In the playoffs, he scored two goals and added three assists for five points through 12 games. While these numbers are strong and he was on pace to hit 56 points in a full 82-game season, he was expected to play a bigger role come playoff time. While I personally think he did, plenty of fans were giving him the gears on social media, but the main reason he’s on this list is because of his really high expectations going into the 2023-24 season. 

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The 2023-24 season will be Kane’s first full season on his new contract. He will play the full season in the top six, and likely on the top line alongside Connor McDavid. While he’s played really well with the Oilers up until this point, any decline in offensive production may lead to him being a player the organization considers looking to trade. The team is tight to the cap as it is, and Kane’s $5 million-plus cap hit could become expendable to free up money if he steps back at all. I predict a big season from Kane, but if he doesn’t put up good numbers offensively, he could find himself on the block. 

Vincent Desharnais

Vincent Desharnais is coming off his first season in the NHL with the Oilers. The 27-year-old defenseman had a long path to get to the NHL level. After spending multiple seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL) he was finally given an opportunity. Standing at 6-foot-6, 216 pounds, Desharnais was immediately loved by Oilers fans solely due to his size. He came in right away and fit on the bottom pairing and as a seventh defenseman when the Oilers opted to run 11 forwards and seven defensemen during games.

Vincent Desharnais Edmonton Oilers
Vincent Desharnais, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Through 36 games with the Oilers last season, Desharnais put up five assists. He played decent during the regular season, but near the end of the season and into the playoffs, his defensive game took a massive dive. He didn’t play well in his own end and while he’s still new to the NHL, he won’t keep his spot with the Oilers for very long if he starts the season out the way he finished it. I don’t think the Oilers would consider trading him, but sending him back down to the Condors would be the best course of action.

Dylan Holloway

Dylan Holloway is entering his second season of NHL hockey, and is pencilled into the opening night roster. Last season, Holloway scored three goals and added six assists for nine points through his first 51 games. His injuries had slowed his development up until last season, and he’ll be looking to prove himself if he can stay healthy as an offensive producer that plays well at both ends of the ice. He’ll be a player fans watch closely, as he hasn’t been able to breakout just yet, but will be given more responsibility and a better opportunity next season rather than being placed on the fourth line.

Dylan Holloway Bakersfield Condors
Dylan Holloway, Bakersfield Condors (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Holloway is an incredibly skilled forward that deserves an opportunity at the NHL level, and in the Oilers’ top six. He will be in the hot seat if he’s unable to prove himself, though, and will find himself on the outside looking in. I hope he’s able to find his confidence at the NHL level and make an impact this upcoming season, and begin to show signs of the offensive powerhouse he was back at the NCAA level.

These three players all have the incredible skill to play at the NHL level and make a difference for the Oilers. Just like anyone, everyone has to earn their spot on the roster heading into any new season and nothing is guaranteed. Hopefully, everybody can prove themselves and make an impact with the Oilers this season.

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