During every playoff run, there are players who come out of nowhere to become playoff heroes. They come up big for their teams and outperform their expectations. With Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid having an amazing regular season, Oilers fans have high expectations for the team heading into the qualifying round. Still, teams need contributions from all over the lineup to seriously contend for the Stanley Cup. The Oilers are no exception. But heading into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Edmonton Oilers have a few players that could surprise.
Edmonton Oilers Players That Could Surprise
Assuming that the Oilers get past the qualifying round, here is a look at three players that could surprise during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Ethan Bear has been one of the biggest surprises on the Oilers’ defense this year.
An early surprise to make the team out of camp, Bear has exceeded expectations on many fronts. Not only has he established himself as a full-time NHL player, but he has also been a key contributor to the Oilers’ blue line.
Bear is averaging almost 22 minutes a night and playing against the other team’s top-two lines on a nightly basis. The 23-year-old had five goals and 21 points in 71 games during the regular season.
What Bear Could Bring
For those unaware, Bear is a right-shot defender with strong puck-moving skills and great offensive instinct. His poise with the puck and strong skating ability gives him the opportunity to safely transport the puck out of the zone often.
Bear has also been a key factor in helping the Oilers break out of their own zone smoothly with excellent breakout passes. The 23-year-old is not the biggest at 5’11” but is a sound position player with a good stick, making him hard to beat one on one.
Another underrated thing about his game is playmaking ability. Bear has great offensive instincts, and the skills to match. Giving the Oilers a threat from the blue line in the offensive zone.
Bear has also shown that he is capable of quarterbacking a power play. So if the Oilers choose to give him a bigger role on the PP, he could really be a breakout player and surprise some people.
If the Oilers go deep into the playoffs and want a shot at winning close games, they can’t depend on McDavid and Draisaitl every night. And Bear could be one of those players that give the Oilers the extra offense from the blueline to win some close games.
Kailer Yamamoto is another Oilers that could surprise some people during the 2020 playoffs.
Despite spending the early parts of the season in the minors, the 21-year-old has made a positive impact for the Oilers in the second half of the season.
Since getting called up in late 2019, Yamamoto has given the Oilers’ offense a new dimension. Slotted in a top-six role, he has found success alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl.
He was producing at close to a point-per-game rate, scoring 11 goals and 26 points in 27 games.
How Yamamoto Contributes
Despite being undersized 5’8” and a little over 150 pounds, Yamamoto makes up for it in many other ways. For one, he is relentless on the puck, which generates turnovers for extra possessions in the offensive zone.
At the same time, he is also a decent playmaker and a talented finisher. This makes him a perfect complementary player playing alongside players like Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins.
With Yamamoto in the lineup, he is not only a decent secondary scoring option, but he also pushes the pace with his uptempo game.
As other teams already have their hands full trying to stop the likes of McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins, opportunities should be there for Yamamoto. Making him a potential player to surprise for the Oilers in the playoffs.
Andreas Athanasiou was a major trade deadline pickup for the Oilers this season. Upon his arrival, he hasn’t made a huge impact on the team yet, only managing to score one goal and two points in nine games.
But we can’t look past the fact that Athanasiou can score at the NHL level. Most notably scoring 30 goals in 2018-19 for the Detroit Red Wings.
Keep an Eye on Athanasiou
Skillwise there is a lot to like about the 25-year-old. He has size at 6’2”, 188 lbs. On top of that, his speed is a major asset, as he is arguably one of the fastest skaters in the NHL today.
As of now, the Oilers have a pretty potent offense led by McDavid and Draisaitl. So in many ways, Athanasiou falls under the radar a bit.
Based on the current roster, he should see plenty of opportunities on the Oiler’s top-nine, and even extended time beside McDavid. So it might not be a surprise to see him get his opportunities to produce early and often.
Athanasiou also has some playoff experience, appearing in five games for the Red Wings back in 2016. So experience shouldn’t be a problem heading into the qualifiers.
If he is able to turn things around and find his scoring touch he could be a problem for other teams. He is a big, skilled, and fast and good finishing ability.
If Athanasiou can figure things out he could be this year’s version of those players with a little more speed.