3 Things the 2023 Oilers vs. Kings Series Has That 2022 Didn’t


The Edmonton Oilers are set to take on the Los Angeles Kings for the second playoff year in a row. Edmonton squeaked by the Kings in seven games last season and a more potent offense versus a more stingy defense will be the matchup this time around, with the Oilers the better offensive team and the favorites. That said, this series is going to be anything but a cakewalk for Edmonton.

Last season’s series was entertaining, but it took a toll on the Oilers. They were in a similar position when the Kings gave them a run for their money and not everyone walked away unscathed. This season, the Kings are much improved and were above the Oilers in the standings for most of the year. The Oilers are better now too and, frankly, neither team likes the other all that much.

Having said all of that, there are new wrinkles added to this year’s series that are worth paying attention to.

A Steady Mattias Ekholm On a Steady Blue Line

Since the NHL Trade Deadline, Edmonton has been much better defensively. Much of that can be attributed to the addition of Mattias Ekholm, but whether it’s directly or by association with his arrival, the team has just been much more stable overall. The Oilers didn’t have a solid and steady defensive structure last season when these two teams met. It was a matter of trying to outscore the Kings, which didn’t always work.

Mattias Ekholm Evan Bouchard Edmonton Oilers
Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

This year, the Oilers will still use their deadly offense as a weapon, but the fact that they have a sound defense and have been perfecting how to play their structure over the last 15 games means they can beat the Kings at their own game. They did so effectively the last two times these teams met. The Oilers’ ability to play more than one style changes the dynamics of this series in a major way.

Drew Doughty Is Back

Of the many new faces on this Kings roster, the one that might make the biggest difference in the series is a face that has already been with the organization: Drew Doughty. Sure, the Kings now have Joonas Korpisalo, Vladislav Gavrikov, Sean Walker, Viktor Arvidsson, and Zach McEwan on this roster and they didn’t last season, but Doughty missed the playoffs in 2022 and that was a huge loss for the Kings.

Related: Kings Need Vilardi and Fiala Healthy for Playoffs

Doughty is the club’s best defenseman and he’s the kind of player who can change a series, put a player on tilt, or go off on his own and make big plays that win a team a game. He’s physical, he’ll eat a ton of minutes, and he’ll sass-talk you the entire time he does it. Don’t discount how much having him back matters to Los Angeles.

A Healthy Leon Draisaitl

Leon Draisaitl played through last season’s playoffs with a vicious high ankle sprain suffered in a playoff game against these very same Kings. His right leg got twisted up when he was hauled to the ice by Mikey Anderson and the fact Draistail was able to finish the postseason and produce the way he did with that injury was downright incredible. While most players in the NHL are rarely fully healthy, Draisaitl is ready to go and not nursing any issues.

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The Oilers have three 100-point scorers on this team, Draisaitl being one of them. He’s likely looking forward to making a statement and that means bad news for the Kings.

The Kevin Fiala Factor

The Kings’ biggest off-season addition, Kevin Fiala, hasn’t played since April 1st. He was injured initially on March 9th, returned for a few games again until the start of April, and has since been out. It’s not entirely clear when Fiala will be back in this series, but every game he misses is a big deal for the Kings. He produced 72 points in 69 games and was the team’s best offensive weapon.

When the Kings beat the Oilers earlier this season, (November and January) Fiala produced two goals and two assists in the two Kings’ victories. In the two games he wasn’t playing, and where Edmonton won, the Kings only scored one goal as a team. If he’s not available for any of this series, that’s a big advantage for the Oilers. If he returns in time to start the series or right in the first couple of games, he could be a difference-maker.

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