Edmonton Oilers

Are the Edmonton Oilers lacking in forward depth?

Depth has commonly been described as the Oilers’ Achilles heel, nor has it been more apparent than when Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continually score at such a high rate. The perception of the past Oilers playoff further influences minimal bottom scoring or the impression of lack thereof. In series where the caliber of defensive hockey steps up, and star players become the focus of shutdown defensive players (i.e. Devon Toews on McDavid in 2021–22), attention was drawn to lacking contributions from the forward depth.

The pre-Kane injury lines (minimum 20 minutes played together)

The following table outlines how the bottom two lines performed before the horrific injury occurred to Evander Kane. Although the sample size is minimal, the performance over the first 15 games illustrates some intriguing insights. However, due to the status of Jay Woodcroft’s tendencies to blend lines, only two combinations qualify at the above 20-minute benchmark.

LinesMinXG%XGFXGAXGF/60XGA/60XG/60 Diff
Lines=Line Combinations Minimum 20 Minutes played together, Min=Minutes Played Together, XG%=Expected Goals Percentage, XGF=Expected Goals For, XGA=Expected Goals Against, XGF/60= Expected Goals For per 60 Minutes, XGA/ 60= Expected Goals Against per 60, XG/60 Diff=Expected Goals For per 60 Minutes,-Expected Goals Against per 60 Minutes,

The lines performed vastly differently throughout the first 15 games. First, the Oilers’ third line has posted extremely high-quality underlying metrics. The combination of Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod, and Jesse Puljujarvi showcased the ability to dominate the opposition when playing together. The lines’ 62.5 XG% highlights the players’ skill at out-chancing the opposition not only in shot amount but also the shot quality. They posted above the elite benchmark of 55 XG% implying this line was dominant in terms of expected goals relative to the opposition. Secondly, the measurement confirms the difference between XGF/60 and XGA/60, as the line combination outpaced opponents at almost a goal every 60 minutes. However, injuries are an unfortunate aspect of sports, leading to Puljujarvi moving farther up in the lineup and new line combinations being set in place by Jay Woodcroft.

The fourth line, consisting of Dylan Holloway, Devin Shore, and Derek Ryan, did not fare as well. Unfortunately, this set of linemates posted measurables that were the worst among all Oiler lines. In contrast, the aforementioned third line had the best mark per XG%, and the Oilers’ fourth line rated 252nd out of 280 qualified lines. This line is expected to score less than a third of the goals to put this metric into a measurable perspective. The XG/60 difference statistic further complements the subpar play; as per 60 minutes, this player composition was worth almost 2.5 goals against, implying the value of the linemates was worth practically a -1.5. This is worse than when they were on the ice, based on their shot quality and quality of shots against.

Individual stats based on a minimum of 40 minutes played

The RegularsMinGAPHGF/60XGFXGF/60XG%C%
Devin Shore1190112000.70.3737.8%47%
Warren Foegele191213320.633.71.1650.9%49%
Dylan Holloway1030222701.20.6942.1%43%
Jesse Puljujarvi220123390.272.40.6550.2%51%
Derek Ryan161213100.741.60.6136.7%43%
Ryan McLeod24732590.732.60.6547.6%49%
Mattias Janmark37011100.30.4340.1%42%
Klim Kostin18000700.72.154.3%51%
Min=Minutes Played Together, G=Goals, A=Assists, P=Points, H=Hits, XG%=Expected Goals Percentage, XGF=Expected Goals For, XGF/60= Expected Goals For per 60 Minutes, GF/60= Actual Goals per 60 Minutes, C%=Corsi Percentage

The regulars

Assessing individual play within the bottom six further exemplifies how well the depth has performed. To be classified as a regular, the player must have played at least 40 minutes, which leaves Matthias Janmark and Klim Kostin being discussed later.

Reviewing the regulars, Warren Foegele is one player to highlight, as his underlying statistics and on-ice performance reflect a player rising to the challenge. This positive of bouncing back from a tough season is outlined by being impactful on the ice. He is second among hits only behind Puljujarvi among the regulars and is working into the top six stepping up in Kane’s absence. This is confirmed by having the highest XGF among the bottom six forwards. In fact, Foegele should have double the goals he currently has posted by the XG metric.

Additionally, Foegele has been worth almost double or triple (Ahem, Devin Shore) the contributing value in terms of XGF/60. Unfortunately for Foegele, he is slightly underperforming in terms of Corsi, indicating he is currently posting slightly below the league norm and is not controlling the possession shot metric. However, this is a quantity, not a quality shot statistic.

Puljujarvi is another player to draw attention to, though he is technically not within the bottom six anymore. Rather, Puljujarvi’s ability to exhibit a positive Corsi, the only player among the bottom six regulars, and an above 50 XG% indicate the reasoning behind why Puljujarvi is now playing alongside Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

The centreman between these two analytically strong wingers, Ryan McLeod, has not performed as admirably as his counterparts. Although McLeod has the second highest XGF among the regulars, he is posting below average XG% and Corsi, implying that he is being out-chanced in terms of quality and quantity by the opposition. This is an interesting situation to monitor in the future as both of his current supporting wingers posting positive metrics have been bumped farther up within the lineup, leaving him to adapt to new linemates who may not perform as steadily or as consistently.

As for the fourth line, the analytics do not support any of them individually. Neither Dylan Holloway, Derek Ryan, nor Devin Shore have performed positively by Corsi measure. All three rank among the bottom four of all Oilers with Ryan and Holloway being the worst suggesting that Ryan has regressed since last year. Ryan has a 3% worse mark than the 2021–22 season and Holloway may still be a year away from creating a more significant impact at the NHL level. Comparing goal share control among the fourth line, Holloway has the best measure compared to his counterparts, although these three players are the least effective among all Oiler players.

The call-ups

Kostin and Janmark are classified as call-ups as they have not played the minimum amount, and therefore their results must be taken with reservation. In only 18 minutes, Kostin has been impactful when on the ice. Although he has not registered any points, Kostin has seven hits and an XGF of 0.7, a measure equal to that of Derek Ryan, who has played nine times more. Additional positive trends favouring the argument for continuing to play Kostin include positive Corsi and XG% measures, alongside posting encouraging offensive metrics equivalent to that of McLeod and Puljujarvi, i.e., XGF/60 of 2.1.

Janmark has not performed as promising, albeit in only 37 minutes of work. In the short period, he has posted metrics below the 50% threshold for both Corsi and XG%, indicating that he is not controlling shot quality or quantity when on the ice. Janmark has posted one assist, a secondary assist, and has only exhibited an XGF/60, better than Devin Shore’s.

Measuring performance to date

Reviewing the stats of the short season to date, it is clear the fourth line requires improvements. That will depend on the continued play of Holloway and his linemates, though Holloway is slightly outplaying his counterparts. However not to the degree one would hope for a first-round pick, but again, the season and his career are both still young. With Kane’s absence and the required line shuffling needed of Puljujarvi and Foegele moving up in the lineup, the season will continuously test the depth. Luckily, an early-season trade has yielded an individual who has performed admirably; though the sample size is minimal, the returns have been encouraging after only two games. Hopefully, off-season acquisition Mattias Janmark can also reclaim the effective form that earned him his current contract, and the results positively regress to the norm.

All stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com and MoneyPuck.com

Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire

Darnell Holt

Hello, my name is Darnell Holt. I am currently an employee in the finance sector, focusing on agriculture. My background includes holding two degrees from the University of Saskatchewan, a Master of Science in Agriculture Economics and a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Business. However, I am a small-town Alberta boy with a love for analytics and a massive fandom for anything sports, especially for my home province Edmonton Oilers.

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