Edmonton Oilers

Expectations for Evander Kane’s return to the Edmonton Oilers lineup

It’s been a case of out of sight, out of mind as it concerns Evander Kane. After his gruesome wrist injury, no one across Oil Country were expecting to see him on the ice anytime soon. It certainly hasn’t helped that the Oilers have had a litany of other concerns keeping up with a playoff pace, including several injuries within the forward group throughout the first half of the season.

Now, heading into mid January and with the second half of the regular season underway, Kane is skating and shooting, ahead of the timeline given for his return. In fact, it may not be five games before one of the Oilers top wingers returns to action.

Falling in line with the other ~$5M cap hit among the forward group, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman, Kane was supposed to be a key producer for the Oilers. Heading into the season, our Twitter poll for the Oilers third best forward came out with Kane by a wide margin.

Kane’s effect on the lineup

As long as parallels are being drawn from this season to last, with the Oilers sitting at a record more similar to last January than any would have hoped, we should be reminded of the boost Kane provided when he first joined the Oilers. In the world of the hard salary cap parity is rampant and adding a player of quality can make a huge difference. It will be this season, like last, that the Oilers will hope that Kane can come into the lineup and transform from the upper middle class, talented but top heavy, to legitimately elite.

With a forward group that can compete for tops in the league the rest of the Oilers team makeup becomes more feasible. The talented offensive blueline can be capitalised on to a greater extent, the middling defensive effectiveness, an thus the burden on the goalies is lightened. Naturally, other forwards get pushed further down the lineup as well, with several wingers having played above their depth of late.

At his best, there is little doubt of the impact that Kane can make on the ice. Even when joining the Oilers in the middle of last season, he was doing so after missing much of the first half of the season with the San Jose Sharks. Jumping onto a moving train, so to speak, it is notable that Kane was able to be effective regardless.

Kane coming in cold is a bit different this time around, coming off a deep cut that limited feeling in his fingers. Some injuries are more common, or the procedures more controlled, allowing for a clearer prognosis. Kane’s injury was anything but procedural, and there’s almost no telling how the slightest change in angle might have completely changed how severe the injury was.

Comparing Kane’s injury to a similar one

At least on a surface level, there is a recent case of a similar wrist injury in the NHL, with Ilya Mikheyev suffering such an injury in the 2019–20 season. Though the injury may not be exactly the same, and Kane is a better player than Mikheyev, there are enough similarities between the players and their circumstances that analysing Mikheyev’s return from injury might inform us as to how Kane’s performance might be affected.

For Mikheyev, the wrist injury occurred during his rookie NHL season. A big winger with great speed, Mikheyev possessed a scoring touch as well, beating goalies routinely in the KHL, including some five-hole shots, the mark of a sniper. Below are Mikheyev’s career stats, starting with his rookie season, in which he was injured, all the way up to this season, his first with the Vancouver Canucks.

GP=games played, G=goals, A=assists, Pts=points, S=shots, S%=shooting percentage, TSA=total shots attempted, TOI=time on ice, ATOI=average time on ice

Mikheyev was snakebitten enough that a trade was requested by his agent to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The entire trajectory of his career might well have been in question, with Mikheyev looking more likely to be a fringe NHLer, or even a return to the KHL, before regaining his form in 2021–22, ultimately earning a large contract in unrestricted free agency.

All this being said, Kane and Mikheyev are not exactly the same player, despite some similarities, with Kane being more of a physical presence and Mikheyev having more value as a penalty killer. Even if Kane’s scoring efficiency is impacted to a similar degree that Mikheyev’s was, Kane will still bring other contributions that will help the Oilers.

Extrapolations of Kane’s numbers based on Mikheyev’s

Mikheyev’s shooting percentage dipped 4.8% from his career average. In his 43 regular season games with the Oilers last season, Kane managed a 14.5% shooting percentage. Though his career shooting percentage is 9.9%, his mark of 11.5% in three years with the Sharks might be a more accurate representation of the expectations that should be held.

With the same number of shots and a shooting percentage 4.8% lower than his recent average of 11.5%, Kane would have scored 10.18 goals with the Oilers last season, much lower than the 22 that he did score. Supposing that the talents of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl would give a boost to Kane’s shooting percentage, taking the -4.8% hit off his 14.5% he shot with the Oilers last season, he would be in line for 14.74 goals. With five goals already on the season, Kane might well reach the 20-goal mark, even with the same negative effects that Mikheyev experienced. Even with this conservative projecting, Kane scoring 10-15 more goals on the season still represents a top six forward.

Kane could exceed these expectations

Naturally, this comparison will only go so far, but it is fair to afford Kane some leeway upon his return. Mikheyev did have the added time of a full offseason upon his return, something that Kane will not have until this summer. Kane is a far more experienced NHLer, which might aid him in his quest to return to form. Time will tell how it all shakes out, but even with some patience afforded to him, Oilers fans should be expecting Kane to make a big difference to the roster.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

Gregory Babinski

twitter: @axiomsofice


  1. ALTHOUGH both were wrist injuries…Kane’s is and was much more serious. Not a good comparison at all. Guess you needed to put an article together.

    1. Hi thanks for the comment.

      Perhaps you are mistaking which injury I am referring to, Mikheyev did suffer a hand injury at the beginning of this season, which of course was not as serious as Kane’s recent wrist laceration. However, in 19/20 Mikheyev’s wrist was cut by an opponent’s skate. Without having a medical degree or access to the specific documentation of those injuries it is hard to say that they are not similar, or which would be worse than the other. Perhaps it would have been illustrative to post videos of each, but due to their graphic natures I figured it was best left for readers to go looking on their own if they felt inclined to do so.

      Our bodies all heal at their own pace, and it would be quite unlikely for both of their injuries to be exactly the same. Kane will likely be back from his injury much faster than Mikheyev was, as his wrist injury kept him out of the lineup from late December 2019 until the 2020 August playoff bubble, fwiw. Mikheyev played the most icetime (just over 15 minutes per game) of all the Leafs forwards who failed to register a point in that series.

      Regardless, both are severe, and thankfully rare, injuries, though surely more of their ilk have occurred in the past. The Islanders Casey Cizikas had his wrist cut by a skate in 2016, but returned to the game that night, so it would be fair to say that Cizikas’ injury was not as severe as Kane’s or Mikheyev’s.

      There have been other skate related injuries as well. For example, Erik Karlsson had his ankle cut by a skate, with many suggesting he has never fully recovered his effectiveness (although perhaps this season refutes that). Naturally, wrists and ankles, despite their similarities and symmetries, are quite different, especially when applied beyond the realm of health and science, into the artistic chaos of hockey.

      Ankles/feet usually take longer to heal than most parts of the body, and might hold more overall importance to one’s ability to play effectively. Regardless Karlsson’s injury is different enough that I did not find it to reference it in the article.

      Potentially life threatening lacerations have occurred in the NHL, Richard Zednik and Clint Marlachuck come to mind. I do not recommend that anyone look at those videos. Lives have been lost, or close to it, to such injuries outside of the NHL, which I don’t think are appropriate to comment on specifically in this context.

      “Aesthetic” skate injuries have occurred as well. Both Taylor Hall and Milan Lucic escaped potentially dangerous incidents without severe damage while members of the Oilers. Famously, Borje Salming had an incident quite similar to Hall’s full face stitch job.

      After Karlsson’s injury, more and more players started to wear cut resistant equipment, Kevlar socks. Each time such an injury occurs, especially to high profile players, discussions are brought up in this forum. There are wrist protectors on the market, and it might not be bold to think that a whole body suit with cut resistant fabric might become more standard, if not for more specific protections to areas that are exposed, like the neck, wrists, and ankles.

      We must not forget that hockey is a dangerous game, but also that we can keep striving to make it safer and ultimately better. We all enjoy the thrills of intense competition on the ice, but no one wants to see such injuries occur.

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