The Edmonton Oilers have seen a lot of change over the past few years. From 2018–19 through to this season, a total of 82 different players have donned the Oilers jersey as the team has has fought its way into the playoff conversation and Stanley Cup contention. In fact, in every single year since the 2018–19 season, the Oilers have improved their playoff finish in every season:
- 2018–19: Did not qualify
- 2019–20: Lost in Qualifying Round
- 2020–21: Lost in First Round
- 2021–22: Lost in Conference Final
- 2022–23: To be determined
The steady improvement culminating with a trip to the Western Conference Final was largely in part due to the gargantuan efforts from Connor McDavid to put on playoff performances unlike any other in the modern era. When looking at the Oilers’ path the playoffs in each passing year, things have changed in terms of the team’s scoring depth too.
Aside from the team being perennially led by McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in points every year, the players coming in third and onwards have seen some changes. This is a big issue for the Oilers as they’re often looked at as a two-man, sometimes even a one-man team.
With all the change that has actually happen to the roster over the years, how much has their scoring depth changed?
Edmonton Oilers Point Share Shells
To take a look at team scoring depth, I’ll use a visualisation I’ve made called NHL Point Share Shells. They simply plot goals and assists by every player in a circular bar plot. Each radial bar represents one player’s points. As you go clockwise from 12 o’clock onwards, you’ll see how the Oiler’s have gotten points compared to their top scorers. The larger the bars as you progress, the more points depth players are scoring. Goals are shown in orange and assists are shown in blue.
The reason to plot it as a circular barplot is simple: It allows for a very quick comparison of team scoring depth.
Scoring depth for most NHL teams often fades out after the top-six forwards and top-two defenders or so. Of course there’s variance in this with every season and every team, but in general it makes the plot effective as the top right quadrant is usually representative of a team’s best scorers. This lead to the shell-like shape that the charts are named for.
To look at the depth in each season, I’ve rescaled the largest bar in each year to be the same length in terms of total points, in which the scoring depth is then easily compared between seasons. The more the bars fill out in a season, the more scoring depth the team has.
So without further ado, here are the Oilers’ Point Share Shells over the past five years. 2022–23 goes up to the All-Star break, i.e. 50 games played for Edmonton. Data is from Hockey-Reference.com. Be sure to check out how the entire NHL is scoring so far this season here too!
Also for reference, here’s the point total for Oilers’ leading scorer and their point total in each season:
|McDavid, 116||Draisaitl, 110||McDavid, 105||McDavid, 123||McDavid, 92|
Observations on the Oilers’ team scoring
For fans of the Oilers, these charts can lead to clear memories on which player is which in every season, so please feel free to find your own observations! However, I wanted to highlight some bigger observations and trends over the years that I noticed from the charts.
The third leading scorer
First of all, the notion that the Oilers are a two-man team has largely held true, at least on the scoresheet. For the five seasons included in the visualisation, Edmonton’s top two scorers are always McDavid and Draisaitl. Having a one-two punch as offensively good as Edmonton’s is something 31 other teams in the league wish they had.
However, the difference between those two and the other players on the team is pretty stark.
In 2018–19, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the third leading scorer on the team. While McDavid and Draisaitl both eclipsed the 100-point mark, Nugent-Hopkins was distantly behind with 69 points. The following year—which was shortened by the pandemic—only saw Draisaitl surpassing 100 points as McDavid was just three points shy. RNH was again, a distant third with 61 points.
However, in the 56-game season in the North Division, the team’s third leading scorer changed and was instead defenceman Tyson Barrie. Draisaitl posted 84 points and Barrie, like Nugent-Hopkins in the years prior, was far back with 48. It was a down year for Nugent-Hopkins as he had just 35 points despite playing 52 games, which was even behind Darnell Nurse‘s 36 points.
In 2021–22, this was the biggest difference the Oilers saw between their top two and everyone else. Another full season saw McDavid and Draisaitl both pass the 100-point mark, and third on the team was Zach Hyman with 54 points. Draisaitl’s 110 points legitimately more than doubled the Oilers’ third place scorer.
However, by the time the All-Star break rolled around this season, things looked mightily different for the Oilers. Both Hyman and Nugent-Hopkins reached the 60-point mark to only be 16 points behind Draisaitl. With scoring in the NHL up this season, the Oilers have been one of the teams to capitalise on this more often than not.
The Oilers’ depth is tested
With most of the years, you can see how quickly Edmonton’s depth tapers off. By the time the plot reaches the 3 o’clock position, most of the players’ individual bars have vastly shrunk compared to the top scorer’s. However, 2021–22 was the exception to this trend as the Oilers got decent depth scoring.
Beyond the top four scorers already mentioned, the Oilers had three additional 40-point scorers in Evan Bouchard, Kailer Yamamoto, and Barrie. Evander Kane was one point shy, both Jesse Puljujarvi and Nurse were mere points away as well. The Oilers got points on the scoresheet in spades and last year was arguably one of their better years in terms of balancing out McDavid’s dominance with depth scoring as well.
However this season sees a huge dropoff. While it’s good that the top four forwards are scoring aplenty, the depth scoring disappears pretty much right after. Barrie’s 34 points puts him fifth on the team, Nurse’s 25 puts him sixth, and all other Oilers are under the 20-point mark.
Of course, we’re only looking at 50 games played, but a reminder that the charts are scaled to account for games played, and show that the Oilers just aren’t getting the same spread in scoring that they enjoyed last year.
McDavid’s bid for the Rocket Richard
This season, the league’s leading scorer at the All-Star break was McDavid. His 41 goals outpaces David Pastrnak‘s 38 for second place. This would mark the first time in the past five years that McDavid has had such a lead. McDavid more often gets points via assists—and that’s also true this season—but this season in particular sees the most balanced ratio in goals versus assists for the captain so far.
You can see this on the chart as well as all other seasons see way more assists in dark blue compared to goals in orange for McDavid. This season, a whopping 44.6% of McDavid’s points have been goals. Only time will tell if he’ll hold onto his lead as he is still in search of his first career Maurice Richard Trophy.
One last note on McDavid. Based on his play this season, I would say that his 92 points is actually low. His teammates aren’t scoring off of his feeds as much and it’s a big reason why his assists per game is only 1.02. He could easily be well above the 100-point mark by now if his shot assists were more successful.
Testing the team
The Oilers have been fortunate as of late to open the 2023 calendar year. Going 7–1–2 in their last ten with a lengthy win streak in there, the team clawed their way into the first wild card position and that’s where they sat at the All-Star break. They have games in hand to catch both the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights ahead of them, and have a favourable schedule in their remaining 32 games.
To secure their playoff positioning, they’d like to see more players contribute to the scoresheet and get their depth players going too. The success of the Oilers’ top players has been coupled with several disappointing campaigns from others. There’s still time to turn things around for the team as a whole so that the goal scoring can be spread out. It’d be a good test for the Oilers as they’ll need more players to step up if they want to improve upon their results last year.