Evander Kane is the type of player teams love to have on their team and hate to play against. I, for one, can admit that although he has a checkered past, I was glad when the Edmonton Oilers signed him to the four-year, $20M deal, as he continues to make strides in the community and on the ice, justifying the Oilers desire to bring him on the team.
His swagger is difficult to measure, but his impactful play makes opposing teams feel upset they did not sign him when they had the opportunity. For example, in this year’s Heritage Classic, known agitator Nazem Kadri was escalating the level of the game’s roughness when Kane decided to make Kadri and Calgary understand, asking the Flames bench, “What are you going to do about it?” after leveling Nikita Zadorov. A statement that puts all teams on notice that Kane is not afraid to mix it up but can also back up the talk.
Conventional measurements (EDM rank)
|16||7 (2)||8 (5)||15 (3)||59 (1)||51 (3)||13.7% (4)||4 (13)||24 (1)|
Kane’s scoring touch backs up the trademark personality swagger and toughness. In terms of production, Kane ranks highly among the Oilers. In various categories, Kane places:
- Second on the team with seven goals
- Fifth on Edmonton with eight assists
- Third on the team with 15 points
- Third on the team with 51 shots
- and fourth on the team with a 13.7% shooting percentage
Within each category, Kane ranks above most Oilers, sitting only behind Zach Hyman for goals, Leon Draisaitl and Evan Bouchard for points, and the same two for shots on net. Kane ranks first in even strength points among Edmonton players.
One of Kane’s largest impacts on the game is what few forwards with his talent can rarely do. His physicality is top in Edmonton and ranks third in the NHL. As for penalty minutes, he leads Edmonton but is only 25th league-wide.
Underlying metrics (EDM rank)
|5.1 (1)||1.28 (3)||53.4% (18)||45.5% (9)||55.1% (13)||49.6% (19)||60.0% (8)||0.972 (9)|
Although Kane’s game passes the eye test, it lacks a few categories in the underlying metrics argument. Offensively, Kane is having a strong year, as indicated by his production. But, this is further corroborated by Kane leading Edmonton in individual expected goals for (iXGF), but because he plays more minutes than Warren Foegele and Hyman, he sits third on Edmonton, which is still ahead of Draisaitl and Connor McDavid.
Where Kane’s play begins to lack is the defensive consideration when calculating the underlying metrics. His actual on-ice defence stat (G%) indicates that he allows more goals against when he is on the ice than his line scores, at roughly a 5:4 ratio. Kane shows signs of improvement in the shot quality ratio, being 3% better at generating quality opportunities than chances against, but ranks 18th among Edmonton forwards, ahead of only the Oilers’ fourth-line members.
The above-average XGF% metric is supported by Kane’s elevated HDCF, which indicates that Kane generates three high-danger chances for every two against, ranking 8th on Edmonton. Although a 3:2 ratio is strong, this indicates the Oilers, as only one player on the team, retain a negative differential of HDCF%, Raphael Lavoie.
Even though Kane generates more high-danger chances for than high-danger opportunities against, his overall total scoring chances metrics are slightly negative. This provides an idea that although Kane does retain an overall number of high-danger chances for than against, it is explained by how he positions himself in the offensive zone, generally parking himself in front of the net and driving towards the crease for rebounds.
Although Kane’s on-ice metrics do not support that he does not control the overall shot quality, he does control puck possession (C%) at even strength to quite a high standard, over 5% of the benchmark average. From this, an argument can be made that Kane’s ability to retain puck possession and shot volume on the ice allows the team to generate greater offensive capacity via high-danger chances. Thus limiting opposition high-danger chances as opposing teams do not have the time or space to try for chances from the trapezoid, but instead from low-danger areas.
Causes from the pressure and the ability to retain strong puck possession can be attributed to Kane’s physical impact. The size and speed of Kane’s forecheck create mismatches in the offensive zone as Kane’s ability to hit and dislodge the puck from the defender allows Edmonton the ability to obtain possession, followed by Kane’s size to shield defenders from retaking the puck due to his balance and strength.
Kane producing for the team
Overall, Kane has been an effective, if not a complete, player for Edmonton and can almost be argued a bargain at his current salary. Yes, he did have a down year last season, but how much of that lost production can be attributed to his gruesome wrist injury is a very viable question.
Kane is proving that this can be classified as a comeback year and that he is still a very talented power forward who leans on his physical play to get himself involved and motivated within games. When he is at his physical pinnacle, he is an uber-talented, unstoppable player capable of elevating the play around him, like against Vegas and Los Angeles in previous playoff rounds. Not only does he help bring energy, but he also provides a level of protection for linemates like McDavid, Draisaitl, and company.
Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire