Leon Draisaitl hits 100 points again thanks to his powerplay production

Scoring another two goals on Tuesday night against Ottawa, 27-year old Leon Draisaitl reached the 100 point mark for the fourth time in his career. He currently ranks third in the league this season with 44 goals and seventh overall with 56 assists.

Draisaitl now has 716 points in 624 career NHL games – and has established himself as one of the top-end forwards in the league. His productivity in the regular season and playoffs has him in some very elite company, and he’s a big reason why the Oilers are one of the highest scoring teams this season.

The biggest driver for his success is his productivity on the powerplay, where he currently leads the league with 27 goals and ranks tenth with 23 assists. The 50 powerplay points he’s accumulated makes up 50% of his total points, an increase from the 38% proportion he’s posted over the last three seasons. He’s having an incredible year on the powerplay, which remains one the best in the league and a significant competitive advantage. Worth noting is that while Draisaitl continues to produce well at even-strength (5v5), his scoring rate is actually down this season compared to previous seasons, currently sitting at 2.16 points per hour.

Digging into the powerplay numbers a little more, Draisaitl’s scoring rate (11.31 points per hour) has been one of the best in the league and actually one of the highest rates over the last several seasons. Only a handful of players have surpassed the 10.00 points per hour mark in a year, with the average among regular powerplay forwards being around 4.4 points per hour (based on forwards who have played at least 150 minutes over the last three seasons). Draisaitl himself has posted a rate of 8.61 points per hour on the powerplay over the last three seasons, making his current rate of scoring about 31% higher where we’d expect him to be.

There’s been a few reasons for his powerplay success this season, which has helped him reach the 100-point mark.

First, he’s been shooting at a rate almost 12% higher than where he’s been at over the last three seasons, currently sitting at 19.23 shots per hour on the powerplay. Based on some of the shots we’ve seen him take on the powerplay, it’s clear he’s got a lot of confidence in his abilities, a by-product of his experience in the league and being on a unit that has now spent a lot of time together.

Second, Draisaitl is converting a significantly higher proportion of his powerplay shots into goals, currently sitting at a 31.76% individual shooting percentage. In the last three season, Draisaitl posted a 23.50% shooting percentage on the powerplay, so we’re talking about a 35% increase.

Considering the elite talent on the Oilers powerplay and the chemistry they’ve established over the years, it’s safe to assume Draisaitl will continue to get plenty of chances and help the club generate offence. But it’s hard to know how well he’ll convert on his chances and maintain a 31% individual shooting percentage. In the last three seasons, only three forwards among 206 powerplay regulars have posted an individual shooting percentage over 30%. Draisaitl has been 14th among this group with a 23.50% shooting percentage, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Either way, the Oilers have an elite powerplay producer. And if his regular linemates can stay healthy and if he can maintain first-line level production at even-strength, Draisaitl should be able to chase 100 points again next season.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.


Couple thoughts on Ryan McLeod, who is getting some attention for the mistake he made in Toronto on Saturday that led to a goal against.

McLeod has been solid for the Edmonton Oilers this season as a centerman. He’s 23, averaging about 14 minutes per game, in a predominantly third-line role. And he’s got nine goals and nine assists at even-strength (5v5) – a rate of 1.76 points per hour, which is just under what second liners should be posting. He’s also been a regular on the penalty kill, getting the third highest total minutes. With him on the ice when shorthanded, the Oilers see their rate of shots against drop by about 15% relative to the team average.

Back to even-strength. McLeod’s been a big reason why the Oilers are doing well without McDavid on the ice – a major spot of bother for the club since McDavid’s arrival. With McLeod on the ice, the Oilers have posted a Corsi For percentage of 53.35% and an Expected Goal share of 55.09% – both of which are higher than the team average. The table below lists the on-ice numbers for the Oilers forwards (sorted by ice-time) with a basic heat map applied to show how each player has done relative to their teammates this season.

Again, it should be noted that McLeod barely spends any time with McDavid. Below is a table of the Oilers forwards sorted by their proportion of ice time spent with McDavid, along with their on-ice Corsi For percentage and Expected Goals share without McDavid. McLeod has only spent 3.3% of his total ice time with the captain – one of the lowest proportions on the team. And he’s been just fine (unlike some of the other forwards), posting shot-shares above 53% – again some of the best numbers on the team.

And while it’s true that McLeod doesn’t play against the other team’s top players as often as others, when he does get deployed against them he’s done pretty well. This season McLeod has spent about 20.6% of his time against Elite competition, according to PuckIQ. And in that time, he’s posted a Corsi For% of 47.90%, which ranks 6th among the Oilers regular forwards this season. And against Elites, he’s also posted a Dangerous Fenwick share (i.e., a weighted shot metric using shot distance location and type of shot to give each shot a “danger” value) of 53.20%, which ranks second on the team only behind McDavid. There’s a reason why he was even on the ice against Marner on Saturday night.

If there’s still any doubt about McLeod’s abilities or hesitation of deploying him regularly in meaningful moments, look no further than his performance in last season’s playoffs. With him on the ice at even-strength, the Oilers posted some of the best shot-shares – including a 53.60% Corsi For percentage (third highest on the team) and a 54.57% Expected Goals share (fifth highest). When the Oilers got crushed by the Avalanche in the western conference finals, McLeod was one of two players who had a positive shot-differential and broke even in terms of goals. My personal favorite stats for McLeod were from the second round series against Calgary. In that series, McLeod played about 14 minutes head-to-head against the Tkachuk line and went 20-10 in shot attempts, 9-7 in shots and 1-0 in goals. That’s the kind of productivity a team needs from their depth players to win games.

McLeod has been solid for the Oilers this season and has provided exceptional value based on the contract he’s currently on. His on-ice performance numbers and productivity is all you can ask for from a young centerman playing third-line minutes and the penalty kill. And there’s no doubt he’ll continue to grow if he’s in the right environment for development. He’ll make mistakes like any other player, but his importance to the team and the long-term goals cannot be overlooked.

Regular season, even-strength, penalty kill, playoffs. This is the kind of depth player that’s going to increase your chances of winning games.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

Eyes on the prize

The Oilers are currently sitting fourth in the Pacific division, having secured 80 points in 66 games – a points percentage of 0.606 that ranks in sixth in the western conference. They’re currently the highest scoring team in the league, average 3.82 goals per game – driven largely by their powerplay scoring which ranks first in the league and their even-strength (5v5) scoring rate which ranks sixth. And it was their inability to prevent shots, scoring chances and goals early on in the season (about the first 19 games as we’ll get to in a minute) that’s prevented them from being higher up in the standings. Over the full season, they’ve allowed the 12th highest rate of goals against, ranking 22nd at even-strength and 27th on the powerplay.

Now when we look at the team’s progression over the season, we see that the Oilers have greatly improved at even-strength – and actually turned things around much earlier in the season than I think most people realize. Their performance metrics, which includes shots and scoring chances, all steadily increased after an embarrassing loss on November 21st in New Jersey. The Devils dominated the Oilers that night, posting a 60% share of the shots and scoring chances and scored four even-strength goals. After this loss, the Oilers sat 18th in the league in terms of points percentage, having allowed the sixth highest rate of shots against at even-strength in the league, the third highest rate of scoring chances and the seventh highest rate of goals against. It was looking dire.

But since that loss on November 21st, the Oilers have arguably been one of the best even-strength teams in the league, with the results to prove it. Their goal differential of +17 in this time range ranks second in the western conference, and it’s been supported by strong shot-share numbers – indicating that the results have been real and sustainable. Their 54% Corsi For percentage, a proxy for puck possession, is second in their conference and third in the league. And their expected goal-share, which factors in shot quality and serves as a proxy for scoring chances, is second highest in the league only behind Carolina. Below is a summary of their results since late November (the last 47 games), including their ranking in the league and the western conference.

What’s played a major role in the Oilers turnaround this season is the team’s depth players who have managed to outshoot and outscore opponents without their top stars on the ice. Up until that loss in New Jersey earlier in the season, it was looking like the Oilers were going to have the same issue as almost every other year – where the team would generate goals with McDavid on the ice, but give everything back when he wasn’t on the ice. The team was posting Corsi For and Expected Goals For percentages below 45% without McDavid on the ice, and posted a -9 goal differential early on in the season. McDavid himself wasn’t breaking even, which sank the Oilers team goal-share to one of the worst levels in the league. But since that loss in New Jersey, it’s been a different story with the Oilers posting shot-share numbers above 53% and a goal differential of +15 without McDavid on the ice. That’s a massive lift for the team and should be an area of strength heading into the playoffs when depth scoring becomes critical for success.

The one concern for the Oilers remains goaltending, which has ranked 23rd in the league in this time period. And we know it’s been Jack Campbell who has struggled the most. Among 57 goalies who have played at least 500 minutes, Stuart Skinner ranks 16th with a 0.921 save percentage and a +3.87 GSAA. Campbell on the other hand ranks 51st in this group with an 0.895 save percentage and 49th with a -8.85 goals saved above average (GSAA).

Put another way – had Campbell provided league average goaltending in the 22 games he played since November 21st, the team would have allowed eight fewer goals. That would have had them at a 56% goal-share, and likely higher up in the standings with an additional win or two. Again, this was in a time period of the season where the skaters (with and without McDavid) did a masterful job controlling the flow of play, allowing the ninth lowest rate of shots against in the league, and the fourth lowest rate of expected goals against. If the Oilers can even get league average goaltending the rest of the way, they should remain competitive in the western conference.

Heading into this final stretch of the season, it’s fair to expect the Oilers to finish strongly, especially when you consider how well the team has performed at even-strength since November, the addition of Mattias Ekholm to the defence core, the general health of the roster and the career season some of the top forwards are having. Combine that with strong performance and results from the depth players and good goaltending from Skinner, I think it’s fair to label the Oilers as a legitimate contender heading towards the playoffs.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

The SuperFan Podcast – Episode 51 – Talking Oilers recent success, trade deadline and goaltending with Jeff Chapman (@NewWaveOil)

Joined by Jeff Chapman (@NewWaveOil) from The Copper & Blue on the show to talk about the Oilers recent success, their activity at the trade deadline and how the new additions can potentially help the team. We talked about the goaltending issues and potential solutions. And we discussed which teams in the western conference have the best odds of making a deep run in the post-season.

Full segment below:

Related links:

Podcast channels:

Music: Anitek. “Show me.” Anitek Instrumentals Vol. 4, 2010. Jame

CBC Radio Active: Oilers trade deadline activities

I joined Jessica Ng on CBC Radio Active to talk Oilers and the deals they made at the NHL trade deadline. Full segment is here: CBC Radio Active (2023, March 3).

Topics we covered:

  • The acquisition of Mattias Ekholm and Nick Bjugstad, and the key elements that they’ll bring to the roster.
  • Ken Holland’s overall approach with the trade deadline.
  • Fan reaction to the trade deadline and the overall outlook of the Oilers heading towards the playoffs.

Thanks as always to the team at CBC for putting it all together.

Tracking the Western conference – As of February 28, 2023

The Edmonton Oilers are in a good spot right now in the western conference, holding on to the first wild card spot and only a few points outside of first in the Pacific division. They have the best overall goal differential in their division (+31), which ranks eighth highest in the league.

Below is a summary of the western conference, sorted by each team’s points percentage. Included in the table is each team’s even-strength performance numbers (i.e., shot-share metrics that measure how well a team controls the flow of play and the total chances) as well as each team’s goal-share and goal-differential. I’ve also included each team’s shooting percentage and save percentage to get a sense of what might be driving their overall results. And I’ve applied a simple heat map to each metric to show how each club compares to the rest of the conference.

It’s been the last 25 games of the season that the Oilers have really separated themselves from the rest of the western conference. In this stretch, which is from December 31, 2022 onwards, the Oilers rank top five in the league when it comes to generating shots and scoring chances at even-strength, and top five when it comes to preventing shots and scoring chances. This is even before acquiring Mattias Ekholm, who is only going to further improve things and be a massive boost for a playoff run.

The western conference is going to be wide open, and it appears the Oilers (at least for now) should be the front-runner for a deep playoff run if they can continue dominating at even-strength.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Across the NHL, powerplays are powering up

Goal scoring is up this season. And powerplays appear to be a major factor. A look into the key drivers, the growing importance of powerplays, and how this could impact the Edmonton Oilers.

When I was digging into the Oilers special teams numbers recently, I found that there’s been a real increase in the rate of powerplay scoring across the league. Goal-scoring overall (all-situations) has been increasing over the last few seasons thanks to an influx of talent in the league, with more and more players becoming point-a-game producers. And powerplays appear to be one of the driving factors.

First we have to keep in mind that powerplay opportunities this season are up slightly. In the last six regular seasons (2017/18 to 2021/22), teams on average received about 2.84 powerplay opportunities per game. This season, it’s up to 3.15. (Source: Hockey Reference).

So far in the 2022/23 season, teams on average are scoring at a rate of 7.84 goals per hour on the powerplay, which would translate to about 55 goals over a full 82-game season. This rate of goal-scoring is an increase of 10.2% compared to the goal-scoring over the previous six seasons (7.12) when teams would score around 49 powerplay goals on average (over an 82-game season). The upward trend appears to have started in 2021/22 – the first real 82-game season following two pandemic-shortened seasons that had limited games, limited fans and limited gate revenue.

What’s interesting is that it’s not necessarily just the finishing ability that’s driven the powerplay success. Shooters as a collective are getting better, currently converting 13.9% of their powerplay shots into goals this season, an increase from the 13.4% players had posted on average over the previous six seasons (an increase of 4.2%).

But the bigger factor in the growth of powerplay scoring has been the increased rate of unblocked shot attempts (i.e., Fenwick, a proxy for scoring chances) and shots on goal – things that are driven not only by the talent on the ice but the tactics implemented by the coaching staff.

This season, teams are averaging 78.66 unblocked shot attempts per hour on the powerplay, an increase of 7.0% compared to the previous six seasons. And the rate of actual shots on goal is up by 5.9%, sitting at 56.26 per hour so far this season (refer to Appendix A for a summary table). Again, the upward trend in generating chances and shots appears to have started last season – and I think we can expect it to continue to climb because of the talent in the league, and with teams recognizing the importance of powerplay scoring.

This season, 1,179 powerplay goals have been scored in the league, which is 21.8% of the total goals scored (i.e., all-situations). This is a 7.8% increase over the previous six seasons when powerplay goals made up 20.3% of the total goals. So that’s about 85 more powerplay goals than expected. Should note, the proportion of even-strength (5v5) goals is actually down compared to previous seasons – sitting around 64.9% of total goals this season compared to 66.9% over the last six seasons (refer to Appendix B for a summary table).

From an Oilers perspective, I think the key takeaway here is that the competitive edge that their powerplay currently provides is eventually going to be reduced as more and more teams get better on their powerplays. I think teams, and especially owners, want to be more competitive not only to win games, but to also re-coup their financial losses caused by the pandemic and other factors. And to do that, it’d probably be in their best interest to use the growing talent pool to push for more goals – especially on the powerplay – and more wins in the standings.

In response to the increased offence generated by powerplays, which will likely continue increasing, it may be in the Oilers best interest to find new solutions for the penalty kill. As I wrote about recently, the Oilers penalty kill started off very poorly this season but has improved as they’ve adjusted their deployment, reduced the rate of shots and chances against and received better goaltending. But it might be time to bring in more expertise at the coaching level and player level to ensure that the penalty kill doesn’t cost the team any more wins, like it did earlier this season.

Put another way, the Oilers penalty kill has to become one of their competitive edges if they want to have success.

Data: Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference

Also posted at The Copper & Blue.

Appendix A: League-wide powerplay averages by season

Appendix B: Goals scored by season, across different game-states


The last time I looked at the Oilers penalty kill, it was twenty-five games into the season, and the situation was pretty dire. They  were having all sorts of issues defensively, allowing some of the highest rates of shots and scoring chances against, resulting in the fourth highest rate of goals against in the league. What was especially troubling was that the penalty kill was basically giving back all of the goals that the Oilers powerplay had generated. Despite having the best powerplay in the league, the special teams as a whole gave the team nothing.

  • Related: Dispirit – The SuperFan (2022, December 4)

Since that point, and after I published my article (!), things appear to have turned around for the Oilers penalty kill.

When it comes to the team’s penalty kill performance, the Oilers have gradually improved at limiting unblocked shot attempts (a proxy for scoring chances) and shots on goal. In the first twenty-five games, they were allowing the ninth highest rate of unblocked shot attempts (82.98) and the sixth highest rate of shots against (61.69). In the most recent twenty five game stretch, they’ve seen their rate of unblocked shot attempts drop by 15.5% to 70.13 (tenth lowest in the league) and their rate of shots against drop by 17.6% to 50.81.

This improved performance has translated into better results, as the Oilers have allowed a significantly lower rate of goals against. In the first twenty five games of the season the Oilers allowed 26 cumulative goals (3 GF. 29 GA) – a rate of 12.60 goals against per hour, which was fourth highest in the league. In the most recent stretch of twenty five games, the Oilers have allowed 10 cumulative goals (5 GF, 15 GA) – a rate of 6.30 goals against, which ranks 13th in the league. They’ve basically cut their goals against in half.

The other factor to consider is the team’s goaltending on the penalty kill, which has also improved. After the first 25 games, the Oilers team save percentage ranked 29th in the league with 78.90%. Among 42 goalies who had played at least 45 minutes on the penalty kill, Campbell ranked 39th with a 78.90% save percentage and a -4.73 goals saved above average. Skinner wasn’t faring much better at the time, as he ranked 36th in the same pool of goalies with a 80.30% save percentage and 37th when it came to goals saved above average with -3.21.

Thankfully both netminders have improved over the course of the season, especially Campbell. Over the last twenty five games, the team save percentage has ranked 15th in the league, with 87.60%. Campbell’s save percentage of 89.50% ranks 13th among 42 goalies who have played at least 45 minutes on the penalty kill. Skinner’s numbers, while still modest, are an improvement as well and rank closer to league average levels.

The coaching staff clearly made the penalty kill a priority and made tactical adjustments, which has helped drive their overall results and kept them competitive in a tight playoff race. At the twenty-five game mark this season, the Oilers special teams had a net goal differential of -1. Since then the powerplay has continued to excel, and so to has the penalty kill, which has helped the special teams differential improve to +17. That’s worth about three wins in the standings, or six points. Had the penalty kill performance and results stayed the same as it did earlier in the season, the Oilers would likely be outside of a playoff spot.

It’ll be interesting to see how this could impact the Oilers approach at the upcoming trade deadline. There’s been plenty of speculation about management targeting defencemen, especially those that can help the Oilers in their own zone and potentially on the penalty kill. Names like Joel Edmundson and Vladislav Gavrikov were floated, among others, when the Oilers were struggling. And now that the team has gradually improved, we’re hearing the names of more offensive-style defencemen like Erik Karlsson landing in Edmonton. Could go either way at the trade deadline with this management group.

One other observation. The Oilers penalty kill percentage, the way the NHL tracks penalty kill success, currently ranks 19th in the league. But when you look at the rate of goals against per hour on the penalty kill, which factors in how much time it takes to score against the penalty kill (which is in my opinion the better metric to evaluate a penalty kill’s success), the Oilers rank 26th. I think what that tells us is that while the Oilers are okay at killing penalties, when they do allow a goal, it happens early on in their penalty kill. Which is when the first penalty kill unit is on the ice. Might be worth looking into how the first unit compares with the second unit, and how they compare league-wide.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

Appendix: Ice time and on-ice numbers for the Oiler forwards

The SuperFan Podcast – Episode 50 – Talking Oilers and prospects with Bruce Curlock (@bcurlock)

Joined by Bruce Curlock (@bcurlock) from OilersNation on the show to talk about the Oilers success heading into the All-star break, the key drivers and how the Oilers have performed differently. Bruce shared his thoughts on the youngsters on the team and in Bakersfield, the key prospects in the system and how he’d like the Oilers to approach the NHL trade deadline.

Full segment below:

Related links:

Podcast channels:

Music: Anitek. “Show me.” Anitek Instrumentals Vol. 4, 2010. Jamendo.com

Tracking the Western conference – As of January 31, 2023

Since the Oilers are going to be in a competitive playoff race following the all-star break, I’m switching over from a monthly division review to a western conference review. The Oilers are currently sitting in fourth place in the Pacific with 60 points, trailing Seattle, Vegas and Los Angeles. And they’re holding on to the first wild card spot in the west, three points ahead of Colorado. The Oilers have made significant progress recently, which has helped them get out of the hole they had themselves in earlier in the season.

Below is a summary of the western conference, sorted by each team’s points percentage. Included in the table is each team’s even-strength performance numbers (i.e., shot-share metrics that measure how well a team controls the flow of play and the total chances) as well as each team’s goal-share and goal-differential. I’ve also included each team’s shooting percentage and save percentage to get a sense of what might be driving their overall results. And I’ve applied a simple heat map to each metric to show how each club compares to the rest of the conference.

The Oilers currently have the third best points percentage in their division and sixth highest in the conference. Based on how well they’ve been performing since mid/late November, they should be able to maintain their position and compete for a top-three finish in their division. They’ve had a fairly healthy roster, and their goaltending has been steady – both are going to be factors over the last thirty-two games of the season.

From an Edmonton perspective, there’s a few teams to keep an eye on.

Calgary, whose points percentage ranks ninth in the west and fifth in the Pacific, continues to perform well at even-strength, controlling the flow of play, out-shooting and out-chancing opponents. But because of some pretty shoddy goaltending, which ranks 27th in the league, and a forward group that has struggled to score, they’re tied in points with Colorado for the second wild card spot in the west.  The other issue, as we’ll see below, is their powerplay which ranks 25th in the league in terms of goals per hour.

Los Angeles is the other interesting club. They’re performing well at even-strength, but appear to have the same issues they’ve had in the past, which is converting their chances into actual goals. Their goaltending has been poor as well, which has to be frustrating considering the Kings (similar to Calgary) are one of the best teams in the league at suppressing shots and scoring chances.

The rest of the western conference isn’t very impressive. Dallas is the one club that looks legit. Colorado is getting healthy again up front, so their shooting percentage and overall results should gradually improve. Vegas is dealing with injury issues now and are having trouble outscoring opponents. Winnipeg is going to be relying on it’s goaltending to have any success. Seattle is doing well, but they can be brought down by the own goaltending and special teams. Even Minnesota who was having success earlier in the year has come back down to earth, and is having trouble scoring goals. Will be interesting to see if any of these clubs can separate themselves from the rest of the group, similar to what some of the top end teams in the east have already done.

With the western conference feeling so wide open, and the success the Oilers have had in their last month or so, I think the club should have some confidence in their ability to move up in the standings and have some success in the playoffs. The trade deadline and the gossip around the Oilers will give us an indication of what management’s confidence level is like.

For additional context, I’ve also put together a quick summary of each team’s powerplay and penalty kill numbers. Sorted by each team’s points percentage again, I’ve included the rate of unblocked shot attempts (i.e., Fenwick for, FF/60) on the powerplay as well as the actual rate of goals per hour (GF/60). And the rate of unblocked shot attempts and goals against on the penalty kill. Again, I’ve applied a simple heat map to each metric to see how each club compares in the conference.

Lastly, below is how each team has performed at 5v5 over their last twenty five games heading into the all-star break. We know Edmonton has done well in terms of shot-share numbers, but so has Dallas, Colorado, Calgary and San Jose. Vegas looks like they’re slipping, and while teams like St. Louis are fading out of the playoff race quickly.

Data: Natural Stat Trick