Expectations are going to be high for the Edmonton Oilers as the club attempts to meet and hopefully exceed the results from last season. Make no mistake, winning a round, and hopefully two, is the only way to really justify this management group’s roster construction and asset management this off-season. To be one of the top end teams in the league is going to require consistently outscoring opponents, and having a 50 goal scorer or two is going to help – especially when the rest of the roster has had issues producing in the past without one of the top end stars on the ice.
When it comes to Leon Draisaitl, there’s a fairly good chance he’ll continue producing at the rate he’s been at over the last few seasons. He’s clearly in his prime, has done well staying healthy and has put up 304 all-situation points in 207 games over the last three seasons. That’s second only behind Connor McDavid (325 points) and 50 points ahead of third place Jonathan Huberdeau (254 points). Feels like 100 points is a reasonable target for the 24-year old, and there’s a good chance he’ll surpass that.
But what about actual goals? Is it safe to assume he can reach the 50-goal mark next season? Can we can expect him to surpass that again? Could he even hit 60 and help the Oilers reach the 300 goal mark like five other teams did last season? It’s a lofty goal for the German forward as it’s been accompllished only three times in recent memory: Auston Mathews in 2021/22 (60 goals), Steven Stamkos in 2011/12 (60 goals) and Alexander Ovechkin in 2007/08 (65 goals).
For this exercise, I’m keeping things relatively simple. I’m going to project how many games Draisaitl will play in 2022/23, and then using his average rate of shots on goal per game at even-strength and the powerplay as well as his shooting percentages over the last three seasons, determine how many goals he’ll likely score next season. From there we can figure out what he and the Oilers can do to improve his odds of scoring 60 goals.
First, a summary of the number of goals Draisaitl has scored each season that he’s been in the league, with a breakdown of goals by the various game-states: even-strength, powerplay and penalty kill.
So what’s a reasonable target for Draisaitl next season?
Let’s start with even-strength where Draisaitl has scored 72 goals from 410 shots over the last three seasons, posting a 17.56% shooting percentage – one of the best in the league.
If he plays in 97% of the games this upcoming season (which is the proportion of games he’s played in since his first full season in the league), so about 80 games, and generates 1.95 shots per game, which is what he’s averaged over the last few seasons – he should get about 155 shots on goal at even-strength. And if he posts the same shooting percentage he’s had over the last three seasons (17.56%), he should score about 27 even-strength goals. Now if he can match his career high shooting percentage of 20.53% which he did in the 2018/19 season, he could potentially score 31 – slightly better than what he posted last season.
On special teams, I think we can reasonably expect about 22 powerplay goals from Draisaitl next season. Table below is a summary of his powerplay history.
Based on the rate of shots he’s posted on the powerplay over the last three seasons (1.17 shots per game), he’ll likely get about 93 shots on goal. And if he converts on 23.50% percent of those shots, which has been his shooting percentage over the last three seasons, he’ll get about 22 goals. If he somehow matches the 25.81% powerplay shooting percentage that he posted in the 2019/20 season, he could get to 24 goals matching his powerplay total from last season. And since he’s scored a short-handed goal in each of the last two seasons, and actually scored three times in 2018/19, I think we can expect a shorthanded goal next year as well. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he got two on the penalty kill as his rate of shorthanded shots doubled last season, going from 0.07 per game to 0.15.
So taking a conservative approach and using his rate of shots and his individual shooting percentage from the last three seasons at even-strength and on special teams, we can expect Draisaitl to score about 50 goals in the 2022/23 regular season (27 on even-strength, 22 on the powerplay and one shorthanded). This of course is assuming Draisaitl remains healthy, he continues to play with good players at even-strength. And the Oilers powerplay continues to have the same talent and tactical approach as it’s had the last few seasons with Glen Gulutzan running things.
Now to get anywhere near 60 goals, a few things will need to go right.
First Draisaitl will need to match his career best shooting percentages at even-strength (20.53% in 2018/19) and the powerplay (25.81% in 2018/19). Doing that and generating the same rate of shots per game from the last three seasons (1.95 shots per game at even-strength and 1.17 shots per game on the powerplay) and he could potentially reach 57 goals (31 on even-strength, 24 on the powerplay and 2 shorthanded).
To get more than 57 goals, he’ll need to not only match his career high shooting percentages (as listed above), but also match his career highs in terms of shots per game at even-strength and the powerplay. If he can generate 2.14 shots per game at even-strength, which is what he posted in 2019/20, putting up 170 shots, and convert on 20.53% of those shots like he did in 2018/19, he could get to 35 even-strength goals. And if he can generate 1.41 shots per game on the powerplay like he did in 2020/21, put up 112 shots, and convert on 25.81% of those shots like he did in 2019/20, he could get to 29 powerplay goals. Add another shorthanded one, and he could get to 65.
Considering how well Draisaitl has played the last few seasons, how much time he gets to play with McDavid and how the rate of goal-scoring has increased across the league, it really isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Data: Natural Stat Trick
Also posted at The Copper & Blue.