The Oilers are currently projected to finish 6.2 points back of Dallas for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. They have the 4th highest projected point total in the pacific division, but the Flames, Sharks, and Golden Knights have really separated themselves form the pack. The most realistic shot that the Oilers seem to have at a playoff is through the wildcard, where Dallas is currently projected to take the final playoff spot, per my model.
Scoring race update
I’m finally starting to get a little worried that Connor McDavid may not successfully three-peat as NHL scoring champion. Around the start of the season, I hypothesized that Connor McDavid likely had no worse than a 50/50 shot at winning the scoring title, barring significant time missed due to injury.
McDavid’s actual production is actually living up to my lofty pre-season expectations, but, due to some unbelievable production from other players around the league, I no longer project him to be the league’s end-of-season scoring champion.
Below is a list of a few notable players, having big years, and the number of points they are projected for, based on their seasonal individual xG rates, multiplied by their actual goals to xG ratio since the start of the 2016-17 season. For assists, projections are based on a player’s actual primary assist rate for this this season, with estimated secondary assists based on that player’s primary to secondary assist ratio from the past two and a half seasons. This method is used as an attempt to eliminate some of the noise that comes with shooting percentages and secondary assist rates in smaller samples.
Based on these projections, McDavid is on pace to finish third in NHL scoring, with 122 points, three back of Mikko Rantanen (125), and twelve back of Nikita Kucherov (134), who is on pace for the highest point total by an NHL player since the 1995-96 season, and seems to be doing it in a somewhat sustainable way, not relying on unsustainable shooting percentages or secondary assists.
Of course, looking at percentages is not the only way to analyze regression. Sometimes a player’s scoring rate may look sustainable, but he might just be playing at a level he can’t sustain for a full season.
Below is a list of the same notable players, but using only their scoring rates for the past two and a half seasons as the basis for their scoring rate for the remainder of this season.
This method of projection knocks Rantanen down a bit, although it should be noted that, based on his age and experience, I’d be more inclined to use the first method to attempt to project his production for the remainder of the season.
What may be surprising here, is that this method still projects Kucherov tho finish above McDavid in scoring. He’s been very good for a while now, and his current 8-point lead in the scoring race may end up being too much to overcome.
Finally, below is the average of the two projection methods that I described above.
Again, we see Kucherov projected as the Art Ross winner, with McDavid as the runner up. But, I think the big takeaway here is that there are seven players projected to finish with more than 100 points. Sure, scoring is up, but I think it’s also fair to say that the 2018-19 season is shaping up to be a very memorable season due to some unbelievable individual performances. McDavid is the best player in the world, on pace for his best offensive output by a fair margin, and yet he hasn’t separated himself from the other elite players in the field, and likely won’t. That says a lot about how good some of the other top players in the game are right now.
Not to take away from the other great seasons in the league, but if McDavid does end up with around 120 points, as he should, it may end up as one of the most impressive seasons ever, for reasons outside of the simple number of points scored.
Below is a list of those same aforementioned players, but featuring the percentage of their team’s goals on which they’ve either scored the goal, or recorded a point.
McDavid has factored in on 54 % of the Oilers’ goals, which is significantly higher than any other player on the list. Rantanen and MacKinnon, as well as teammate Leon Draisaitl are the next closest players on the list. Unsurprisingly all are on notoriously shallow offensive teams. And while it wouldn’t be fair to expect Kucherov to put up a similar percentage, on a team that actually scores goals when he’s on the bench, this just goes to show how unbelievably valuable McDavid, and Draisaitl (to a lesser extent) are to this otherwise putrid organization.
In fact, perhaps the most surprising takeaway from all of this, may be that McDavid has scored a higher percentage of his team’s goals than even NHL goals leader Alex Ovechkin has. Like Gretzky, McDavid is still thought of as more of a playmaker than goal scorer, even though he’s one of the best goal scorers in the world.
Upcoming Oilers Win % Probabilities
Monday, 1/14: Buffalo Sabres (48%) @ Edmonton Oilers (52%); Total goals - 5.6
Wednesday, 1/16: Edmonton Oilers (46%) @ Vancouver Canucks (54%); Total goals - 5.7
Saturday, 1/19 : Calgary Flames (59%) @ Edmonton Oilers (41%); Total goals - 6.0
Sunday, 1/20: Carolina Hurricanes (55%) @ Edmonton Oilers (45%); Total goals - 5.8
Tuesday, 1/22: Detroit Red Wings (40%) @ Edmonton Oilers (60%); Totals goals - 5.8