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Forecasting James Neal’s 2019-20

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Neal had a forgettable 2018-19 in Calgary. What can the Oilers expect this year?

Washington Capitals v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Five Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

Let’s review something really fast.

If nothing else happens between now and the start of training camp, this move was quite the glow up on an otherwise ho-hum offseason. James Neal might see a resurgence, he might fizzle quietly into the night with a buyout. Either way, that’s a deal and a half for Ken Holland. Let’s talk a bit about the bounty, and what we can expect in 2019-20.

A REASON TO BE OPTIMISTIC

Now that the trade is over, we can say that Ken Holland is hoping that James Neal turns into the 20 goal scorer that the Oilers need on the wing. The Oilers are really hoping that 2018-19 was a big fat outlier, a year that Neal put together a lousy 19 points (7-12-19) in a 63 game season with Calgary. I’m not wild about those types of numbers (especially in the top six), but there’s reason to believe that it might not be so bad this year.

10/11

James Neal has scored 20 or more goals ten times in eleven seasons. That’s good! The one season where he didn’t? It was last year with Calgary, where he put forth a dismal 7. That’s not a great number, but I’ve got a good feeling saying that the 2018-19 James Neal was Outlier James Neal. James Neal was teamed up most with Mark Jankowski (14-18-32 in 79 GP) and Sam Bennett (13-14-27 in 71 GP), neither of whom exactly ripped it up out there.

SHOOT IT UP

What could probably be the best (and most simple) argument for James Neal having a big season could be something as silly as shooting percentage. Prior to last year, Neal had never had a shooting percentage below 10% in a season. Neal finished 2018-19 with at 5%, which is some snakebite stuff. It’s easy to think that he’ll regress somewhere back to his career mean (11.6%, or an addition of about 9 goals if we were to use last year’s ugly 7)

OPPORTUNITY

The Oilers’ top six wing situation is some Old Mother Hubbard stuff. Prior to Neal showing up, you had some combination of Zack Kassian (who is better served as a bottom six option), Alex Chiasson (who had 22 goals on a mondo heater in 2018-19) Jujhar Khaira (bottom six), and Markus Granlund, Josh Archibald and Thomas Jurco (the Ken Holland July 2019 Experience).

Neal is going to get every crack to play alongside either Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins this upcoming season. That may (or may not) jump start his numbers. I know how I’ll be betting if he gets significant playing time alongside one of those three than the previously mentioned Jankowski or Bennett, who ranked 11th and 12th in scoring.

A lot of what happens with James Neal is going to depend on where you see him in the lineup. Enough talking, let’s get on with the predicting.

What can we expect from James Neal in 2019-2020?

Poll

Assume 82 games played. What can we expect from James Neal in 2019-20?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    ≤25 points. At least the buyout is gonna be better than Lucic’s.
    (27 votes)
  • 10%
    26-35 points. Not great, but it could be worse.
    (107 votes)
  • 49%
    36-45 points. A good trade for Holland provides some results on the scoresheet.
    (504 votes)
  • 27%
    46-55 points. Wow!
    (284 votes)
  • 9%
    56+ points: We’re on the moon!
    (100 votes)
1022 votes total Vote Now