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Chasing goals

Projecting how many goals Leon Draisaitl can finish the regular season with.

Chicago Blackhawks v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Good question asked by Walter Foddis recently on Twitter, asking people to vote on how many goals they think Leon Draisaitl will finish the 2021/22 season with.

https://twitter.com/Waltlaw69/status/1463755622571257858

So what is a reasonable expectation for Draisaitl? He has 20 goals so far in the first 19 games of the season - 9 goals at even-strength (5v5, 4v4, 3v3), 10 on the powerplay and one shorthanded. Can he score 40 more over the remaining 63 games and be one of only three players to reach the 60-goal mark since 2005/06? With the powerplay being what it is and generating even more shots and scoring chances than last season, could he push for 65 or even 70 goals? Dare we dream about him scoring 82?

To come up with a best guess, I split my analysis into three parts: one for even-strength, one for the powerplay and one for penalty kill. My main assumption of course is that Draisaitl remains healthy the rest of the year, he continues playing in the top six with skilled players against the other team’s top players, and the team around him doesn’t degrade in overall skill level.

Even-strength

At even-strength this season (5v5, 4v4, 3v3), Draisaitl is averaging 18:21 minutes per game and taking 1.79 shots on goal per game, which is almost exactly the same rate of shots over his previous five seasons. If he continues at this rate, he’ll take about 113 more shots over the remaining 63 games.

Now if he continues to convert 26.5% of his shots into goals like he has so far this season, he’ll score 30 more goals at even-strength over the last 63 games. But considering his career shooting percentage heading into this season has been 15.24%, that likely isn’t going to happen. Let’s say he cools off and regresses closer to his career levels - then we can expect him to score 17 more times at even-strength. My guess is that his shooting percentage by the end of the year is closer to 18.45% - which is what he’s posted over the last three seasons - and he scores 21 more goals at even-strength.

So far, here’s what we have projected for Draisaitl to finish the season with.

Situation Optimistic Realistic Pessimistic
Current total goals 20 20 20
Even strength goals (projected) 30 21 17
Powerplay goals (projected)
Shorthanded goals (projected)
Total projected goals 50 41 37

Powerplay

Looking at the powerplay, I would factor in Draisaitl's personal shooting percentage this season and his shooting percentage over the course of his career. But also what proportion of the team’s total shots on the powerplay with him on the ice are coming from his stick to determine how many more shots he’ll get this season. For this exercise, I’m also going to assume that the Oilers will continue to draw the same rate of penalties that they’ve drawn this season - which is the fifth lowest rate in the league.

Let’s start with the shots. So far this season, the Oilers with Draisaitl on the ice have generated 90 shots on goal on the powerplay, averaging 4.74 shots per game. Considering the team’s talent level and how well they are generating shot attempts and scoring chances after 19 games, I’m going to assume they continue at this rate and generate 298 more shots over the last 63 games of the season.

Of those 90 shots the Oilers have taken, 30 of them have come from Draisaitl - so about 33.3% of the team’s total with him on the ice. If Draisaitl continues to get the same on-ice share of the team’s shots, he’ll get another 100 shots over the rest of the season. And if he somehow maintains a 33.3% shooting percentage, then he would score 33 more powerplay goals - crushing a few records along the way.

If we take a more conservative approach and look at his numbers over the last three season with Glen Gulutzan running the powerplay, the number of powerplay goals Draisaitl can expect to score is closer to 18. Since the 2018/19 season, Draisaitl has taken 26.4% of the team’s shots with him on the ice. So if the Oilers generate the same rate of shots, Draisaitl should get another 79 shots over the course of of this season. And if his shooting percentage comes back down to the still-excellent levels he’s posted over the last three seasons, converting on 22.7% of his shots, he should score another 18 powerplay goals.

My thought is that with his success so far this year, the Oilers will continue trying to set him up for goals, so he should get a higher than normal proportion of the team’s shots - so maybe 29% - and taking 87 more shots. And if his shooting percentage ends up hovering around 25%, which he posted in the 2019/20 regular season - he could score about 21 more powerplay goals.

Situation Optimistic Realistic Pessimistic
Current total goals 20 20 20
Even strength goals (projected) 30 21 17
Powerplay goals (projected) 33 21 18
Shorthanded goals (projected)
Total projected goals 83 62 55

Shorthanded

Based on the rate of shots Draisaitl has taken and his shooting percentage this season, and if everything continues as is, we would expect him to score three more shorthanded goals. Although the Oilers are generating the second highest rate of shots per hour on the penalty kill, I’m not entirely convinced that the Oilers are going to continue deploying a more aggressive penalty kill and that we should expect Draisaitl to score maybe one or two more goals shorthanded. He scored once shorthanded last season, and three in 2018/19. Whatever he does on the penalty kill would just be a total bonus.

Situation Optimistic Realistic Pessimistic
Current total goals 20 20 20
Even strength goals (projected) 30 21 17
Powerplay goals (projected) 33 21 18
Shorthanded goals (projected) 3 1 0
Total projected goals 86 63 55

Summary

For Draisaitl to reach 70+ goals, a lot would have to go right. Anything is possible, but with 63 games remaining we can reasonably expect Draisaitl’s outputs to regress closer to his career numbers, especially when we factor in the rate of shots and personal shooting percentages he’s posted over the previous three seasons. Of course, there’s also the factors that are completely outside of his control like his team’s performance, injuries and how games are being called/managed/fixed by the referees.

I think realistically, Draisaitl could target scoring 65 goals, which is what Ovechkin posted in the 2007/08 regular season. It would obviously require a little luck and maintaining good health, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility when you consider his more recent numbers and how great the Oilers powerplay has been at generating chances. Whatever happens, whether Draisaitl scores 70 goals or “only” 50 goals, Oilers management should be relieved that they have a star player who can outscore the club’s other deficiencies.

Data: Natural Stat Trick, NHL.com, Behind the Benches

Poll

How many goals will Leon Draisaitl finish the 2021/22 regular season with?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Less than 50
    (2 votes)
  • 10%
    50-55
    (8 votes)
  • 21%
    56-60
    (16 votes)
  • 31%
    61-65
    (23 votes)
  • 19%
    66-70
    (14 votes)
  • 13%
    More than 70
    (10 votes)
73 votes total Vote Now