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The state of scoring in Oil Country: the top-six after twenty

A review of the advanced stats for top-6 forwards after the first 20 games. Who's shooting, who's scoring and who's disappointing.

Taylor Hall #celebrates with teammates after scoring a first period goal against the Arizona Coyotes November 12, 2015
Taylor Hall #celebrates with teammates after scoring a first period goal against the Arizona Coyotes November 12, 2015
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Although we tend to think otherwise the Edmonton Oilers have generally not been a terrific scoring team since the addition of four first-overall draft picks. Last season we were the fifth-worst team for all-situations scoring (2.3 goals-for per 60 minutes, GF60). So far this season the picture is rosier. I'll say it again. The picture is ROSIER! We're scoring goals Oil Country! At this point we're thirteenth in the league for all-situations (2.7 GF60), eleventh for even-strength (2.3 GF60), and seventeenth with the man advantage (6.9 GF60).

Given this promising trend I decided to take a look at even-strength 5v5 scoring to see just who's hot and who's not. I started by choosing forwards who've been playing in the top-six as well as the players who we might expect to fill a scoring role. Our successful scoring lines have been quite varied with pairings depending on which centres are healthy. I ended-up with: Benoit Pouliot, Connor McDavid, Jordan Eberle, Leon Draisaitl, Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-HopkinsTaylor Hall, and Teddy Purcell.

For the following analysis all charts are interactive and all data is from war-on-ice.

Time-on-ice & zone starts

Time-on-ice and the zone in which a player starts his shift are factors that impact scoring. The follow two charts give us an idea of who's playing most and where they're starting.

Only three of our eight top-six forwards have played all twenty games to date. Hall and Nugent-Hopkins have played a lot of minutes when their skates have touched the ice. The above shows the percentage of 5v5 ice time played by the each player (TOI%) followed by the number of games (Gm) and amount of 5v5 ice time per game (TOI/Gm). In terms of ice time McDavid and Draisaitl are being used similarly as second-line centres while Nugent-Hopkins has been filling the first-line centre role. We can see also that Yakupov and Purcell are filling secondary scoring roles, meaning they've been pushed down to the bottom-six at times.

The previous chart shows zone starts per 60 minutes for all players and is sorted by offensive-zone starts (ZSO/60). Draisaitl and Eberle have been getting a helping hand in comparison to the rest of the forwards. Purcell is the only forward in this assortment of top-six players to receive more defensive-zone starts (DSO/60) than offensive (ZSO/60). Neutral-zone starts are fairly evenly dispersed among the players (ZSN/60). Until McDavid and Draisaitl are able to win more faceoffs it's perhaps likely (or wise) that they start many shifts in the neutral and offensive zone.

Shot-based possession metrics

In the Corsiverse we use shot-attempts as a proxy measure for puck possession. The above shows on-ice shot-attempts (CF60), on-ice unblocked shot-attempts (FF60), and on-ice shots (SF60) for all of the forwards. It's surprising to see Jordan Eberle leading the way here. In the seven games he's played he's been on the ice for the most attempted shots per hour. Considering their zone-starts we see that Yakupov and Purcell have been on the ice when the puck has been going in the right direction.

Shot-quality possession metrics

Scoring Chances are a metric devised by war-on-ice that basically weight attempted shots in such a way to reduce noise, the shots that are unlikely to produce a goal. You can read about their definition of scoring chances here.

Leon Draisaitl and Taylor Hall have been on ice for a large number of scoring chances, as has Connor McDavid. Eberle shows well in this chart again despite only playing seven games. By eye (having watched all of the games) Eberle has not been directly responsible for generating many of these chances. Of particular importance is Connor McDavid's ability to generate high-quality chances (HSCF60). This is an aspect of his game that absolutely sets him apart from the crowd. You can read more about Scoring Chances and High-Danger chances in this post from David Johnson critiquing war-on-ice's shot quality metrics.

Individual shots

The above shows individual shots-for per 60 minutes. Again we see that Purcell and Yakupov are doing exceedingly well considering their zone starts, although curiously they rank higher for individual attempts than for on-ice attempts, suggesting a higher contribution to scoring than possession. Taylor Hall leads the team in attempted shots: the cannonball is fired often! Perhaps the most surprising is the last name on the list: Connor McDavid.

Individual shot quality

This chart shows the absolute dominance of Taylor Hall and the reason why smart Oilers fans always insist that trading Hall is not an option. Hall is relentless in his generation of individual chances. Nail Yakupov shows incredibly well in the chart and given that he does not get the zone starts and ice time of the other players, his personal chance generation is remarkable, although undoubtedly fuelled by Connor McDavid who does not show as well above. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has not been able to penetrate the paint this year and ostensibly has been missing his partner Eberle as well as struggling with illness.

On-ice shooting percentage

On-ice shooting percentage is the team's percentage while the player in question is on the ice. Here we can clearly see the Oilers' four best forwards: Draisaitl, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and McDavid. These players are involved in higher percentage plays that lead to putting the puck in the net. We see in the case of Eberle, in particular, that when he's on the ice the Oilers have a lower shooting percentage. This is because Eberle is on-ice for chances, and getting chances, but is not yet finding the twine.

Individual or personal shooting percentage

The above chart shows who's hot and who's not. Leon Draisaitl is red-hot and has been putting pucks in the net at rate that is unlikely to be sustainable. His personal shooting percentage is 29.41, which we should expect to "regress" to be less than half of that. McDavid's is second at over twenty percent. I expect McDavid to sustain a very high shooting percentage throughout his career, although I'm not yet certain what that will be. My guess is north of 12%, which in the case of most players is not sustainable, but McDavid seems to be the exception to the rule. Ten games ago, before the collarbone tragedy, I wrote:

I'm encouraged by the play of McDavid: he's even better than I thought. One of McDavid's most surprising assets is his ability to get close to the net resulting in his SH% of 25, corresponding to 5 goals for 20 shots. McDavid generates and converts high-percentage chances. I'd like to see him learn Eberle's back-hand, that might sustain his shooting percentage over 30! Ok, maybe 30's not realistic, but you get the point! He will increase our "regressed" PDO. (source)

In the chart above we also see that Yakupov is having a tough run of it. Despite being on ice for many attempts, and personally getting many shot attempts and scoring chances, Yakupov has had a dismal time putting the puck in the net. Given the amount of hard work that he's done this year and his fantastic play with McDavid I hope he turns it around.

Individual Scoring

Finally... the chart you've all been waiting for. The above shows the incredible streak of Draisaitl and the struggles of Yakupov. Also palpable is the struggles of Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle to recover from shoulder surgery.

The next twenty

In the following games we might see some of the following...

Draisaitl's personal shooting percentage is terribly high. It's likely to calm-down in the next twenty games. By calm-down I mean that we might expect it to look more like Hall's, somewhere between ten and twelve percent. Draisaitl's P/60 will likely decrease to less than three points per game. But just so there's no doubt, the combination of Hall and Draisaitl is something that I have found to be awesome. Draisaitl's a real two-way power centre. The combination of Draisaitl and Hall will continue to produce. Whoever McLellan and Chiarelli stick with this pair is likely to score. To date that player has been Teddy Purcell who's approaching a UFA season. Chiarelli might "pump & dump" Purcell to a playoff team looking for a scoring forward (perhaps for a pick while eating a bit of salary).

Maybe next season Nail Yakupov will benefit from the Draisaitl-Hall duo or from his pairing with Connor McDavid. Currently, Yakupov's shooting percentage is terribly low. If he gets some top-six ice time (which has not been the case since the McDavid injury) we might hope for his point-totals to increase. Without McDavid I'm not hopeful that will happen, unless McLellan decides to revive a somewhat fatigued Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with a Nail that's "ready to hammer".

In the next twenty I hope to see Benoit Pouliot, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle revive their P/60. Pouliot has been a stable veteran for the trio and we can see clearly form Eberle's data that he's on-ice for chances. At some point soon things will change for their line and the puck will start going-in again.