Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports

How worried should the Oilers be about Draisaitl’s numbers away from McDavid?

2016-17 Edmonton Oilers: No. 29 Leon Draisaitl

When Leon Draisaitl signs what is sure to be a very rich, very long second NHL contract this summer, he should probably spare a moment to be thankful to his head coach. After all, it was Todd McLellan who became convinced that Draisaitl was the best player on the roster to work with Connor McDavid, thereby ensuring that the third-year centre was given every opportunity to run up his scoring numbers.

David Johnson’s indispensable stats.hockeyanalysis.com tells us that Draisaitl went from scoring 1.80 points/hour (at 5-on-5) away from McDavid up to 2.24 points/hour with him. That’s a 20-25 percent jump in scoring efficiency, turning Draisaitl from a good offensive player into a great one. It’s also pretty much in-line with what Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby do for their wingers in Pittsburgh.

Draisaitl seems to help McDavid, too. Edmonton’s captain saw his scoring increase by about 10 percent at evens when he played with Draisaitl vs. when he played without him.

There’s also, obviously, the power play factor. Draisaitl’s power play points year-over-year tripled, primarily as a result of being put on the McDavid unit. There shouldn’t be much doubt as to who is primarily driving the success of that top unit.

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The most interesting Draisaitl/McDavid comparison is the performance of those two players’ respective lines when they’re together and when they’re apart:

As one line, they do pretty well. Edmonton got 54 percent of all shot attempts and scored almost 60 percent of all goals when that line was on the ice.

The problem is that without Draisaitl, McDavid’s line is still awesome, collecting 52 percent of all shot attempts and 66 percent of all goals. Without McDavid, Draisaitl’s line was outshot (just 48 percent of the Corsis) and outscored (worse, only 44 percent of all goals).

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That takes us back to the question posed in our introduction: How worried should the Oilers be? In my opinion, not very. Here are the wingers who spent at least 100 minutes (ranked by total ice-time) with McDavid and Draisaitl in their time apart from each other:

  • McDavid: Eberle (399 minutes), Lucic (377), Maroon (192)
  • Draisaitl: Maroon (200 minutes), Lucic (135), Slepyshev (108), Puljujarvi (104), Pouliot (100)

It’s fashionable to hate on Jordan Eberle in Edmonton these days, but despite a disappointing season and a worse playoffs, he remains a dramatically better right wing in the here-and-now than Anton Slepyshev and Jesse Puljujarvi. That’s probably something the Oilers keep in mind when they’re making decisions this summer.

McDavid’s line also had the virtue of stability. He had Lucic or Maroon at left wing, and Draisaitl or Eberle at right wing. Draisaitl instead alternated between centre and wing and played with alternating wingers for good measure.

But while the Oilers probably shouldn’t be too worried about Draisaitl’s numbers away from McDavid, they should obviously be aware of the influence their team’s captain has had on their second-best forward. If the plan down the road is to play them on separate lines – and it’s a plan I’m in favour of, as not only did it look good late in the playoffs but it’s the same strategy taken by virtually every successful team over the last decade (Crosby and Malkin, Toews and Kane, Kopitar and Carter) – there’s going to be an offensive cost paid by Draisaitl for playing with lesser talent.

In a perfect world, the Oilers would be paying Draisaitl based on his offensive numbers away from McDavid. Instead, they’ll pay for what he did on a line with the guy who should be the NHL’s MVP this season. Edmonton will just have to hope that Draisaitl’s continued offensive development (he’s only 21) will make up the gap if the two are separated down the road.

Previous year-end reviews:

  • Rusty

    I hate articles like this. How worried should the Oilers be? The answer…not very. What was the point? This isn’t a dig at Jonathan either, i see stories like this all the time in print. From the headline i figured that Jonathan had found something concerning or interesting only to find out everything is hunky dory, carry on with your day. Bit misleading is all

    • toprightcorner

      I think these types of articles are good as it encapsulates what some fans are feeling. Basically, are you Joe fan worried about this? Well don’t worry, you shouldn’t be. Articles like this are not to inform the Oilers, it is to use logical reasoning and analytic proof to relieve anxiety for the fans.

      • Rusty

        fair, i can see your point. My take is, there’s nothing going on today, i am going to ask a question that nobody is wondering about or fearing, find out the answer, and no matter what, even if the answer is uninteresting/expected/or confirms the opposite of what i was trying to prove, i’m going to write 500 hundred words on it. i think its lazy and i see it on blogs all the time. this story didn’t need to be told and if it wasn’t, we would be just as informed as we are right now.

        • crabman

          This is just one article in a series Willis is doing on each player. The series has been statistically driven and this was probably the most logical story to write about Draisaitl’s season from a stats point of view. Especially with his up coming contract.

  • toprightcorner

    Draisaitl will play with better players on his own line moving forward than he did last year, that will make up a large amount of that difference. I would be less concerned about points difference and more concerned about centering and driving his own line, something he has not done for any length of time in the NHL. I would be more apt to pay him as a winger and not a center for this contract, though it will still be a high number. I would guess a cap hit of $7.25 will do it.

    I also believe that McDavid is willing to give a hometown discount to to improve chances to win a cup, I would also bet that he would talk to Leon about doing the same thing. That would mean if everyone is saying $7.75 to $8.25, I wouold say you could knock a million off of that number.

    • Rusty

      One thing that never gets publicly discussed in contract negotiations is the sponsorship side deals. Sure Mcdavid may take the “hometown discount” but at no point should anyone be under the illusion he is leaving money on the table, just money that can count towards the cap. Whatever contract he signs will be sweetened with sponsorship deals with Rexall, and whatever other brands darryl has his fingers in to make sure connor is happy and paid. The only time i ever heard this stuff being talked about is when Stamkos was a free agent and visted Toronto and it was reported that canadian Tire was willing to throw a sponsorship deal on the table if he signed with the Leafs.

      The same will go for Leon. they will make him happy no matter what is salary says.

      • Jason Gregor

        Katz sold Rexall Sports and the NHL watches to ensure owners other companies aren’t suddenly sponsoring him. And whether he signed for $10 mill a year or $14 mill a year the big sponsors will still want him as a spokesman. His agent sets up his sponsorship deals, not the Edmonton Oilers. Do you think Canadian Tire cares what the Oilers pay him. They want him to push their brand, regardless of what the Oilers pay him.

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      I was going to say, although it’s a small sample size, the playoff numbers here should be encouraging. Draisaitl killed it on his own line once they split him up from McDavid.

  • Bagged Almond Milk

    If the Oilers trade Ebs for Hamonic, would the Nation be Ok with a Larsson for Hall trade? Reversed after a year? I wouldn’t be ok with it at all…. when thinking about it that way, I think the Oil won that trade Hands down.

    • Oil DAWG

      Who is even suggesting such a trade. I don’t think they want Hall back. I for one prefer Larsson!! He has been one of our best defence men!! Harmonic may show up and crap the bed, Larsson has proved himself already!!!

  • Hemmercules

    Not too worried about Drai. The guy is super serious about winning and he doesn’t need McDavid to drive. He’s going to be even more of a beast next season and the season after that.

  • Gee Kay

    He’s going to be overpaid by about $1million. McDavid will likely be underpaid by the same. I’d rather pay a $6M guy $7M than a $2M guy $3M. I realize it all works out the same but I believe in rewarding your top end guys and keeping them happy. Play hardball with the lower tier guys.

  • Lurch_tm

    It’s not a simple matter of WOWOY. As we saw in the playoffs, playing these two players on separate lines also influences their numbers, since teams have to adjust their defence accordingly.

  • freelancer

    I don’t have the numbers to support this statement, but remember early in the year Draisaitl was moved all over the lineup. He started as a third line centre, played some wing, played with Nuge for awhile I think, and finally on McDavid’s line. In whatever position he was put into, he found ways to produce. With McDavid he certainly found some great chemistry but of all the dialogues to have this summer, worrying about Draisaitl’s production should not be one of them.

  • GK1980

    I’ve always been a big Drai fan (Might even like him more than McDavid) but that’s beside the point. Drai is as drive to be better as McDavid. Having these two guys on the oilers is truly outstanding! If the Oilers truly want to be a contender you need to split these two guys up to have two lines that are a threat. We have all realized that Nuge as good as he is, is no longer a real offensive threat anymore for some reason or another.

  • I am Batman

    The Oilers should pay Draisatl for himself, period. He helps McDavid as much as McDavid helps him. Wasn’t Drai a force also with Hall?

    If they take him to arbitration or low ball him I’m gonna be pissed. Pay the kid for his seventy something points! “Losing” Lazy Ebs ‘ contribution on a bad trade will pale in comparison if we lose Drai or piss him off. Kid is the real deal, pay him.

  • RJ

    Drai has scored 21 points more than Nuge’s best regular season total. He’s scored 12 more points than Nuge’s playoff best. He’s bigger, stronger and better at faceoffs.

    What does he need to do to get some love?

  • TKB2677

    Jonathan. I typically find your stuff interesting to read and I find your weekly hit on Lowetide’s show to be good as well. I know it’s slow right now but come on. Do you really need to write an article like this? Leon is one hell of a player with or without McDavid. When the hockey was at it’s toughest, the playoffs, Leon was the Oilers best player. That included a lot of time without McDavid. I am not sure if it was you but there was a ton of Oilers bloggers writing after the Hall trade that Leon was nothing but a product of Hall. He proved he isn’t but now we have to read that he might be nothing but a product of McDavid? McDavid is probably the best player in the world or will be next season, of course anyone who plays with him will do well. But to even suggest that a player as talented as Leon given how young as he is, isn’t going to do very well without McDavid even if you are only slightly hinting at it, I find flat out wrong.

    There has to be something better to write about than this? This is definitely a disappointing article.

    • Ever the Optimist

      I have to disagree, this should be a little more front and center as it will effect his contract numbers. Away from McD he is good but not great yet (playoff sample size aside) We hear between 7 and 8 for a contract but look at some comparables and those numbers are high. With guys like Barkov making just over 6 a year and signed long term where is the justification for a larger salary? It also hugely impacts the possible Eberle deal, if its decided he is a compliment to McD rather than our 2nd line Center then its likely Ebs goes but if he plays center then ebs stays. So thank you for the article as its more information to consider that most folks aren’t talking about.

  • TKB2677

    Does anyone get the feeling that there are some in Edmonton whether it be fans or bloggers who are so used to being negative because of the previous decade of darkness that they seek out something negative? They can’t just be happy that the Oiles look to FINALLY be on the cusp of being really good. That all the pain and bad hockey we all had to endure looks to be over and we might be finally paid back for our loyalty. It’s like they see the good and something inside of them just won’t let them believe it. So they dig and dig to try and find something bad. Even if it is small, they find it and talk about it because it makes them feel better because for 10 yrs, all there was was bad on top of bad.

    • madjam

      There is always going to be a diversity of opinions going from game to game and season . Some are maybe overly cautious , others opposite of that , and some are just trolling or even jesting at times . It is that diversity that makes up these sites . How cautious do you feel Oiler fans should be about the one year only Leon has excelled ?

  • madjam

    Will Puljujarvi replicate what Leon has done last 3 seasons , and make for another huge salary in next year or two ? With good results , the youth on club will expect contracts to match . Have to wonder how much might have been saved if Leon was given an extention before now , like they are trying to do with Connor .

  • OriginalPouzar

    1.80 P/60 is a pretty darn good number for a 2nd year player when the primary focus/driver on the line (which Drai was on every shift he took with McDavid).