Will new Oilers head coach Ken Hitchcock play Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl together? Once again Todd McLellan’s went back to McDavid and Draisaitl. It wasn’t a surprise. The McDavid-Draisaitl combo was a McLellan favourite. Only Patrick Maroon and Jordan Eberle have played more with McDavid 5-on-5 since 2015.
The Oilers made the playoffs when Draisaitl spent most of the season on right wing with McDavid in 2016-17. McLellan needed to win to keep his job, so he returned to that duo that got it done two years ago, but it didn’t matter. The Ken Hitchcock era begins.
McDavid and Draisaitl produce well together, but does their success create even shakier depth? They’ve outscored teams 7-4 (5-on-5) since reuniting against Montreal, but the Oilers have been outscored 7-4 without McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice.
Does McDavid-Draisaitl give the Oilers the best chance to win? That means Ryan Nugent-Hopkins centers the second line with a pair of leftovers wingers. So far that’s been Alex Chiasson and Ryan Spooner.
McDavid Linemates 5-on-5 CF% and GF% since 2016-17
CF% measures the amount of shot attempts for and against (CF/CF+CA). GF% is the number of goals scored while that player is on the ice (GF/GF+GA).
I like looking at shot and goal stats. If a duo/line out-shoots and outscores their opposition, things are going right.
McDavid and Draisaitl have played a lot together. Draisaitl’s results with McDavid aren’t much different than other options. Jordan Eberle and Jesse Puljujarvi had similar production, although in significantly fewer minutes with McDavid.
Nugent-Hopkins-McDavid is an interesting combination. The difference between Nugent-Hopkins-McDavid and McDavid-Draisaitl is negligible and Draisaitl’s salary suggests he should be provide better secondary scoring than Nugent-Hopkins.
This season, Nugent-Hopkins has a 45.99 CF% and the Oilers have been outscored 6-4 in Nugent-Hopkins minutes without McDavid. Draisaitl has 44.26 CF% and the Oilers have been outscored 9-6 in Draisaitl minutes without McDavid.
Edmonton simply doesn’t have the depth beyond McDavid. You’d hope Draisaitl could provide that secondary scoring without McDavid. He’s the 12th highest player in the league. The Oilers haven’t outscored teams 5-on-5 in Draisaitl minutes without McDavid since 2015-16. I don’t think that’s all Draisaitl’s fault, but highlights the Edmonton’s depth issues.
I’d be interested to see Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins together on the second line without McDavid. McDavid can carry two lesser players better than either Draisaitl or Nugent-Hopkins. There isn’t much help outside of McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins, so why not play Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins in an attempt to build another competent scoring line?
McDavid and Draisaitl get a lot of comparisons to super lines in Boston and Colorado, but both those teams don’t get outmatched when Bergeron or MacKinnon are on the bench.
Hitchcock stuck with McDavid-Draisaitl in his first game as Oilers head coach. McDavid and Draisaitl were both over 22 minutes. Kyle Brodziak and Zack Kassian got a noticeable bump in ice time. Hitchcock may continue with McDavid-Draisaitl, but he’ll run into the same problem as McLellan: finding a combination of players that doesn’t give back everything the McDavid line creates.