It is rare in sports to have a fanbase in agreement on one topic, but the vast majority (not all, but close) of Oilers fans have been asking, begging and pleading for Dave Tippett to reunite the trio of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto.
You got your wish. They skated as a line at practice today and will be together tomorrow against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
They played 24 games together last season, exclusively, and it worked very well.
The first game they were a regular line from beginning to end was January 2nd, 2020, in Buffalo. They played 20 games in a row together and produced great results at 5×5. In those 20 games between January 2nd to February 23rd they combined to score 19 goals.
Nugent-Hopkins scored 8-10-18
Draisaitl had 6-12-18.
Yamamoto scored 5-12-17.
They were dominant.
The Oilers were 12-6-2 in those games. They were 7-1-2 in the first 10 and 5-5 in the last 10. But then Yamamoto injured his ankle and missed three games.
Alex Chiasson, Josh Archibald and Zack Kassian each played one game on the right wing. The line didn’t allow a goal in those three games, but they only produced one with Kassian.
Yamamoto returned to the lineup on March 2nd in Nashville and the Oilers won 8-3. Their line scored three goals.
They won the next night in Dallas, but their line was scoreless.
Then on March 5th they played Chicago — their line scored twice, but the Oilers lost.
The next game, March 7th against Columbus, Nugent-Hopkins played with Connor McDavid and the Oilers won. But then the DRY line played one more game together against Vegas, before being separated again for what turned out to be the final game of the regular season against Winnipeg. As a trio they scored around 3.32 goals P/60 as a line in 24 games. Amazing.
Can they rekindle their magic?
That is the million dollar question.
To put how deadly they were into context, here is the production of the top players in the NHL since the start of the 2018/2019 at 5×5.
Nikita Kucherov was at 3.21 P/60.
Artemi Panarin at 2.94.
Brad Marchand 2.84
David Pastrnak 2.81
Connor Mcdavid 2.79
Patrick Kane and Steven Stamkos 2.75
Brayden Point 2.73
Leon Draisaitl and Evgeni Malkin 2.71
That is a much larger sample size of games played, and usually over a longer period of time the production will level out. But Edmonton doesn’t need them to be great for a long period. They only need them to get hot for a short period of time. It is much easier to stay hot for 20 games than it is to do for 150 games.
Here is the Oilers’ forwards production at 5×5 this season.
Draisaitl and McDavid are close to their totals from the previous two seasons, while Jujhar Khaira and Tyler Ennis have produced very well.
RNH has historically been around a 1.71 P/60 player in his career. His current 1.23 would be the second lowest of his career in a full season (he had 1.12 P/60 in the lockout-shortened 2013 season). So moving him with Draisaitl could be a boost. He has produced more points with Draisaitl than he has with McDavid.
I think the move makes sense, especially after two shutouts. But it is important to remember the DRY line was on an incredible heater last season. I wouldn’t expect them to tear it up the same as they did last season, but considering Yamamoto and RNH’s current point totals and P/60 at 5×5, there is a good chance the switch will see an improvement in their current totals. Edmonton needs more production from RNH at 5×5.
James Neal skated with McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi today. Dave Tippett said he expects Neal to be available tomorrow. Dominik Kahun didn’t skate, and Tippett only said “unfit to practice,” when asked about his status. So we could see Neal in for Kahun.
Alex Chiasson has a hearing with player safety due to his crosscheck at the end of last night’s game. I could see him getting a one game suspension.
And today Nygard-Turris-Shore were a line. We could see two of them draw in tomorrow in place of Chiasson and Patrick Russell.
We also saw some D pair reunited at practice.
Darnell Nurse skated with Ethan Bear.
Kris Russell was with Tyson Barrie.
Caleb Jones and Adam Larsson remained together.
Evan Bouchard was skating with William Lagesson. Lagesson won’t be available tomorrow, so expect the three aforementioned pairs to play together.
Edmonton needs to be more engaged tomorrow. I expect they will be. Toronto has played really well for two games, and the Oilers have to match their effort and execution if they want to avoid the three-game sweep.
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