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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Edmonton Oilers put Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl together again?

It’s one of the hottest topics that has circled the Oilers for the last, oh, six years: Should Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl play together?

Well surprise, we’re once again talking about if Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl play together.

In game one against the Jets, Dave Tippett kept them apart and both of the top two lines drove play very well. The top line of Dominik Kahun – McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi controlled 57.89 percent of the shot attempts and 72.85 percent of the expected goals, while scoring one.

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The second line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto also fared well. They controlled 69.57 percent of shot attempts and 86.83 percent of the expected goals.

McDavid and Draisaitl? Well, they did see some 5×5 ice-time together in the form of 6:43. On the ice together, they controlled 86.67 percent of the shot attempt share and 83.55 percent of the expected goals.

It’s not entirely uncommon for Tippett to have kept these two apart against the Jets this year. In fact, at 5v5 McDavid and Draisaitl only played 37:58 together in all nine regular-season games — a mere 4:13 per game.

One thing is clear and it’s that the Oilers are better with them together on the ice and the truth is, I have questions about if they should ever play apart again at 5v5. Not only against the Jets this year, but over his career, both players post worse results away from each other than with each other.

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Here’s what it looks like over the last three seasons at 5×5:

TOi CF% GF% xGF% PDO
McDavid and Draisaitl 1702:10 50.68 56.11 (124-97) 50.68 102.9
McDavid without Draisaitl 1653:57 50.73 48.47 (79-84) 50.59 99.2
Draisaitl without McDavid 1749:58 46.9 51.03 (74-71) 47.59 92.43
Oilers without McDavid or Draisaitl 5132:37 46.65 38.58 (125-199) 46.9 97.7

And here’s what it looks like against just the Jets this past season:

TOI CF% GF% xGF% PDO
McDavid and Draisaitl 37:58 64.2 100 (6-0) 77.64 120.7
McDavid without Draisaitl 116:07 56.61 76.92 (10-3) 62.58 107.7
Draisaitl without McDavid 108:55 46.84 57.14 (4-3) 47.46 103.1
Oilers without McDavid or Draisaitl 178:52 42.91 27.27 (3-8) 39.52 95.7

So there’s no denying there’s a few ways to look at this. When they’re apart, they’re still producing and they add more depth through the lineup.

But heading into game two, I have a hard time thinking that splitting them up is the right move and there are multiple reasons for it. First, we’ve seen the emergence of Jesse Puljujarvi and his ability to drive play in both ends of the ice.

If the Oilers chose to put the big two together, Puljujavi could be a strong fixture alongside Nugent-Hopkins on the second line with someone like Kailer Yamamoto on the other wing. It would help spread some size, too, with Puljujarvi and Draisaitl being the two biggest bodies in the Oilers top six.

While it doesn’t appear that will happen tonight, I think it’s a scenario Dave Tippett should be looking to explore. Despite having more than enough chances to score last night, the Oilers struggled to do so. The chances were there though, and that’s why I don’t hate the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]


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