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Is Gabriel Landeskog the top-six forward the Edmonton Oilers should be targeting?

If there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that the Edmonton Oilers will be addressing their top-six in some form or another by the end of the month.

Too much smoke has circled that spot and it’s very clear the Oilers need help there. The Oilers have reportedly emerged as a front-runner for the services of Zach Hyman, but is that the player the Oilers should really be targeting?

Early Friday TSN’s Ryan Rishaug tweeted suggesting Landeskog “has to be a consideration for the Oilers,” and I definitely agree with him. In fact, I would prefer him to Hyman for a number of reasons.

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In a lot of ways, the two are fairly similar players. They’re bigger, physical players who have played in top-six roles complementary to some of the most offensively gifted players in the game. Landeskog with Nathan MacKinnon and Hyman with John Tavares.

Both rank in the same percentiles for wins above replacement overall, but at even-strength offence ~30 percentile points replace them with Hyman sitting at the 98th. Similarly, ~30 percentile points differentiate their even-strength defence, with Landeskog ranking in the 89th percentile.

Both play against some of the toughest competition and have some of the strongest teammates playing together.

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Here are some 5×5 numbers between the two from the past three seasons:

Zach Hyman Gabriel Landeskog
GP – TOI/GP 165 – 14:46 181 – 15:18
G/60 .86 .78
A/60 1.11 1.17
P/60 1.97 1.95
CF/60 – CA/60 64.4 – 58.34 62.84 – 51.52
CF% 52.47 54.95
GF/60 – xGF/60 3.49 – 2.93 3.08 – 2.53
GA/60 – xGA/60 2.63 – 2.39 2.3 – 2.04
GF% 57.03 57.26
xGF% 55.03 55.35
PDO 102 101
EV O WAR 98% 64%
EV D WAR 58% 89%
Contract projection Seven years, $6.66-m AAV Seven years, $8.791-m AAV

Over the last three years, both players have been eligible for 208 games. Hyman has missed 43 games, Landeskog has missed 27 games.

Both players appear to be ready to head to free agency and would likely command seven-year deals, thus the contract projection (done by EvolvingHockey) for that.

The Oilers have a clear need for a winger to play alongside Connor McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi, but both of these players come with significant price tags. I’d argue Landeskog might be a better fit than Hyman on the top line for the defensive value he provides.

His most common linemates have been Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen and his defensive value has been huge for that top line. The trio have driven play offensively at an incredible rate all the while seriously limiting what teams have been able to do in their own zone. Landeskog is a big reason for that.

Hyman’s most common linemates have been John Tavares and Mitch Marner over the last three years. Those three have played very high event hockey both ways and while they’ve still come out on top, you can argue that Colorado’s line is much more effective. While they don’t score as much, the Colorado line allowed half a goal less per hour than Toronto’s line.

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According to projections from The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn, is still projected to be a top-six player for the next seven seasons while Hyman the same for the next six. The difference? Landeskog provides adds 2.3 wins per season while Hyman 1.5. It’s a fairly significant drop-off per his model and the difference between top-end talent and middling talent is stark.

All in all, the Oilers are likely going to be overpaying for a top-line winger. There’s negligible difference between both of their raw offensive production and if there’s one the Oilers would have to overpay, I’d probably prefer the Oilers go all-in on Landeskog. He’s been healthier over his NHL career and has leadership qualities as a long-time captain I think would be invaluable to the Oilers.

The correct answer in all of this, however, is that the Oilers shouldn’t overpay for anybody, even if they feel like they have to. The day two talent will still be there through free agency and Edmonton might be able to get someone like Tomas Tatar on a deal similar to Tyson Barrie next year.


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]