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Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

What If Draisaitl, What If?

It seems ridiculous to even mention it, but could Leon Draisaitl score 50 goals in 50 games? The odds are astronomically low, so probably not, but to even be on pace to do it at the 19-game mark is impressive.

Draisaitl banged home his 19th and 20th goals of the season last night. The last player to have 20 goals before their 20th game was Simon Gagne in 2005/2006.

Only six other players have done it in the past 35 seasons.

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These players did it in fewer than 20 games played.
15- Dino Ciccarelli (1986-87) and Mario Lemieux (1995-96).
16- Lemieux (1988-89).
19- Draisaitl, Lemieux (1987-88), Bernie Nicholls (1988-89) 19, Lemieux (1992-93), Pavel Bure (1992-93), Cam Neely (1993-94) and Gagne (05-06).

Lemieux did it four times and in three of those seasons, he scored 50 goals in his first 50 games. However, only one of those season is considered the official 50 goals in 50 games.

The official rule is 50 goals in the team’s first 50 games.

In 1988-89, Lemieux scored 50 goals in 46 games, the third quickest in NHL history behind Wayne Gretzky’s 50 in 39 games in 1981-82 and 50 in 42 games in 1983-84.

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Only five players in NHL history have scored 50 goals in their team’s first 50 games.

Maurice Richard was the first. He tallied 50 in 50 games in 1944-45.
Mike Bossy also had 50 in 50 games in 1980-81. (Charlie Simmer scored a hat trick in his 50th game the same year which gave him 49 goals in 50 games).
Gretzky did it three times. The two aforementioned times and he scored 50 goals in 49 games in 1984-85.
Lemieux in 1988-89 and Brett Hull did it twice. He had 50 in 49 games in 1990-91 and the next season had 50 goals in 50 games.

Gretzky holds the NHL record for most goals in 50 games. He had 61 twice in 1982 and 1984.

Four players have unofficial 50 goals in 50 games.

Jari Kurri scored his 50th in his 50th game (Oilers 53rd game) in 1984-85. He finished with 71 goals in 73 games.
Alex Mogilny scored his 50th in his 46th game (Sabre’s 53rd game) in 1992-93. He finished with 76 goals in 77 games.

Lemieux did it twice. In 1992-93 he scored his 50th in his 48th game (Penguin’s 72nd game). He scored 19 goals in the final 12 games and finished with 69 goals. Crazy. And in 1995-96 he potted his 50th in his 50th game (Penguin’s 59th game). He finished the season with 69 goals in 70 games.

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Cam Neely scored his 50th goal in his 44th game (Bruins 66th game). He finished the season with 50 goals in 49 games.

I know it is probably foolish to think about, but when a player is off to this good of a start, it is too good to ignore. Draisaitl was asked about the possibility last night. “I think it is a little crazy to think I will score 50 goals in 50 games,” he said. “Right now pucks are going in for me. I don’t expect to hit that stat at all, but obviously I’m going to keep shooting and if they go in, great. I know there will come a time when they probably won’t go in.”

Leon, it isn’t crazy. It is fun. The NHL needs these types of scenarios. It seems improbable, but when you factor in the Oiler’s powerplay success it isn’t out of the question. Goals are harder to come by in today’s game, so for Draisaitl to have a realistic shot he will need score quite often on the man advantage. So far so good.

Draisaitl has 10 power play goals. He is on pace to crush the Oiler’s franchise record of 20 PP goals set by Gretzky and Ryan Smyth. That is one record that looks very attainable. The Oiler’s PP is deadly right now, and while it might drop a bit more from their current 39% pace, I don’t see them suddenly struggling.

Here is the breakdown of power play goals by the five players who scored 50 goals in 50 games.

Richard had 11 PP markers. The NHL didn’t track team PP% then.
Bossy had 22. The Islander’s PP was 29.3% in 1981.
Gretzky had 12 in 1982 with a 25.6% power play. He had 11 PP goals in 1984 (25.5%) and he had 8 PP goals in 1985 (25.7%).
Lemieux had 17 in 1989 ( PP of 24.5%)
Hull had 18 in 1991 (20.1%) and he had 14 PP goals in 1992 (19.2%).

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If Draisaitl can score 20-25 goals on the power play his chances of hitting 50 in 50 are more realistic. Of course that is no easy feat, but neither is scoring 50 in 50, so he will need some excellence, and some “puck luck” to do it.

I know the odds are low he can do it, but the longer he stays close the more exciting the chase becomes. And it isn’t just a chase of 50 in 50. What about 60 goals in a season? Steven Stamkos (60 in 2012) and Alex Ovechkin (65 in 2008) are the only players who have reached 60 goals in the last 25 years.

And Draisaitl isn’t just scoring goals. He also has 20 assists. And only five other players have ever produced 20-20-40 in the first 19 games of a season. Draisaitl is having an historical start.

In those seasons above Gretzky finished with 73-135-208, Lemieux had 85-114-199 in 1989 and 69-91-160 (60GP) in 1993, Nicholls scored 70-80-150, Esposito produced 68-77-145 and Bossy finished with 51-67-118 (67GP).

Considering how many points Draisaitl has produced in the previous two seasons, it would be stunning if he had a massive dip in his production. I don’t expect him to maintain a 2.10 points/game pace. If he produces at 1.58 points/game in his final 63 games he’ll finish with 140 points. Last season in 56 games he produced at a 1.50 P/GP clip.

Regardless of whether he pots 50 in 50, Draisaitl’s start puts him in a great position to have one of the best goal-scoring and point-producing seasons in decades.

Enjoy the ride. I hope he stays close to a 50-in-50 pace for the next 10 games, because the longer he produces at this clip the more exciting the chase becomes.

WHAT AM I MISSING?

I’m perplexed at the anger of some fans in response to this tweet.

If Kassian can fill in the top six and produce, isn’t that a good thing?

He is a third-line player, but I’d rather have a third line player who can fill in when an injury occurs or when the regular top-six guys aren’t producing. Kassian didn’t play well in his 27 games last year. He battled consistency and injuries. There isn’t much debate about that. In the playoffs, he was much better and produced 1-1-2 in four games. But the regular season was not good.

So far this season he has eight points in 15 games. He has six at 5×5. He is fourth on the team in 5×5 points/60. That is good production. And he has played one game in the top six.

Zach Hyman has seven points at 5×5. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has six. Kailer Yamomoto has four.

For one game Dave Tippett opted to change his entire top-nine. And it worked. The Oilers won. Kassian produced three points, got robbed on a great glove save by Scott Wedgewood and hit the post on a deflection. He had a solid game. Having third line players who can move up and not look out of place is positive, isn’t it?

Kassian has proven that he can produce when playing in the top six.

From January 1st, 2019 to December 31st, 2019 Kassian produced 22-23-45 in 82 games. He was 22nd in the entire NHL in 5×5 points in those 82 games. It was the only stretch of his career where he played consistently in the top six. Many have erroneously stated Kassian produced big numbers with the Sedins in Vancouver. The year Kassian scored 13-15-28 at 5×5 he played 66 minutes with Daniel Sedin and 48 with Henrik. Even the following season when he scored 9-6-15 in 42 games he played 118 minutes with them and had four points. An increase from his other 375 minutes for sure, but he never played very much with them in those two seasons.

He has mainly been in a bottom-six role in his career, outside of the 2019 calendar year. Kassian can be infuriating to watch at times, because some games he isn’t involved. If he was always consistent he’d be a mainstay in the top six, which is why he has rarely played there, but when he gets bumped up he can produce.

“He knows how to play with good players,” said Draisiatl. “He reads the game really well. He’s a bid body who goes to the net. He knows where to go to be effective and give us the room we need to make plays and create something. We love playing with him.”

The truth is the Oilers don’t have six consistently productive top-six forwards. Kailer Yamamoto had a great 26 points in 27 games between January-March, 2020, but he hasn’t come close to that since. I think the RW rotation will create healthy competition. Jesse Puljujarvi played well last year and has this year. He was in a bit of a funk the previous eight games, so Tippett opted to try something different for a game and it worked.

I’d be surprised if Puljujarvi wasn’t in the top six regularly moving forward. Maybe Tippett moved him down in the hopes he’d get to touch the puck more. Some fans seem to take Puljujarvi’s movement as a demotion. I don’t believe the head coach sees it that way. He has stated, “sometimes you are just looking for a different look,” and for one game it worked.

The fact Kassian has shown he can moonlight, and produce very well, in the top six is a good thing in my eyes. It gives Tippett more options. If Kassian remains engaged and produces then maybe he sticks there for a few games. Or maybe Tippett splits up McDavid and Draisaitl again v. Vegas.

The Oilers are 14-5. They are off to a great start. Draisaitl and McDavid are having unreal offensive seasons.

RNH is producing big assist totals on the power play. Puljujarvi and Hyman are on pace for 60-point seasons. Kassian is on pace for 40, most of that at 5×5, which would be great production.

I am perplexed by the anger at Kassian, despite him making the most of his one-game opportunity and being fourth on the team in 5×5 P/60. I thought Oilersnation wanted more players producing?

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