Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Can Zach Hyman score 50 goals this season?
2 months ago
One of the standout players for the Edmonton Oilers this season has been forward Zach Hyman, who currently leads the team with 18 goals in 27 games. That’s the fourth-highest goal total in the league, tied with Sidney Crosby and only behind Brock Boeser, Auston Matthews, and Nikita Kucherov.
About two-thirds of Hyman’s goals have come at even-strength (12), while the other six have come on the powerplay. If he can maintain his current scoring rate, he’d be on pace to finish the season with 54 goals. That’s assuming, of course, that he stays healthy and continues to play with Connor McDavid at even strength and on the powerplay. Reaching 54 would surpass his career high of 36 he scored last year. The question now is if this is a realistic expectation of Hyman and what would have to go right for him to join this 50-goal club – something only Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have been able to achieve in recent franchise history.
To project Hyman’s goal-scoring, I’m keeping things relatively simple. I’m going to project how many games he’ll play the rest of the season based on his injury history. And then use his average rate of shots on goal per game and his shooting percentage at even-strength (5v5, 4v4, 3v3) and the powerplay from his 182 games as an Oiler to determine how many goals he’ll likely score over the next 55 games. From there, we can figure out what Hyman and the Oilers can do to help improve his odds of reaching and potentially surpassing 50 goals.
First, here’s a quick summary of the number of goals Hyman has scored every season that he’s been in the league, broken down by the various game-states: even-strength, powerplay, and the penalty kill.
So what’s the reasonable target for Hyman the rest of the way? Again, I’m going to use his ice-time, shots and shooting percentage over his career in Edmonton to make these projections. There’s enough of a sample size, plus he’s received regular playing time in the top six with the top-end players since his arrival – something we can expect to continue for him going forward.
Let’s start with even-strength, where Hyman has scored 53 goals from 460 shots since 2021/22, posting an 11.52 shooting percentage.
Suppose Hyman stays healthy and plays in 95 percent of the games this upcoming season (which is the proportion of games he’s played in since joining the Oilers) – so about 52 games – and takes 2.53 shots per game, which is what he’s averaged over the last few seasons. He should get about 132 shots on goal at even strength in that case. And if he posts the same shooting percentage that he’s had over his career in Edmonton (11.52 percent), he should score about 15 even-strength goals over the last 55 games of the 2023/24 season.
And on the powerplay, I think we can reasonably expect around eight more goals from Hyman throughout this season. The table below is a summary of his powerplay history.
Based on the rate of shots he’s posted on the powerplay over the last three seasons in Edmonton (0.64 shots per game), he’ll likely get about 33 shots on goal. And if he converts on 22.61 percent of those shots, which has been his shooting percentage as an Oiler – that comes out to about eight goals.
So, taking a conservative approach and using his average rate of shots and his individual shooting percentage at even-strength and on the powerplay, I think we can expect Hyman to finish the 2023/24 regular season with at least 41 goals (27 at even-strength, 14 on the powerplay) – which would be a new career high. Again, this estimate assumes that Hyman remains relatively healthy and continues to play with top-end players at even strength. And it’s also assuming that the Oilers powerplay continues to have the same talent and tactical approach as it’s had the last few seasons with assistant coach Glen Gulutzan running things.
Now, to get to 50 goals and join a pretty elite group in Edmonton, a few things need to go right for Hyman.
At even-strength, if Hyman can maintain the rate of shots he’s posted this season in 28 games (2.78 per game), that would add two goals to his total. This current rate of shots is only slightly higher than last season’s rate (2.67), so it’s a reasonable expectation. And while a 16 percent shooting percentage is higher than expected from Hyman, if he can maintain even a 13.00 percent shooting percentage – which he’s been able to maintain throughout his career – he would add another two even-strength goals to the estimated total.
On the powerplay, Hyman could potentially add another three to four goals if he maintains his current rate of shots this season (about a shot per game) and matches his shooting percentage from last season (25.00 percent). It’s not completely unreasonable, considering his rate of powerplay shots has gradually improved over his time in Edmonton, and his shooting percentage this year is close to what he posted in 78 games last season. Combine this with the four goals he could potentially get at even-strength, Hyman would be at 49. Maybe a couple of empty netters here and there, and he could very well hit 50 goals.
Considering how often Hyman gets to play with McDavid at both even-strength and the powerplay and how well the Oilers control the flow of play and scoring changes with them on the ice, it’s reasonable to expect Hyman to make a push for 50 goals. Reaching 40 would be great, no question. But with scoring continuing to grow across the league, it’s become even more important for the Oilers to have as much elite-level scoring in their top six, especially at a time when they need to find ways to improve their odds of clinching a playoff spot.
Data: Natural Stat Trick
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