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Can the Oilers depth players improve next season?

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
9 months ago
Last season, there were 1851 5v5 minutes where neither Leon Draisaitl or Connor McDavid were on the ice. In that time, the team outshot their opposition 880-855. They got 50.72% of the shots when their two superstar forwards were off the ice. More importantly, they outscored their opposition 74-60 in that time.
That’s a small win, but a win nonetheless and it’s actually quite the contrast from the 2022-23 season when they only had 48.79% of the shots on goal at 5v5 and they were outscored 80-58. The Oiler’s bottom six went from something that was hurting their chances to win to a part of their lineup that was pretty consistently helping them win games.
Now the question is, can it be better this season?
The personnel really didn’t change all that much, but they did lose one key driver of offence in the bottom six: Klim Kostin. After starting the year in Bakersfield, Kostin joined the Oilers and immediately made a positive impact. He scored 11 goals in 57 games and when he was on the ice, the Oilers outscored their opposition 28-18.
While Kostin did produce a healthy amount of offence, it is worth noting that he had a shooting percentage of 19.64%. He scored at a great pace last season but some regression should have been expected this coming season if he was still an Oiler.
The key drivers in the bottom six will be Ryan McLeod and Warren Foegele.
That duo played 322 5v5 minutes with each other last season and the results were pretty much an even split. Their SF% was 50.6% and their GF% was an even 50%.
That’s not terrible by any stretch. On a team with McDavid and Draisaitl, having a bottom six that’s capable of just consistently breaking even means the Oilers will have a strong chance of winning on most nights. But if the bottom six can crank their production up a notch, then the Oilers have a chance to be one of the best teams in the league.
It really does all start with McLeod and Foegele though. That duo will likely anchor the Oilers’ third line and they’ll get the most minutes of anyone in that group. 
Last year, they combined for 24 goals between the two of them. This season, I think expecting 35-40 from them is not insane.
First off, neither played a full season. If you pro-rate their numbers to a full 82-game campaign, it works out to about 16 goals apiece. That’s 32 right there. 
There are also very clear areas where they can each improve their own games.
For Ryan McLeod, it’s all about shooting the puck more. In 2022-23, he fired off just 5.67 shots per sixty at 5v5. That ranked him 11th among Oilers forwards who played at least 500 minutes. 
McLeod does a good job of using his speed to get past defenders and open up lanes off the rush, but he simply doesn’t shoot the puck enough. If he can get into a little bit more of a shoot-first mentality, then he could very well reach the 20-goal mark next season.
As for Foegele, it became a bit of a running joke last season that he couldn’t score on breakaways. 
According to Natural Stat-Trick, he averaged 10.90 individual scoring chances/60 at 5v5. That number puts him third on the Oilers behind only Evander Kane and Zach Hyman. 
While Foegele didn’t bury a lot of his great looks, he was fantastic at going to the right areas and generating chances. I’m not bringing this up to rag on the player either, a big part of this is just luck and Foegele was not a very lucky shooter last season. His 5v5 shooting percentage was 9.9%.
Those breakaway chances will eventually start to go in and that could lead to him getting closer to the 20-goal mark than he was last season. I’m very excited to see what contract-year Warren Foegele will look like.
The Oilers will likely have a handful of younger players in their bottom six next season as well. Both Dylan Holloway and Rafael Lavoie will have great chances to crack this roster and be impactful depth players. If one of those two could step in and provide the scoring punch that Kostin did, then the Oilers will likely be very happy.
The young pieces could certainly help, but the biggest drivers of offence in the Oilers’ bottom six will need to be McLeod and Foegele. If they take big steps forward, then this team’s forward group will be that much more of a headache for opposing defenders.

THE NATION VACATION TO SEATTLE

Much like every time we’ve ever done a trip like this, our first-ever #NationVacation to Seattle is going to sell out quickly so you’ll want to get your spot locked in as soon as possible. Need some details on what’s going down? No problem:
  • When: November 10 – 12th
  • Where we’re staying: Four Points by Sheraton Downtown Seattle
  • What you get: Your flights, three nights at the hotel, a ticket to the hockey game (Edmonton vs. Seattle), and a ticket to the football game the very next day (Seattle vs. Washington).
  • How Much: The total cost for the trip, flight, hotel, and entry to the game is $1999 per person (based on double occupancy) 
  • Tickets: Ready to dive in? Click this link.

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