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Could Less Be More for McDavid and Draisaitl? Part Two

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Photo credit:Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
10 months ago
In part one we focused on 5×5 ice time and production for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl the past two seasons. They led the NHL in 5×5 minutes and were third and eighth respectively in points. They have been very productive at 5×5. Today we will dig a bit deeper on 5×5 production, but also look at overall TOI and see where they rank and if head coach Jay Woodcroft should consider deploying them differently this coming season.
Let’s start with 5×5 scoring from last season. Here are the top-25 forwards in 5×5 points. I also listed where they rank, in parenthesis, in TOI/GP, goals/60, assists/60 and points/60.
PLAYERGPTOI/GPGG/60AA/60PTSPTS/60
Nathan MacKinnon7116:45 (1)251.26 (17)402.02 (1)653.28 (1)
David Pastrnak8214:27 (35)341.72 (2)271.37 (48)613.09 (4)
Connor McDavid8215:57 (3)321.47 (3)271.24 (73)592.71 (17)
Brayden Point8214:40 (29)291.45 (5)301.50 (34)592.94 (8)
Matthew Tkachuk7914:11 (41)221.18 (24)361.93 (4)583.10 (3)
Jack Hughes7815:24 (10)281.40 (8)281.40 (45)562.80 (12)
Jason Robertson8214:28 (34)261.31 (15)301.52 (27)562.83 (11)
Jeff Skinner7913:34 (77)251.40 (9)311.74 (9)563.13 (2)
Elias Pettersson8013:45 (64)211.14 (29)351.91 (5)563.05 (6)
Tage Thompson7813:40 (71)251.41 (6)301.69 (12)553.09 (5)
Sidney Crosby8215:07 (16)221.06 (43)331.60 (19)552.66 (19)
Mikko Rantanen8216:33 (2)321.41 (7)210.93 (134)532.34 (42)
Clayton Keller8215:44 (5)241.12 (33)291.35 (51)532.46 (28)
Mitchell Marner8014:17 (37)150.79 (86)381.99 (2)532.78 (14)
Carter Verhaeghe8114:10 (42)281.46 (4)241.25 (72)522.72 (15)
Auston Matthews7415:29 (8)261.36 (10)261.36 (49)522.72 (16)
Leon Draisaitl8015:52 (4)170.80 (81)341.61 (18)512.41 (34)
Nikita Kucherov8214:57 (21)150.73 (102)361.76 (8)512.49 (25)
Artemi Panarin8214:55 (23)190.93 (53)311.52 (28)502.45 (30)
William Nylander8213:42 (67)221.17 (27)271.44 (41)492.61 (20)
Andrei Kuzmenko8112:38 (145)211.23 (20)281.64 (13)492.87 (10)
Jared McCann7912:15 (164)301.86 (1)181.11 (96)482.97 (7)
Brock Nelson8213:45 (63)241.28 (16)241.28 (63)482.55 (21)
Alex Tuch7413:30 (82)211.26 (19)271.62 (17)482.88 (9)
Zach Hyman7915:16 (11)150.74 (99)331.63 (16)482.37 (40)
McDavid was third and Draisaitl was 17th in points, and they ranked third and fourth in TOI/GP. Buffalo, Edmonton and Toronto each had three players in the top-25, while Colorado, Florida, Tampa, and Vancouver had two and Arizona, Boston, Dallas, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, and Seattle had one. Jared McCann led all players with a crazy 1.86 goals/60 at 5×5. He was 164th in TOI/GP.
Jeff Skinner had a very quiet productive season. Nathan MacKinnon was a beast 5×5 leading the league in points and points/60. He missed 11 games and still led the league in 5×5 scoring.
Producing points is one aspect of 5×5 play. The other, of course, is defending. Goals for help you win, but goals against play a big role as well. And here is where the Oilers need to improve. It has been their main weakness for the past 15 years and during seven of the eight years of the McDavid/Draisaitl era. Here’s where Edmonton has ranked in 5×5 GA from 2016 to 2023: 30th, ninth, 26th, 24th, 26th, 21st, 19th and 17th. They’ve been in the top half of the league once.
It is the main weakness of the organization, and the players need to commit to being more smart, consistent and reliable defensively next season. The improvement needs to occur during the regular season. Here is how the top-25 scorers faired in shots for and against, goals for/against, on-ice SH%, on-ice SV%, PDO and then offensive and defensive starts. Since goals impact the outcome of the game the most, I ranked them in GF%.
PLAYERSFSASF%GFGAGF%OISH%OISV%PDOOZSDZS
Auston Matthews65554854.45753766.9611.4593.251.04723082
Jason Robertson68851957713865.1410.3292.681.03194131
David Pastrnak66958553.35734164.0410.9192.991.039279126
Matthew Tkachuk83654260.67895064.0310.6590.771.014223150
Mitchell Marner60553453.12643962.1410.5892.71.033241134
Carter Verhaeghe75561555.11684261.829.0193.171.022213162
Nathan MacKinnon74564853.48815161.3610.8792.131.03260127
Brock Nelson60963049.15714561.2111.6692.861.045235121
Jared McCann52942455.51674460.3612.6789.621.023193127
William Nylander66355354.52644359.819.6592.221.019220101
Andrei Kuzmenko48945951.58644757.6613.0989.761.028182117
Jeff Skinner66162051.6805957.5512.190.481.026277103
Alex Tuch59754952.09664957.3911.0691.071.021231107
Sidney Crosby73867552.23675156.789.0892.441.015279122
Jack Hughes71153657.02715755.479.9989.370.99423893
Brayden Point70567051.27746055.2210.591.041.015243130
Mikko Rantanen82176751.7756155.159.1492.051.012337153
Elias Pettersson53751351.14655355.0812.189.671.018184126
Nikita Kucherov72168451.32725954.969.9991.371.014254127
Zach Hyman72363753.16796554.8610.9389.81.007241143
Connor McDavid78468253.48756254.749.5790.911.005255144
Artemi Panarin62857152.38635354.3110.0390.721.007132128
Tage Thompson63061050.81685953.5410.7990.331.01126199
Leon Draisaitl73566452.54747051.3910.0789.460.995259185
Clayton Keller61265148.46656450.3910.6290.171.008219221
It helps having a high Sv%, although Matthew Tkachuk is still fourth with only a .907Sv%. McDavid ranks 21st while Draisaitl is 24th. Draisaitl’s .894Sv% is a factor, as is the high % of defensive zone starts he had. He took many defensive zone face offs, and only Clayton Keller had a higher % of D-zone draws. Draisaitl had 185 D-zone starts while Auston Matthews had 82. Again, it is a factor, but not the main reason for the high GA. Tkachuk had the fifth-most D-zone starts and still had an excellent GF%.
Being more aware and attentive defensively will help, but I also wonder if overall TOI is a factor.
RANKPLAYERTOI/GP5×5/GPPK/GPPP/GPOTHER
1Connor McDavid22:2315:571:163:561:14
2Nathan MacKinnon22:1916:450:054:051:24
3Mikko Rantanen22:1316:330:024:091:29
4Leon Draisaitl21:4415:520:393:581:15
5Mitchell Marner21:1614:172:173:341:08
10Clayton Keller20:4515:440:353:131:13
13Elias Pettersson20:3313:451:483:501:10
18Matthew Tkachuk20:2614:110:234:261:26
20Auston Matthews20:1615:290:033:381:06
25Zach Hyman20:0915:160:353:300:48
26Sidney Crosby20:0815:070:033:551:03
27Nikita Kucherov20:0714:570:014:001:09
30Jack Hughes19:5715:240:043:101:19
35Brayden Point19:4014:400:023:480:50
36Artemi Panarin19:3614:550:013:351:05
37David Pastrnak19:3314:270:033:501:13
49Alex Tuch19:0913:301:193:210:51
56Jason Robertson18:5014:280:003:191:03
67Tage Thompson18:3513:400:353:210:59
69William Nylander18:3213:420:143:351:01
75Brock Nelson18:2613:450:382:591:04
101Carter Verhaeghe17:3014:100:012:111:08
108Jeff Skinner17:2313:340:023:130:34
151Jared McCann16:2012:150:592:400:26
156Andrei Kuzmenko16:1412:380:003:000:36
McDavid is first in overall TOI/game. He is third in 5×5 overall among NHL forwards, and he is fourth among these players on the PK and 6th in PP TOI/GP. Draisaitl ranks fourth, sixth and fifth.
I’ve seen some suggest the Oilers should play the second unit PP a bit more and give McDavid and Draisaitl some rest. I’m sorry, but that would be a terrible decision. The Oilers’ power play is the best in NHL history and it is a massive advantage. I see no reason to alter PP usage.
PLAYER TOIGAPTSPTS/60
Connor McDavid321:5221507113.23
Leon Draisaitl316:5232306211.74
Nikita Kucherov328:18842509.14
Jason Robertson273:101328419.01
Mikko Rantanen341:121324376.51
David Pastrnak313:031819377.09
Matthew Tkachuk350:071422366.17
Artemi Panarin294:01927367.35
Mitchell Marner285:58927367.55
Nathan MacKinnon290:281222347.02
Tage Thompson264:192014347.72
Jack Hughes245:04922317.59
Brayden Point311:562010305.77
William Nylander293:45919285.72
Auston Matthews268:181315286.26
Sidney Crosby319:52918275.06
Zach Hyman276:041511265.65
Elias Pettersson306:55619254.89
Jeff Skinner257:07813214.9
Clayton Keller263:37614204.55
Alex Tuch249:58812204.8
Andrei Kuzmenko243:28145194.68
Brock Nelson243:00611174.2
Jared McCann211:0079164.55
Carter Verhaeghe177:2576134.4
McDavid scored 21 more points than Nikita Kucherov and played seven fewer minutes on the PP. Draisaitl had 26 more points than Tkachuk and Tkachuk played the most PP minutes of any forward in the NHL. The production from McDavid and Draisaitl is so elite that any suggestion to lower their PP time should be immediately ignored.

CONCLUSION…

Nov 30, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) and forward Connor McDavid (97) talk before a face off against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
McDavid and Draisaitl are both elite players. Their conditioning has never been an issue. They can handle 21-23 minutes/game, but is it the best strategy to have them continue to play as similar minutes in the upcoming regular season? The easy option would be to reduce their PK minutes. McDavid ranked 116th among NHL forwards in total PK TOI. He played 104 minutes. Only Elias Petterson (144), and Mitch Marner (183) played more from the 25 players in this article. McDavid was tied for second with four shorthanded goals, one behind Pettersson, and he was third with seven points, two back of Petterson’s nine.
Of the 155 forwards who played at least 80 minutes on the PK, McDavid had the best GF% at 47.06. He was on the ice for eight goals for and nine against on the PK. I can understand why Woodcroft wants to use him, but I do think he either has to lower his PK usage a bit or his 5×5 minutes. I’m not talking about a massive amount. If he managed to lower his TOI/GP by even one minute McDavid would still rank fourth among NHL forwards, and realistically it would be third, because I assume if McDavid sees the ice slightly less, then so too would Draisaitl, and McDavid would sit third.
One of the main reasons I could see the minutes dip slightly is because of the extra attention the Oilers will (or at least should) have on the defensive side of the puck next season. It takes more energy and work to be sound defensively. You battle more. There can be more stops and starts. You can expend more energy at times.
The Oilers’ leaders were very clear the team needs to be more consistent defensively next season, and for that to happen they need to lead the way. And when they do, that might be the easy way for Woodcroft to lower their TOI in the regular season.
Again, we aren’t talking about a massive drop — a shift or two each game. I think it could benefit McDavid and Draisaitl, but it would also allow the bottom six players to get more involved. Championship teams need their top lines producing, but they need to get solid contributions throughout the lineup as well.
The Oilers’ depth isn’t an issue like it was as recently as 2022. They have quality players in the bottom six with a nice mix of skill, size, speed and tenacity.
If the players fulfill their promise to be more aware and reliable defensively, Woodcroft should be in a position to make some slight adjustments in player usage next year.

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