How many goals should we expect Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl to score in the 2023-24 regular season?
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
Expectations are going to be high for the Edmonton Oilers to be pushing for a division title and hopefully for more in the spring. And a lot of their success is riding on their offensive capabilities, an area that they’ve excelled at the last few seasons. Thanks to their top-end powerplay and their star players up front, they were the highest-scoring team last season and should again be pushing to be near the top. Since 2019, the Oilers have scored 1,019 goals, which ranks second only to Florida and just ahead of Colorado and Toronto.
With scoring continuing to grow year-over-year, it’s imperative that the Oilers keep pace and squeeze out as much offence as they can from across their roster. Across the league, teams are not only getting better at generating higher quality chances, but more and more players are getting better at finishing – and we’re seeing an increase in the number 100-point players.
One of those offensive drivers for the Oilers will once again be Leon Draisaitl, who has consistently been one of the best goal-scorers in the league. And there’s a good chance he’ll continue producing at the rate he’s been at over the last few years. He’s clearly in his prime and done well at staying healthy. He’s playing with elite-level talent. And he’s put up 432 all-situation points in 287 games over the last four seasons. That’s second only behind Connor McDavid (478 points) in this period. It’s probably safe to assume Draisaitl will hit 100 points and could be pushing for 120 again.
But what about actual goals? Is it safe to assume he can reach the 50-goal mark again this upcoming season? And can we reasonably expect him to push for 60 goals and help the Oilers be the highest-scoring team again?
Now reaching 60 goals is a big ask, and it’s been done only five times in the modern era: Connor McDavid in 2022/23 (64), David Pastrnak in 2022/23 (61), Auston Mathews in 2021/22 (60), Steven Stamkos in 2011/12 (60) and Alexander Ovechkin in 2007/08 (65) who would be the man to beat. It would be an incredible feat to enter that 60-goal club, and it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility for Draisaitl. Just a few things would need to go right.
To project Draisaitl’s goal-scoring, I’m keeping things relatively simple. I’m going to project how many games he’ll play, and then using his average rate of shots on goal per game and shooting percentage at even-strength (5v5, 4v4, 3v3) and the powerplay from the last four seasons, determine how many goals he’ll likely score this upcoming season. From there we can figure out what Draisaitl and the Oilers can do to help improve his odds of reaching 60.
First, a quick summary of the number of goals Draisaitl has scored every season that he’s been in the league, broken down by the various game-states: even-strength, powerplay and penalty kill.
So what’s the reasonable target for Draisaitl next season? Again, I’m going to use his ice-time, shots and shooting percentage over the last four seasons (2019-2023) to make these projections.
Let’s start with even-strength where Draisaitl has scored 91 goals from 542 shots over the last four seasons, posting a 16.79% shooting percentage.
If Draisaitl stays healthy and plays in 97% of the games this upcoming season (which is the proportion of games he’s played in since his first full season in the league) – so about 80 games – and takes 1.87 shots per game, which is what he’s averaged over the last few seasons, he should get about 149 shots on goal at even-strength. And if he posts the same shooting percentage that he’s had over the last four seasons (16.79%), he should score about 25 even-strength goals in 2023/24.
That would be an improvement from last season, when his rate of shots per game and personal shooting percentage slipped from the year prior. But it’s worth noting that most of his even-strength struggles were early in the season after a long summer of rehabbing from his injury against the Kings in the 2022 playoffs. Entering this season with good health, I’d expect his numbers to bounce back to at least his career-average levels. So 25 even-strength goals sounds pretty realistic.
On special teams where he’s absolutely thrived, I think we can reasonably expect about 25 powerplay goals from Draisaitl this upcoming season. Table below is a summary of his powerplay history.
Based on the rate of shots he’s posted on the powerplay over the last four seasons (1.21 shots per game), he’ll likely get about 96 shots on goal. And if he converts on 25.66% percent of those shots, which has been his shooting percentage over the last four seasons – that comes out to about 25 goals. And since he’s scored a short-handed goal in each of the last three seasons, and actually scored three times in 2018/19, I think we can expect at least one shorthanded goal next year as well.
So taking a conservative approach and using his average rate of shots and his individual shooting percentage from the last four seasons at even-strength and on special teams, I think we can expect Draisaitl to score at least 51 total goals in the 2023/24 regular season (25 on even-strength, 25 on the powerplay and one shorthanded). This of course is assuming Draisaitl remains healthy, he continues to play with good players at even-strength. And the Oilers powerplay continues to have the same talent and tactical approach as it’s had the last few seasons with Glen Gulutzan running things.
Now to get anywhere near 60 goals and join that elite club, a few things will need to go right.
Draisaitl would need to match his career-best shooting percentages at even-strength (20.53% in 2018/19) and the powerplay (30.48% in 2022/23). Doing that and even generating the same rate of shots per game from the last four seasons (1.87 shots per game at even-strength and 1.21 shots per game on the powerplay) and he could potentially reach 61 goals – 31 at even-strength, 29 on the powerplay and 1 shorthanded.
What would really improve Draisaitl’s odds of scoring 60 goals is if the Oilers had the puck more often when he’s on the ice at even-strength. Over the last two seasons, the Oilers puck possession numbers would actually decline whenever Draisaitl was on the ice. And the team would allow a higher rate of shots and chances against. Because of this and other potential issues such as aging, his rate of points per hour have gradually been decreasing. If the Oilers can figure out what these even-strength issues might be and somehow spend more time in the offensive zone when Draisaitl is on the ice, Draisaitl could potentially get some more shots and surpass that 60-goal mark. And maybe even get closer to beating Ovechkin’s modern-day single-season record of 65 goals.
Definitely one of the many in-season storylines worth monitoring.
Data: Natural Stat Trick
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