Warren Foegele’s strong 5v5 play has been a major factor in Oilers’ winning streak

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
5 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers keep on rolling. With a 3-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night, Edmonton extended their historic winning streak to 15 consecutive games, becoming just the fifth team in NHL history to have a winning streak of that length. 
During this streak, Edmonton’s team leader in 5v5 scoring has produced 14 points. Not only is this player nearly PPG at 5v5, but they also rank second in the entire league in 5v5 points over this span, and first in 5v5 points per hour.
If I were to ask a random fan outside of Edmonton who this player is, it’s safe to bet they would guess Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, or perhaps even Zach Hyman. However, these guesses would be incorrect.
Over Edmonton’s spectacular fifteen-game win streak, the team leader in 5v5 points is Warren Foegele.
With an impressive scoring rate of 4.3 5v5 points per hour, alongside a strong on-ice expected goal differential of 59 percent, Foegele’s recent 5v5 play has had a significant impact on Edmonton’s win streak. After spending the vast majority of his time in the bottom-six the prior two seasons, Foegele has earned himself a regular spot in Edmonton’s top-six in these past couple of weeks.
Overall, Foegele has produced at a rate of 2.7 5v5 points per hour in 2023-24 thus far. This season, 576 forwards have played a minimum of 300 minutes at 5v5, and Foegele ranks twelfth in 5v5 production rate, and seventh in 5v5 primary assists per 60, even marginally ahead of McDavid. 
Foegele’s raw box score totals of 26 points in 44 games don’t necessarily seem eye-popping, but note that lack of power-play time is a major factor. Foegele’s 5v5 play has been quite good, and that has been extremely beneficial for this Edmonton team.
Now, some may be quite wary of these numbers. In the prior two seasons, Foegele’s most common linemates were Ryan McLeod and Derek Ryan, but this year, he has spent over 40 percent of his TOI with Leon Draisaitl. At a raw glance, this may simply seem like another instance of an Oilers winger going on an unsustainable heater as they spend significant time alongside one of the league’s top producers.
However, Foegele’s play has not just been the product of linemates or scoring luck.
In 2022-23, Foegele produced at a rate of 2.1 5v5 points per hour, ranking 87th among all forwards with at least 400 minutes at 5v5. In technicality, there are 96 first-liners in the league (3 per 32 teams), and 192 top-six players in the league (6 per 32 teams), meaning Foegele’s 5v5 production technically ranked at the level of a low-end top-liner. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I believe he is a first-line player, but it is simply worth mentioning that this is not the first season of his career where his 5v5 production has been relatively strong.
Furthermore, Foegele has 9 goals at 5v5, but 13.3 expected goals based on the volume and quality of his shot attempts. His on-ice shooting percentage is at a fairly unimpressive 8.6 percent, and his actual goal differential is 8 percent lower than his expected goal differential.
This is not the result of some shooting percentage heater or unsustainable scoring luck; if anything, it is actually the opposite. Foegele has underperformed his expected metrics.
One thing that has stayed constant throughout Foegele’s career is his ability to drive quality shots and scoring chances. It has always been a strength for him throughout his career. Here is a closer look:
Foegele’s play was fairly unimpressive in his first season with Edmonton, but throughout his entire career, Foegele’s offensive impact on driving scoring chances has been excellent. Last season, it ranked in the 97th percentile among the NHL’s forwards, while it ranks in the 99th percentile this season.
In prior seasons, Foegele was never the best finisher nor play-maker, but he could certainly drive possession and chances, and he’s taken that to new heights this season. He ranks fifth among all NHL forwards in RAPM xGF/60 at even-strength in 2023-24 thus far.
Specifically, Foegele’s transitional play and passing have taken a big step forward, which is a major reason for his improved 5v5 offensive metrics. Using data from our microstat tracking project (here’s a glossary outlining each stat we track), here’s how Foegele ranks among Edmonton’s forwards in a couple of these metrics:
Foegele is averaging 12.3 controlled entries per 60, and nearly a third of them are leading to a quality shot. Foegele also ranks first on the team with 7.0 unblocked shot attempts off the rush. He has considerably improved in all of these areas from prior years.
Visibly, Foegele looks much faster, and a lot more confident and dangerous with the puck on his stick in transition, and my observations are supported by data from NHL EDGE. In 2022-23, Foegele’s top speed was 35.9 KPH, ranking in the 52nd percentile, but this season, his top speed is 37.1 KPH, ranking in the 90th percentile. This improvement in speed, puck-handling, and overall confidence has led to excellent rush offence results.
Foegele’s passing has also taken a massive step forward. As mentioned earlier, Foegele ranks seventh in the NHL in primary assists per hour, and his passing microstats support that this isn’t entirely a mirage. Foegele ranks 3rd on the team in primary scoring chance assists per hour, and second in HD Passes per hour, even marginally ahead of Leon Draisaitl.
Foegele’s major strength in prior seasons was his ability to tenaciously forecheck and drive to the net, leading to consistently strong on-ice scoring chance numbers, and by adding markedly improved transitional play and play-making, he is even more of a useful offensive player.
All-in-all, there is no doubt that Foegele is enjoying a very good year at 5v5, and it is not simply a product of linemates or scoring luck. I have not been the most avid fan of his contract in the past, but in my mind, there is no doubt that he is currently worth his $2.75M cap hit.
Some may question if this play is sustainable moving forward, which is fair considering that Foegele can be streaky, and it is reasonable to believe that a scoring rate of 2.7 5v5 points per hour is difficult for him to maintain. However, as mentioned previously, Foegele’s on-ice scoring chance results and microstats suggest that there is a genuine improvement in his play.
Foegele has an encouraging track record alongside Leon Draisaitl, as the duo has out-scored opponents 35 to 25 at 5v5 in over 500 minutes together throughout the past three seasons, alongside a 57 percent expected goal share. The Oilers could certainly benefit from pursuing a potential top-six right-winger to play alongside Draisaitl, and moving forward, I certainly don’t think it is unreasonable for Foegele to be the complementary third wheel on Draisaitl’s line. Foegele’s style of play suits Draisaitl well.
Another question that his performance raises is his next contract, as Foegele is a pending UFA. If he sustains his current performance moving forward, I believe a contract around ~$3.5M would be reasonable for both sides, but will Edmonton be able to afford it?
Connor Brown’s performance bonus will take away most of the cap-ceiling rise in 2024-25, and Edmonton has just seven forwards under contract for next season. With Leon Draisaitl and Evan Bouchard’s contracts set to expire in two seasons, Edmonton will have to manage their cap much more wisely, and it may be a smart idea to rely on cheap, younger players to play above their cap-hits.
It isn’t difficult to see Dylan Holloway taking Foegele’s role in 2024-25. While Holloway has struggled with injuries throughout his career thus far, his results in the games he has played this year have been encouraging, and he does possess potential for more. It could be a smart move to have Holloway replace Foegele to save some cap.
However, Foegele’s performance is certainly creating a strong argument for keeping and re-signing him.
He’s a 27-year-old forward with top-six 5v5 production rates in the past two seasons, which continue to improve, alongside consistently strong on-ice possession metrics. Foegele can move up and down the lineup and has found chemistry on Leon Draisaitl’s wing. He is proving to be a quite useful player.
It is an extremely pleasant sight to see less reliance on McDavid and Draisaitl’s production during Edmonton’s historic winning streak. Many of Edmonton’s supporting pieces have stepped up, and Warren Foegele is certainly one of them.
*All stats via Natural Stat Trick unless stated otherwise
Find me on Twitter (@NHL_Sid)

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