Who should play with Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman?

Photo credit:© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Liam Horrobin
1 month ago
Game 1 of round 2 proved to be a disappointment for the Edmonton Oilers. While they initially held a 4-2 lead in the third period, they faltered in closing out the game, allowing the Vancouver Canucks to score three unanswered goals. The atmosphere at Rogers Arena was electric as the Canucks secured their fifth goal, effectively sealing the victory and dealing a blow to the Oilers’ hopes.
One notable absence for Edmonton was Adam Henrique. Acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline, Henrique had been shuffled up and down the lineup throughout the regular season. However, he had solidified his position alongside Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman on the top line against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. Unfortunately, a lower-body injury sustained in Game 5 against the Kings sidelined him for Game 1 against the Canucks.
Mattias Janmark was tasked with filling Henrique’s spot on the top line. While Janmark didn’t perform poorly, it was evident that he lacked the offensive awareness necessary to complement a player of McDavid’s calibre. In preparation for Game 2, coach Kris Knoblauch made adjustments to the lineup, promoting Warren Foegele to the McDavid line.
Foegele, despite struggling in the playoffs so far with only one goal in six games, has shown potential when playing in the top six during the regular season. His chemistry with McDavid and Hyman was evident, as they outscored opponents 3-2 and outshot them 35-12 during their time together at even strength. Compared to Janmark, Foegele represents a clear upgrade.
Scoring Chances ForScoring Chances AgainstGoals ForGoals Against
Foegele w/McDavid & Hyman301232
Janmark w/McDavid & Hyman131700
However, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has excelled alongside McDavid and Hyman throughout the season, forming one of the most dominant lines in hockey according to moneypuck.com. Their offensive output and defensive reliability make them a formidable trio, with statistics overwhelmingly favoring Nugent-Hopkins over both Foegele and Janmark when paired with McDavid and Hyman.
Scoring Chances ForScoring Chances AgainstGoals ForGoals Against
Foegele w/McDavid & Hyman301232
Janmark w/McDavid & Hyman131700
Nugent-Hopkins w/McDavid & Hyman3391913420
Despite their success in the regular season, Knoblauch has yet to reunite this potent trio in the playoffs. While the forwards performed admirably against the Kings, the absence of Leon Draisaitl, who left game 1 due to equipment issues and cramping, may influence lineup decisions. If Draisaitl’s condition allows him to play but requires additional support, it could delay Nugent-Hopkins’ return to the top line.
Granted, Foegele and Draisaitl have also had success together. Together, they’ve outscored there opponents 22 to 15 and have out chanced the opposition by 58%. Even with Kane, that trio has done well creating 26 high danger chances in 75 minutes played together at 5-on-5. The trouble could come defensively but outscoring your problems isn’t something the Oilers aren’t familar with.
The optimal lineup for the Oilers seems clear, but factors such as Draisaitl’s injury status and the need for Foegele to pick up his level of play further are influencing decisions. Should circumstances become dire, a reunion of Nugent-Hopkins with McDavid and Hyman may be inevitable.


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