Scoring goals wasn’t an issue for the Edmonton Oilers as a team last season. They tied Tampa Bay for 7th most goals in the NHL last averaging 3.48 goals/game. When Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson arrived, the Oilers’ offence improved to 3.82 goals/game, which was 5th best in the league for those 38 games. However, I’m not sure it was just the coaches who helped the offence improve, because Florida, Toronto, St. Louis, and Calgary — who were all top-four since February 11th — also increased their scoring down the stretch.
St. Louis averaged 3.77 goals/game over the season, but they scored 4.14 goals/GP from Feb 11th on. Toronto was 3.80 on the season and 4.08 down the stretch, Calgary was 3.55 all season and 3.84 since Feb 11th. In previous seasons we’ve seen goal scoring decrease in the final few months, so it was nice to see many of the top offensive teams scoring more as the season progressed.
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TEAM
G/GP Season
G/GP Feb 10th to End
FLA
4.10
4.14
TOR
3.80
4.08
STL
3.77
4.16
COL
3.76
3.38
MINN
3.72
3.70
CGY
3.55
3.84
EDM
3.48
3.82
TB
3.48
3.66
Vancouver was the only team not in the top-eight all season, who moved into the top-eight from Feb 10th and beyond. They averaged 3.00 goals/game over the season, but they were 6th highest at 3.71 after February 10th. Woodcroft and Manson’s biggest impact on the Oilers came in their reduction of goals against. Edmonton was 18th on the season at 3.06, but after the coaching change, they were 6th at 2.76. They managed to reduce goals down the stretch, when goal scoring across the league increased. A good sign for the Oilers, but let’s get back to goal scoring.
Not all shots are created equal. The closer you are to the net the better chance you have of scoring. And when you are in the slot, the odds increase even more. This has been a fact for decades, but only recently have we seen actual data to back it up. Sports Logic tracks more data than most, and one area they track is inner slot shots, inner slot goals, slot shots, and slot shot goals. This gives us a much clearer picture of the value of certain shots.
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Here is a diagram of what they deem the inner slot and the slot.
Inner slot shots are #1 in the green and slot shots are #2 in the blue. Closer to the goal and at a better angle is why Inner slot shots have a much higher chance of leading to goals. Now that you can visualize where these shots areas are, let’s look at the Oilers forwards from last season. I included the 12 who played the most regularly. Zack Kassian is now in Arizona.

INNER SLOT SHOTS…

Player 
Inner Slot shots
Goals and (SH%)
Zach Hyman
100
17 (17%)
Connor McDavid
84
17 (20.2%)
Leon Draisaitl
68
23 (33.8%)
Kailer Yamamoto
53
15 (28.3%)
Jesse Puljujarvi
45
9 (20%)
Warren Foegele
44
8 (18.1%)
Evander Kane
44
14 (31.8%)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
36
4 (11.1%)
Zack Kassian
21
5 (23.8%)
Ryan McLeod
21
7 (33.3%)
Derek Ryan
19
4 (21%)
Devin Shore
10
4 (40%)
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Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane were very efficient from the inner slot scoring on over 30% of their shots. Devin Shore and Ryan McLeod didn’t shoot as much, but when they did there were effective with McLeod at 33% and Shore at 40%. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins struggled with only four goals on 36 shots. He was well below every other forward. He will need to bury more of his high-danger chances this season. Zach Hyman was 2nd in the NHL with 100 inner slot shots, trailing only Brady Tkachuk. He missed some great chances early in the season, but he was around the net a lot. Being one of two players in triple-digit inner slot shots shows he knows where to go to score. He finished the season with 22 rebound scoring chances, and Puljujarvi was 2nd with 21. But Hyman buried more of his, and if Puljujarvi fine-tunes his puck skills around the net his goal totals will increase. Especially playing with McDavid. Go to the net, stay there and the chances will follow.

SLOT SHOTS…

Player 
Slot shots
Goals and (SH%)
Leon Draisaitl
89
16 (18%)
Connor McDavid
89
13 (14.6%)
Zach Hyman
48
9 (18.8%)
Jesse Puljujarvi
48
4 (8.3%)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
47
5 (10.6%)
Warren Foegele
32
3 (9.4%)
Evander Kane
32
6 (18.8%)
Kailer Yamamoto
26
4 (15.3%)
Ryan McLeod
16
0 (0%)
Derek Ryan
13
5 (38.4%)
Zack Kassian
10
0 (0%)
Devin Shore
9
1 (11.1%)
McDavid and Draisaitl had the most shots by a significant margin. Once again Kane and Draisaitl had the best SH% among the high-volume shooters. Derek Ryan was incredibly effective scoring five goals on only 13 shots. His overall SH% was 13.9, which was slightly higher than his career average of 12.0, but not significantly. He doesn’t get many shots, but he’s an efficient scorer. But it is unlikely he scores as often in the green and blue zones.
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Puljujarvi struggled at scoring from the slot. If he buried three or four more chances, he’d have been fine. It isn’t a massive ask. He had opportunities, he just needs to sharpen his puck skills and not fan on shots as often. He got himself in position often enough, now he needs to take the next step and finish. RNH is in the same boat. He has a good snapshot, but he needs to bury more of his good chances. If he does, he should be a 20-goal scorer again; especially playing on the first unit power play.

TOTAL SLOT SHOTS…

Player 
 All Slot shots
 Goals and (SH%)
Connor McDavid
173
30 (17.3%)
Leon Draisaitl
157
39 (24.8%)
Zach Hyman
148
26 (17.5%)
Jesse Puljujarvi
93
13 (13.9%)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
83
9 (10.8%)
Kailer Yamamoto
79
19 (24%)
Warren Foegele
76
11 (14.4%)
Evander Kane
76
20 (26.3%)
Ryan McLeod
37
7 (18.9%)
Derek Ryan
32
9 (28.1%)
Zack Kassian
31
5 (16.1%)
Devin Shore
19
5 (26.3%)
Reminder these are only slot shots, and that is why most players have a higher SH%. More on that below. Draisaitl, Kane and Yamamoto were all 24%+, which is very solid, while depth forwards Ryan and Shore made the most of their limited chances. They combined for 14 goals on 51 shots from the slot. Puljujarvi and RNH were 4th and 5th in slot shots, but 11th and 12th in SH%.
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After looking at the slot shots, I decided to see how many goals Oilers forwards scored outside of zones 1 and 2 (from the diagram). This will hammer home the importance of needing to be closer to the net to score.

ZONES 3, 4 and 5

Player 
Zone 3-5 shots
Goals and (SH%)
Connor McDavid
141
14 (9.9%)
Leon Draisaitl
121
16 (13.2%)
Evander Kane
76
2 (2.6%)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
71
2 (2.8%)
Jesse Puljujarvi
67
1 (1.5%)
Warren Foegele
66
1 (1.5%)
Zach Hyman
65
1 (1.5%)
Ryan McLeod
45
2 (4.4%)
Derek Ryan
40
1 (2.5%)
Kailer Yamamoto
35
1 (2.8%)
Zack Kassian
27
1 (3.7%)
Devin Shore
17
0 (0%)
Draisaitl’s one-timer from sharp angles has him at the top of the list in efficiency. McDavid is pretty lethal from these areas as well, because he often attacks with speed from sharp angles. But the rest of the group illustrate how difficult it is to score outside of the slot. In my interview with Brad Holland a few weeks ago he discussed how he used to think shot share was a great stat to look at. But since he has realized it isn’t as accurate as he originally believed because shot quality and where the shots are coming from matter.
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The next step would be to look at how many of the shots from zones 3-5 led to rebound goals. Putting pucks on net from those angles with traffic in front, or when a teammate is crashing the net can definitely be helpful, but the 10 forwards, not named Draisaitl and McDavid, took 509 shots from zones 3-5 and scored 12 goals. For non-elite players scoring from those zones is very rare. And even for elite players it is rare.

FINAL SHOTS…

Jan 23, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen (18) handles a loose puck against the Montreal Canadiens in the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
— Chris Kreider led the NHL with an amazing 38 inner slot goals. He was third with 99 inner slot shots and a ridiculous 38.3SH%. Will he be as effective this season?
— Auston Matthews led the NHL with 198 slot shots and 53 slot goals. He is deadly in the slot. Deadly. He was second with 29 inner slot goals, and 19th in inner slot shots with 74. He had a 26.8SH% from the slot with 53 goals on 198 shots. He scored seven goals on his 150 shots (4.67SH%) in zones 3-5. Even the best shooters have limited success outside the slot.
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— The Oilers made it official today signing Jake Virtanen and Jason Demers to PTOs. Edmonton currently has 43 contracts and has to sign Ryan McLeod, which will put them at 44. In theory, they could sign Virtanen and Demers and still have lots of room on the 50-man roster, but if either is signed it likely will be for around the league minimum of $750K, as the Oilers have very little cap space.
— The Oilers and McLeod’s camp have had lots of talks recently. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t in on the ice on Thursday. He has no arbitration rights and very little negotiating power, while the Oilers have very little cap space. A one-year deal around $900K seems likely, unless Holland can make a trade to free up some cap room. If that happens then a two-year deal with a cap hit around $1.1m could work.
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— Dylan Holloway looked great v. the Jets and Flames rookies. He should dominate those games, where many players have little to no pro experience, and he did. That is a great sign. He will come to camp full of confidence and he will push for a roster spot. Competition is great and we’ll see how the veterans react. It is also important to remember that preseason games are still very different from NHL games, especially the first few that are filled with many non-NHL players. Holloway needs to stand out in those games as he has thus far in the rookie tournament.

#NATIONVACATION TO LAS VEGAS

  • When: On Thursday, January 12th, we’re jumping on a flight at the Edmonton International Airport and making our way to Vegas. On Sunday evening, we’ll fly back from Vegas to Edmonton. So the dates that you need to block off for this trip are January 12th to 15th.
  • Where we’re staying: After landing in LV, we’ll jump on the free shuttle and make our way to the Park MGM before settling in for a good night’s sleep. 😉
  • What you get: Your roundtrip flight, hotel, shuttle, viewing party (Friday night), game entry — we got seats this time (Saturday night), and exclusive entry into our pre-trip ‘get to know everyone’ event.
  • How Much: The total cost for the trip, flight, hotel, and entry to the game is $1499 per person (based on double occupancy) 
  • Tickets: Ready to dive in? Click this link.

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