Frozen Pool Forensics: Connor McDavid

by Cam Robinson on July 15, 2016

This week's Frozen Pool Forensics looks at Connor McDavid's prospects for next year. 

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If anyone is expecting a sophomore slump from Connor McDavid next season, get ready to be disappointed. Here is a player that only follows one trend: Surpassing expectations.

As the most anticipated player since Sidney Crosby a decade earlier, McDavid has been in the spotlight for a long time and just like his predecessor, Crosby and Wayne Gretzky before him, McDavid didn’t get to come home with the Calder Memorial Trophy.

More so than any year in recent memory, this year’s Calder award was a fiery and long-winded debate that existed on every sports radio show north of the border and a few down in Chicago and Philly.

In the end, Artemi Panarin took home the prize, Shayne Gostisbehere was the bridesmaid, and McDavid brought up the rear. The third-place finish was entirely the result of the broken collarbone suffered in early November which cost him 34 games.

However, if the production rates McDavid accumulated during his freshman campaign are any indication – and you better believe they are, then we can pretty safely start projecting his career arc with that of Crosby’s. In which case, The Oilers’ franchise centre is about to set the hockey world on fire.

While not as difficult as comparing players from separate generations, comparing Crosby and McDavid still has some pitfalls.  Firstly, we must take in to account the goal scoring metrics.

In 2005-06 when Crosby was a rookie, the average goals scored per game, per team sat at 3.08 – a 10 year high after the lockout season had brought in stricter rules and more power play opportunities. Since that season, we have yet to have an average above 2.95 and have seemed to settle into an average of 2.7 in the past three campaigns.

Just for fun… In 2005-06, Crosby’s Penguins scored 244 goals (2.97) and ended as the 29th placed team. The following year saw them score 277 goals (3.37/game) and finish 10th overall – a jump of nearly a half-goal per game.

Last season, McDavid’s Oilers scored 204 goals (2.49) and ended up as the 29th placed team. It’s fair to assume an extra half season of games with McDavid have closed the gap between two.

 

Quick Prediction: McDavid can spring the Oilers totals up 0.5 goals per game and as a group, the Oilers will score 240 goals next season. I won’t be predicting a top 10 finish however.

 

Okay, enough with the Crosby-McDavid comparisons, here’s some staggering numbers put up by the first overall selection from the 2015 Entry Draft:

·As an 18/19 year-old, McDavid produced 16 goals and 48 points in 45 games. That’s good for a 1.07 point-per-game output which ranked third overall in the league behind Patrick Kane (1.29) and Jamie Benn (1.09).

He produced 14 power play points but more impressively, he was fifth overall in five-on-four power play points per 60 minutes with 6.68PPP/60. The guys in front of him were on top teams with high functioning power play units and played full or near-full seasons. Edmonton’s power play ranked 18th league wide.

McDavid ranked second in the league in five-on-five points per 60 with a mark of 2.69pts/60 – Everyone’s favourite old-timer, Jaromir Jagr led the way with 2.7pts/60.

A massive shift occurred in Edmonton this last month which saw former first-overall selection. Taylor Hall leave town and hulking power winger, Milan Lucic arrive. How do these moves alter the lines heading into next fall?

Let’s first take a look at McDavid’s most frequent line mates at even-strength from last season using Dobber’s Line Combination Tool:

              Even Strength Line Combinations

Freq

Line Combination

33.1%

EBERLE,JORDAN – MCDAVID,CONNOR – POULIOT,BENOIT

28%

EBERLE,JORDAN – MAROON,PATRICK – MCDAVID,CONNOR

26%

MCDAVID,CONNOR – POULIOT,BENOIT – YAKUPOV,NAIL

8.6%

EBERLE,JORDAN – MCDAVID,CONNOR – YAKUPOV,NAIL

4.3%

HALL,TAYLOR – KASSIAN,ZACK – MCDAVID,CONNOR

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

It didn’t take long to realize that Hall and McDavid weren’t a compatible pair. Each needs to carry the puck often to be effective so an early change was in order. Enter Jordan Eberle.

The shifty right-winger looked comfortable playing next to McDavid and factored in on 62 percent of the freshman’s even-strength points.

                      Even Strength Line Production

Pts

%Total

Line Combination

10

37%

EBERLE,JORDAN – MCDAVID,CONNOR – POULIOT,BENOIT

8

29.6%

MCDAVID,CONNOR – POULIOT,BENOIT – YAKUPOV,NAIL

5

18.5%

EBERLE,JORDAN – MAROON,PATRICK – MCDAVID,CONNOR

3

11.1%

EBERLE,JORDAN – MCDAVID,CONNOR – YAKUPOV,NAIL

1

3.7%

EBERLE,JORDAN – LETESTU,MARK – MCDAVID,CONNOR – POULIOT,BENOIT

 


 


 


 

With the money thrown at Lucic on July 1st, it’s fair to assume that he at least gets a long look at becoming the left-winger on that top line as well as the net front presence on the top power play unit. His specific set of skills should be a welcomed addition to a pillow-soft top six group.

Other contestant to win the right to flank McDavid include recent fourth overall selection, Jesse Puljujarvi, Nail Yakupov, and Benoit Pouliot.

Pouliot is an interesting option. He was a common line mate of McDavid’s last season and became a very viable offensive option when on that line. In 415 minutes without the 2015 first overall selection, he produced 1.30 points per 60 minutes. In the 286 minutes with McDavid, he produced 2.94 P/60. A staggering increase.  

There will be plenty of options for him as his sophomore season begins and time will tell if McDavid will follow in both Crosby and Gretzky’s path of losing out on the Calder but taking home the Art Ross and Hart trophy in his second season.

Regardless of end of the season hardware, McDavid and his jaw-dropping acceleration, dynamic shot, creative mind and competitive fire will continue to be a catalyst for mountains of scoring opportunities and bushels of points.

The Oilers may suffer through an 11th straight season without playoff hockey, but 2016-17 will be the season of McDavid.

Projected point-per-game pace for 2016-17 season: 1.15 – 1.25

Stats courtesy of:

Dobber’s Frozen Pool

HockeyAnalysis

Hockey-Reference

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Previous Frozen Pool Forensics:

Adam Henrique

Tyler Seguin