4 Oilers Who Need to Step Up and Start Scoring

The Edmonton Oilers are 7-5 on the season and their offence has been primarily generated by five players. The team has scored 46 goals so far and between Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Evander Kane, they’ve scored 35 of them. There will be lulls in the season when the scoring won’t come as easy for this group — much like the game against the Dallas Stars on Nov. 5 — and that’s when it’s important to have secondary scoring.

That said, below we outline four notable Oilers that have the ability to score; however, with only one goal between them, they’ll need to step up and start burying more of their chances to help the Oilers be a top team in the NHL.

Kailer Yamamoto

The Oilers signed Kailer Yamamoto to a two-year contract extension worth $3.1 million average annual value (AAV) this past offseason, after a season that saw him score 20 goals for the first time in the NHL. Heading into the 2022-23 campaign there was an expectation for him to carry over that momentum and offensive production.  

Kailer Yamamoto Edmonton Oilers
Kailer Yamamoto, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Despite suffering an injury before the start of the season, Yamamoto hasn’t found his scoring touch, with no goals and three assists through 11 games. He also has a history of starting slow, scoring only twice in his first 10 games last season. However, his limited scoring production is concerning because of the quality of linemates that he plays with consistently, mainly Draisaitl and Kane on the second line.

Yamamoto started the season primarily playing on the right side of the Oilers’ captain but often bobbled the puck when McDavid found him open for prime scoring chances. He had his best chance to score his first of the season against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 3. Draisaitl found him open and all alone in the slot, but he was unable to bury a backhand chance and the Oilers ultimately lost the game to the Devils 4-3.

At the same time, Yamamoto has had some good moments, especially with the game-winning goal on Oct. 27 against the Chicago Blackhawks. With 40 seconds left, the dogged winger scooped up the puck from Jonathan Toews and passed it to teammate Evander Kane, who feathered a cross-ice pass for Draisaitl’s goal.

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The underlying analytics show that Yamamoto is due to breakout offensively. Before the game against the Stars on Nov. 5, Natural Stat Trick showed decent 5-on-5 numbers, with a 51.38 Corsi (CF%), 57.14  high-danger chance percentage (HDCF%), and 51 scoring chances percentage (SCF%). Additionally, the 5-foot-8 forward often does all the right things away from the puck and deserves credit for not shying away from being physical and winning board battles.

Yamamoto has done an excellent job as the puck retriever on the second line, but in the game against the Stars on Nov. 5, he was demoted to the third line. Hopefully, that demotion will help motivate him and he can find the back of the net during the Oilers’ upcoming four-game road trip.

Warren Foegele

In Warren Foegele’s first season with the Oilers, he averaged 12:37 of ice time and tallied 26 points in 82 games. His points-per-game dipped slightly from his days with the Carolina Hurricanes, but his offence became almost nonexistent in the Oilers’ postseason run. In 13 games, he registered only a single assist.

Foegele sought to improve offensively over the summer, mentioning in The Athletic that he added a couple of pounds of weight and wanted to put on some upper body mass. When he was asked what else he worked on, he mentioned, “Just shooting the puck a little bit more. I think I have one of the harder shots (on the team). I just don’t use it enough. I get both goalies telling me that I’ve got to shoot the puck. It’s something that I need to do more.” (from “Warren Foegele Q&A: Trade Rumours, Oilers’ Forward Depth, Ryan McLeod Friendship,” The Athletic, 10/20/22).

Warren Foegele Edmonton Oilers
Warren Foegele, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

So far this season, aside from ringing a couple of shots off the iron, Foegele’s work with his shot over the summer hasn’t translated into goals — in 11 games he has no goals and a single assist. With how tight the salary cap is, the Oilers need secondary scoring from players like Foegele, who makes $2.75 million AAV. On that note, he hasn’t played poorly per se, even though he has yet to score. He’s formed a decent third line with Ryan McLeod and Jesse Puljujarvi that can skate, hit, and are hard on pucks. The only thing missing from that line is the offence.  

Jesse Puljujarvi

Oilers fans weren’t sure if Jesse Puljujarvi was returning to Edmonton this season with all the trade buzz surrounding him in the summer. Nonetheless, the Oilers signed him to a one-year deal worth $3 million AAV, and like Yamamoto, there was an expectation for him to follow up on a decent offensive season that saw him register a 36-point campaign. So far things haven’t gone the Finnish forward’s way, at least offensively. Through 12 games, he’s only registered a goal and an assist and has played primarily on the third line, as previously mentioned.

Still, what he does have going for him, is that he’s starting to figure out how to use his gigantic 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame. He’s always been able to separate players from the puck, but lately, it seems he’s been hitting with conviction. Recently against the Calgary Flames on Oct. 29, he was credited with three hits, and a big one on the big bad Milan Lucic. Three nights later he threw his weight around with four notable hits on Nashville Predators’ players. In the dying minutes of the game, he knocked down Alexandre Carrier and Keifer Sherwood took exception and dropped the gloves with Puljujarvi. The Finnish forward was credited with his first NHL fight, despite not dropping the gloves himself.

The underlying analytics show a passing grade. Before the game against the Stars, he posted a 50.62 Corsi (CF%), 52.38 HDCF%, and 53.49 SCF%, and did a remarkable job defensively. However, at some point, he needs to start scoring and earning his $3 million salary. It’s worth noting that Puljujarvi got a promotion to the second line on Nov. 5 and he made a couple of nice passes and earned an assist on the goal by Darnell Nurse. He needs to step up and capitalize on his opportunity if he gets a longer look with Draisaitl and Kane moving forward.

Evan Bouchard

Evan Bouchard had an excellent first full campaign in the NHL when he tallied 12 goals and 31 assists last season. He’s known for his offence from the blue line and has immense potential, yet so far in his second full season, he has yet to score a goal. David Staples of the Edmonton Journal noted that not only is Bouchard’s shot dangerous, but it creates grade-A chances itself, with tips or rebound chances. Last season, 39 of his outside shots led to those types of chances (from ‘Ticking Time Bomb: Edmonton Oilers Have a Big Gun but Need to Use It Better,” Edmonton Journal, 6/28/22).

Evan Bouchard. Edmonton Oilers
Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Because his shot generates so many chances, Bouchard just needs to keep firing. Yet, there have been notable moments throughout the season when he’s been reluctant to use his shot from the point. Most recently he was given minutes on the first unit power play against the Devils on Oct. 3. In one instance he was playing fetch with McDavid at the blue line, and at this point, the Oilers were having trouble generating chances on the man advantage. Instead of shooting, he kept forcing the pass to the Oilers’ captain for a one-timer, which wasn’t working. In that scenario, Bouchard just needs to keep it simple and fire away.

Related: Grading Blue Line & Goalies 10 Games Into Oilers 2022-23 Season

Bouchard also had a 2-on-1 chance with Draisaitl in the third period against New Jersey but failed to lift the puck over Devils’ goaltender Vitek Vanecek. The more he remains goalless, you have to wonder whether it’s affecting the young blueliners’ confidence. Still, he has five assists on the season and he’s made spectacular plays that have led to goals for his team. I feel it’s only a matter of time before his offensive game regroups and he starts scoring with his “Bouch bomb” regularly.

The Oilers wrapped up their three-game home stand on Nov 5. They have a four-game road trip coming up and they’ll need all the firepower they can get, with games against the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, and Florida Panthers. Edmonton is riding a two-game losing streak and the games are only going to get tougher, so it’ll be interesting who, aside from the big five players, decides to step up and help with scoring.

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