Edmonton Oilers pull Joakim Nygard back into line-up. Could be a fit with McDavid?

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Game Day 25 Oilers vs Leafs update

This in from the Edmonton Oilers: “Joakim Nygard has been recalled from the taxi squad & Patrick Russell has been assigned to the taxi squad.”

My take

1. It looks like the speedy Nygard will be back in the line-up. He’s yet to make much of a mark this year in limited minutes so he’ll likely go in only as a fourth line checker, but until Dylan Holloway grabs a Top 6 left wing spot, I see Nygard as a candidate for such action, including on Connor McDavid’s line.

2. Last summer I did a major piece on which Oilers wingers should play with McDavid, and I strongly suggested that Jesse Puljujarvi should be give a chance, as no other winger had had more success with McD in recent years than Puljujarvi. From 2016-19, even as Puljujarvi struggled immensely with the Oilers, he and McDavid killed it together, scoring 24 goals and giving up just 15 when they were together in 408 even strength minutes, for a 61.5% Goals For, the highest Goals For Percentage of any McDavid/winger combo during McD’s time in Edmonton. But in that same arguemtn I also gave a strong push to Nygard getting a chance with McD.

Results for Oilers wingers who have played small minutes with McDavid, 2015-20.Results for Oilers wingers who have played small minutes with McDavid, 2015-20.

3. Here’s how I deliberated the matter: When we consider the smaller sample size players, wingers who played less than 300 ES minutes with McDavid from 2015-2020, we see that Taylor Hall and McDavid put up a lot of shots together in their 76 minutes. Perhaps Hall can be acquired at the trade deadline this year. James Neal had little success with McD last year, as did Josh Archibald. Archibald and McDavid created a low number of shots, while Neal and McDavid got outscored. The player who stands out, the one with the most dark green on this chart, is Nygard. The caveat is he only played 54 minutes with McDavid, but in that time they created a lot of shots and outscored the opposition 6-2. Could Nygard be that hard-to-the-net  and hard back-checking winger on McDavid’s line? I’ve seen both those elements in his game. He’s a hard-working and fundamentally sound defender and a determined forechecker. He’s also got the wheels to keep up.

Of course, the best alternative of all might well be to find some outside player to go with McDavid, so we’ll dig into that in a future post. It’s also the case that an upcoming AHL player might be worth a try, so we’ll also take a look at that.