Zach Hyman and the Nuge

Jan 21, 2023; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) and forward Zach Hyman (18) celebrate Draisaitl’s goal against the Vancouver Canucks in the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2023; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) and forward Zach Hyman (18) celebrate Draisaitl’s goal against the Vancouver Canucks in the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports /
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On the Edmonton Oilers, most of the headlines tend to gravitate towards Connor Mcdavid and Leon Draisaitl, and rightly so because I don’t think there’s any dispute they’re the two greatest players in the game today.

Next on the list would be Klim Kostin because he’s been such a pleasant surprise. However, lost in the shuffle are both Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are quietly having career years.

Let’s start with Zach Hyman.

Zach Hyman

Hyman has been an absolute revelation since being signed as a free agent by the Oilers and departing the gong show of Toronto.

Just over halfway through the season Hyman set career bests last season and looks to blow those away this season. He’s currently sitting at 25-32-57 with a sparkling +13 to boot – the latter marks a huge increase from the -9 he finished at last season. Last season he finished with 27 goals and 54 points – he’s already surpassed his points total from last season and is only three goals away from beating his goal-scoring total from last year and setting a second consecutive career best.

That’s absolutely phenomenal, and yes he’s definitely getting a McDrai bump but even so, not everyone can play with those two Hyman has shown he can play with either one.

Again, let’s repeat this for emphasis – we are just over halfway through the season and Hyman has cracked the 20-goal mark for the second consecutive season and the fourth in his career.

That’s absolutely phenomenal work. Overall in the NHL this places him at 14th overall in league scoring and puts him in some pretty impressive company leaguewide.

He projects out to 43 goals if he can stay healthy and not implode. That would be huge as he’s never even cracked the 30-goal mark in his career, never mind the 40-goal mark. Points wise he’s currently sitting at 1.1875 PPG which works out to a 97-point projection, also huge considering last year’s 54-point mark was his career high.

The best part of this is that his results appear to be real and not an out-of-body experience of sorts – the list of players who have one good year and then drop off the map for good is very long – like this guy, for one – remember him?

We know this because Hyman’s shooting % is currently sitting at 13.4%, which is slightly higher but not too far off his career average of 12.5%. Fancy stats says much the same thing, with Hyman sporting a PDO of 1.014, slightly over but still close to the statistical mean.

If Hyman can up his game slightly more, he could crack the 100-point mark this season.

What else does he do for the Oilers?

Well, as you would expect he’s a huge part of the PP, playing on the top unit and playing 3:31 per game on average. He’s not listed on the PK right now but he plays an average of 55 seconds a game on the PK. He’s fourth on the team in PIMs with 25 – and as you would expect he draws more penalties than he takes, 15-11 to be exact.

He’s not super physical but he can answer with physicality, finishing 11th on the team in hits with 50 and 16th on the team in blocked shots with 15. But let’s be honest – do you want the guy riding shotgun next to Connor Mcdavid putting himself in harm’s way blocking shots and that sort of thing?  If it’s Evander Kane and that’s well established as part of his game, that’s one thing, but for a guy who’s mostly a finesse player you don’t want him being super physical as that will increase his chances of injury and besides which an NHL body needs to be built a certain way for lots of physicalities, and although Hyman’s size is fine at 6’1″ and 211 lbs I wouldn’t say that’s built for physicality like Vincent Desharnais as one example.

The Nuge

Nuge is the guy in addition to Hyman who is helping the Oilers maintain the top two overall spot in GF in the NHL – right now at #2 but only one goal away from the #1 spot held by Boston and tied with Buffalo.

Nuge has shown significant improvement from last season which was an off-year for him for sure when he finished 11-39-50 and that’s it. He’s already doubled his goal-scoring production with 22 in 49 games and 58 points, one better than Hyman at the time of this writing and good enough for 11th in the league right now – tied with Mikko Rantanen for 10th overall. What makes this all the more impressive is Nuge plays up and down the lineup – sometimes he plays on the third line, sometimes the second, sometimes on the wing and sometimes at the center. He rode shotgun on Mcdavid’s line for awhile while Kane was out.

Nuge is on track for 37 goals and with an almost identical PPG to Hyman of 1.1837 and the same 97 points.

The big difference with Nuge is he’s riding a 19.1% shooting % to his career average of 12. His PDO is pretty close to Hyman’s at 1.017. I think we can account for his high shooting % with better defensive play, as Nuge is riding a +6 to the +3 he was at last year, so while his numbers may not be sustainable over the long term his fundamentals are good and we can’t chalk up his success to puck luck.

Nuge plays on the first unit PP just like Hyman does – the combination of these two plus the McDrai duo and Tyson Barrie manning the point is what makes this unit so lethal to the rest of the league.

He’s one of the few players who gets more PP time than Hyman, second on the team with 4:08 on average per game.

The big difference is Nuge also gets a regular spot on the PK, the second unit to be exact. Unlike Hyman, Nuge is actually eighth on the team in PK ice time with 1:40 per game on average.

What else?

Nuge only has 24 PIMs on the season, one less than Hyman, but unlike Hyman, he takes more penalties than he draws, 6-11 to be precise. Bummer.

His physical play is pretty much a mirror of Hyman’s as he is 13th on the team in hits with 43, but the difference is in blocked shots – Nuge has 19 blocked shots on the season, good enough for 10th on the team so far.

So less of a hitter but more of a shot blocker.

Because Nuge is at least a part-time center, there’s one more metric worth looking at – faceoff percentages. He takes the third most faceoffs of anyone on the team – take a guess at who the top two are (if you guessed the McDrai duo, you’d be right). He’s currently at only a mere 46.5% in the faceoff circle, which is kind of a downer but to be fair is still almost 6% higher than last year. Nuge doesn’t seem to have faceoffs as a strong suit of his game, he’s only finished above 50% once in his career.