For quite some time, the Edmonton Oilers struggled with their bottom-six forwards, which was a significant weakness. There was a prevailing sentiment that the team heavily relied on its star players in the top-six while facing challenges with the third and fourth lines in terms of scoring ability and defensive prowess. However, this narrative has shifted this season, as the depth forwards have begun to make meaningful contributions to the team’s recent achievements.

Key figures in this transformation include Warren Foegele and Ryan McLeod, both of whom have featured prominently in the top-six alongside Leon Draisaitl. Foegele, in particular, is poised to achieve career-best numbers, with 10 goals and 26 points in 46 games, indicating significant improvement. On the other hand, McLeod stands out as the Oilers’ most effective third-line center in years, overcoming initial challenges to tally nine goals and 19 points. This resurgence marks a notable shift in the team’s dynamics and depth.

Sam Gagner, returning from hip surgery, has appeared in only 22 games this season but has managed to score five goals and accumulate 10 points. Derek Ryan’s production has slowed with just four goals and nine points in 46 games, a departure from his 13-goal performance in the 2023-24 season. Nonetheless, Ryan remains a valuable asset as a fourth-liner who can adeptly play both wing and center positions.

Corey Perry, recently signed by the Oilers after his contract termination by the Chicago Blackhawks, showcased promise with four goals and nine points in just 16 games before his departure.

While currently not on the roster, James Hamblin and Adam Erne serve as excellent depth options for the fourth line, particularly in times of injuries. Both players are currently honing their skills with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, offering reliable reinforcements for the NHL club’s lineup.This article will focus on two additional bottom-six forwards for the Oilers this season, who, despite limited scoring output, have demonstrated effectiveness through other means. Mattias Janmark and Connor Brown will be discussed in detail.

Janmark has got that dawg in him. However, the grizzled veteran simply just isn’t producing this season, as he has just one goal and six points across 36 games. All but one of those points came during a three-game point streak, which was capped off by a three-assist night on December 6, 2023. In his last 23 games, Janmark has just a single assist and has 24 shots on goal.
The Oilers are paying Janmark $1 million and on paper, he hasn’t lived up to expectations. Last season, he scored 10 goals and 25 points, which was the second straight season with 25 points. At one point in his career, he scored 19 goals and 34 points, hitting the 10-goal plateau four times in his eight-year career. This is to illustrate that he’s supposed to be a depth scorer, but let’s dig deeper than that.Janmark possesses a gritty determination, yet despite his veteran experience, he’s struggling to make an impact this season, having only managed one goal and six points across 36 games. Almost all of his points came during a brief three-game streak, highlighted by a notable three-assist performance on December 6, 2023. However, in his last 23 games, Janmark has only contributed a single assist and recorded 24 shots on goal.

With a $1 million salary, Janmark’s performance falls short of expectations on paper. In the previous season, he tallied 10 goals and 25 points, marking his second consecutive season with 25 points. At one juncture in his career, he achieved 19 goals and 34 points, hitting the 10-goal mark four times throughout his eight-year tenure. These statistics highlight his expected role as a depth scorer, but a deeper examination is warranted.

While browsing Reddit, I stumbled upon a post by u/Outside-Today-1814, shedding light on Janmark’s absence from the ice during goals in 2024. Remarkably, he hasn’t been present for a goal since December 30. Throughout all game situations, Janmark has logged 143:07 minutes of ice time, during which the Oilers scored only two goals with him on the ice. It’s worth noting that “all strengths” encompasses penalty kill time as well. Consequently, Janmark has played 20:31 minutes on the penalty kill since December 31, during which the team hasn’t conceded a goal. Remarkably, they’ve surrendered only one goal while shorthanded since December 31.

Despite Janmark’s typical output of around 10 goals and 30 points in previous seasons, his performance this year leaves something to be desired. However, upon closer examination, it’s evident that the team benefits from his exceptional penalty-killing abilities and his defensive responsibility as a forward.

The signing hasn’t unfolded as anticipated for either party. Brown, returning from an ACL injury and missing the entire 2022-23 season, has only managed four points in 39 games this season. This performance is disappointing for a right-winger expected to be a top-six forward, especially given the $3.25 million bonus he received after 10 games.

The Oilers had the opportunity to release Brown when he got injured during his ninth game, but they retained him for good reason. While Brown’s scoring has been lackluster, he’s been making efforts. His PDO (which combines team shooting percentage and goalie save percentage) of .963 indicates below-average luck, ranking him 48th worst out of 517 players with over 400 minutes played.

Although Edmonton’s goaltender, mainly Stuart Skinner, has a decent 92.68% save percentage when Brown is on the ice, the team’s shooting percentage is notably low at 3.48%. This makes Brown seem unlucky compared to his teammates. Despite his efforts, Brown has been unfortunate, with the team having one of the lowest shooting percentages in the league.

Furthermore, Brown has had his fair share of scoring opportunities. The Oilers have generated 86 high-danger scoring chances with Brown on the ice, showing promise with a 51.81 HDCF% and only conceding 80 high-danger chances.

Statistics aside, Brown contributes significantly elsewhere, particularly on the penalty kill, where he ranks fourth in forward minutes played. Alongside Janmark, he has helped improve Edmonton’s penalty kill performance, as highlighted in Sunil Agnihorti’s article.

While Brown has been a proven scorer in the past, with two 20-goal seasons and five 30-point seasons in six full seasons, injuries might have altered his game. Nonetheless, one goal could change the tide, potentially sparking his production.

Ultimately, the assessment of Brown varies. As a player on a minimum salary, his penalty-killing prowess is valuable despite his lack of scoring luck. However, with a salary cap hit of over $3 million next season, his scoring output might not justify the deal, which could be attributed to management shortcomings.

In summary, the hope is for Janmark and Brown to regain their scoring touch, complementing their defensive contributions and elevating Edmonton’s bottom-six from strong to outstanding.

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