Oilers’ Zach Hyman Becomes a Legitimate Threat

Zach Hyman’s game flourished with the Oilers. (Getty)

Zach Hyman is the ultimate archetype of a fan favorite hockey player.

It’s easy to fall in love with his game. What the talented Edmonton Oilers winger lacks, he more than makes up for in tenacity and an engine that never apparently stops or even slows down. This engine helped Hyman build a very solid career in the NHL after being selected in the fifth round of the 2010 Draft by the Florida Panthers.

Hyman didn’t sign with the Panthers and they ultimately traded his rights to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015 for Greg McKegg, a trade that understandably didn’t get much attention at the time. In six seasons since his first look with the Leafs at the end of the 2015-16 season, Hyman has made a name for himself and has become a fixture in a top-six top six, playing 54% of his 5v5. minutes with Auston Matthews after his arrival in 2016 and 87% of his 5v5 minutes with one of the Matthews or John Tavares after the latter’s arrival in 2018.

Now with the Oilers, the 29-year-old shows even more progress.

Obviously, coaches and star players see Hyman as a perfect complementary player, and it’s easy to see why. Hyman thrives in the “dirty areas” that coaches always talk about, especially on the front failure and the net.

(All dataviz are graciously Corey Sznajder and hockeyviz.com)

Hyman is the ultimate hunting dog in the offensive zone, always keeping his feet moving and never giving up a puck. This leads to a disproportionate amount of puck recovery, allowing his team to have additional possessions in the offensive zone, which is obviously optimal for your star players who are instantly dangerous with the puck on their sticks.

There are a lot of players who go to the net and create chaos, but Hyman’s agility and drive separate him from this field. The relentless winger will take this abuse while jumping on loose pucks anywhere down rather than planting his feet, becoming stagnant as defensemen recover the puck.

Needless to say, this same skill set also allows Hyman to create high danger odds on his shots at a better rate than almost anyone in the league.

Since 2016, 430 players have played at least 3,000 minutes 5v5, and Hyman ranks sixth in that group in expected individual shooting percentage. This means that only five players have consistently shot with an average shooting distance closer to the net than Hyman. One of those players is his new teammate, Connor McDavid.

Hyman’s career heat map is a very good illustration of his ability to create shots directly over the goalie.

Ironically, a handful of games in his Oilers career, Hyman has notably shown this ability on the power play, where he has scored three of his six goals after scoring just six overall on the PP in his five and more campaigns. with the Leafs – where he saw limited opportunities for human benefit.

It’s a safe bet that Hyman will score a lot of goals in the years to come literally inside the crease like this, especially since he will play big minutes with two of the best passer in the world namely McDavid and Leon. Draisaitl.

While that sort of thing is still the bread and butter of Hyman’s attacking game, he has added layers to his game seemingly every season since arriving in 2015. When he first showed up, he could be frustrating enough watching the fiery winger slice it up. the puck and seemingly escaped possessions over and over again while being attached to some of the league’s most talented players.

There was a time when Hyman’s puck skills resembled that of an average beer player, which made his rise even more impressive. Most notably over the past two seasons, Hyman has become a proficient puck carrier in transition and has learned to use his speed and strength to protect the puck while driving it himself.

Early in his career this was something that just wasn’t in his game. Hyman would just win the red line and add it before flying in check before trying to get it back.

The chip and chase method is still a big part of Hyman’s game, as it should be, as she plays to her strengths, but he’s become much more balanced in that regard. This makes him an even better fit with star players, as opponents can’t just keep up with them knowing Hyman can’t hurt you in the race.

Now, if someone like McDavid is suffocated in the neutral zone, he can hand it over to Hyman and know it’s not an automatic discharge. Hyman could eventually drive the net himself or drive the puck deep and put it back into danger areas.

This 5v5 goal at the start of the season is a good example of that growth, as well as his much improved shot.

If you were to go back in time a few years and show this clip to a Leaf fan, they’d probably be so upset by this rush and timer that they’d forget to ask you how you understood time travel. They would also probably start sobbing knowing that Hyman is now an Oiler.

Hyman obviously won’t continue to convert more than 40% of his shots like he has in five games with the Oilers, but it should be noted that he has scored on 15.6% of his shots since 2018 despite the Aforementioned lack of power play opportunity. Hyman has gone from being one of the worst finishers in the league to, to say the least, passable.

Hyman project.  WAR% against WAR%.

Hyman project. WAR% against WAR%.

He’s obviously still not Steven Stamkos, but Hyman’s improved scoring touch – combined with playing with some of the best playmakers in the world not only 5v5 but also on the power play – goes be interesting to follow. of. Good health provided, Hyman looks set for his best scoring season to date.

When Hyman signed his seven-year, $ 38.5 million contract with Edmonton this offseason, there was no doubt he would be a great candidate for the immediate future. Hyman absolutely makes the Oilers a better team, as he would any club that acquired him. The concern, and the reason the Leafs chose to let him go, were the long-term implications of the deal.

Hyman relies on his speed and tenacity to make him effective and he has suffered serious injuries including multiple knee conditions. The concern is that with Hyman’s style, injury history and 29 years old at the time of signing, the contract has a good chance of aging badly. The Oilers decided they were prepared to take the risks inherent in the great commitment to Hyman, even granting him a no-move clause for the first five years, with the last two years becoming a modified no-trade clause.

That bet may actually turn sour over the years, but the early comebacks have been huge, and it will likely stay that way for at least a few seasons.

Despite his age, Hyman still seems to improve with each season and continues to prove that he is a major asset to his teams. Chances are you’ll see an increasing number of Hyman jerseys in Edmonton in the years to come. What’s not to like?

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