How Ken Hitchock has been able to get the most out of Connor McDavid late in games

How Ken Hitchock has been able to get the most out of Connor McDavid late in games

Connor McDavid’s ice-time has been a hot topic since Ken Hitchcock took over behind the Oilers bench. Granted, Hitch has taken his foot off the gas pedal a bit lately, playing McDavid under 23 minutes each of his last 3 games after playing him 23+ minutes a night in his first 7, but it’s still a ton of ice-time for a forward.

So, it got me thinking – How is Hitchcock using McDavid, how is it different from Todd McLellan and is McDavid fatiguing as the game goes on with the added minutes? I’ve got answers to all three questions and the results are pretty interesting.

McDavid is averaging 23:42 TOI per game under Hitchcock, roughly a minute and a half more per game than he skated under Todd McLellan. His overall production hasn’t suffered – it’s actually improved with the added ice-time.

So, he’s still putting up the points but what about his production as the game goes on? Is McDavid as effective late in games as he is with fresher legs? By looking at a number of key performance indicators regarding individual player contributions on the ice, we are able to see that while McDavid saw more ice as the game went on under Todd McLellan, his impact on the game decreased in the 3rd period.

More ice-time, fewer quality shots, passes, exits and entries.

Ken Hitchcock has been using McDavid less in the 2nd period and playing him an average of over 8 minutes per game in the 3rd period. McDavid’s impact has been more noticeable late in games under Hitchcock, coming off a lighter 2nd period.

Measuring a players controlled zone exits and entries shows us how often a player transitions the puck up ice. Doing it by period gives us an indication of how much gas a player has left in the tank. Under Hitchcock, McDavid has averaged 5.7 combined exits and entries in the 1st period of his games. In the 3rd period, he’s averaging 6.2. Part of that is because he’s averaging about 30 seconds more ice-time in the 3rd period compared to the 1st but that’s not the point. The point, is that he’s able to do it at all, late in games, playing as much as he has.

McDavid was already 4th among forwards in ice-time before Hitchcock took over, now he’s seeing close to 90 seconds more ice per game and, it would appear, by knocking his minutes down slightly in the 2nd period, he’s been able to double shift in the 3rd and maintain a higher level of production than before. Can McDavid continue at this rate all season? Time will tell but so far, so good.

(Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)