Mathias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard on the ice with the Oilers.
Photo credit: The Score

Unbelievable stats show Oilers' defence pairing stands alone as best in the NHL

Published January 5, 2024 at 5:05 PM
Over the past two seasons, Evan Bouchard began to make waves as being one of the most effective players for the Edmonton Oilers. Drafted 10th overall by the Oilers in 2018, Bouchard has always been lauded for offensive talents from the blue line, but now he's truly blown expectations out of the water with a breakout year.

In 35 games this season, Bouchard has scored an incredible 9 goals and 36 points, almost eclipsing his career high of 43 points in a season already. He still has weaknesses on the defensive side that have been improving, but now there's been unparalleled success after being paired with recent trade acquisition Mathias Ekholm. According to JFresh on X, the Bouchard and Ekholm pairing is far and away the best in the league by ranking of even strength expected goal differential.

Bouchard and Ekholm are represented by the two Oilers logos in the upper right quadrant of the graph above, showing just how much their stats separate them from other pairings in the league.

Additionally, JFresh provided data showing that Bouchard specifically is suffering from some extreme bad luck on the ice, likely from subpar goaltending early in the season, which accounts for only having a +2 rating after this great success.

These stats show that despite having a weaker defence core relative to the rest of the league, the Oilers absolutely have one of the league's top defensive pairings in Bouchard and Ekholm. If the Oilers could get better and more consistent goaltending, this defence pairing with their elite stars up front could carry the Oilers through a long playoff run this year.
January 5   |   371 answers
Unbelievable stats show Oilers' defence pairing stands alone as best in the NHL

Do you think the Bouchard-Ekholm pairing is the best in the league?

Yes, they're dominant both ways18349.3 %
No, Bouchard is weak defensively14940.2 %
See Results3910.5 %
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