The Edmonton Oilers have seen a lot of change over the last several months, and while these changes have, in general, been good for the organization, many of these moves have made Leon Draisaitl's immediate NHL future much cloudier. With Connor McDavid and Mark Letestu arriving via the draft and free agency respectively, it's fair to wonder about Draisaitl's place to start the year. I suppose it's possible that he'll beat one of the four favorites for a job up the middle (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Anton Lander are the two others) or that he'll end up playing in a top-nine role on the wing, but the most likely scenario is at least half a season in Bakersfield.
Or at least, that seems like the right call to me. Draisiatl struggled to find the range offensively as a pro last year, and giving him a long leash along with lots of minutes will help to make sure that doesn't happen again. The NHL isn't the place to provide those things; playing with quality linemates and in all situations in the AHL is. Todd McLellan may see things differently (Tomas Hertl didn't spend any time in the AHL before making the Sharks, and Chris Tierney started the 2014-15 season with San Jose before being sent down for an extended demotion), but for now, let's assume Draisaitl plays at least his first thirty games in Bakersfield.
What should we expect? For a long time, I've tossed around a point per game pace as a good line in the sand, but is that really fair? To find out, I looked for other players who were drafted out of the CHL with a top fifteen pick since 2001, played at least 30 games in the CHL in one season and 30 games in the AHL in the following season, and scored between 1.19 and 1.99 points per game in their last CHL season (between 75% and 125% of Draisaitl's production). How did this group of players do when translating their offense to the AHL? Let's take a look:
A few things worth noting here. First, the age listed here is as of October 1st of the AHL season, which means Draisaitl will be 19 years and 11 months, or one of the younger players on this list. IN general, those players had a harder time translating their offense with only Jason Spezza cracking the top five. Draisaitl is also coming over from the WHL, another group of players who seem to have a tough time translating a large percentage of their offense with Scottie Upshall's 64% being the high point so far. Finally, a point per game is an aggressive line in the sand, but also a good one: just four of the seventeen players listed were able to score at a point per game of better, and not coincidentally, those four are also the only ones you might consider NHL stars (with possible future apologies to Nazem Kadri, but even he's just under).
So where does this put Draisaitl's likely production? Let's take a look at the high, average, median and low:
If Draisaitl has 18 points in 30 games by Christmas, he'll be hitting the minimum bar offensively. Less than that would, frankly, be a very worrying result. Something between 24 and 27 points in 30 games would be about average, and probably puts Draisaitl on track to be a very good NHL player. But if we're going to continue talking about Draisaitl as a star we'll probably want to see a point per game or better, which would require a translation of at least 63%, right at the top of the players of his age group and league but also right at the bottom of the four elite guys in the group. Basically, if Draisaitl starts the year in the AHL, we should get a decent read on his offensive potential relatively soon.