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Keeping an Eye On Leon Draisaitl's Productivity

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The 19-year old has been impressive in his first full season. But there might be some trouble ahead.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Oilers are heading into another playoff-less season, there have been plenty of bright spots in 2015/16. The emergence of Brandon Davidson and Oscar Klefbom, the play of Cam Talbot. The bounce-back season for Taylor Hall. And of course Connor McDavid.

Another player that deserves a ton of attention is young Leon Draisaitl, who has been killing it as the team's top line center. Partnered with Taylor Hall, the duo has been driving play on a nightly basis, generating shots, scoring chances and points. Relative to his teammates, Draisaitl has been a positive player, with the club doing much better when it comes to important metrics when he and Hall are on the ice. Here's how Draisaitl has done at 5v5 so far this season (Source: War on Ice).

Games TOI/Gm G-A-P P60 CF%Rel SCF%Rel GF%Rel ZSO%Rel PDO
57 14.90 14-21-35 2.50 +4.60 +5.50 +17.90 +8.40 101.10

Worth noting that Draisaitl only has nine primary assists, while Hall has 21 this season. I thought it would be the other way around, but Hall's playmaking ability has him near the top of the league when it comes to this metric. Regardless, Draisaitl's point production ranks him near the top of the league with his points generated per 60 minutes sitting at 6th among all NHL forwards with over 200 minutes of ice time at 5v5 (table sorted by P/60).

Name Team Gm TOI/Gm G A P P/60
Connor McDavid EDM 30 13.61 10 12 22 3.23
Evgeny Kuznetsov WSH 64 14.13 11 32 43 2.85
Patrick Kane CHI 66 16.10 19 28 47 2.65
Mike Cammalleri N.J 42 14.38 10 16 26 2.58
Jaromir Jagr FLA 61 13.71 16 20 36 2.58
Leon Draisaitl EDM 57 14.85 14 21 35 2.48
Sidney Crosby PIT 62 15.13 13 25 38 2.43
Johnny Gaudreau CGY 63 14.92 15 23 38 2.43
Joe Thornton S.J 63 13.79 6 29 35 2.42
Taylor Hall EDM 67 15.62 15 27 42 2.41

What's become a little concerning in the last month or so has been Draisaitl's overall play, especially in the offensive zone. I noticed more than a few times that he and Hall would enter the zone, but would lose the puck along the boards, or have their play disrupted by backcheckers. My guess is that coaches have figured out the Oilers top line and are building effective gameplans to shut down Hall and Draisaitl. The other issue has been the absence of RNH who often took on the tougher competition. I wouldn't be overly concerned since it's only been a short stretch of games that I think Draisaitl has struggled in, but just to confirm what I might be seeing, I first took a look at Draisaitl's rolling Corsi For% relative to his teammates.

Here we see a definite dip when it comes to possession over the last month. It's only a short segment that his play has dipped, but still something to keep an eye on. Next, I took a look at the Draisaitl's rate of point production as a rolling average of 10-game segments.

Here we see a very hot, very unsustainable rate of production at the beginning of his season, which has gradually cooled off. Draisaitl still ranks near the top of the league when it comes to this metric, but I think there should be some attention paid to how Draisaitl is being deployed and possibly the amount of minutes he's receiving. There's also the risk that the young forward is burning out as the year goes on, something that can happen to anyone breaking into the league as a 19 year old.

Another thing to consider heading into next season is the importance of having center depth to support a young emerging star like Draisaitl. Playing top line minutes is no easy task, and learning the job on the fly can be extremely difficult for any NHL prospect. I'd hate to see Draisaitl regress in any way, but there's a chance that he can either slip in production or, God forbid, get injured. The last thing the Oilers need is a hole at center, which makes retaining Ryan Nugent-Hopkins absolutely critical and the search for a solid depth centerman a high priority for management.