I awoke this morning to an email discussion with other Copper & Blue writers, about the relative merits of Cape Breton Screaming Eagles Center Pierre-Luc Dubois and London Knights Winger Matthew Tkachuk.
I'm not much of a prospect expert, but I found the discussion to be a welcomed change from the constant stream of trade proposals that I see from Oilers enthusiasts on Twitter. It's not that I don't like a good hypothetical scenario, I definitely do, but, at this point it seems like everyone has their mind made up on which players they'd like to see leave, and who they'd like to get in return for said players.
But then I realized, this isn't a distraction from trade talk at all. The number four pick will either be used in a trade, or the player chosen with that pick will be expected to usurp a current Oilers forward within the next couple of years at the very most.
Fast forward a couple of hours, and I notice that a lot of discussions were nearing their inevitable conclusions: That it's either going to be Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins or both (Those both ones really scare me).
For the record, I think it's entirely possible that a perfect offseason (one where every move makes the team better), could result in both players staying on the team. I don't know what other GMs are prepared to offer, but I'm a huge Eberle supporter, and I find it unlikely that the Oilers could get fair value back in a trade involving him.
As for Nugent-Hopkins, I think that he's a very good hockey player, coming off a so-so season, because of illness and injury. I suspect that, if the Oilers were to trade him now, they would be selling low.
Some suggest that the Oilers roster is getting overcrowded with top-six centers (you know, like the two Stanley Cup finalists and Team Canada), and that Nuge will be the odd man out. A popular retort to that suggestion seems to be that we have only seen two months worth of top-six quality NHL hockey from Leon Draisaitl.
That's where I start to get hung up. I get that we want to keep good hockey players and not trade them for lesser players. But I don't think that praise for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins needs to come at the expense of Leon Draisaitl. I seem to remember a full season of quality play from Leon Draisaitl, but with varying degrees of puck-luck.
I checked the stats, and I found that was indeed the case:
|First 37||Middle 36||Last 36||Total|
|indiv. shooting %||2.6||13.6||8.4||10.7|
|on-ice shooting %||5.2||9||7.2||7.4|
*Data from War-on-ice.com
I split Draisaitl's career stats into thirds. The first 37 games represent his stint with the team in 2014-15. The middle and last 36 refer to last season before and after January 17th. What we see are:
- some extremely low shooting percentages for a skilled player in 2014-15. Sure, Draisaitl was sheltered from a deployment standpoint as a rookie, but he was a draft+1 player in the NHL. All things considered, his peripherals were very impressive.
- This past season saw Draisaitl take a step forward in his ability to drive play, to the point where his possession numbers looked like those of a number one center throughout the year.
- In terms of production, Draisaitl looked elite in the early goings due to some likely unsustainable on-ice percentages. The latter half of the year featured some regression due to the random variance of on-ice percentages. But his production was still very respectable. As a point of reference, consider that Jonathan Toews only managed 1.58 points-per-60 minutes at 5-on-5 over the course of 80 games last year. In fact, Zach Parise and Ryan Getzlaf also averaged fewer points-per-60 throughout all of last year than Draisaitl did during his second half "struggles".
What we've seen from Leon Draisaitl is a consistent ability to drive play, and some on-ice percentages that have fluctuated because that's what they do in smallish samples.
Not wanting to trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a fine stance to have, it's one that I probably share with you. But if your reasoning is that we don't know if Leon Draisaitl is any good yet, you should find another reason. There are plenty.