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Edmonton Oilers 2018 Top 25 Under 25: #2 Leon Draisaitl

The Best of the Best Not Named McDavid

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Background and History

Drafted 3rd overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Leon Draisaitl is one of the most talked about players on the Oilers. After being drafted, Draisaitl played 37 games in Oilers colours before being sent back to the WHL where he made an appearance in the Memorial Cup with the Kelowna Rockets. Since then, Draisaitl has been a mainstay of the Oilers roster playing between 72 and 82 games over the last three seasons.

With a high of 77 points in 2016-2017 and a similar 70 points in 2017-2018, Draisaitl is one of the Oilers top scoring players. The majority of the conversation around Draisaitl is not around his point production, but if his play merits the 8.5 million dollar contract he’s signed to. The majority of Oilers supporters believe that Draisaitl has to consistently produce away from Connor McDavid to deserve his current contract.

Draisaitl is part of the Oilers core of players and despite a rocky 2017-2018 filled with rumours of off-ice behaviour leading to team discord, Draisaitl remains one of the Oilers key players going forward.

There is a consensus around Draisaitl here at Copper and Blue… one that puts him just below Connor McDavid in the Top 25 Under 25 rankings. And if we’re being honest, there was no way that anyone was going to take the top spot from McDavid. Draisaitl is generally viewed to be the best young player the Oilers have not a generational talent named McDavid. That’s not to say that Draisaitl doesn’t have areas of improvement, but that he’s the young player with the one of the highest ceilings and best results in the Oilers roster.

Why He Made the List

Because we’d be crazy to leave him off it. Leon Draisaitl scored 25 goals and 45 assists for a total of 70 points in the 2017-2018 season. That number puts him second on the Oilers depth chart behind Connor McDavid. Okay, it’s 38 points behind Connor McDavid but also 22 points in front of Nugent-Hopkins’ 48 points. If the Oilers’ players were being ranked on point production, Draisaitl is a clear second.

Draisaitl is characterized as an intelligent and tough two way centre who has the ability to produce points. His ability to control the puck and hockey IQ make him a threat every time he steps on the ice. Over all, Draisaitl has a proven ability to compete at the highest levels of the NHL; this compete level is something most Oilers forwards don’t display. While Draisaitl may not feature has heavily in the offense of another NHL team, there’s no doubt he has star quality.

His play for the Oilers in the 2016-2017 playoffs was phenomenal. With 13 points in 16 games and signs of being able to produce consistently away from McDavid, Draisaitl looked like a player able to give the Oilers two incredible scoring lines. Despite the criticism around his contract, Draisaitl is one of two players the Oilers have decided to build their future around.

Why He Made the List at 2

There are three reasons that I can see Leon Draisaitl made the Top 25 Under 25 List in second place. The first reason is the biggest one – Connor McDavid. Playing on a team with McDavid, who does things with a hockey puck that should not be possible, being in the second spot is about as much as anyone can hope for. Draisaitl is 22 to McDavid’s 21; he’s going to spend the entirety of his career with the Oilers in McDavid’s shadow.

Second is his contract. As mentioned before, Draisaitl’s 8.5 million dollar cap hit is cause for some concern because his best results have been beside McDavid. Oilers fans were hoping to see Draisaitl step into the role of 2C this year and flourish, however, that didn’t exactly happen. That’s not to say Draisaitl had a bad year… he just didn’t have a 8.5 million dollar year for many people. And this ties to the third argument for my Draisaitl is in second place on this list… his full potential hasn’t been realized yet.

The Oilers have bounced Draisaitl between centring the second line and playing on McDavid’s wing (usually in an attempt to create offense), but they have struggled to assemble an appropriate cast of supporting characters for either of their star players. It seems a bit disingenuous to expect Draisaitl to score 80 points and create offense when he’s centring players that seem more like anchors than NHL players.

This year should be a strong one for Draisaitl and everyone will be looking to see what he produces away from McDavid and if he can stay healthy and out of whatever drama swirls around the Oilers locker room.