WHY NOT LEON?

Robin Brownlee
September 03 2014 11:54AM

Draisaitl, Leon

It’s been obvious for some time now the Edmonton Oilers intend to start training camp, and likely the 2014-15 season, with rookie Leon Draisaitl sitting in one of the top three positions on the team depth chart at centre.

Some people have a problem with that and raise some reasonable arguments as to why. Why rush the kid? Why burn a year of Draisaitl’s entry level deal when the team isn’t going to contend this season? I know fellow writers at ON like Jason Strudwick and Brian Sutherby, both former NHL players, lean that way. So does Jason Gregor.

Me? I’ve maintained Draisaitl deserves an opportunity to land a job if the decision is based on merit. If Draisaitl clearly isn’t in over his head at camp, during pre-season and in the first nine games of regular season -- before a year of his deal is used -- he should stay. My biggest misgiving is that GM Craig MacTavish hasn’t added another proven centre to protect Draisaitl behind RyanNugent-Hopkins.

Bruce McCurdy of the Cult of Hockey over at The Edmonton Journal framed the Draisaitl situation in another way today, and it’s tough to argue with his take. You’ll find that here. Simply put, McCurdy points out that, based on recent history, we shouldn’t be surprised if Draisaitl plays this season in the NHL and we shouldn’t be surprised if he does very well.

ON THE HEELS OF RNH

93-RNH-10

In simple terms, and narrowing McCurdy’s broad look at top draft choices down to a straight comparison with Nugent-Hopkins, Draisaitl is bigger and stronger, at just over six-foot-one and about 215 pounds, than RNH was – just over six feet and about 180 pounds – when he reported to his first camp with the Oilers in 2011.

Draisaitl is also older, and considerably so in the context of players in their draft year. Draisaitl was 18 years and 323 days old on draft day, while RNH was 18 years and 156 days, or almost six months younger. Draisaitl turns 19 on October 27, about two weeks into this coming season.

Just as important, maybe more so, as Draisaitl being older and bigger than RNH as camp approaches is that he’s coming off a junior season in which he was marginally more productive with Prince Albert of the WHL than RNH was in his final campaign with Red Deer. Draisaitl produced at a rate of 1.64 points-per-game with the Raiders with 105 points in 64 games. RNH came in at 1.54 PPG on 106 points in 69 games.

As an NHL rookie, RNH produced 18-34-52 in 62 games with the Oilers. While I don’t see Draisaitl being as productive as rookie, in fact I’d bet the farm against it, he will add much-needed size. Production, of course, will depend on how he’s used and who he’s used with.

While we’ll have to wait to see how that plays out, recent history tells us that, regardless of whether you’re in the send-him-back crowd or the wait-and-see contingent, we shouldn’t be surprised when Draisaitl starts the season with the Oilers.

WHILE I’M AT IT

64-Yakupov-10

While I’d like to see a puck distributor like Draisaitl get a look alongside a shoot-first finisher like Nail Yakupov, I see way too much defensive peril in that combination, even with Benoit Pouliot as the other winger.

The safest bet, at least on paper, would seem to be Draisaitl between Teddy Purcell and David Perron, although we won’t know until the puck hits the freeze how what works on paper translates to productivity and chemistry out on the ice.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 Joy S. Lee
September 03 2014, 06:53PM
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The what-if game is fun to play, but I am most amazed by the oft-mentioned aspect in the comments sections of how Draisaitl is going to get injured.

The kid is a bit away from his 20th birthday, and is built like a tank, as someone mentioned... those hardly qualify as having merit towards bringing potential injury into the mix, so its hardly fair to EXPECT it.

The draw to negativity just for the sake of negativity, on behalf of some of my Oiler brethren, gets really annoying.

My take is that Leon can play well at the NHL level, and contribute to team success. I agree that we are almost forced to keep him with our depth chart, but if he can help lift up the talented group surrounding him, then I don't really care about the other stuff. He sounds determined to make it this year, and management sounds determined for him to make it, too. Yeah, the 18-year olds unfrail body could get injured. It could also score 216 points to break the NHL record for a season. I wont waste my time considering either option until the time arrives to witness it. Until then, quite frankly, I hope Draisaitl is really, really good... now.

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#52 madjam
September 03 2014, 07:16PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Why do you mention "perceived skill set" and then compare Draisaitl to Svatos and Grabner? They are as far from Draisaitl as you could possibly get.

Svatos was a finisher. He had 100 goals and 72 assists in 344 NHL games. Same with Grabner. His numbers are 87-55-142 in 283 games.

Draisaitl's numbers in two seasons with Prince Albert are 59-104-163. He's a puck distributor first and a shooter second. Completely different player.

Your taking it in a context I had not meant it to be . It was in context to a step below NBR. 1 overall players like Ovie and Crosby .

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#53 Robin Brownlee
September 03 2014, 07:27PM
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madjam wrote:

Your taking it in a context I had not meant it to be . It was in context to a step below NBR. 1 overall players like Ovie and Crosby .

That's even further off, then.

Grabner was selected 14th overall. Historically speaking, that's more than a "step below" a first overall pick and, for that matter, a No. 3 overall pick. Huge drop-off. Then, there's Svatos. He was drafted 227th overall.

Whether we're talking "perceived skill set" in terms of style (shooter/passer) or pedigree (draft position) neither player is a comparable to Draisaitl.

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#54 Quicksilver ballet
September 03 2014, 07:31PM
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Like to see the eligible kids get their 9 games in at the end of the season, when the games carry much less importance.

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#55 oiler Al
September 03 2014, 08:02PM
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Don't think Leon is big question mark yet! He has the pre-season games, plus the the 9 show me games. After that point it's St Albert, KHL, or some pine riding with the Oilers, plus the world junior games.

The bigger question is , will MacT be able to work a deal for a center post pre season games. He might have a tentative deal set up already.Cant be that dumb to go into the season with only the current roster.Even if Leon makes the team, injuries come into play etc.Need depth.

Wonder what it would take to pry Kilhorn, out of Tampa?

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#56 madjam
September 03 2014, 09:53PM
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Brownlee : I put Draisaitl as a gifted goal scorer and also a good distributor . He looks to be a fine threat in shootouts as well , at least from his videos .I think he'll be a better scorer of goals than your giving him credit for.

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#57 Robin Brownlee
September 03 2014, 11:00PM
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@madjam

I'm neither giving Draisaitl credit as a goal-scorer nor downplaying it. I'm telling you what his numbers to this point in his career suggest he'll be.

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#58 Woogie63
September 03 2014, 11:10PM
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One night Leon is playing 1C with the other prospects against the Golden Bear, where they lose the game and LD is "schooled" all game by a 23 year old centre you have never heard of.

Two weeks laters,

He is taking a face off against Joe Thornton and back on defense is Burns and Demers.

It seems like a big leap.

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#59 Harry
September 03 2014, 11:59PM
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Zarny wrote:

I think Treliving's quote says it best - "He will have to come in here and show beyond a shadow of a doubt that, not only is he ready to be here, but this is what’s best for him."

Perhaps it's because "does very well" is very subjective term, but I find McCurdy's analysis by age to be lacking.

To put Draisaitl in a list with Tavares, Kane, Stamkos, Hall, MacKinnon and even Yakupov is a bit much considering they all had seasons as good or better the year before they were drafted compared to Draisaitl's draft year. Simply put no one drafted this year is considered to be that caliber of prospect.

McCurdy's analysis also makes no mention of what skill sets succeeded; specifically skating. Yakupov, Hall, Kane, Landeskog, Duchene, Seguin, Stamkos, Galchenyuk, Nuge, Kane and MacKinnon are all very good skaters. In some cases we're talking about exceptional skaters. Like one of the best skaters in the NHL the moment they were drafted. That is not Leon Draisaitl. He wasn't fast for the WHL let alone the NHL.

Getting back to Treliving's quote, McCurdy also glosses over any analysis as to whether jumping immediately to the NHL actually seems to have been what's best for those players listed in subsequent years.

Nuge's rookie season remains his high water mark to date. Yakupov flamed out during his sophomore season. Evander Kane has had struggles. Galchenyuk's sophomore season pro-rated sophomore season is only 39 PT. We know Sam Gagner's story all too well. And while Sean Monahan had 22 G last year he only had 34 PT. That isn't exactly setting the league on fire.

The skating angle is a rediculous point. LD will never hang with the players you mentioned. Hes just not that type of player just like Thornton and Lucic types.

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#60 madjam
September 04 2014, 09:01AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I'm neither giving Draisaitl credit as a goal-scorer nor downplaying it. I'm telling you what his numbers to this point in his career suggest he'll be.

2009-2010 Draisaitl with Manheimer ERC U16 had in 26games = 48 G, 55A= 103points . 2010-11 he had that go up in 29 games with same club 97G, 95 A = 192 points . 2011-2012 with Manheim U18 in 35 games , 21 G , 35 A = 56 points . By my own eyeballing I feel Draisaitl will be a prominent scorer of goals as readily as a set up player . That's what his numbers point to me overall .

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#61 Robin Brownlee
September 04 2014, 09:18AM
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madjam wrote:

2009-2010 Draisaitl with Manheimer ERC U16 had in 26games = 48 G, 55A= 103points . 2010-11 he had that go up in 29 games with same club 97G, 95 A = 192 points . 2011-2012 with Manheim U18 in 35 games , 21 G , 35 A = 56 points . By my own eyeballing I feel Draisaitl will be a prominent scorer of goals as readily as a set up player . That's what his numbers point to me overall .

You started by comparing Draisaitl to two players who were absolutely not comparable no matter how you frame the argument. Your argument has evolved to "prominent scorer of goals as readily as a set up player."

Carry on.

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#62 Gordie Wayne
September 04 2014, 10:33AM
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Will wrote:

Nuge was not facing top line competition. That job was still going to Horcoff at the time.

According to behindthenet.ca, Nuge's top 2 linemates were Hall and Eberle at even strength his first year - 2011-2012.

As well, Horcoff's top linemates were: SMYTH, SMID, HEMSKY, JONES, PETRY

See the link below for details:

Oiler Linemates - Nuge First Year

So, can Draisaitl work between Hall and Eberle...I think so.

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#63 Harry
September 04 2014, 10:48AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Like to see the eligible kids get their 9 games in at the end of the season, when the games carry much less importance.

Another trademark rediculous crackpot idea. I lovem, keep them coming.

-25 man camp -9 game cameo in march/April -Small scoring team (dont size up to compete with big west teams)

leta add to this list asap

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#64 Zarny
September 04 2014, 11:47AM
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Harry wrote:

The skating angle is a rediculous point. LD will never hang with the players you mentioned. Hes just not that type of player just like Thornton and Lucic types.

No I'm afraid the skating angle is not ridiculous Harry.

The fact Draisaitl will never hang with exceptional skaters like Hall, Duchene and MacKinnon is entirely the point in terms of what kind of success the Oilers can expect from LD.

Like I said, when you look at the players who have excelled and done well as 18 y/o they are almost exclusively great skaters.

Milan Lucic went back for another year of Jr and only had 27 PT his first year in the NHL. Of course, he wasn't even close to a 3rd overall pick so perhaps not the best comparison.

Joe Thornton was a 1st overall pick, had 122 PT in 59 games during his draft year and was considered to be a much better prospect than Draisaitl. Jumbo Joe had all of 7 PT in 55 games during his rookie year and only 41 PT in his sophomore year.

Another good comparison for Draisaitl is Anze Kopitar. He only had 20 PT in 47 games in the Swedish Elite League the year after being drafted.

So exactly why would the Oilers expect Draisaitl to be better sooner?

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#65 LOIL99
September 04 2014, 03:24PM
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Gordie Wayne wrote:

Well, Nuge as an 18 year old between younger and more inexperienced versions of Hall and Eberle produced:

62GP: 18G, 34A, 52PTS -2

I think Draisaitl can do OK on that top line if the Nuge did it 3 years ago when he was much smaller and Hall and Eberle were much younger.

Just something to consider...

True. But my point was not debating whether or not LD needs protection.

My point was a response to another poster who said that putting LD between Hall and Eberle was a good way to protect him. Which is false i think.

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#66 Harry
September 04 2014, 03:54PM
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Zarny wrote:

No I'm afraid the skating angle is not ridiculous Harry.

The fact Draisaitl will never hang with exceptional skaters like Hall, Duchene and MacKinnon is entirely the point in terms of what kind of success the Oilers can expect from LD.

Like I said, when you look at the players who have excelled and done well as 18 y/o they are almost exclusively great skaters.

Milan Lucic went back for another year of Jr and only had 27 PT his first year in the NHL. Of course, he wasn't even close to a 3rd overall pick so perhaps not the best comparison.

Joe Thornton was a 1st overall pick, had 122 PT in 59 games during his draft year and was considered to be a much better prospect than Draisaitl. Jumbo Joe had all of 7 PT in 55 games during his rookie year and only 41 PT in his sophomore year.

Another good comparison for Draisaitl is Anze Kopitar. He only had 20 PT in 47 games in the Swedish Elite League the year after being drafted.

So exactly why would the Oilers expect Draisaitl to be better sooner?

I see your.point. I thought you were talking about the big picture not just next year.

I think LD needs Pulliot on one wing for sure and one of either yak/perron on the other.

Hes not being thrown into the fire like RNH was so everyone just needs to.relax

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