When it comes to discussions about the need for the Edmonton Oilers to add size and edginess to their line-up, I’ve often said you can’t go by size alone because big players can play small and small players can play big.

That’s probably why I’ve got mixed feelings that the Oilers will likely have the opportunity to select Prince Albert’s Leon Draisaitl with the third overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Draisaitl is big. He’s skilled. He’s a centre. The question about Draisaitl, at least among many fans, is his competitive nature. Does he play with enough passion? Does he have enough edge to his game? Or, is he a soft, passive player in a big body without the fire of slightly smaller Sam Bennett?

That’s the question, and I don’t have a definitive answer. Jason Gregor just posted an in-depth interview he did with Draisaitl on the show last week, so I won’t go over too much of the ground he’s already covered, but for me, the money quote from the interview is obvious.



GREGOR: “Some suggest that you’re not maybe a fireball, you’re not highly competitive. From games I’ve seen, I don’t agree with that. How do you respond to those who suggest that maybe you’re not a highly competitive player?” 
DRAISAITL: “I know I’m a really, really competitive person. I want to win every single game. I know people say that about me but you know, I think it’s the style of game I play. In my opinion, that’s why people say that a lot.

“I like to control the game rather than speeding it up all of the time. And I know that I have to learn to speed it up too and that’s something that I’m working on right now, and I know that’s one of my weaknesses. I think that’s what people say because I like to control the game. I like to have the puck on my stick and then make things happen and you know. But I know that I have to work on it for sure, it’s definitely one of my weaknesses.”

Playing big doesn’t necessarily mean running opponents through the boards (not that doing so is a bad thing in my books) or dropping the gloves at every sideways glance from an opponent (ditto). It’s about willingness to compete. It’s about hating to lose. It’s about being hard on the puck. It involves cliché stuff about being at your best when the chips are down. It’s about becoming more engaged rather than backing off when it gets nasty. 

I’ve seen countless big players without the first clue about what it takes to truly compete and play with an edge (hello, Jason Bonsignore) and I’ve seen just as many small players with spit-in-your-eye brass and gumption that far outstrips their physical size (Doug Gilmour comes to mind). 

The old axiom tells us it’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, but the size of the fight in the dog. I’ve always believed that. Whether that trait comes in a bigger body like Draisaitl or somebody like Bennett or Sam Reinhart, that’s the player the Oilers need when they take the podium in Philadelphia.

WHILE I’M AT IT . . . 


. . . Jonathan Willis has done a couple of items of late about Oklahoma City coach Todd Nelson. On merit, I believe Nelson deserves a promotion to the NHL, but I question the wisdom of adding a coach without considerable NHL coaching experience to the Edmonton staff, given its make-up now

Dallas Eakins has one season as an NHL head coach on his resume. He needs an experienced addition to his staff, not somebody learning on the fly. Eakins needs help in the form of a seasoned veteran coach, not a newbie, so the timing isn’t good. That’s not Nelson’s fault, but it is his problem.

. . . I’m not the first to mention this, but I wonder if the Philadelphia Flyers and Craig MacTavish might re-visit the possibility of getting a deal done at the draft in June. The Flyers are always open for business and I can see new GM Ron Hextall and Paul Holmgren wanting to move up in draft order. 
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.
  • Derian Hatcher

    Here is my 2 cents…(not even worth that)…but I find ON highly entertaining. Both the articles and the comments challenge me to think about things in a different way…. Rarely does my personal opinion change (Eakins hire was a mistake), but I really enjoy the writers, all of whom provoke thought. There are always excellent points and debate in the comments section – compared to the quantity and quality of comments on other NATIONS, the stuff here is Bill Shakespeare! There is nothing like a good discussion or debate regarding coaching, players, trades, draft picks, etc.

    Writers – keep up the excellent work. Commenters – keep it up, and don’t get personal. Eakins – for the love of Kenny Baird (remember him? he’s in the WHA Hall of Fame !) find some humility and get an experienced asst coach. The REAL smartest man in the room knows what he doesn’t know.

    And Kevin….I actually do have a concern….uhg ..nevermind….

  • I tried it at home

    Nothing to do with anything above, but Im loving watching Minny and Chicago go at it. No one running into thier teammates on breakways, people in position when and where theyre supposed to be…. Wow. I wish we had professional hockey in Edmonton. And that Brodziak guy, good guy, character player. * pours rum, sobs*

  • Wow the full courts press is on for Leon . This feels like a situation where the oilers are trying the out smart every one. Just figure out what you want in a player and draft that guy but you can’t make a guy more aggressive

  • After seeing the game Germany-Kazakhstan I am absolutely convinced that Draisaitl would be a huge addition for the Oilers. In my opinion he played a very very good game and nearly everytime he was on the ice he took control of the game. He is really good at protecting the puck and his passing game is excellent (!!!). He may not be the most aggressive player out there but he uses his size perfectly. He wins nearly every battle on the wall.

    Please take Draisaitl if he is available!!!

    My guess is that he will be taken before the Oilers pick if he shows that well at the WC as he did today.

    PS: He had an assist on the first goal.

  • hallsyoilerforever5

    Whether the oilers draft Bennett or Draisaitl ; assuming Ekblad goes 1 or 2. The best path is not to rush them and let them at least have another year in the juniors.