Jason Gregor’s terrific interview with Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report (transcript below) frames the Oilers issue at #3 overall perfectly—similar players available, one of whom (Leon Draisaitl) is a perfect fit for an actual need. I buy that, for me there’s merit in the argument and the math suggests the trio are very close in quality. The next logical question, then, is “can the Oilers plug and play Leon Draisaitl? Is he NHL ready?”
In order to answer the question, I’m going to use Gabriel Desjardins’ NHL equivalencies.If you’re not familiar with the process, Gabe lets the air out of junior and college stats and gives us a general idea about how well players will perform when making the jump.
Let’s list the 2013 draft picks who played in the NHL in 2014 (forwards) and their NHL equivalencies.
- Nathan MacKinnon actual 82gp, 24-39-63 .768 points-per-game
- Nathan MacKinnon NHLE 82gp, 17-22-39 .476 points-per-game
MacKinnon clearly blew the NHLE out of the water, but the equivalency did it’s job in identifying an NHL-ready player. It’ll be interesting to see what MacKinnon does next season—step forward from his impact season, or fall back to something more closely resembling the NHLE.
- Valeri Nichushkin actual 79gp, 14-20-34 .430 points-per-game
- Valeri Nichushkin NHLE 82gp, 20-10-30 .366 points-per-game
Nichushkin also outperformed his number, but this is a solid match. These seasons could easily be delivered by the same player, so the equivalency gave us a nice estimate on the Russian’s offense.
- Sean Monahan actual 75gp, 22-12-34 .453 points-per-game
- Sean Monahan NHLE 82gp, 13-20-33 .402 points-per-game
A pretty close match, I think we have Monahan surrounded as an offensive player. His shooting percentage suggests that his rookie season may not be duplicated, in a fashion similar to Nail Yakupov’s experience in 2013-14.
- Aleksander Barkov actual 54gp, 8-16-24 .444 points-per-game
- Aleksander Barkov NHLE 82gp, 18-22-40 .488 point-per-game
I’d argue that’s close, maybe even impressive considering the poor offensive team Barkov landed with to begin his career. I do think we can use him as a general comparable in terms of style for Draisaitl, although it’s understandable that some may not agree.
- Elias Lindholm actual 58gp, 9-12-21 .362 points-per-game
- Elias Lindholm NHLE 82gp, 15-25-40 .488 points-per-game
I like this comparable, although Lindholm struggled at times. The equivalency suggested he was one of the better options for NHL action last season, and the young man delivered on a poor team.
NHLE’s a year ago also suggested Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi, Hunter Shinkaruk and Anthony Mantha would have been capable of delivering at the NHL level.
The low end of the NHLE scale a year ago was Nischushkin’s number above, 82gp, 20-10-30 .366. Let’s use that as our ‘low end’ qualifier for Draisaitl, and let’s include the other centers in the conversation for fun (Reinhart and Bennett).
NHL READY, USING NHLE
- Sam Reinhart (WHL) 15-28-43
- Leon Draisaitl (WHL) 15-25-40
- Sam Bennett (OHL) 16-23-39
Answer: all of them. If we’re to believe Desjardins’ NHLE, and I’ve been using it for about a decade, then Leon Draisaitl’s offensive ability is in the general area of Barkov and Lindholm from a year ago. Which is to say, on par with all players not named Jonathan Drouin.
COMBINED NHLE, 2013 AND 2014
- Jonathan Drouin, Halifax (QMJHL) 19-30-49
- Sam Reinhart Kootenay (WHL) 15-28-43
- Sasha Barkov, Tappere Tampere (SM-Liiga) 18-22-40
- Leon Draisaitl, Prince Albert (WHL) 15-25-40
- Elias Lindholm, Brynas (SEL) 15-25-40
- Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax (QMJHL) 17-22-39
- Sam Bennett, Kingston (OHL) 16-23-39
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I talk to, and read a lot of comments by Oiler fans who cannot understand why Leon Draisaitl is being considered at No. 3. For my part, I wonder what the fuss is about. We’ve examined the game state of points scored for these men (Leon), we’ve spoken to draft experts (Jason’s conversation with Woodlief, there are other instances) and we know that, all things being equal, the Oilers can reasonably argue Draisaitl is the best available for them.
So, with respect, I ask you this: what am I missing?