Mr. Unpopular

Draisaitl, Leon

Leon Draisaitl should be returned to Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League this season.

This is not a popular idea among Edmonton Oilers media and fans, but I believe he should not be in the Oilers lineup next season.

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The past two drafts the Oilers have drafted exactly the guys I would have if I had been in charge. Draisaitl and Nurse are the types of players the Oilers are missing in the system and on the big team. They are big and can move well on the ice. I want to be clear that I like the Draisaitl draft choice before I explain why he should not be on the team for the upcoming season.

Let me make my case.

No. 1: Line mates


Who would be the perfect two wingers for Draisaitl if he were to play in the NHL next year? I have heard many Oiler fans and members of the media suggest that he could play with wingers that would protect him while he learns the game? WOW! That is a unique statement.

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How exactly does a winger protect his centre? He could help him by taking the draws. He could always be the first man back in the D zone to support the D down low in the corners and the front of the net. So what does that leave exactly for the “protected” centre to do? There is only one answer to that question…. BE A WINGER!

It doesn’t work like that. There are times in a game where a winger will take draws and be the first man back in the D zone. A winger will even end up in the middle on the attacking rush; but not every shift, game in and game out.

Draisaitl cannot be protected by linemates on every shift and in every situation.

I do think that there could be great chemistry between Leon and Yak. Leon is a big guy that can hold on to the puck below the goal line while Yak finds a quiet spot in the slot. Everyone is watching Leon, Yak gets lost in the shuffle and a quick pass to Yak. BOOM. Goal. Think Getzlaf and Perry.

That is in the future. Not this upcoming year. The thought of having Yak and Leon on the same line at this point in their NHL development should make Dallas Eakins very uncomfortable. They are not ready for it and the rest of the NHL would be ready for them. Two or three years from now I hope that is a great duo that can support Nuge’s line with goals. That time is not now.

No. 2: Center Depth


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Nuge, Gordon, Arcobello and Lander. Throw Leon into this group and we are looking at the top five centres most likely to start the season with the Oilers. Of the four outside of Leon which ones will play the other team’s top lines?

Nuge is trending in the right direction. I saw a lot of two-way awareness out of him last season. He was often in the right place but would lose the battle because he was outmuscled. I think a full summer of working out will be huge for him. He will start to win his fair share of those one-on-one battles that lead to goals for and against.

At this point in his development he is not a player that can carve up those hard minutes against top competition on a nightly basis. He needs a little of experience and strength to get to that place. He will play many of those minutes this season but I don’t see him as a guy that shelters Leon this upcoming year.


Gordon was good for the Oilers last year. I always liked his game but as I wrote last season a championship team will have Gordon as their fourth line centre. That is the depth required to win. He can take those defensive zone draws all night for Leon but at what cost? Leon’s ice time will be less especially on the road. Gordon’s ice time will go up.

Arco and Lander are wild cards. Can these two hold down NHL spots this year? These are not legit NHL guys yet so they aren’t protecting anyone. They are working on their own games and can’t carry a rookie’s harder ice time for a season.

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No. 3: Coaching

Dallas Eakins 13

The Oilers have changed some of their coaching staff. The overall plan will be the same with Eakins at the helm for year two but the delivery may change with Ramsey in the mix. This is a team bringing in many new players into the lineup and trying to refine the play of many already in the lineup.

There are so many things for this coaching staff to work on…implementing a system…finding and creating chemistry between new and old players… fine tuning the power play…defensive zone play, etc. They are going to be very busy. Will there be time to spend with a young second line centre to guide him through his first NHL season in a challenging conference?

No. 4: Confidence

Defensive mess

In my experience confidence is the most important part of a young, highly skilled player’s development that must be protected and nurtured. Confidence takes time to build and can be lost in one bad game. I see Leon as a big part of what the Oilers hope to be in the future. His growth as a player needs to have the firm backing of confidence. Can it be guaranteed that his confidence will not suffer in his first NHL season with the three points I have listed above?

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I am willing to be Mr. Unpopular when it comes to Leon. I see no real rush to get him into the NHL this season. Another year of junior, world juniors, WHL playoff and world championship would serve him just fine. Another year to get stronger and more mature as a player. I have yet to see the hockey player that is ruined because of an extra year in junior.

That being said I think he will be in the Oilers’ lineup this season due to the lack of other options. He is a very skilled and smart player, so he will make some incredible plays that will make you jump out of your seats; skilled players always do. But is it the best for his complete game long term? I don’t think so.

Keep this in mind: just because Leon is the best option for the Oilers at the second line centre position doesn’t mean it is the best option for him and the organization moving forward.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    A long tenured NHL vet knows better than this… A blogger needs something to write so I forgive you!!!! Training camp and a few games will tell the real story of what’s best for player and team… I find it odd that Nuge gets so much praise while people ignore the big white elephant in the room that he is trending in the direction of a 2C and will still need someone to throw him a sandwich to be able to carve out a healthy career… I’m leaning more toward Drai being 1C lately unless Nuge makes a visit to A-Rods doctor!!! Drai has all the tools to play with the men in the league already so why not start the education process now??? Or we can wait till next season and spend 3 frustrating months watching him pass up quality shots trying to outmuscle NHL defenceman a la Hall in his rookie year!! Truth is Leon has better tools now than any of the picks we brought in immediately at the same age(speed may hinder him but that’s sounding like less of a concern)….. Let’s not let a rookie coaches horrible mishandling of a young player scare us away…. Plus apparently Eakins learned a lot so time will tell(hopefully he learned that horrible haircut is woefully outdated as well)

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Oh and one more thing while I’m here… Did the debate over Leon finally get oil fans to drop the cries for a “number 1” D-man??? I’m at least thankful for that as most of these “experts” probably can’t name 10 in the league leaving 20 teams without a 1D which always made me wonder what actually classifies Someone a 1D….. We got spoiled the 1 year we did have one and seemed to quickly forget that we lost in the finals… Who was Carolina’s 1D that series?? Or any of them for that matter??

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Oh and one more thing while I’m here… Did the debate over Leon finally get oil fans to drop the cries for a “number 1” D-man??? I’m at least thankful for that as most of these “experts” probably can’t name 10 in the league leaving 20 teams without a 1D which always made me wonder what actually classifies Someone a 1D….. We got spoiled the 1 year we did have one and seemed to quickly forget that we lost in the finals… Who was Carolina’s 1D that series?? Or any of them for that matter??

  • LinkfromHyrule

    Totally agree with you on this article. You would know better than most the difficulties of being a rookie in the nhl.

    I disagree with you though that Arcobello is not an NHL centre. I mean, the dude tore up the AHL and was nothing but solid in the NHL. 18 points in 41 games for a guy who is basically a rookie is pretty good considering he is “too small.” Very solid underlying numbers too. He’s crafty on the ice, and he has clearly learned to overcome his diminutive stature.

    The one way contract was earned, even if it is a very low $ 1 year deal. Indicates the team at least believes he has earned a real shot at the bigs. We will see if his first season is an anomaly, but I have a feeling it won’t be. Give the guy some decent linemates (hint: anyone but gazdic) and who knows what might happen.

    Not the second coming of Marty St. Louis, but a very useful depth player if used correctly.

  • Jayz

    Jason, you MUST be the guy Stauffer has been alluding to for the past two weeks.

    The gist of what he says is that low talent third liners are saying to send Draisatl back to junior because THEY couldn’t make the NHL in their first year after being drafted.

    Stauffer, who has yet to play a minute of NHL time apparently has a better grasp of what it takes to play in the big league than you.

    This has been part of the Stauffer monologue every day that I have tried to listen to his show this week at least.

    Could he be right Jason? You know nothing and Bob Stauffer knows it all?

  • PimKing

    Heres a thought. How about we evaluate how his pre season and 9 games goes. If he’s ready he’s ready, if he’s not, well then, he’s not. Its really that simple.

    • Jayz

      I cant agree with you the first 9 games is the softest time of the season .Come March when the teams are tightening up for the toughest part of the season you could do real damage both physically ( see Hall Hopkins and Eberle in their first years ) and mentally ( confidence) . Leave him in juniors.

  • Jayz

    Great article Struds!

    I couldn’t agree more. Leon should go back down to juniors. 9 games isn’t going to tell us anything as to whether he is ready.

    I’m a MacT fan but the fact that he hasn’t found another depth center is a huge fail on the part of the Oilers organization, especially considering the depth in defensive prospects and wing depth we have to trade for a center.

    Yak who is a 1st overall is a great example of why certain players regardless of their draft position need more time to develop prior to being injected into a role that they aren’t ready for.

    I hope I’m wrong but get ready to see more prospects hurled into roles above thier ability and watch thier confidence and growth impacted negatively.

  • Jayz

    Awesome article Struds, I totally agree. We should send him back to junior for one more year. When are you gonna write another CanucksArmy article? I’d love to hear your take on what is best for Horvat’s development.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    ^Giroux had the longest stick i ever saw, and was set up perfectly a few times by Hall during his rookie season, but gassed at least a couple of great chances, and i remember Hall having a few choice words for him when they were going back to the bench.

  • Serious Gord

    This is just a wait and see kind of thing. If Leon can come into camp and beats out the other guys for the spot, then its all his to run with it like Nuge did, although I really wanted Nuge back in Red Deer with the Rebels as that is where I am from.

    If nothing else, give him the 9 NHL games and then send him back to junior with a list of what to work on. Allow him to play in OKC at the end of his season and be ready for next year.

    I really think that MacT will wait to see what happens with Draisaitl before seeking out a second line centre. We still need one but at this point, we might have to give up too much to get one. I just have a feeling that before we can make a deal for a center, we will need some of our young guys in the line-up like Klefbom and Nurse so that assets can be moved.