I’d love to talk to an NHL coach someday about the gift of teenagers forced upon them by general managers. We’re about to see another one, and there’s nothing (apparently) Dallas Eakins can do about it. Who will it impact, beyond the coach? Let’s have a look.
Earlier today, GM Craig MacTavish—a man who was once gifted with a depth chart at pivot that featured Shawn Horcoff, Jarret Stoll, Mike Peca and Marty Reasoner for most of a season—told a gathered crowd about the wonders of Leon Draisaitl, Anton Lander and Mark Arcobello.
LET’S TALK LEON
The first thing to acknowledge is that he may actually be good enough for
the NHL. He’s outstanding, and the numbers imply impact-player
potential. Leon’s size suggests some form of physical maturity and if he
can play then he’ll certainly be one of the better options for
Edmonton. And if you compare him to recent Oiler picks at even strength in their draft seasons, Draisaitl looks excellent.
- 2009-10 Taylor Hall 57, 22-33-55 (.965)
- 2011-12 Nail Yakupov 42, 18-22-40 (.952)
- 2013-14 Leon Draisaitl 64, 22-37-59 (.922)
- 2006-07 Sam Gagner 53, 14-33-47 (.887)
- 2010-11 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 69, 20-27-47 (.681)
My objection to the current depth chart (which I think might be Nuge-Leon-Gordon-Arco-Lander) is twofold: they aren’t making the lottery pick work for the job, and it puts Mark Arcobello (probably) in a lesser role. We can pretend Boyd Gordon is going to be the fourth line center, but there’s such a lack of experience on this roster Gordon will play heavy even and penalty killing minutes. From here, it looks like Leon has the 2C job to lose, and Mark Arcobello is his competition (Lander is more likely to win a 4line role).
Is that reasonable? After a season that saw the Edmonton Oilers lose games by the dozens, management is prepared to (once again) march into battle a day late and a dollar short? Why is this happening again?
YAK AND THE WINGERS
The other concern is what happens to Nail Yakupov in all of this? If the Oilers are going to run a third line as I’ve described above, my guess is it’ll be Gordon with veterans like Benoit Pouliot and Matt Hendricks. If the 1line is Nuge between Hall and Eberle, where does that leave Leon? After all, you’re going to want to give him veteran wingers, and that may mean he gets David Perron and Teddy Purcell.
- Taylor Hall—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Jordan Eberle
- David Perron—Leon Draisaitl—Teddy Purcell
- Benoit Pouliot—Boyd Gordon—Matt Hendricks
- Nail Yakupov—Mark Arcobello—Tyler Pitlick
Is that possible? Probable?
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
By handing Leon Draisaitl a job before training camp—and based on the depth chart today that’s a defensible statement—the Oilers have added another prospect burden on the coach, who will put more pressure on Nuge and Gordon, increase the chance of injury, and oh by the way Yakupov and Arcobello could and may get squeezed in this situation.
It could work, Leon’s a helluva prospect. I think the smart play here is to add a veteran center, and that may happen early in the regular season. We should be prepared for a 9-game audition from Leon, probably with David Perron and Teddy Purcell.
Note: Jason Strudwick took on this subject from a different angle today, with similar results and conclusions.