LEON DRAISAITL: AS ADVERTISED

It’s way too early into our introduction to Leon Draisaitl to arrive at any conclusions as to what he’ll be as a finished product, but with what we’ve seen of him so far at training camp with the Edmonton Oilers, it’s probably safe to say he comes as advertised. This is a good thing.

So far, when I’ve watched Draisaitl, I’ve seen a lot of what the pundits were talking about heading into the 2014 Entry Draft, where the Oilers took the German-born pivot from the Prince Albert Raiders third overall. Here are some of those takes:

Craig Button, TSN: “Leon is a big centre who is smart, can make plays and can impact the game in multiple ways. He’s the type of centre who is coveted by many NHL clubs because of his combination of size and skill.”

Last Word on Sports: “Leon Draisaitl is a big centre with excellent reach and stickhandling ability. He protects the puck very well, especially in the cycle game. He also has the vision and the passing skill to finds an open teammate with a quick and accurate pass.”

Ryan Kennedy, THN: “. . . a complete player with great awareness, he makes players around him better and has great anticipation. Makes plays equally strong on both his forehand and backhand.”

BIG-LEAGUE BRAIN

Brain

We’ve seen a whole lot of all the above in our look at Draisaitl through last night’s split-squad game against Calgary at Rexall Place – the play in which he set-up David Perron in the slot being a prime example. He’s shown vision, patience and an ability to change the pace and distribute the puck.

While Draisaitl doesn’t possess, and likely never will, the kind of flash and dash that pulls fans out of their seats, what he does have is what I call a big-league brain. Players with that quality, that hockey IQ, have a chance to be something special in the NHL. 

Fast feet and fast hands without a brain capable of keeping up are often wasted attributes. We’ve seen that a time or two, no? That’s particularly true when we’re talking about centres, a position where the ability to anticipate where a teammate is going to be and to find a way to get the puck there is what separates the elite from the also-rans. 

While Draisaitl is hardly a plodder and actually has decent speed once he’s going, he needs to work on his first couple of steps to get quicker. I don’t doubt he will. What Draisaitl does is save steps by using his head. He can draw defenders to him or create separation when needed with his ability to anticipate, to protect the puck, to change the pace.

Taylor Hall shows speed in his headlong rushes to the net Draisaitl will never possess. Jordan Eberle is the kind of dead-eye shooter Draisaitl can’t match. Justin Schultz is more of a risk-reward guy with his forays up ice than Draisaitl will ever be. These things Draisaitl is not. What he can do is get every one of them the puck – forehand or backhand. Vision. Smarts.

MORE TO COME

MoreToCome

Draisaitl, who turns 19 October 27, is early into his first NHL camp, so, like I said off the top, we don’t know what he’s going to be three or four or five years from now. What we’re seeing is a teenager auditioning for a roster spot in the middle behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, ready or not.

He hasn’t faced an actual NHL roster yet. Before Draisaitl sees a regular season game with the Oilers, his opponents will get more seasoned, faster, smarter, tougher. The time and space he creates with that hockey brain of his will diminish. He’ll have to adjust on the fly. He’ll have to be better.

I’ve seen too many players over the years look like world-beaters in the short-term, flashes in the pan, only to fade when they’ve been around the block a time or two. When the competition gets better, when opponents adjust and Draisaitl’s name gets circled on the white board in the other dressing room, we’ll see what happens.

The Deutschland Dangler isn’t there, yet, of course. That said, I like what I’ve seen so far from Draisaitl. I like that hockey brain. I like it a lot.

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

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It might not be a popular viewpoint but I would entertain keeping Yakimov, Draisaitl and Nurse up for the season. The center ice positions are 50% vacant already before the season has begun. Let those kids all get that first season learning curve under their belt. So next season there are fewer rookies in the lineup making first season type mistakes.

    This is a no doubter non playoff team anyways. Nothing wrong with another 24th-27th place finish with the new lottery format. They changed those rules because of the Oilers. Let them watch as the Oilers ice a team including 4 first overalls for the 2015-2016 season with this newly established format. The force is with Oilersnation, and we will not be denied Connor McDavid.

    • Shit bitch cunt fuck

      I agree that the team is likely not destined for play offs this year, however, doing another full development year for every single touted prospect is something I can’t bare to watch as a fan. Draisaitl arguably looks nicely sheltered between Perron and Poulliout, but throwing Yakimov and Nurse up as well will just be a painful season.

      Since Drai isn’t going back to junior anyway, it makes sense for his development to play in the NHL rather than Europe. Yakimov, on the other hand, is a player I am really high on. But a season in the AHL working on his foot speed and learning the NHL style game will do him wonders.

      Draisaitl is exciting, but the idea of having both Draisaitl and Yakimov in the line up after some development is down right brain melting. Yakimov is awesome for all the reasons not listed here. He is a power forward centre in the mold of Getzlaf, and combining his skill set with Nuge and Drai will make for a formidable top 3.

      Nurse, though, still has way too much chaos to his game. I think he has the highest ceiling, but the Oilers this year need some calmer waters on the back end. He will be a force, but I’d rather it was a controlled force rather than the hurricane he is now.

      Hope of hopes the Oilers greatly improve their goal differential to near 0, then win the draft lottery.

  • A-Mc

    Great then the opponents will be cicling RNH, Hall, Eberle, Schultz, Yakupov in addition to Draisaitl. The way I see it, the opponents will be overwhelmed not knowing who to watch for.

    • The Soup Fascist

      Someone brought up “Action Saxon” on Lowetide’s website. I think that is an extremely clever nickname.

      That is why it will never work with the NHL players of today.

      I am sure “Draiser” – rhymes with razor – is already firmly entrenched.

      Man, I long for the days of “Battleship”, “Road Runner”, “Suitcase” and “Gumper”.

      Kids these days …. oh …. and – by the way – “get off my lawn”.

  • To Oil Baron, gravis82 and “John Smith” It’s been said 100 times and I’ll say it again: if a posted article doesn’t interest you, move on to something that does. Simple as that.

    A post that begins and ends with “Boring” adds nothing to the conversation.

    gravis82:Not arguing the point with you.

  • vetinari

    In about two years, our depth at centre will hopefully be a strength for this team: RNH, Draisatl, Yakimov, Gordon, Arcobello, Lander. Right now, there’s going to be some growing pains until we get there. I look forward to the day when the horses arrive for full time work across our lineup and we can hear other teams complain about finding ways to contain our “big bodied” players — guys like Nurse, Draisatl, and Yakimov.

    • beloch
      • The Nuge is, of course, going to be a cornerstone for the Oilers. How many 21 year olds in the NHL have 132 points under their belt? He needs to work on his defensive game, but that’s no surprise for a younger player. He’s only going to get better. Surrounding him with some positive veteran influences wouldn’t hurt though.
      • Arcobello is 26 and probably near his peak, which is a weak, but not awful, possesion player who can put up a decent amount of points if given some shelter. A competent bum (something the Oilers have been far too short on for a long time now), but not a cornerstone by any means. He will be a useful veteran for several seasons to come, but the goal should be to give him more shelter than he’s been getting.
      • Anton Lander took a big step forward in the AHL last season, but he was hot garbage before that and has yet to translate anything to the NHL, where he has just 2 points in 38 games over the past two seasons. At 23, his window is rapidly closing.
      • Boyd Gordon is a 30 year old vet and faced the toughest minutes of any Oiler forward last season. In terms of possesion, he got his head bashed in. He was never a big point producer and his years as a shut-down forward are probably coming to a close. He’s not going to be a significant factor for the Oilers by the time they’re ready to contend for the playoffs.
      • It’s too early to tell what the Oilers have in Yakimov, but the odds of a player drafted at his position playing more than a season or two in the NHL are about 1 in 5. This is an egg that is very far from hatching.
      • One possible future center you didn’t mention is Marco Roy. Like Yakimov, he is very much an unhatched egg, but he’s got a chance. There are a few other interesting center prospects in the system, but none are really blue-chip.
      • So, by my count, the Oilers have one definite top six center in Nuge, a competent bum who can toil in the bottom six in Arcobello, but after that it’s Draisaitl and nobody who can be relied upon to be a competent NHL’er in a few seasons when Edmonton is hopefully going for the playoffs, although there are a few who have a shot. That’s not terrible, but it’s also not deep, and this assumes Draisaitl is exactly as advertised.

        Edmonton could stand to acquire a solid veteran center to take over from Gordon. Someone who can provide shelter without being a liability while mentoring the rookies and Nuge. More center ice prospects are still needed because the farm is getting thin. Draisaitl is a fantastic prospect and the Oilers really need to take no chances with him. If he’s ready for the NHL, great, but he shouldn’t be expected to play top 6 immediately. If the best thing for his development is to go back to junior, send him down. The fans are going to be throwing more sweaters on the ice this season anyways, so don’t risk Draisaitl’s development just to make them slightly less irate.

      • McDavid's Comet

        I like how Arco performed in the absence of Gagner, he held his own on a team that couldn’t. He could turn out to be like a Martin St.Louis type player, if he is given time and space. I look forward to see what he can do this year. Unless Dr.Drai usurpses him, we will see Arco for 3/4 of the season….. barring injury that is.

  • BlazingSaitls

    I hope Oilers send Draisaitl and Nurse back to Junior. I have been thinking on this for some time now. Nurse is clearly going back to Junior. If Klefbom and Marincin stalled or took a step back then Nurse would be an NHL’er. Sadly for Nurse, that did not happen. This is not a knock on Nurse. Its props to Oilers D-depth.

    Now about Draisaitl. I dread him playing in the NHL and heres why. However you want to look at it the Oilers are starting anew….again. They will be building on what worked last year while still learning new systems with new coaches.

    This is not an environment to bring a kid into. Maybe Crosby….maybe.

    I would hope Oilers take this year to establish their identity officially. Create the team that is hard to play against. This can be done without Draisaitl. Even if he doesn’t play this year the Oilers cant possibly be worse than last year. I am a hardcore Oiler fan that has accepted missing another year of playoffs for the greater good.

    I would encourage the Oilers to put there kids in a position to succeed. This cant be done this year. Imagine how big Nurse and Draisaitl will be next year if they are given more time to mature. If they start bashing their body in the NHL it will slow, not stop, the rapid growth still happening in these young men.

    If Draisaitl was going to be 3rd line center with sheltered minutes I can be swayed into letting him play, possibly. I fear this is not the case. I fear Oilers will put this young man in a role with too much responsibility too soon. I dont doubt Drai will have a good year in the NHL. I just feel if he had one more year in Junior he will have a great year, not good, as a rookie.

    So in closing I hope the Oilers send Nurse and Draisaitl back to junior, take 14/15 to firmly establish an identity of being a hard team to play against, improve by 10-20 points from last year and start Nurse and Draisaitl in 15/16 without any doubts what-so-ever.

    Then Oiler Domination

  • D

    Really liked Draisaitl getting a star in the game last night. Watched both games online – in Calgary, saw some of the flash and dash with Yakupov.

    For what it’s worth, the Oilers have most of the pieces in place – it’s a matter of asset management and seasoning at this point rather than asset acquisition.

  • D

    The last time I checked we are very very short on pure passers, and even shorter on guys that can change the pace of the game.

    I agree with you Robin and would like to add the best quality LD has demonstrated is his ability to control the pace of the game……..now it’s early in his tenure, but he looks very good to me.

    On a side note, why all the televised pre-season Calgary games, but no Edmonton games??

  • Shit bitch cunt fuck

    At 19 Leon is too young to play second line center in the big league. I like what I see in the young man, but let him develop and dominate at every level before relying on him in the NHL.

  • Anton CP

    Draisaitl might be a better fit to be first line C in the future because of his size. Nuge has great talent and should have a better match up against other team’s lesser lines.

    Maybe Dora ?

  • Joy S. Lee

    I get the impression that Leon is a very level-headed kid who is focused.

    With that kind of mindset supporting his skill set, I don’t have a problem with him playing in the NHL this year, learning the game at its highest level*.

    * He’s consistently played with bigger, meaner, older groups throughout his development. This kid has shown several times already that he can adapt to his surroundings.

    All of this “what if…” “what x might mean…” and so on…

    I am fine with allowing Draisaitl to show he’s up for the task, or not. Let the chips fall where they may, based upon his history of meeting new challenges with that stable mindset of his. In other words, let’s see how it plays out, and leave the decision-making process to the time when it’s right to make the decision. Base it on when he’s had a chance to test the waters against NHL competition, hence the 9-game tryout. Anything in between is just conjecture, and I expect he’s going to show enough positive signs that they keep him and he continues to evolve as an Oilers’ center. But that’s just me supposing. I’ll re-evaluate as it gets closer to games 1-9, and let the kid himself make the decision for us.