Send The Rookie Away

The question of what the Oil should do with Rookie Leon Draisaitl at the 40 game mark of the season has been a point of speculation for some time. On Tuesday Mark Spector felt comfortable stating that based on his information the Oilers would be sending the big German to the WHL by Saturday.

Before Spec wrote about it in his column here, the pieces were slowly coming together telegraphing the move. The Oilers did not want to send Draisaitl back to PA where the coach had been sacked early in the season and the team wasn’t very good. However, if he could somewhere else it could be acceptable. In advance of Christmas Robin Brownlee noted the connections that the Oilers had with the Kelowna Rockets, the reported destination for Leon Draisaitl.

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Shortly thereafter Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal reported that the rights of Leon Draisaitl had been traded somewhat in secret already by Prince Albert to Kelowna, the powerhouse team of the WHL and likely all of the CHL. 

When pressed about the status of Leon Draisaitl the Oilers’ GM MacTavish gave little more than a confirmation of his status as a member of the NHL team at that given minute. He did not deny the club’s intention to move him in just a few days. He did not speak to his NHL talent level. He just said that at this time Leon was an Oiler. Reassuring, I’m sure, for the Rookie.


thinking cap

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In hindsight the Oilers probably should have sent Draisaitl back to the WHL after the 9 game mark of the season, however there was no way for the club to know the wheels of the season had never even been installed let alone ready to come off. That’s important to note because part of the reason he stayed up was because the franchise was counting on his production as an integral part of their year.

MacT had cleared a wide berth for him by trading away Sam Gagner and not acquiring any other NHL centermen in the offseason. They were working without a safety net. It was all-in on Draisaitl and the plan backfired. If by game 10 the Oilers had moved Draisaitl to the WHL and called up Lander, who had not performed well at the NHL level or in Training Camp, then they would have effectively given up on the season right there. 

Again, hindsight being what it is, we know now that their season was over before it began.

Beyond the team’s play, after 9 games I personally hadn’t seen enough of Draisaitl to say for certain that he wouldn’t get more comfortable and start producing points. In his first 9 games he went 1-2-3 and had shown flashes of his passing ability that impressed everyone in Training Camp. He had NHL size and his speed, though not great, was not a detriment. In fact, at the recent Oilers Skills Competition he ended up winning the fastest skater award.

I cannot say in all honesty that I would have been prepared to send him down at that time.


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The problem is that in the 25 games that he’s played since then he has only added 1-3-4 for a total of 7 points. He is shooting just 4.1% so a little bad luck is a problem here, but that simply isn’t enough production for a guy who takes a lot of offensive zone starts.

The team has given Leon a big offensive push with a team leading 44% OZ Starts. Nobody on the team begins in the attacking zone more frequently than he does and he has been playing with relatively decent wingers the entire year. It is not because the Oilers put him in a position to fail that he has not produced. They tried. It just didn’t happen.

He hasn’t been a poor possession player either, though one shouldn’t be when he starts in the attacking zone so much. Draisaitl is among the team leaders in Corsi For at 51.8% on the season. It’s not as if the Oilers are hopelessly dominated when he’s out there, they just aren’t doing anything positive for themselves.

He just wasn’t ready, and not a lot of Teenagers really are. I think at this point if he can go back to playing against his own peer group, find his scoring touch, and potentially win a Memorial Cup then he should do it. He could learn a lot playing 12:47 a night in the NHL but there are plenty of lessons to be learned at 20 minutes for a winner in the CHL.

Yes, it’s almost 30 games too late, but it’s never a bad time to make the right decision.


If they send Leon back while this tournament is going on then there are going to a lot of questions. Personally I think it’s poor form for the Oilers. The rationale is that he already played for Germany twice at this event so there isn’t much left for him there. 

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I think denying a player the chance to play for his country is not something you should be making a habit of. They could have loaned him and sent him back after. Germany isn’t a great team but they would be significantly better with him there.

It’s a goofy decision that makes the Oil look Mickey Mouse. 

The flip side is that he got to play NHL games earning an NHL paycheck for that much longer. In the long run the kid is going to make his money I’m sure, but playing for your country is special. 

I really don’t like the call here, if he does in fact go back to the WHL anyway.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Not sure why thwy have been waiting for that long to take a step like this. I hoped they would keep him in E-Town and let him play for the Oilkings. They for sure need some help this season.

  • I don’t get why they did not let him play for Germany.

    They could of had a period of time to play whatever Center(s) such as Lander, Yakimov, Jar Jar, and Roy to evaluate their center position. Why not see what your depth was like and see how players are progressing. Then let Leon build confidence in a tourney where he should do well. Then they could of brought him back or sent him to the WHL.

    Anyways we are not the smartest guy in the room like MacbLowe.

  • Zamboni Driver

    I heard there’s a tournament going on right now where the most elite players in Draisaitl’s age group are competing at a national level. Heard its a great learning experience

  • Zamboni Driver

    Mickey Mouse was thinking this teenager could/should/would fit as a #2 centre…AT ANY POINT. Not sending him to WJC is ‘Executive MBA’-think, so we cannot possibly understand.

    P.S. Watching WJC – how did the Oilers ever pass on Max Domi? 5’9″ winger with ‘sick hands’??!! That screams Oiler.

    (He’s having an excellent WJC….so did Ales Eberle)

  • “however there was no way for the club to know the wheels of the season had never even been installed let alone ready to come off” – Matt Henderson

    I’d think that starting with a rookie and a small AHL center as your 2/3 center as well as the defense that was assembled was probably indication enough that they were not going anywhere especially by game 9.

  • The Oilers ARE mickey mouse. It was obvious to me and most everyone outside of Edmonton that the prudent move was to send him back to junior after nine games. The Oilers never learn.

    Horrific ownership leads to inept management.

  • “Connections between Oilers and KEL. Owner and GM is Bruce Hamilton. Knows MacTavish and Nicholson and dad of EDM draft pick Curtis Hamilton.”

    This can’t be true! The oilers drafted a buddy’s kid and helping out friends and family? That’s not how they operate!!!

  • Zamboni Driver


    Craig’s going to talk. He’ll be asked about Eichel v. McDavid.

    He’ll tell us they don’t plan on drafting either because we’re making a huge HUGE run.



  • Kenny The Rat

    “In hindsight the Oilers probably should have sent Draisaitl back to the WHL after the 9 game mark of the season” Only hindsight for the smartest men in the room – everyone else knew that

  • Zamboni Driver

    Absolutely agree, why the oilers wouldn’t send him to the world juniors is beyond me, and that’s before I heard they were thinking of sending him back. More poor internal decisions by management…has anyone thought of making some changes there? might be an idea, don’t you think

    • FlamesRule

      bLowe& MacT thought the WCJ tourney would be too physical for Leon. Best to keep him on the hitless Oilers – much less chance for injury.

      Go Flames Go!

  • Zamboni Driver

    I’m also declaring Darnell Nurse a bust.

    He took that penalty for horse collaring Eichel in retaliation for McDavid getting roughed up?

    That’s not what we do here Mister. In Edmonton, we slink away sheepishly, in hopes that no one gets mad at us.

  • I’m going to go out on a limb and say Drai didn’t WANT to play at the WJC. The team, looking to protect the reputation of the player, would never let that out if that was the case.

    If you’re going to play too much in a guaranteed losing cause, you might as well do it for lots of money.

    • Kenny The Rat

      Who cares? I’ll go on a limb and say Nurse didnt want to play in the whl this year. And ill go on another limb and say Lazar wanted to keep making nhl paychewues aswell. You don’t let kids call the shots or else you end up being the oilers

  • Jordan88

    The fact that Team Canada and Oilers play tonight is like going to the liquor store buying a bottle of some good vodka and getting a cheap sample of crappy vodka with it.

    You’re not a fan of this particular brand but you’ll still drink it.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Who cares if he played 9 games or 39 games? We use a year of his entry level deal…big deal. I don’t pay his salary so I really don’t care. Better that he has these games under his belt and will be that much more prepared for next year.

    • Zamboni Driver

      It’s not reall about the salary it’s more about the cap hit. A winning team would care cuz it would give them an extra year with more cap room to bring in F.A’s for a playoff push. But that’s completely irrelevant for this team.

      The real question is will he really be better prepared next year or will his confidence be shattered if he finishes with what he’s on pace for? Somthing like 5 goals and a minus 40. On a team that might win 16-17 games. Kinda hard to come back from such an extremely terrible year.

      I say send the poor kid to juniors and get back to feeling good

  • Serious Gord

    It was dumb to have him here past nine games. But MacT left the NHL centre cupboard bare. That’s what bold GMs do.

    Re: the buddy network kelowna deal. These guys – including FOKK Nicholson are utterly blind to the fact that nepotism/favoritism is guaranteed to result in losing in the modern NHL. THEY WILL NEVER LEARN.

    • Serious Gord

      They had a perfect chance to send Leon to the World Juniors but of course they didn’t why would they . Now they want to send him back. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    It can be looked at in a good way. This years a write off for draisaitl. Hall,nuge and ebs were given 6M a season because they all had pretty solid rookie campaigns and continued to improve(although RNHs shoulder set him back but hes all good now and looking better every game). Draisaitl cant expect 6M in 2 years. yakupov wont be getting 6M at the end of this year. We try and sign them cheap to long term deals and it will pay off. They might want bridge deals so they can cash in but we have a chance to set our team up for a long time. hall and nuge are already bargains IMO. The cap is rising and i think we will be deep eventually.


  • Exactly what is he supposed to learn playing against smaller than NHL defenders in the Dub that he can apply next year in the NHL? The speed is slower, that’s no help either. This is just their way of saying size isn’t the answer/problem. It’s not his speed it’s the style of skating that’s an issue. He’s upper body heavy which affects his agility on the ice. He will never be the prototypical power forward they think he will be, he’s simply not built for it. And next year much like Nurse, he will spend the year in the AHL, and in a couple of years they will have a smarter version of Hartikainen on their hands, but still not a player who can fill the void they need him to… MacT will have a lot of explaining to do…

  • Chongler

    If they send Leon to the junior then who will play center for Oilers for the rest of the season?

    What happen to Yakupov next season? Give him less money he want to be traded, Nail won’t be joining KHL. With Oil prices drop the owners are crying in KHL, they ask players to take pay cut.

    KHL might fold in a year or 2. Hope Yakupov turn his game around.

    Todd is doing well with the team, I see the players are skating hard with more energy in their game.
    It’s ok to win some and lose in OT or SO, stand low in standing for good picks in June.

    Win 15-20 last 44 games for 60 something points is ok.

  • Chongler

    Keeping Draisaitl at centre with the Oil WAS MacT’s biggest bold move to date….confirmed by Eakins at the beginning of the season when he stated the club only had 2 NHL centres. And to describe the result as a ‘crash and burn’ of epic proportions is a gross understatement. But if (after all this ineptitude) the ‘bold move’ translates into either McDavid or Eichel vs a 9th or 10th pick in the 1st round, I’m willing to give MacT the benefit of the doubt. Regardless, my level of apathy towards the club is growing, and KLowe needs to go. ‘Nuff said.

  • Chongler

    One thing to be considered re: sending him to play for Germany at the WJC. That 39 game deadline is not how many games he’s played but how many the team’s played, and if the Oilers had sent him to the WJC the deadline would have passed with him there and the team would have lost one year of ‘control’ and Leon would have been a free agent one year sooner, which is the point of this whole exercise.

    I’m not in any way defending Oiler management but it would appear there was at least some measure of foresight involved here.