WHY NOT LEON?

Draisaitl, Leon

It’s
been obvious for some time now the Edmonton Oilers intend to start training
camp, and likely the 2014-15 season, with rookie Leon Draisaitl sitting in one
of the top three positions on the team depth chart at centre.

Some
people have a problem with that and raise some reasonable arguments as to why.
Why rush the kid? Why burn a year of Draisaitl’s entry level deal when the team
isn’t going to contend this season? I know fellow writers at ON like Jason Strudwick and Brian Sutherby, both former NHL players, lean that way. So does Jason Gregor.

Me?
I’ve maintained Draisaitl deserves an opportunity to land a job if the decision
is based on merit. If Draisaitl clearly isn’t in over his head at camp, during
pre-season and in the first nine games of regular season — before a year of
his deal is used — he should stay. My biggest misgiving is that GM Craig
MacTavish hasn’t added another proven centre to protect Draisaitl behind RyanNugent-Hopkins.

Bruce McCurdy of the Cult of Hockey over at The
Edmonton Journal
framed the Draisaitl situation in another way today, and
it’s tough to argue with his take. You’ll find that here. Simply put, McCurdy points
out that, based on recent history, we shouldn’t be surprised if Draisaitl plays
this season in the NHL and we shouldn’t be surprised if he does very well.

ON THE HEELS OF RNH

93-RNH-10

In
simple terms, and narrowing McCurdy’s broad look at top draft choices down to a
straight comparison with Nugent-Hopkins, Draisaitl is bigger and stronger, at
just over six-foot-one and about 215 pounds, than RNH was – just over six feet
and about 180 pounds – when he reported to his first camp with the Oilers in
2011.

Draisaitl
is also older, and considerably so in the context of players in their draft
year. Draisaitl was 18 years and 323 days old on draft day, while RNH was 18
years and 156 days, or almost six months younger. Draisaitl turns 19 on October
27, about two weeks into this coming season.

Just
as important, maybe more so, as Draisaitl being older and bigger than RNH as
camp approaches is that he’s coming off a junior season in which he was
marginally more productive with Prince Albert of the WHL than RNH was in his
final campaign with Red Deer. Draisaitl produced at a rate of 1.64
points-per-game with the Raiders with 105 points in 64 games. RNH came in at
1.54 PPG on 106 points in 69 games.

As an
NHL rookie, RNH produced 18-34-52 in 62 games with the Oilers. While I don’t
see Draisaitl being as productive as rookie, in fact I’d bet the farm against
it, he will add much-needed size. Production, of course, will depend on how
he’s used and who he’s used with.

While
we’ll have to wait to see how that plays out, recent history tells us that,
regardless of whether you’re in the send-him-back crowd or the wait-and-see
contingent, we shouldn’t be surprised when Draisaitl starts the season with the
Oilers.

WHILE
I’M AT IT

64-Yakupov-10

While
I’d like to see a puck distributor like Draisaitl get a look alongside a shoot-first
finisher like Nail Yakupov, I see way too much defensive peril in that
combination, even with Benoit Pouliot as the other winger.

The
safest bet, at least on paper, would seem to be Draisaitl between Teddy Purcell
and David Perron, although we won’t know until the puck hits the freeze how
what works on paper translates to productivity and chemistry out on the ice.

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

  • The reasons I have for NOT wanting him starting the year with the Oilers have nothing to do with his abilities.

    The truth is that it’s indicative of a bigger problem: the Oilers don’t have enough depth to keep a teenager off the team.

    Until this changes, we’re in for more of the same.

  • Well at least Oiler fans get to watch a shiny new prospect. As for the moves or lack of moves made by Mac T, only three reasons are possible:

    Reason 1, he sees his number 2 centre sitting right there, and maybe even his number 3 developing somewhere in the system, maybe as early as next year. By burning a prospect for a player he won’t need as early as next year, Mac T is protecting his assets and loading up for a time in the near future where he can trade them for the last piece or pieces the Oilers need.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    The scary part for the Oilers at center is what happens when injuries strike (and they always do at some point). That is when the true lack of depth really shows.

    • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

      Yeah, or if Nuge gets off to a less than awesome start. Gordon better be eating his Wheeties, but I’m still holding out hope that MacT will still get a trade done before preseason.

  • “Me? I’ve maintained Draisaitl deserves an opportunity to land a job if the decision is based on merit.”

    Does that extend to the D, in your opinion?

    If Ference is outplayed by Nikitin, Marincin, and Klefbom, are you fine with him in the press box for game 1?

    • 1983 and This Year

      Scratching your captain is a bit different than starting Lander in the AHL.

      Let’s stop pretending that Ference or Lowe are going anywhere. They are mind melded with their respective bosses and nothing will shake that loose.

  • Zarny

    Why not Leon? Well that question has a ton of answers that have been brought forward…mostly due to relative youth and inexperience, which usually means defensive liability. There’s also his potential skating speed deficiency…

    That being said, I’m in the PRO-LD (Leon Draisatl, not left defense – anyone else get those mixed up?)…his 5X5 offense is quite a bit better than Nuge’s, and that to me is the biggest selling point. Nuge was/is a wizard on the PP, but 5X5 he is somewhat reliant on Hall to push the river. Draisatl could steal Nuge’s job away from him, although both Nuge and Draisatl have been mentioned as great 2 way players in junior. Draisatl may not end up as fast as the other top picks, but his size will likely make up for that. I wonder a bit about how quick he’ll be able to get back to defend, but altogether, I’m confident he can get the job done.

    We may have a lot of youth and inexperience in our top 6, but we’ve never had this much quality up there, which gives LD (Leon) the best chance to be protected, something the other top picks (outside of Nurse) have not had the luxury of having.

    Here’s to LD.

    • I’m with you. Biggest questions for me are how quickly he becomes reliable defensively and his foot speed. Haven’t had eyes on this player enough to know how they’ll play out.

      I also agree this looks like a better forward group overall than the one RNH parachuted into in 2011.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Most articles state that Oilers intend to have Draisaitl play 3rd line center. Perhaps they should consider starting him on the wing for the first number of games. See if he can adapt to NHL speed. Assess if he can handle NHL defensive play. Maybe pair him on the 4th line with Gordon and Hendricks or something and put him on the powerplay unit. For the third line center, use Lander instead. I’m just floating the idea out there, not saying he should play on the 4th line. However, if we start playing Draisaitl against established and bigger NHL centerman, we may as well be throwing him into the deep end and seeing if he sinks or swims.

      • paul wodehouse

        everyone in that list is at the least a very good ahl player. no idea why you would believe that they would end up last in the echl. dont forget about guys like hall and eberle they would go crazy in that league

      • Just a Fan

        I assume this is hyperbole. Any center who has ever played a single shift in the NHL would be a stud in the ECHL.

        RNH and Gordon are proven NHL centers. I am pretty sure they could be in the top 4 centers on the majority of NHL teams.

        Lander lit up the AHL last year both offensively and defensively. I am not sure he will/can do it at the NHL level but the sky is not falling.

        Arcobello is the center I have the most questions about but he is an elite AHL center and would be a reasonable ‘first callup’ for a lot of NHL teams.

      • And you think with Draisaitl playing 3rd line center, they will make the playoffs? One rookie? Really?? As much as I love the Oilers, I hate to see another player that we messed up developing because we rushed and engraved him in to a spot already.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I like your take and presumably Bruce’s take on what happens with Leon. Statistically speaking I’m sure the majority of players benefit from more time in junior. But when your talking about top 3 overall picks, they’re special and should be treated on a case by case basis.

    Robin, how are the raiders as an organization? In other words is it a good place for Leon to develop if he doesn’t make the team? Or is he allowed to play overseas?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    What I want to know about LD is what happened when somebody took a cheap shot at him or his linemates? Did he turn the other cheek or did he stick up for himself and team mates. If he hasn’t developed some sort of mean streak he is too young to play in the NHL where he will get eaten alive. RNH was at least nimble/intelligent enough to avoid this part of hockey.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Robin,

    Do you think the issue might be more one of a rookie coming into a top 6 with 4 of the other top 6 players under the age of 25?

    It seems to me the issue of youth and inexperience wouldn’t be as big an issue, if he wasn’t going to be surrounded be relative youth and inexperience.