It’s been too easy to miss the light at the end of the
tunnel for this Oilers team, but it’s there. They are weak down the middle and
on the back-end but they have blue chip prospects coming up through the system
and they will likely add another high end C or D prospect at the Draft (barring
a Lawson Crouse fuelled draft meltdown). Nobody knows where exactly yet the
Oilers will draft so as of today there’s no guarantee which position gets the
biggest boost in June, and that means for now Leon Draisaitl is still the future
2C of the Oilers.
TOO MUCH TOO FAST
He was rushed too quickly and it’s obvious right now that
was the case. He played pretty well in training camp and after nine games he was
creating chances but his teammates weren’t burying them. I wasn’t prepared to
say he should have returned to junior at that time but like the Oilers I was being
too optimistic. I was hopeful that he would adjust to the NHL game on the fly
and that wasn’t fair in hindsight.
Fair or not, however, Draisaitl turning into a productive
and elite center in the NHL and specifically in the Western Conference is necessary
for the long term success of the team. No pressure, but if he can’t play 18
minutes a night with Getzlaf, Kopitar, or Toews lining up across from him then
the Oilers aren’t leaving the basement any time soon.
He only tallied 2-7-9 in 37 games with the Oilers, a feat
that Anton Lander matched in half the number of games this season and has now even surpassed. Those two
players occupying roughly the same place on the Oilers’ scoring chart is a lesson in
patience. If a player isn’t ready right away it doesn’t mean they can’t still
be considered a prospect, or in Draisaitl’s case a top prospect.
He didn’t light the game on fire in the NHL but he’s still
extremely talented, big, and a proficient scorer among his peers. Very oddly
the Oilers chose not to send Leon back to the World Junior Championships. I
think that was a mistake but they did get him back to the WHL and he has been a
very good player in that league in the past. For Oiler fans the only real
concern is how much damage (if any at all) was done by keeping him in over his
head for half a season.
RIDING THE BUS AGAIN
Last year he had 105 points in 64 games with the Prince
Albert Raiders for a 1.64 points per game pace. So far this year with the
Kelowna Rockets he has 20 points in 15 games for a 1.33 points per game pace.
Should we be concerned? He’s a year older and was the third overall
pick in the last draft. Shouldn’t he be producing more than he was pre-Draft?
I tossed that question out and got several really good
responses from bright people but Zach Laing’s was the best one.
@Archaeologuy 1.64 PPG w/ 25.69 eTOI/Gmin PA last year.
1.33 w/ 21.18 eTOI/Gmin KEL this year.
Not much concern from me.
— Zach Laing (@Loweded) February 11, 2015
One thing that we don’t get a lot of from the CHL is
contextual information. We don’t even know basic things like ice time for the
most part. CHLStats.com is a very useful tool and one that I am just now
getting used to, but to give us a better indication of how some of these
players are being used they have a very interesting tool in the Estimated Time On Ice.
This is going to factor importantly with regards to Leon
Draisaitl because his circumstances have changed greatly since the last time he
was a WHL player. When he was playing for Prince Albert last year the estimate
for his ice time was a little more than 25.5 minutes per game. He was on a bad team where he
was the focal point of the offense and was playing a lot of minutes. Under
those conditions he was scoring at an estimated 3.83 points per 60 minutes.
That eP/60 was the fifth best in the WHL and
highest among all the draft eligible kids from the Dub (including Reinhart who
went ahead of him in the Draft).
This season, in just 15 games mind you, Leon Draisaitl is
now only getting an estimated 21 minutes in ice time per night on a loaded
Rockets team. The reduction in ice time almost coincides perfectly with his
reduction in point production. He dropped roughly 17% in ice time per night and
production is down roughly 18% accordingly. His eP/60 is just a hair off of his
pace from a year ago at 3.78 points per 60 minutes.
It’s still early for Draisaitl in Kelowna and he is
probably still adjusting to his linemates and life back in the WHL, but his
eP/60 is still ninth best in the entire WHL (with at least 15 games
played) and three of the names ahead of him have been playing on the stacked
Rockets lineup all year. As he settles in he could ramp up the
offense or simply maintain it while working on the defensive side of his game.
I feel comfortable right now saying the time he spent
struggling in the NHL hasn’t hurt him too much even if his raw points per game
totals are down. And that’s great considering how much the Oilers need Leon to
turn into the player he was drafted to be.
As much as the request for him to be an NHL Center right
away was expecting too much, Leon Draisaitl will always face the pressure of
living up to that draft position and the only way to do it is by becoming a
very productive top six player. Happily for the Oilers, it seems his elite point
production in the Western Hockey League hasn’t wavered at all even if at first
glance it seems off.
It just remains to be seen how quickly he will find himself
in Oiler silks again.