Following Up With Leon

When last we checked in on Leon Draisaitl he had just
completed 15 games of his WHL stint. He was roughly half way through that
season and while he was doing well, he was still just finding his way around a new team. The big
Oiler prospect found himself playing for the Kelowna Rockets who are poised
atop the WHL’s Western Conference Standings and second in the WHL only
to the Brandon Wheat Kings. So how does he look now that the WHL regular season
is over?

The answer to that question is a delightful “Pretty damn
good”, which should be music to the ears of Oiler fans. After I wrote that
initial piece, Draisaitl shifted gears and started to take over WHL games
completely. In fact, you can make a pretty good case for him being the best
player in that league.

Some key facts to remember are these:

1) Leon Draisaitl played a significant amount more per game
in his draft year on a bad Raiders team (Estimated 25.69 minutes by
CHLStats.com).

2) While scoring 1.66 points per game in his draft year, he was
producing 3.83 points per 60 minutes based off of those estimations.

3) He plays fewer minutes on the Rocket’s secondary scoring
line.

After 15 games in the WHL this year Draisaitl had 20 points.
In raw scoring those numbers were down from what he was doing the year prior.
In his draft year he was scoring 1.66 points per game with the Raiders. As a
Rocket in Draft +1 he was down to just 1.33 points per game. That was enough of
a drop off for me to raise an eyebrow.

The good news was that his estimated points per 60 minutes
was virtually identical to what it had been the season before. He had scored
3.83 eP/60 in Prince Albert. He was scoring 3.78 eP/60 with Kelowna. The drop
in points coincided with his drop in minutes. No regression, just running in
place and that was pretty good considering his quality of linemates.

At the time of the last article I wrote this:

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.

That was before Draisaitl ramped up the offense.

Leon went 15 games played for 20 points to start his WHL
stint. He finished it with 17 games played for 32 points. He ended the year
with 32 GP, 19-34-53 for 1.66 points per game, but that was pushed along by the
final half of his season where he was actually scoring at 1.88 points per game.

His final points per game (1.66) ranks the third
highest in the entire WHL for players with at least 15 games played and he is
the youngest player in the WHL’s top five in points per game. He is number one with
a bullet for players in his age range. He is absolutely an offensive beast at
the WHL level.

What’s more, in estimated points per 60 minutes, Leon
Draisaitl now ranks number one in the entire WHL with a 4.94 eP/60. The player
ranked number two has a 4.28 eP/60. In terms of production based on ice time,
Leon Draisaitl is the best player in the WHL.

He’s killing it out there.

Sam Reinhart, who was taken directly ahead of him in the
2013 Draft is ranked 9th in the WHL for points per game (1.34) and
22nd in estimated points per 60 minutes (3.23). I think at this
point it’s safe to say the Oilers should be feeling pretty good about where
their pick stacks up against his peers.

AHL?

There is a growing contingent of people who believe Leon Draisaitl needs to spend time in the AHL next year. I’m not sure “needs” is the
right word to use there. Prospects don’t always follow a straight line and
while he wasn’t ready this year, that doesn’t mean he won’t be next year. The
numbers suggest that this player has indeed developed further along offensively
and a summer of training knowing exactly what he needs in order to be
successful at the NHL level will go a long way.

The good news is that the Oilers, if they keep the Center depth chart as it is today, can at least have a leg to stand on if they decide
they want Draisaitl playing in the AHL next year. RNH is number one. Roy fits
well with Yak in the 2C spot. Gordon is a no-brainer for his line in their
role. And, Lander has played his way back to being worth the final C position
even if temporarily. So long as they don’t start next year with less than that
the Oilers can confidently decide that Draisaitl should continue his
apprenticeship in the American Hockey League.

However, he may still play his way onto the club. He could
push Lander to the Wing or he may take that spot himself on the so called “third
line” (it’s actually the fourth but whatever). That line faces weaker
competition and starts their shifts a fair amount of time away from the
defensive zone. Keeping the eventual return of Hall to the top line and likely
Pouliot down to the second that leaves a potential trio of
Lander/Draisaitl/Purcell as a line for the Oilers.

In short, yes Leon Draisaitl may find himself in the AHL
next year, but he can still find himself in the NHL and in a role that suits a
player of his experience better than what was forced upon him this past season. Leon Draisaitl has NHL size and is arguably the best player in the Western Hockey League. He wasn’t ready to be the 2C of an NHL club this past season, but he won’t have to be 2C next year unless
Craig MacTavish does something silly with his depth chart this summer.

Happily, he doesn’t have a track record of doing anything
like that…

  • 916oiler

    BEAST. Can’t wait for him to be ready, although I’d like to see him start in the AHL and force his way to the big show next year.

    Ok, now let’s grab Hanifin with the 3rd pick since it’s obvious BUF/ARI have stronger tank games and are gonna swoop McEichel.

  • LibrarianMike

    Can the self-aggrandizing writers at this site stop for a second to consider Leon’s success was helped by his NHL experience this year? I’m not saying it’s because of, but really, was he hurt by it? The #s say otherwise.

    There has been so much negativity written here about his handling. The best perspective is to recognize that the Oilers brass knew what was coming this year and know that they are not going to be able to hold onto all the pieces they are putting together. Burn a year or not: it doesn’t matter because 5 years out you can’t hold onto and pay Nuge, Ebs, Yak, Hall, Leon, Nurse, Oscar, and this year’s draftee. Maybe I’m the only one that sees that the list above 5 years out far exceeds the salary cap in of itself, thereby making a year on a prospect or two’s EL contract moot. Argue against that if you will but pieces will be moved. They have to be. And when they are, this discussion is irrelevant.

    • El Pindo

      I agree that the burned year isn’t a big issue, but I am going to add that the cap issues are probably a bit more than 5 years away with the youngsters since three of them are locked in at 6, but yes eventually some will need to be moved, no doubt about it

  • I think Oilers fans need to lower the expectations on Draisaitl.

    I don’t see his up side as high as RNH, and an argument can be made that RNH isn’t a legit number one centre on most top WC teams.

    So where does Draisaitl fit in?

    MacTavish has gone on record as saying he would like Roy back.

    I also don’t see MacTavish dropping Draisaitl to the AHL, it’s not MacTavish or the Oilers style.

    I can see the Oilers moving Draisaitl over to RW and spotting him in at Centre, much like Seguin.

    IMHO, Draisaitl might be a low end 2nd line centre, but I think he ends up being a 3rd, he just doesnt have the foot speed needed yet.

      • Where is the “ignorance” you speak of?

        You don’t think the Oilers fans expectations on Draisaitl is high?

        Where does he fit into the line up?

        was it the MacTavish quote that can be sourced?

        You can’t see the Oilers moving a young Centre to the wing as both Boston and Dallas has done with Seguin?

        But the Oilers can move Hall from LW to Centre…….

        So your problem is with a number 3 pick only being good as a 2C possible 3rd line C,…..

        Muffin…..

  • Wax Man Riley

    But, but, but… Arch.. .There were Flames fans on here yeaterday saying he was a bust and Sam Bennett is the best player in the NHL and the WHL and the OHL and the galaxy!

    Leon is looking just fine.

      • CMG30

        At the draft I thought the Oilers should have taken Bennett, but they didn’t.

        Maybe he’ll be the better player in the end or maybe not. But as an Oilers fan I’m now obligated to root for LD!

      • LibrarianMike

        Well now somebody has hijacked my name here
        I am not and have never. been a Bennett fan.
        I think that at least in this case the Oilers made the best choice.

    • No way he’s a bust. That said, Sam Bennett looked pretty good in his 11 games this season. I’m sure Flames fans are extrapolating a Mitch Marner like season on Bennett over 60ish games. The thing is that the OHL appears to be a league that’s easier to score in.

      The OHL has 12 90+ point scorers. The WHL only has 6.

  • Draisaitl would benefit from some time in the AHL, say until January.

    Is Roy the best we can provide Yak? Imagine if he didn’t have a 19 year old rookie or 31 year waiver wire pick up as his only choices for a centre?

    • Maggie the Monkey

      The oilers will be just as bad if not worse next year. It doesn’t matter if they play Leon or not. If they were an actual NHL club that has a chance to make the playoffs then that’s a different story. But the oil are pretty bad with or without him so in the end it really doesn’t matter.

  • Maggie the Monkey

    His playing time on the big club will be linked to how effective/or not, Mac T will be in addresing team needs.

    Right now I say LD will be playing on our team to start the season……..if there is anything consistent about the Oilers, it’s that we rush young players.

    I’m sure the LD can handle the pressure so having him on the big club with a solid summer training, should be possible.

    • ThinkingOutLoud

      Rama Lama, please provide evidence of Oilers rushing players. In relation to other teams of course. I do not recall any team in the history of the NHL draft that did not play the #1 pick. I may be wrong but…
      So, outside 1st overalls, who was rushed? Gagner?? 5+ years of 2C point totals.

      LD?? Clearly was too good to go back to PG.

  • El Pindo

    I hope two of the Oilers first three picks are defencemen this year. It wouldn’t help their need to bring in a top pairing guy this off-season, but it would put the back end on autopilot to a certain degree.
    The future looks bright down the middle, but we’re a few years away from winning meaningful games against heavy teams. We need a veteran two way centre to get us through the next couple years. I think that would have to come through trade, but who doesn’t have a no move clause these days?
    Have no choice but to wait and see what MacT does, but for the first time in two years I believe him when he says the future is bright. If Management had their priorities straight we could’ve been here in 2012.
    Go Oil!

  • El Pindo

    In the game against Kelowna he was pulling away from back checkers while carrying the puck.So much for foot speed.

    An unofficial count I made on face offs he was about 80 percent

  • El Pindo

    Nuge and Roy need to work on their face off skills. Maybe they have the skill but they are just slite compared against the tough big centers in the conference.

    If Leon makes the big team , he should play the wing for the first half of the season, spotting with face off duties.

  • LibrarianMike

    Considering Mac T hasn’t extended Roy yet, I think he’s waiting to see what they get in the draft. Because as much as we all think by now management should have learned, I just don’t think they can help rushing an 18 year old into an important position on the team and hoping everything breaks right.

    Having said that winning the lottery, it would certainly be hard not to find a place for a guy like McDavid in the top six.

    As for Drai, though I want to see him start the year in the AHL – as that would mean there are more qualified people playing up on the big club and be indicative of a better built team over all – I am also really curious to see what Nelson can do with that kid. A third line consisting of Lander, Drai, and Purcell, should theoretically be able to crush other third lines around the league.

    Not to mention Lander is going to have about a year to progress to the point where he is looking to take over the very important role filled by Gordon. Even if they don’t pick either Mcdavid or Eichle, I just don’t see how a team passes on the CHL’s top point producer, who also happens to be one of the bigger prospects ranked in the top five.

    That gives Edmonton RNH, Drai, Lander, Strome, Yakimov, Kaharia, in terms of depth in a year’s time.

    Furthermore, having Drai on the farm mean they will definately need to get rid of someone down there, especially if they draft Strome. I know he will go back to junior, but Drai, Yakimov, and Kaharia means they are all fighting for minutes and that’s not the best case scenario for development.

    Anyway, lots to think about, sad none of it revolves around the current team and the success they are having, or where they seed for the playoffs.

  • ThinkingOutLoud

    Personally I’d like to see him start in the AHL. Let him re-learn the pro game/speed/physicality and get comfortable before dropping him into the lions den again. It will also hopefully let him get even stronger and learn how to protect himself better because the last thing we need is another lost season to shoulder surgery.

    Besides, if they play the way they have been, Oilers will be a MUCH better team in the standings anyway. There’s no need to rush him.

  • LibrarianMike

    The more I read from you the more I like. I used to be quite critical of your writing but since joining the Nation there is more confidence in your writing. I love how concise you are while still making original and worthwhile points…well backed up. A good read on a site that sometimes trots out quite a bit of vanilla. Keep it up!

  • Maggie the Monkey

    1. We need to be patient, and follow the Detroit model.

    2. Given the lineup next year, he should start in the NHL next year.

    3. No, we need to be patient and follow the Detroit model.

    4. No, he should start in the NHL.

    Oilersnation writers should just slug it out, and the winner gets to pick whether he starts in the AHL or gets bottom-6 minutes.

  • Leni

    I was a Rocket season ticket holder for about 12 yrs. Gave up my seats 2 yrs ago so now I just pick and choose my games. Anywho, I have been asking people around the rink and water cooler who is the best rocket FORWARD of all time. Most say Leon and I have to agree. Even better than Benn. Yes I just said that. His speed is picking up and he is actually starting to hit. He is so dominating out there.

    Every now and then a player comes around and people say “A man amongst boys”, usually D-Men. Jones, Myers, Webber, Malkin (He played out of Kelowna for team russia in the world juniors), and now Leon. Please Oil do not screw this kid up. Send him to the AHL PLEASE!

  • LibrarianMike

    There are 30 teams. When you look at all the teams tough comp centers.

    we see 3 teams role 3 centers verssu the other teams best.

    We see 12 teams role 2 centers with 1 playing the higher % 1st comp>

    We see 15 teams play 1 center against the others teams best.

    Ranked by even points:

    #1 H. sedin 70gm 41 EVP

    #2 Toews 71gm 40 EVP

    #3 RNH 70gm 38 EVP

    #4 Bergeron 72gm 37 EVP

    #5 Datsyuk 57gm 36 EVP

    #6 johanssen 72gm 35 EVP

    #7 Couture 72gm 34 EVP

    #8 Stepan 57gm 32 EVP

    #8 O’rielly 71gm 32 EVP

    #8 Kopitar 68gm 32 EVP

    #11 E. Staal 66gm 27 EVP

    #11 Fisher 52gm 27 EVP

    #11 M Koivu 68Gm 27 EVp

    #14 Vermette 71gm 23 EVP

    #15 Zajac 64gm 14 EVP

    The 12 1st/2nd comp centers:

    #1 Crosby 46 EVP

    #2 Tavares 45 EVP

    #3 Backstrom 42 EVP

    #4 Backes 40 EVP

    #5 PLekanec 37 EVP

    #6 Monohan 34 EVP

    #7 Kesler 32 EVP

    #8 Little 32 EVP

    #9 Eakin 26 EVP

    #10 Ennis 24 EVP

    #11 Couturier 23 EVP

    #12 Bozak 22 EVP

    “an argument can be made that RNH isn’t a legit number one centre on most top WC teams.”

    This quote is embarrasing. the #3 producing P VS P center in the game. LOL.

  • DoubleDIon

    Leon can’t skate man. In the NHL people are strong enough to move him off the puck, in the WHL they aren’t.

    If LD becomes a better skater between now and October he’s NHL ready. The vision, hands and size are all there. The skating isn’t. Until he can skate he should be playing in the AHL. Skating includes lateral quickness and first step explosiveness. Leon is ok when you give him half the ice to rev-up, but that rarely happens unless they’re scared to death of your shiftiness like they are with Kane, Tarasenko or Gaudreau.

  • DoubleDIon

    Advanced stats are probably good for fans. because they don’t know how to watch games. They may not know the player. The most important factors are:

    1. Eyeball test

    2. Scouting

    3. Video

    Too many people focus on goals and assists. You really need to watch the game.