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
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
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
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.
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