Will Leon Draisaitl be NHL-ready in 2015-16?

29-Draisaitl-3

Any timeline based on the recent history of third overall picks in the NHL would expect Leon Draisaitl to be ready for a major-league roster spot next season. It is by far the most common outcome.

That doesn’t mean it’s a given. Draisaitl was promoted last year in a “necessity is the mother of invention” move that didn’t work out, and other third overall picks (most recently Kyle Turris) have needed more than two years of development time before they were truly NHL-ready.

Risk

Risk_(game)_territory_cards

There’s always a significant risk inherent in assuming an NHL prospect is ready to make the jump when in point of fact he isn’t. We saw some of that risk in 2014-15, when the Oilers went into training camp with a centre depth chart which gave them little choice except to keep Draisaitl if he looked even marginally competent.

Draisaitl didn’t come into camp needing to win a job away from an established NHL player; he came into camp needing to lose one. Edmonton burned half a season and the first year of his entry-level contract before it finally concluded that he was not in fact ready for prime time.

The risk would be lessened if they took the same approach this year; Draisaitl is a year older after all and has 37 games of major-league experience under his belt, but it would by no means be non-existent. His offensive numbers in junior have not improved year-over-year (he scored 1.64 points per game in his draft year, 1.66 over 32 games this season) and penciling the young forward into the lineup would once again expose the Oilers to unnecessary risk.

There’s really no compelling reason to take the chance. Because Draisaitl has an October birthday, he is eligible to play in the AHL next season, meaning that the Oilers can pencil him in on the Bakersfield roster and plan to recall him if-and-when he blows the doors off.

The answer to the question in the title than is this: It should not be a big deal either way. Peter Chiarelli should prepare for the worst, and if (as is likely) it turns out that Draisaitl is in fact ready for major-league action than Edmonton will have the problem of too many good forwards. It goes without saying that “too many good forwards” is a much nicer problem to have than “not enough good forwards” and if it means that a fringe roster player needs to hit the waiver wire at some point, well that’s an acceptable sacrifice in the name of preparation.

What Does It Mean For Roster Construction?

Peter Chiarelli2

The Oilers’ forward depth chart, assuming that all restricted free agents (Matt Fraser, Tyler Pitlick) are retained and all unrestricted free agents (Derek Roy) are allowed to walk looks something like this:

Left
Wing
Centre Right Wing
Taylor Hall Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot Connor McDavid Teddy Purcell
Matt Fraser Anton Lander Nail Yakupov
Matt Hendricks Boyd Gordon Tyler Pitlick
Luke Gazdic Rob Klinkhammer

The line combinations aren’t important; we’re just looking to get a feel for overall quality and if the reader feels like penciling in Taylor Hall next to Connor McDavid that’s fine by me. As I see it, the compelling issue up front is that the Oilers only have eight top-nine forwards; there’s room for a middle-six guy somewhere in there.

That middle-six guy could be Draisaitl, but as we just considered we probably shouldn’t assume that it will be. This is particularly true since Teddy Purcell and Boyd Gordon are likely subtractions at some point during the season given that they will be on expiring contracts.

To me the strategy seems obvious. Plan for Draisaitl to spend the season in Oklahoma City the AHL and expect to promote him at some point around the halfway mark in place of a departing forward; if he makes the jump early and Luke Gazdic or Rob Klinkhammer must be waived, well the loss of a No. 13 forward isn’t anything worth crying over.

Additionally, either sign or trade for a middle-six forward (any position, really, though centre experience always has value) to solidify the group.

Pessimistic roster construction is the best kind of roster construction, because that way if the worst happens the team is ready for it and if the worst doesn’t happen the team is better than expected.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Do not trade the core. Every young player on our roster is undervalued currently.

    Pouliot Hopkins Eberle – Proven Top Line.

    Hall McDavid _____ – Will dominate second pairing Defenses.

    Purcell Roy Yakupov – Give Yak some familiarity with a proven line.

    Hendricks Gordon Klinkhammer – Best 4th line in hockey.

    Fill in the blank with a gritty veteran forward and we are set. Start Drai in the AHL.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I’d like to keep roy. He’s a good option for the top 6 if a center goes down. Throw him on the wing on that 3rd line and now we actually have C depth that can sustain an injury. Plus Yak needs Roy or at least put him on Mcdavids line. Purcell doesn’t need those minutes.

    • Rob...

      I seem to recall Willis, (or one of the advanced stat crew), showing that Yak actually had the same points per 60 min playing with Arco as he did with Roy. If that’s correct Roy isn’t worth keeping; he’s a defensive liability and small. Not to mention it seemed to me their production tapered off significantly after their hot start together. (Too lazy to confirm that last part!)

  • Rob...

    We need a few heavy veteran forwards who can play a 2-way game.

    So I’d go with:

    Hall – McDavid – Yak (they have to at least try this)
    Pouliot – RNH – Eberle
    Lander – Soderburg/Malhotra – Winnik/Stewart
    Hendricks – Gordon – Klinkhammer

    2 scoring lines, and 2 shutdown lines with some scoring.

    I’d give Draisaitl the year in Bakersfield with callups for injuries at C or LW.

    Then next offseason when the 4th line is off the books, put Draisaitl on either side of our two best AHL big wingers.

    • Ever the Optimist

      If he comes into camp and is plainly better than our other players in the top 6 then yes keep him up but i would rather see him take the middle step and be able to dominate in the AHL for confidence sakes at the least where the warts in his game can be polished with better minutes.

  • nugeformayor

    He should play in ahl learn to dominate there. Then reward him with nhl games if that’s the case, but of course peter knows this and we don’t even need to speculate anymore people….

  • Anton CP

    I very much in doubt that Draisaitl will be on the opening day roster. Chiarelli likes a C that can win faceoffs and Drai is not good at that. Until Chiarelli start shipping wings away then he has no spot to even play on the wing.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I hate Calgary with every fibre of my being, always have, always will. I’d sooner cheer for the Maple Leafs than Calgary.

    But I’ll give them a grudging nod of admiration tonight. They were robbed of a goal this game, rallied back, tied it with 20 seconds left, then beat a far, far, FAR superior team in OT. Thought they were getting swept this series for sure.

    Alright Flamers, don’t forget to eat s**t on your way out the door.

  • nuge2drai

    How long does it take for a 4th overall, typically, to make the jump. Essentially Draisaitl is a 4th overall as Bennett was fighting a shoulder injury in his draft year. Bennett is already in the NHL and an effective NHLer. Seems to me, Bennett SHOULD have been the 3rd overall.

    Could still be proven wrong, but I wouldn’t put a 3rd overall bench mark on Draisaitl when the Oilers were the ones who picked him. If it wasn’t the Oilers in that spot, Draisaitl wasn’t expected to go that early.

  • I keep going back to Chiarelli saying he wants to build a heavy team. I think the roster will shift dramatically. It goes to reason that certain assets will be used as trade bait for those types of guys. Draisaitl may be ready by next season, but he could end up on some other team.

    Chairelli won’t hesitate to make moves to build the team he wants.