— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) May 26, 2015
In the immortal words of Bob Cole, OHHH BABY!
Leon Draisaitl is a man among boys at the Memorial Cup, by my humble estimation. I believe him to be the best player at this tournament and at the moment it isn’t particularly close. Now part of that really is because he has a man’s body at 6’1″ and 210 pounds. The truth is that when he’s on the ice he looks even bigger than that. Actually, as per his combine results from the 2014 Draft he had the same wingspan (79 Inches) as 6’4″ Aaron Ekblad.
What we’re saying here is that the kid has shoulders that could support a house and he can reach the light switch from the other side of the room.
What’s more, he knows how to use his physical tools in conjunction with his Hockey IQ and velvety soft hands to make plays that might otherwise not be possible. That highlight package posted above from last night is a nice representation of Draisaitl’s best attributes.
LEON GETS AN ASSIST
The play opens up with Nick Merkley receiving the puck on the wall and turning up ice. Merkley turns up ice where he’s met with immediate pressure at his own blueline. He makes a short pass to Draisaitl who has more than enough room to get up to speed through the neutral zone.
Draisaitl’s combination of size, skill, and speed is enough to make even 6’7″ 225 pound defender Samuel Morin give up the blueline uncontested. This is a mistake that will prove to be costly.
Draisaitl has been accused of playing too slowly in the past. I would say that he changes the speed of the game to his advantage and sometimes that means hitting the brakes. You know who else does this? Joe Thornton, but that’s neither here nor there. In this case, Draisaitl crosses the blueline at full speed, sees that the defense has backed off of him greatly (Morin must be at least eight feet away or more) and he slows down almost to a stop.
He then hits the trailer, one Nick Merkley, who started this play off, with a pass that sends him into the middle of the ice with speed and down onto the net. A less skilled player might have simply gotten a shot off from the slot. Merkley turns it into something spectacular.
Assist to Leon Draisaitl.
LEON GETS A GOAL 1
If you blink you’ll miss it. I know the goalie did.
The game is 4v4 at this point and the puck is in Rimouski’s end of the ice. Merkley digs the puck out behind the net and turns back up with possession. Up to this point Draisaitl had taken a defensively conscious position near the blueline in the event that Kelowna lost possession.
When Draisaitl sees that Merkley has the puck and is in no danger of losing it he immediately activates and accelerates towards the net. He’s in behind the coverage before anyone can even think to react and the draft-eligible Merkley gets him the puck.
His head is up the whole way, he receives the pass though it’s on his stick for only an instant. If you don’t think he knew exactly where it was going then check the tape again. He knew. He knew the moment Merkley peeled back around the wall with possession exactly what he was going to do.
Sportsnet did a whole segment on Draisaitl’s big…stick last night. It was quite interesting to see how he uses it to his full advantage.
LEON GETS A GOAL 2
On that first goal he chose to use his stick for good, but this time he uses it for awesome. Draisaitl is one of Kelowna’s best defensive forwards and he gets used on the PK pretty often. Counting the WHL Playoffs, this would end up being his fourth post-season shorthanded tally.
Here Leon starts the play having separated the puck and the attacking forward with his body. This is something Draisaitl has proven to excel at as a player. It’s something that was even evident in his stint with the Oilers this past year.
At the half wall the two players are right on top of each other. By the time Draisaitl makes it to his own blueline he is already a stick’s length away from him.
Now this is where it starts to get unfair, even up a man 5v4. Rimouski has 5’11” 172 pound forward Michael Joly covering the point on the PP and frankly he’s no match for Draisaitl.
Joly is unable to maintain enough speed skating backwards and is forced to turn around by the time Draisaitl gets to center Ice. They are neck-and-neck by the time Draisaitl hits the Rimouski blueline.
At the 2:56 mark of the video Draisaitl quickly shakes up his speed. Joly bites and slows up for just a brief moment but it’s long enough for Draisaitl to take advantage.
Leon moves the puck across his body to the right, effectively putting a brick wall between Joly and the disc. Then he drives past Joly and directly towards the net with one last step. Draisaitl quickly brings the puck back to his forehand and before anyone can think about the pass opportunity the German has already put it upstairs.
Interested in the underlying numbers for Leon Draisaitl? Todd Cordell did the work right here. Leon Draisaitl, known primarily as an offensive forward, in fact was receiving a lot of defensive zone starts. Kelowna loaded him up with just 38% OZ Starts. That’s the kind of work that Boyd Gordon might be getting in Edmonton.
They do that because he’s good in the faceoff but also because he has a great transition game. He attempted and accomplished six of six controlled zone entry attempts on the night, a couple that we highlighted above.
His CF% was under 50% but given his drastic defensive usage, the fact that it was close is an accomplishment in its own right.
By eye and by number Draisaitl continues to dominate.