Leon Impresses

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

0:05-0:22

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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

2:22-2:35

Pew-Pew-Pew-Pew-Pew-Pew-Pew-Pew-Pew

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

2:51-3:16

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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.

THE NUMBERS

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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.

Oh Baby!

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      Yak is on a great 2 year deal right now. Very low risk, high reward there. It’d be moronic to trade him this year, as it’d be pennies on the dollar. Enough of seeing oiler picks go thrive in other organizations. Don’t get me wrong, if some gm offers a top 2 defender for him, go for it. But theres no way that isn’t happening with Yak right now.

      • Brent Burns. If San Jose, who used Burns primarily as a top six RW, was at all willing to trade Burns, then as PC I would start with Yak. San Jose does have cap room, but considering they don’t have a goalie, really don’t have too much room. Especially if they are hoping to improve the team in any way with young high end talent. I’m not saying it’s a straight across, but if it gets you Brent Burns, it will always be easier finding a top six RW than it will finding a top pair RD.

    • The_Angershark_Lives

      As a former English teacher, I am used to deriving meaning from text that is more implied than explicitly mentioned. But you can’t just make up an outcome like that and pin it to the author.
      Especially a “trade yak cause” outcome.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        In English, please.

        I was just making a joke. There is enough professional opinion in the comment forum, there is absolutely no need for mine.

        McDonals isn’t the only one putting a smile on people’s face, McDavid can do the same thing.

  • hagar

    I guess the point of the game is to score more goals than the other team.. if all the forwards come together in full potential, the oilers can afford to let 4 of 5 goals in a game. Ha!

    The oilers forwards with the oilers defense= 7 to 5 winning games.

  • TKB2677

    I would trade Yakupov every day of the week before I would trade Draisatl. Draisatl is everything the Oilers need, a big, strong, top 6 forward with good defensive awareness and excellent offensive ability. He can play the wing or center.

    Yakupov is what they don’t need. A smallish, defensively unaware, one dimensional “scoring” winger who’s scoring will be good but not elite.

    I’m going to guess that at best, Yakupov might top out as a 30g-60pt guy while being a defensive liability. It will be a stretch if Yakupov ends up scoring more goals for than he causes against. Draisatl might score a few less goals but will easily score the same or more points plus help bring size to your top 6 and keep pucks out of your net.

  • Namicus

    What are the chances the player who gets traded out because of Leon’s awesomeness ends up being Nuge? I’m not saying this would be desirable or in the near future, but trading Nuge is something PC would consider if LD turns out to be a legitimate No. 2 centre.

  • I sure hope Chiarelli and McLellan were watching that game as well.Can you imagine the highlights reels we have coming in the future and throw that big nasty bastard we will call Nurse.God it’s been painful BUT I can see light at the end of the tunnel gang.

  • Leni

    I have been watching the rockets for 16 yrs, season tickit holder for 12 or so yrs. Livin the dream in kelowna.
    In my time here Leon is the best centre Kelowna has had. He is the real deal. Do not trade him, not yet if ever. His stock will only go up. Put him in the AHL for a spell. He is everything the oil has wanted for some time. On and off the ice. Do not trade him.

    PS, how about the oil drafting a rocket defensman for once. Don’t get it. See the oil brass hanging out here at the rink all the time and never drafting a rocket.

    • They obviously didn’t get the memo from the previous regime. Hire an ex Oiler and we will look your way. Oil brass still hanging out out there with their Edmonton is great DVD for Dany Heatley? God, the embarrassments this team has been through.

  • Leni

    Drai looks much better but lest the chicken counting happen prior to the hatch – he sucked last year so he is not quite ready for the Hall of Fame. If he makes the 3rd line C this year it will take some pressure off being 3C. That means one of Gordon, Roy or Lander may be trade bait as well (need one for injuries). We only need 2 and it ain’t gonna be Gordon – hate to say it but Lander has much more value than Roy….. we wait.

  • Hey Matt, do you by any chance know what kind of faceoff numbers Dr. Drai has put up this year? I can only find his NHL numbers from last year (where, interestingly, he went 11-2 against my former mancrush Sam Gagner!)

  • YFC Prez

    This article is perfectly timed. I’m just going to pretend this is the GDB for the Rockets / Generals.

    memorial cup is pretty sweet hockey. But when the best player by a long shot is an oiler prospect it’s just so much more fun.

  • Zinner

    Just because Leon may potentially be on the 3rd, doesn’t mean he logs 12 minutes a night. I guess he’s not good enough to make the power play or be out there when other lines don’t produce.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    McDavid/Hall – 20 minutes a night

    Hopkins/Eberle – 18 minutes a night

    Draisaitl – 16 minutes a night

    Lander – 6 minutes a night

    Seems reasonable. Injuries happen and playoff teams have depth.

    Trade the picks for D, or sign some ufas. Lots of cap space opening up next summer, I have no problem keeping guys like Purcell and trading them as rentals at the deadline.

  • Seeing that RNH played more minutes than any other forward in the league last year and McDavid looks like he can carry an entire team on his back, I would say with LD looking the way he does the Oilers could slot Joey Moss as the 4th line Centre if they wanted (no disrespect to Joey).

  • Anton CP

    If ranking players from last draft and next draft all together that Draisaitl is maybe No.5 behind McDavid, Matthews, Ekblad, and Eichel. Is this a fair asseessment?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I am so pleased with the prospect of (for once) having an over abundance of talent down the middle. Lets all enable the group to spend time together and the pairings and lines will sort themselves out. We cannot afford to be sifting and sorting until we have everyone at training camp and start building some natural chemistry. Let’s let it happen and not make arbitrary assertions and suggestions ahead of time. This training Camp should be the most positive learning and bonding atmosphere for all of Oil Country-Fans; Players. Coaches and Management.

    An embarrassment of riches is something we need.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Wow, we have this Draisaitl kid who can really dominate the kids version of the game. Plan the parade route eh. To heck with this McDavid kid. Lets draft a coke machine just to protect King Leon with that first overall instead.

    I do enjoy these dreamy dancing unicorn pot of gold at the end of the rainbow based articles though. They’re about as believable as a Linus Omark for Shea Weber trade rumor. Keep on raising expectations all you tire pumpers….

  • hagar

    I have been very impressed with LD’s showing at the Memorial Cup. To me it was very interesting to note that he got the “McDavid Treatment” during last night’s game.

    The Oshawa Generals assigned Cassels to check him just like when they played the Otters.

    In addition, every time LD touched the puck, he was swarmed by 3 defenders every time he had possession entering the Oshawa zone.

    It speaks volumes that the Generals considered him so dangerous that they had to treat LD this way. This serves as testament to how dominant he is at that level.

  • hagar

    Draftsite 2016 – has Oilers finishing 5th worse in league next season despite drafting McDavid this year and new management , etc.. . Below us in order they project Arizona, New Jersey , Toronto ( despite Babcock ) , Buffalo and then our Oilers. Mock draft 2016 has Oilers taking M.Tkachuk ( LW ) at NBR.5 . If we only get that high next season it will be disappointing once again for our fans .

    We need 14 more wins just to get up to next team level in our conference alone , a huge mountain to climb here just for starters .

  • Leni

    I’d like to see Nuge, McDavid, Draisitl as the guys PC absolutely will not move. Wingers can be traded for or drafted, drafted C’s can switch to wing – Hall, Eberle, and Yak are great but when the time comes it better not be a C moving down the line. That said, I they we are 2-3 years away from being forced into dealing one of the wingers. If they manage the cap properly we could see all the picks stay.

    If you lock up the 3 centres the 4th line can consistently be a 3 million cap hit every year. No more 3 million dollar 4 line C’s like Gordon (as good as he is, will be happy once that number comes off) – that is huge in this cap age.

    Also:

    Yakimov – Draisaitl – Yakupov is 2 years away.

  • Leni

    I wouldn’t trade Drai for Jones straight across. Not only will he be in the top 3 on the Oilers in 3 years, he could be in the top 3 centers in the league. I feel sorry for those losers down south. We may never lose to them again.