GDB 17.0: Draisaitl is Rolling

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The Oilers were 5-10 and had eight of their next ten games on the road, prior to last night’s game in Anaheim. They desperately needed a win. And they got one.

The win didn’t salvage their season, but Teddy Purcell’s reaction after scoring the OT winner illustrated how important this win was for the team. “We need to believe in ourselves, and coming from behind tonight and finishing it off — we needed this,” said Purcell post-game.

This group indeed needed it, and Leon Draisaitl, the third overall pick in 2014, factored in on all four goals. He was a beast.

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Draisaitl scored on the PP, then assisted on the second and third goals before showing off his footspeed on a great backcheck in OT that led to Purcell’s winner.

Draisaitl has four goals and ten points in six games since being recalled from Bakersfield in the American Hockey League. Last night he was the Oilers’ best player, and his skill, size and speed is something this organization hasn’t had since Jason Arnott.

I was amazed at how many Oilers fans questioned the Oilers selecting him in 2014. The doubters questioned his heart and wanted “gritty” Canadian Sam Bennett instead. I never understood that rationale, because, if anything, Draisaitl was the quintessential Canadian. He moved across the world, landed in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to pursue his dream (playing in the NHL), and yet some still questioned his determination.

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It is difficult for many Canadian 17-year-olds to move away from home to play Major Junior or Junior A, never mind to a foreign country where you don’t know a single person and your family can’t come visit you monthly. 

Draisaitl struggled in his rookie season. He tallied 2-7-9 in 37 NHL games. He wasn’t ready for the NHL, but he was rushed, because the Oilers inexplicably elected to enter training camp with only two NHL centres, so Draisailt was forced to play. The doubters said, “I told you so,” before the Oilers finally wised up and sent Draisaitl back to the Western Hockey League.

The good news for Draisaitl was he realized he needed to improve his first step to play in the NHL. His top-end speed was fine, but he needed to become more explosive, and since being recalled it is clear his hard work this off-season paid off.

Draisaitl is the big, skilled forward the Oilers have been missing. He is only going to get stronger, but he’s already able to protect the puck with his big frame and win battles that smaller players simply can’t. His one-handed pass to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins last night was a great example.

He looks very comfortable on the wing, but when he is ready I expect we will see him become a centre. He reminds me of Anze Kopitar, and in a year or two I see him as a centre. Draisaitl is much bigger than TV portrays him. He is a big man with broad shoulders and not only did he improve his explosiveness in the summer, he added muscle to his beefy frame.

Draisaitl was the best player on the ice last night, and it wasn’t just because of his linemates, Taylor Hall and Nugent-Hopkins. He displayed his complete arsenal of skills throughout the game: Quick shot, strong along the boards, great passing and excellent speed.

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QUICK HITS…

  • I loved watching Darnell Nurse not back down from Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf gave him a shove and wack and Nurse gave it right back. Nurse will be the emotional leader of this team in the future, possibly as early as late this year, and after watching the Oilers turn the other cheek for so long, his actions were a welcome change.
  • Sekera had another solid game and his stretch-pass-off-the-boards was outstanding. He is starting to look more comfortable and his improved play couldn’t have come at a better time.

  • Sometimes you have to credit the opposition for a great play. Sami Vatanen’s pinch that led to Corey Perry’s second goal of the game was a thing of beauty. Not only did he anticipate the pass up the wall perfectly, he also avoided Yakupov’s contact and was able to move the puck quickly and accurately. His play didn’t allow the Oilers defence to get back in front of the goal. Mark Letestu left the slot because he was supposed to support the winger. The play happened so fast the Oilers didn’t have time to recover, but I’d credit Vatanen with an incredible play before shredding the Oilers. Certain times we need to recognize the other team made a great play.
  • He didn’t score, but Anton Lander had a few very good scoring chances. I can’t recall him having any good chances in the first 15 games, so maybe it is a sign he might awaken from his horrific offensive slump.
  • Benoit Pouliot is sick, so the Oilers recalled Anton Slepyshev. It is rare nowadays, but the with Pouliot’s injury the Oilers now have three right shot wingers and Yakupov to play on their second and third lines, and Yakupov prefers the left side. The Purcell/Lander/Eberle line created a few good scoring chances last night, and I wonder if McLellan just slides Slepyshev into Pouliot’s spot or if he alters his second and third lines.

  • The 4th line had a great night. They drew two penalties and even created some chances. Also, loved Gazdic getting after Maroon after his idiotic hit on Pakarinen.
  • I know the stats suggest it is risky to start goalies on back-to-back nights, but some coaches do it and they have success. Last year Cam Talbot played both games of BTB sets three times and he went 2-0-1 in the second game. He had a combined .934sv% in those three games.

    Anders Nilsson was excellent last night, especially in the first period, and I understand why McLellan is going back to him. You can’t always go with the numbers, sometimes a coach has to go with his gut.

    I tweeted out this question after the game, and 64% of you agree with McLellan.

LINEUP…

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Oilers lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

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Coyotes lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Five for Howling

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Edmonton Oilers are bad this season. They currently sit near the bottom of the Western Conference, in front of only Calgary and Colorado.

The team’s fortunes seemed to be changing for the Oilers before this season. They drafted Connor McDavid, brought in Peter Chiarelli to be general manager, Todd McLellan to be the new coach, and Cam Talbot to hopefully end their problems in the crease. They also now have two former Coyotes with Rob Klinkhammer and Lauri Korpikoski. So far none of that has worked.

The Oilers may have proven themselves to be the unluckiest team in the NHL this season. Franchise draft pick Connor McDavid broke his collarbone in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers and is likely to miss a few months. Granted the Oilers are still stacked with talented forwards, but losing McDavid is a serious blow.

    TONIGHT….

    GDB17

    GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers lost all five games to the Coyotes last year. They stop that streak tonight with a 5-3 victory.

    OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall tallies two points. He has 18 points in 17 career games vs. the Coyotes.

    NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Mark Fayne has 15 career goals in 329 career games, but he lights up the Coyotes. He has three goals in nine games vs. Arizona/Phoenix and he scores his first goal in 31 games this evening.

    Recently by Jason Gregor:       


    • Just saying, Draisaitl is on pace for like 144 points, and that’s not over 82 games either.

      I said it before and I’ll say it again, if the Oilers can stay anywhere close to .500 hockey by the end of November, then their schedule gets easier down the stretch when a certain generational talent gets back in the line up.

    • Gooilgo

      I realize that Drew Remmed thinks he sounds smart because when is so Critical all the time but he is just really really really irritating .It is no wonder he got fired by San Jose

      • TRAIN#97

        I doubt the Todd and Peter will make/name either goalie a permanent starter this season. They are mostly using this as a strategy tool for the upcoming off season. They would love to re-sign both long term, and not making one a starter would make signing both cheaper.

      • Admiral Ackbar

        It just dawned on me now that the Oilers could’ve skipped Letestu and grabbed Roy for significantly less.

        It’s absolutely ridiculous that Roy had to go to Europe to get a job. Would he have cost more than $1.8mil? He probably could’ve been had for $1-1.2mil!

    • Serious Gord

      Send a video of this to mr. Bettman,

      Clamp his eyes open like they did in clockwork orange and force him to watch it so he will see why this kind of boring hockey needs to somehow be eliminated.

      • BigBadOilersFan

        I get it, it’s a back to back game but they have put themselves in this position. 5-11-1 now, probably 5-12-1 after LA on Saturday. Not sure what to think anymore. 9 years of suck sure gets you down, now looking like 10 years.

        I’ll play “boring” Tippett hockey if that means winning. I just don’t care anymore.

    • CMG30

      I was one of the people who gave Bennett a slight edge on draft day, mainly due to his junkyard dog attitude.

      Still I wasn’t too upset when they drafted Drisitle. Last year was a bit sketchy but things seem to be panning out now. Credit where it’s due. MacT seems to have got this one right!

    • hagar

      I made a super tough call taking an invite to a friend’s garage for bbq tonight instead of watching the game.

      Sounds like I made the right choice!!

      We suck again I assume?

    • Serious Gord

      Now that’s more like Teddy Bear Purcell game we love ….what a sleeper game for him 5+ mins of PP time and only 2 shots, no hits, no takeaways just donuts across all stats. OT winner to bring out the Goat Horns!! cmon man!

    • Randaman

      So much improvement…. This is a disgrace…. At least last year we could blame it on Eakins, MacT, Lowe…. Not that now we can’t but it’s no longer fun.
      This is bad

    • S cottV

      A few weeks back there were a few of us around here, proposing that Nurse and Drai should be called up from Bakersfield to play permanently at the NHL level.

      It was met with many trashes….

      I hope we are all on side now.

      Or – does anyone really think that they need more seasoning at the AHL level?

      • Who were these people trashing that idea? They were playing Purcell on McDavid’s Right Wing!

        The Nurse thing I can slightly understand as Reinheart Gryba looked pretty steady in early games. Klefbom Schultz didn’t look terrible. And everyone was waiting for Sekera Fayne to click as a top pairing. Plus after that there was the Nikitin, Ference, Davidson log jam.

        But, thanks to injuries, it’s pretty clear what Nurse lacked in veteran understanding and discipline, he more than made up for in mobility and strength.

        Watching him now reminds me a lot of Hall’s early years. The kid relied way too much on his natural ability. Seeing the player Hall has become, and thinking about what he still might accomplish, I am so excited for the future of the Oilers.

        • yawto

          I thought they should keep Drai and Nurse in the AHL all year. I’ll own it.

          If Drai was going to play 3/4 line, he’d be better off in the AHL. I don’t think anyone had Drai on the top line, especially once Eberle came back. And if you say you did, you’d be the only one in Edmonton that called it. Even the most optimistic fan would not have predicted he’d have new career highs after 5 games either.

          And as I recall, everyone had Sekara/Fayne in a shutdown role; with Klef and Schultz in the 3/4 slot. If Nurse was just going to play a 5/6/7 role, he would be better in the AHL eating a ton of minutes. Full marks for him earning a 1/2 slot. But it also speaks to how poor the defence has been to have a 19-year old top pairing defenceman.

          • Shit bitch cunt fuck

            Way to own it. I agree on the Nurse front. And think it was only because of injuries that gave him a shot.

            I disagree it speaks to a poor defense though. IS anyone saying Ekblad or Jones being good speaks to a poor defense? I think it just speaks to how good Nurse is. He’s big, mean, and very mobile. Scoring in his first game I’m sure helped as well.

            But overall I agree having him in a press box isn’t a good spot for him.

            With Draisatil, I didn’t have him on the top line, but had him in Yak’s spot alongside McDavid. He played so well with McDavid in Pre season I did not understand why he was sent down in favour of giving the spot to Teddy Purcell of all people.

            And if he would have started on the third line, I think they could have built a sheltered line there that played around 10 min a night and given guys who were struggling an opportunity to succeed. But then finally Yak got a shot with McDavid and all was right with the world for about 5 seconds. The Eberle injury sucked, but silver linings and all, seeing the creation of the Nuge Hall Drai line might have been worth it.

            As an Oiler fan, I’ve never had confidence in the team. And by and large I still don’t. But I do have confidence in that top line. Moreover, when the McDavid line was clicking, Gregor may have correctly pointed out that Dallas’ top line has more points than ours, but if you want to compare top six, that might be a lot closer if McDavid didn’t get injured.

            It’s crazy to think we get that player back again this year.

            Final thought in Drai is he has to be a coaches dream of a utility player. I mean a guy who can play all forward positions as a high scoring level, win face offs and have positive possession numbers? Those players are exceptionally rare in the NHL.

            Damn I am looking forward to the Yotes game tonight. Can’t remember the last time if ever I said that.

            • S cottV

              Agreed – I had Drai in top two lines, even with McD and Eberle in.

              Suggested and still believe that Drai would be more effective with Hall and Nuge, than Eberle. That really got trashed.

              Failing that – for sure with McDavid rather than Yak.

              You don’t saddle who may become the worlds best hockey player, with any kind of an anchor. Yeah – Yak was doing better than ever for him, with McD, but c’mon be real, Yak was being carried. That could not have been carried on for much longer. It was becoming obvious.

              Sure – if the Oilers could be a .500 club with less than their best possible line up, then maybe you play games and prop up the likes of Purcell and Yak – at the short term expense of McD’s full potential or Drai in the AHL, with hopes you trade their (Purcell / Yak) @asses, at some point this year.

              But – the Oilers don’t have the depth to play with other than their best possible line up, without it being embarrassing.

              Nurse and Drai – clearly make the club the better. Besides – top flight prospects where physicality is not an issue, don’t need to play in the AHL.

            • Randaman

              There seem to be those in the Yak camp and those not. I think you can find points in his career that demonstrate he’s not being carried. Leading all rookies in goals and tying for points. Whatever that insane point stretch was last year when he got paired with Roy.

              But, as the years have gone on, I think it’s pretty clear Yak is not the guy stirring the drink like Hall or McDavid. But as a trigger man, I think he’s capable of getting a lot of points. He’s still putting them up on the board even without McDavid too.

              Finally, I really think his game is rounding out nice. He’s always forechecked hard, he’s always had a bit of an agitation edge to his game, but lately I’ve seen a lot of away from the puck work that wasn’t there before.

              I like having Eberle and Yak, and Drai all on RW cause it gives the team depth, which I think is the single most important factor in determining cup contenders from just skilled teams; but I also believe in the coming years we will see one be sent out of town for a big name D man. Or, we will need to go the Chicago route and send them out for assets cause we don’t have the cap room. But us fans don’t have to worry about that yet!

            • THRNHJE

              Eberle: Play him with Hall and Nuge, and he gets points. Play him on a third line and he is invisible.

              Yak: Play him on 3rd/4th lines, no production. Play him with Roy or McDavid, and he produces.

              You’d almost be inclined to think that your line mates and usage can have an impact on production. Except when Eberle doesn’t produce on the third line, it’s not his fault. When Yak doesn’t produce, he’s a bust.

              Is Yak better than Eberle? No. But the different standards they’re evaluated by is annoying.

            • THRNHJE

              Right?

              I also contend it must have been really hard for Yak, an 18 year old kid, have to sit and watch Eberle and Hall make the exact same defensive mistakes he was making, but they had nothing but rope. Whereas Yak got banished down to the forth line or stapled to the bench. I mean, no wonder his agent asked for a trade seeing asset management like that.

              I cannot stand how Yak is portrayed in mainstream sports media.

              I did have this argument with I think, oh yeah, Gregor of course the other day on here. He is right that Eberle’s numbers kind of speak for themselves. And it’s hard to argue against that. But I’m with you in that I think their games provide similar results.

            • Soiled Trousers

              I’m pretty neutral when it comes to Yak so don’t take this as bashing. I would suggest Eberle and Hall have put up numbers that give them more slack. Maybe Yak could be used more effectively, and that is usually a valid argument, but not in the case of a number one pick. I don’t think its unreasonable to expect a guy who got picked number one to produce no matter who he plays with. Added to that, I think you expect a number one pick to not have the worst plus minus in the league. I think that’s why Yak gets a lot of salt.

            • yawto

              I agree that as far as number one picks go, he hasn’t pulled his weight. However, that draft year was bad all around.

              Ryan Murray has been basically injured since his draft day (dodged a huge bullet there), Galchenyuck, meh, I hear nothing but the same thing they say about Yak, “this is the year Galchenyuck will take a step forward.” We have the book on Reinheart already. Morgan Reily is starting to come on now, but is certainly no number one D.

              In the first round I would say the highlights are Trouba, Matta, Foresburg, Pearson, Teraveinen, Hertl, and maybe Pouliot. Would I rather have picked any of these guys over Yak? Definitely not at the time. And even in hindsight, maybe Trouba or Matta, but both those guys benefit from playing in systems where they don’t have to be the number one star D on the team. Had they come into Edmonton, they would have been thrown to the wolves.

              So, I do agree with you that as a first overall, he’s no screaming hell, but that will go down as one of the worst draft years, maybe ever. Especially because unlike other years, after the first round, I can spot only two names worth mentioning: Laleggia who was a Holtby Baker nominee and could make Edmonton one day as a poor man’s Justin Schultz. And Colton Parayko who is only now making his debut with the Blues and doing well. But that was only made possible because of Shattenkirk’s injury.

              Anyway, bad draft year.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      Arizona is finished.

      I see a red jersey, I kill him.

      Run you coyote.

      Run and tell the other coyotes it’s coming.

      Tell ’em I’m coming.

      I’m coming and Hall’s coming with me!

      Wyatt Nuge?

    • BigBadOilersFan

      OMG THE OILERS ARENT DOING AMAZING!!!????? OMG BURN DOWN THE CITY! MOLOTOV REXALL! LYNCH KATZ! TRADE HALL EBERLE NURSE MCDAVID AND NUGEEYY!! EVERYONE QUICK!!.

    • Spoils

      Is it just me or would Rieder look fantastic on our third line?

      To bad previous GM’s couldn’t distinguish a good hockey player from a terrible UFA signing if their life depended on it.

    • Mooseroni

      Here we go..third period comeback! I think nurse needs to take yakupov out behind the building and beat the hell out of em….he needs to calm down a bit, looks to jittery on the ice.