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:       


    • dougtheslug

      I loved it when Nurse clearly says to Getzlaf, “Do you wanna go?” and Getzlaf backs down. And was pretty quiet the rest of the game. Please remind me the last time we saw that.

      • LordVallko

        In Getzlafs defense, he has only been back 4 games after having his abdomen cut open and appendix removed. Although Nurse does appear to be the beast we have needed for a long, long time.

        • yawto

          If Getzlaf wasn’t 100% recovered from surgery he wouldn’t be playing. He made a choice not to oblige Nurse. Great seeing that level of toughness from Darnell, outside of Hendricks and Gazdic we don’t have enough of it on the oil.

    • For Pete's Sake!

      Draisaitl looks unreal. I can’t believe how well he’s playing.

      Last night he dominated the game playing against a team with Getzlaf and Perry on it.

      He’s got what, ten points in six games? If he’d been scoring at that rate from the beginning of the season, he’d be at the top of the scoring race.

      I hope he can keep it up because he’s fun to watch.

    • Morgo_82

      I loved Nurse’s game last night, how he reacted to Getzlaf was perfect, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come and the opposition is going to think twice before starting anything with him on the ice.

    • Jay (not J)

      Going back to Drai’s draft and why (as I recall) so many of us would have preferred Bennett, the word on the two at the time was that they were almost equal skill with Bennett getting the edge but Leon had the size. Having been taken to task for drafting skilled forwards 3 years in a row, there was concern that MacTavish was being bullied by the media into picking the player who appeared to address a team need instead of getting the best player available. Last year, when we were comparing Leon’s NHL regular season stint with Bennett’s playoff cameo, well some of us felt downright sick to our stomachs. Today, (and you can count the times someone says this on this site on 1 hand)MacT’s decision looks visionary and I think we’re all happy to look like we over reacted a bit when the decision was originally made.

      • Randaman

        As great as Draisaitl is, and he is great. I mean, he brings a skill set to the forward core they just don’t have. If he had a mean streak, he would literally be the best version of the player the Oilers have been trying to draft for ten years.

        However, they were one loss away from drafting Ekblad instead. And given the team’s continued need for that true number one do it all right side D man, I would still go back and make that change if I could.

        However, the only thing about that is maybe had they gotten Ekblad, no McDavid. No McDavid no front office shake up. ect. ect.

        Bennet to me was a non factor. However, I bet Buffalo is cursing themselves right now for not taking Bennet over Sam Reinheart. But then again, maybe no Eichle if they did that.

        At any rate, I’m just glad Draisaitl is exceeding expectations right now, and look forward to the next decade with him on the team giving the coach options at center and wing.

        Also, call me crazy but with Draisaitl top line RW, does that make Eberle expendable for a top end right side D? I wonder if Florida would trade Ekblad? Nurse Ekblad as top pair would be unreal.

        • THRNHJE

          Florida is not trading Ekblad for anything less than a Kings ransom. While Eberle was Edmontons leading point scorer in 3 of the 5 seasons he’s been here, Florida would be smoking something very special to trade Ekblad for him.

          • Jay (not J)

            I agree. Personally I don’t think there is ever such thing as fair value for a fist overall pick. I mean, given what a team has to go through to get one, even trading Yak for something of value would likely leave Oiler fans feeling like they got ripped off.

            In Ekblad’s case, he looks to be a stud number 1 D man. Those guys are tough to get by trade, no matter where they are in their career. However, the value of Ekblad playing on his ELC would be hard to put into numbers. It’s incredible value for someone playing that high level of hockey.

            But, players of this nature do shake loose from time to time. Flip Forseburg was had for a rental. Seguin got a good return at the time, but is now looking less good, especially if you track that trade all the way back to its roots starting with Kessel.

            A recent example though would be Tyler Myers. True, he’s not a first overall, and he’s further along in his career. But he got 48 points his rookie year compared to Ekblad’s thirty something. He recently got traded for an injured Evander Kane. And while Buffalo was deep enough on D to absorb the lost in a trade for more firepower up front, Florida is a similar make up with Gudbranson and Kulikov. Not to mention Campbell and Mitchell.

            I also look at a trade like Boychuck and Hamilton, who were both had for cents on the dollar. Comapred to those trades, Eberle would have been a huge upgrade on the return.

            Florida also mirrors Buffalo in that they really don’t have a ton of firepower up front. I can’t imagine Jagr and Jokinen are going to be expected to carry the mail much longer. After them they are looking at a young core that includes Huberdeau, Barkov, Trocheck, and eventually Crowse. Right now Trocheck is leading with 11 points. Not exactly setting the world on fire.

            Huberdeau and Barkov I think are regressing.

            So, short story long, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility Ekblad could be traded for a package that is highlighted by Eberle.

            • THRNHJE

              You do make some salient points. I would probably break my neck trying to do a backflip of joy if we got Ekblad. Nurse-Ekblad, Sekera-Klefbom as the top 4? Yes please.

            • tileguy

              I do still agree that is a pretty tough sell, and yes a bit of a pipe dream. So instead I will reiterate what I’ve been saying for a few days now. Byfuglin is a UFA at the end of the year.

              The only thing I want to see more than a Nurse Ekblad pair is Nurse Byfuglin. The intimidation factor alone with that pair would completely change the dynamic of the team.

              Literally every team in the league would cringe at the thought of having to go up against those two. Both big, both mobile, both really mean.

              And then if that wasn’t bad enough, they’d look at the top six and cringe again.

              Make it happen Chi!

          • THRNHJE

            Neither do I but you know like butterfly effect and whatever. Who’s to say how things would have turned out had they gone one way or the other. It’s impossible, so all I did was say it could have happened the other way, not being definite one way or another. Just to cover myself argument wise.

    • Shit bitch cunt fuck

      I really hope K bom and Fayne can build on their performance last night. If so then they should be able to shut down that top line no problem. It can’t be as hard as the Getzlaf line was last night.

      As for Arizona, or any team for that matter, I just don’t see how they are going to handle the Oiler’s top line. They are the best line in hockey right now.

      As for the rest of the team, I predict the Lander line catches fire tonight. Eberle has trouble against bigger teams, but even he had some really strong two way play last night. I suspect he really gets going tonight as the Yotes try and key in on the top line.

      Blow out, 6 – 1 for the Oilers. Yotes get a first period goal, Oilers come back and absolutely dominate them in the second period.

      • Jason Gregor

        The Benn/Seguin/Sharp line might have something to say about being the best line in hockey.

        Hall/RNH/Draisaitl are very good, but Dallas top line is very dynamic as well.

        • Randaman

          Ha! ya you have me there. And I should have known better as we actually added up those points on our last podcast.

          I look forward to the next meeting against the stars as if I recall, the Draisaitl Hall Nuge line was not in effect last game. Should make for an interesting matchup we might be seeing for the next ten years.

        • Jay (not J)

          So if a team is at the bottom of the standings but has ‘the best line in hockey’ is that even a good thing or is that further evidence of a poorly managed team? Either way, this isn’t really a conversation that Oiler fans should want to get too deep into.

    • A-Mc

      I had the biggest sh!t eating grin on my face when Getzlaf and Nurse were exchanging hacks.

      “POKE THE BEAR AGAIN GETZLAF, YOU SCRUB! NURSE WILL F#CK YOU UP” – Exact words i yelled at the tv. I had been drinking…

      Nurse looked ready to give a guy the beat down, and i wanted him to do it soooo bad.

      #NurseSmash

    • Shit bitch cunt fuck

      Shoving match scenarios:

      1 – Hey kid, I’m Getzlaf so stop shoving.
      Darnell says; never heard of you, as he gives him another shove before skating away.

      2 – Do you know who you’re shoving kid?
      Darnell says; I don’t give a f**k who you are, gives another shove and skates away.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      maybe now that Leon is starting to show what kind of talent he has we can all stop with the “we should have taken Sam Bennett” whining and hopefully stop thinking that Leon is a bargaining chip in a trade. at his size i do not want him to be the one heading out the door in any trade!

      • Craig1981

        It will be interesting who they will trade when the cap really hits them. I personally think they might be in a great position. It won’t be like some teams, “what will you give me for Segin”, “what will you give me for Leddy” etc.

        It will be “what will you give me for Eberle, RNH, Leon, Yak, OR Hall”

        I firmly believe you can’t look at one guy on who you trade, you look at what assets you gain for what you give up.

    • Randaman

      Jason you are wrong!

      The Oilers did not want Leon playing for the Prince Albert Raiders! They felt they were a bad team with bad coaching. It was the Oilers who facilitated the trade to Kelowna. Oilers wanted him on a competitive team playing meaningful games.

      • Jason Gregor

        So they decided to not bring in any NHL centres and ice a less competitive NHL roster just because PA was a supposed bad team. Okay. Why did Winnipeg send their young, high pick Josh Morrissey to PA right away?

        Draisaitl was rushed to NHL last year. He wasn’t ready, saying he wasn’t is simply incorrect.

        And Oilers were not in a position to be pointing fingers at others and saying they are a bad teams with bad coaching…If that is true, or just what you heard by those trying to defend the asinine decision to just hand Draisaitl an NHL roster job with no competition.

      • Shit bitch cunt fuck

        Exactly where did Gregor say that the Oilers didnt want him to play for P.A. ? Gregor didn’t even get into the politics you stated. He said they sent him back to the WHL. Which they did.

        And yes they didnt want him going to PA when he went back.

        Nothing Gregor says disputes it.

        Eat a snickers.

    • MacT's Neglected Helmet

      Frigging Tambellini.

      Tobias Reider is the Coyotes’ 1st Line LW (I know it’s the Coyotes, but still..)
      Tobias Reider has 5 goals and 3 assists in 15 games this season.

    • brian_d

      I for one hope that back to back games is an area of improvement for the Oilers. It seems that we never play well on the second night of a back-to-back……..but here is hoping.

      On LD……….all the guy ever needed was regular playing time with the same players to develop some chemistry. The kid is responding and looks like a beast out there……….I would go as far as to say his game is more suited to the NHL level than the AHL……..he has proven he belongs so lets deal a forward for a defenceman.

    • Natejax30

      “Five for Howling” sounds upset, like someone took their McDavid and Eichel away…bwahahahahahahahahaha.

      I hope the Oilers beat them 8-0, then how can he can talk about how awful the Oilers are.

      4 games to .500 boys!! go get it done tonight!

    • 5 Cups

      If they can play hard for 60, they should do all right. The problem is they rarely do, especially after a game like last night. (Grit out a win against the Habs, then lose the next game.)

    • CaliforniaOil

      So, I was at the SD Gulls game last night and watching the Condors was painful except for Slepyshev, and Khaira. The Gulls are a great team and I would suggest paying attention to the name Brendan Montour, but Slepyshev’s bad numbers in the A are no fault od his own, not only does Bako have no talent besides him, Yak2 and Brossiot, but Nikitin and Gernat, Scrivens, and Hunt are all terrible lately. Slep has got the shot, and the speed to play in the a NHL.

    • positivebrontefan

      Hoping these guys can put last years losses to the “yotes” behind them. There’s no Dubnyk to save them now.
      They need better starts to the games.
      Need solid Goaltending from BOTH goalies.
      Drai looks terrific.

      One last thing, you guys bitching at each other about how points are getting across, stop wasting internet space. If Gregor or any of the authors arent happy with the way they are being “talked” to, they are more than capable of a great rebuttal themselves. Quit the childish school yard bickering.

    • Randaman

      @ Jason Gregor,

      Lander looked terrible AGAIN last night.

      Yes, he had a couple chances but it seems that he can’t process plays at the NHL pace for whatever reason.

      He is playing the defensive side of the game at NHL level but he is at an AHL level when it comes to the offensive side of the game.

      I think that is a fair analysis, no?