With a four point night against the New York Rangers on Friday, Leon Draisaitl climbed a bunch of spots on the NHL scoring list, moving into a tie for No. 20 overall with 26 points in just 20 contests.
It’s been crazy. After a year in which everything went wrong, things are suddenly going very, very right. So right that when Draisaitl looks at the NHL scoring list, he can see Alex Ovechkin (25 points) and Sidney Crosby (19 points) in the rearview mirror.
Everything Has Gone Right
It certainly has. This is a little like Eberle’s big year in 2011-12 in that there’s obviously a very talented player driving the results but there’s some lucky wind in those sails, too. Draisaitl has nine goals on just 44 shots; it’s generally pretty hard to sustain a 20.5 shooting percentage. That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve a break, as last season he shot at just a 4.1 percent clip, but it is to say that we should expect the goal-scoring to cool off a little bit.
Unsurprisingly, Edmonton’s on-ice shooting percentage as a team is high when Draisaitl’s on the ice, leading to lots of goals to get points on. He’s also collecting a point almost every time his team scores a goal; that’s often something that even really good forwards struggle to keep going long-term.
Get to the Good Stuff!
But honestly, so what?
Yes, everyone mentally setting this as the new baseline for Draisaitl is likely to end up disappointed in the not-too-distant future. That’s not the point. The point is that even after pessimistically cutting down his shooting percentage and his on-ice shooting percentage and recalibrating for his inflated individual points percentage… this is a staggeringly good season.
Imagine a pessimistic world where one-third of Draisaitl’s points vanish in a puff of smoke. Even in that world he’d have 17 points in 20 games, putting him on pace to top 70 points over a full 82-game season. All of a sudden he’s a big, fast, strong centre scoring at a 70-point pace at the age of 20 while playing tough opposition. That’s an incredible player; after all, Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Getzlaf were 70-point players last season. They don’t exactly grow on trees.
Draisaitl is visibly faster than he was a year ago. His strength against established NHL’ers is so obvious as to be impossible to miss. His playmaking ability is so good that comparisons to Joe Thornton are not crazy. He plays a shockingly mature defensive game for a player of his age and experience level. That’s a fantastic combination of attributes.
His on-ice shot metrics (Corsi and the like) look really strong, too.
After a tough 2014-15 season, Draisaitl could have gone a number of different directions. Another poor campaign would have raised questions about his future and had fans pining for someone like Calgary’s Sam Bennett. Instead, he’s come back strong and given Edmonton the kind of centre depth it hasn’t seen since Glen Sather was general manager.
All this probably sounds a little breathless, maybe a little over-the-top. It should sound that way. Draisaitl is so far past any reasonable expectation of what he’d look like in the early going this year that it’s hard to overstate things.
It’s probably not quite on par with the Oilers winning the Connor McDavid lottery in terms of franchise impact, but it’s perhaps even less likely.