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Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Draisaitl: Dangerous on his own

Leon Draisaitl has 18 points during his ten-game scoring streak. Connor McDavid also has 19 points over his ten-game scoring streak.

They have become the most dangerous linemates in the NHL. But Draisaitl isn’t just scoring because he’s playing with McDavid, he’s producing because he is that good.

“He is so dangerous on his backhand, and he sees everything on the ice. It’s amazing,” marveled teammate Darnell Nurse.

Nurse sits beside Draisiatl on the plane and often when watching video he asks Draisaitl what he would do in a certain offensive situation. “I also pick his brain on how to defend offensive guys at different points on the ice. I’ve learned a lot from him on how better to defend guys, and also how to look at things in the offensive zone,” said Nurse.

Ice Nowitski, a nickname German hockey fans have given Draisaitl, turned 21 on October 27th of this season. He’s in his second full NHL campaign and he’s emerging as one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league.

In the past two seasons he has played 150 games and has produced 47 goals, 78 assists and 125 points. He has scored 75 points at 5×5, and McDavid has been in on 23 of those points. To suggest Draisaitl is producing solely because of playing with McDavid is simply overlooking the young German’s talent. McDavid and Draisaitl see the ice in ways many players don’t, and they hang out regularly off the ice.

He is a unique blend of size, skill and smarts, and is one of the best players in the world on his backhand. He creates so many more opportunities from his backhand. And just because you play with elite players doesn’t mean you will produce like Draisaitl has recently with McDavid.

Patrick Maroon is having a career year in goals with 27, but he has 42 points. Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic didn’t score at Draisaitl’s pace with McDavid, and you can look at the names of players who have skated with Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane and other elite offensive players, and only the rare player produces at a level like Draisaitl does.

You need to be a great player to produce like Draisaitl, regardless of linemates.

I asked Todd McLellan what he sees in Draisaitl’s play that works so well with McDavid.

“That is a good question, very few can do it,” said McLellan. “First of all there is a camaraderie between the two of them. They have somewhat grown up in the organization together. They look out for each other and they hang out a lot, which gives them extra time to talk and communicate about what they are doing on the ice. Connor’s speed combined with Leon’s passing and ability to slow the game down makes it very tough for the opposition to judge what is coming at them,” said McLellan.

The coach isn’t worried about how long they will play together, as many believe Draisaitl might be a centre long-term.

“We are only worried about what we are doing now. The team building part for the future happens whenever we play our last game, and we are hoping that will be a long time from now. Right now, it is about keeping lines going and we will worry about his future positioning later on,” said McLellan.

Draisaitl and McDavid are shredding the opposition right now. Draisaitl has 5-13-18 in ten games while McDavid has 6-13-19. It is obvious you keep them together and worry about line changes next season. I suspect at some point they will be the first and second line centres, but will still play together on the PP and I’m sure at times, likely on the road, they will play on the same line at five-on-five.

Draisaitl has become the dominant second threat the Oilers needed to compete with the top teams in the NHL, but make no mistake it is a duel threat. Draisaitl is dangerous on his own and he’s capable of driving a line himself, but for now McLellan will run a two-headed monster on his top line and no team in the Pacific Division has been able to slow them down all season.

PARTING SHOTS…

  • McDavid and Draisaitl have combined for 17 goals, 19 assists and 36 points in 13 games versus Calgary, Anaheim and San Jose this season. Right now they are a matchup nightmare for any of those teams.
  • I don’t understand why the NHL is the only league who punishes their elite players, by allowing the average ones to get away with a ridiculous amount of obstruction and stick work to slow them down. The league refuses to call the rule book, and the mantra of “play through it” or “toughen up” is simply stupid. Fans pay ridiculous amounts of money to watch players, and if you polled the fans 98% would say they come to watch the star players. Why doesn’t the NHL enforce the rules and force players to keep up or get beat, rather than allow a constant stream of unnecessary stick work?
  • Golf fans: I have teamed up with DraftKings and we have a Masters pool for you to join. It is free to play and the 1st place wins $1000. Enter here. Get in before Wednesday at midnight.
  • If you haven’t heard yet Oilesnation be throwing a Decade of Darkness RIP party on April 8th at the Pint Downtown. Tickets are now available and they are selling quickly. Come down and celebrate your ability to have made it through the darkness. We can laugh about the decisions to bring in Nikita Nikitin, The Belanger Triangle and other ill-advised moves. You can rid yourself of the memories with your fellow Oilers fans one final time and then look ahead to the playoffs.
  • Now that April Fool’s has come and gone, here is the greatest April Fool’s prank I’ve seen.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    McDavid has been shooting the puck a lot more lately, and I think that contributed to the winner on Saturday. That was the first time I can recall the defenceman playing Connor to shoot on a 2 on 1, leaving Draisaitl wide open. A wide open Draisaitl is going to bury that 99 times out of 100. These kids are becoming an absolute wrecking crew.

  • Woogie

    Loosing Petry… firing of Krueger… trading for Smithson… hiring of Eakins are just a few more. So many many mistakes and finally we get to rejoice. The only silver lining of the decade of darkness is we would never have MCJESUS. Things always turn out for the best.

  • Strunzo

    Drai has shown to be the only skilled player able to play with McD. Sure he would do fine driving his own line, but then McD would have to play with a disaster like Ebs whose only consistancy has been choking time and again on golden opportunities.

  • Redbird62

    Good article. I agree that Draisaitl is an excellent player, who is emerging as a star and will likely be able to carry his own line in the near future if that is the way Edmonton goes (if he is not already). However, while McDavid benefits somewhat from Draisaitl’s playing on his line, Draisaitl is the much greater beneficiary in this relationship. I believe McDavid would still be leading the NHL scoring race with almost any reasonable substitute at right wing. If Draisaitl did not play with McDavid 5 on 5 or the power play, his point total would likely be considerably lower. Not everyone can play well with someone like McDavid, but players of McDavid’s caliber, of which there have been very few, are the ones that raise the level of those around them. BTW – NHL.com game log show Draisaitl with 18 points in his 10 game streak.

    • Seriously Bored

      23 of his 70 some 5 x 5 points have involved McDavid. They are always going to play together on the PP so that is a moot point. I dont believe McDavid would be leading the scoring race without Drai, he has been a force this year. Great players may elevate their play and take over games but the NHL greats know its impossible to do it alone.

      • Marshall Law

        Drai does not have over 70 5 x 5 points. He has 48, meaning McDavid is involved in almost half of them.

        Drai is an excellent player, but this whole idea that he would be in the top 10 in scoring without McDavid is pretty far-fetched. If he could do it alone, he would be centering the second line right now.

        Do you think Maroon would be a 30-goal candidate this year without Connor? Probably closer to 15.

  • 99CupsofCoffey

    @Jason – I so agree with your thought on punishing Elite players. If it’s a rule, call it. Period. And there’s no reason to “even out the calls”. If one team is getting called, don’t call ’em on the other team just to even them out.

    • wiseguy

      It is quite the polar opposite of the NBA where you give a superstar like LeBron a mean look and it’s a foul, and where the stars are given the leeway to take a few extra steps before the highlight dunk.

  • freelancer

    It’s funny. Only a month ago I was worried about the idea of playing the Sharks in the first round. Now? Bring on any of them; Anaheim, Calgary, San Jose, Nashville, St. Louis. This Oiler team has the tools to go head to head against any of them.

  • A-Mc

    I’ve been watching ANA closely; that team would have a constant stream of penalties if Refs called the game to the rule book. I believe there was one faceoff between Nuge and Getzlaf in the ANA zone, where Getzlaf just holds onto Nuges stick even as the play starts going the other way. No penalty for that crap, and it’s a blatant Right-in-front-of-the-ref infraction.

    ANA vs CGY last night was more of the same. It’s just garbage what teams are getting away with now that we’re closing out the season and heading into playoffs. I like fast and hard hockey, but not this extra crap.

    PS: the chops to the mitts are getting out of control.

    • A-Mc

      Someone needs to chronologue all the missed infractions and give games a refing score. Called/Missed, with video timestamp go-to links for each for review.

      PS: your website doesn’t believe me that chronologue is a real word. Spellcheck is broken!

      • Not a First Tier Fan

        Good call. I’ve been thinking about doing the same all season except I just don’t have the time to put into the project. It would be good to have that independent reffing review before the playoffs because you just know the lumbers going to be flying hard and heavy at the kids – and I don’t think anyone trusts the league to call a fair game. Bettman’s probably crapping his drawers at how many Canadian teams are in it this year… unofficial word has probably already gone out to the refs to do what they can to ensure all-American conference finals… Gord knows Gary hates the Canadian teams and just takes the market up here for granted…

      • P0pcan

        I think I have seen that info somewhere and the missed calls greatly favor the other team (on the charts I have seen)
        I think they need to put cameras on the refs helmets that show what they see and make the refs answer for there noncalls fine them for the ones they see and don’t call and ask them what were they looking at for the ones you don’t see on there cams pretty cut and dry

    • FISTO Siltanen

      Okay, let’s take away McDavid.

      The Oilers WITH McDavid were the second worse team in the league last year. Without him I imagine they finish dead last – which is the team that won the Austin Matthews draft.

      So now Oilers have AM and maybe Mitch Marner or Igor Provorov or Brad Werenski. They can still trade Hall for Larsson. They can still get Maroon and Kassian and Sekera.

      We might not be as good… but we wouldn’t be Avalanche destitute.

      • Ronr68

        We don’t live in a world of “what if”? He does play for the Oilers. “What if” Crosby didn’t play for Pittsburgh? “What if” Price didn’t play for the Have?

      • Marshall Law

        McDavid missed half the season last year, and we were trash. You can say that we would be OK without McDavid, but that just isn’t true. We’ve seen what they’re like without him. Larsson is a nice player, but he’s not the difference maker here. Take away Connor or Talbot, and the Oil are suddenly looking like a lot less of a juggernaut.

        This is a nice, feel-good article, but I really think people are underestimating just how good McDavid is and how important he is to this team. He’s taking over games on a regular basis now.

        He really does make the entire team better. Do you guys remember Maroon before he was introduced to Connor? He was the guy that Anaheim is paying to play for a division rival.

    • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

      Pay no attention to the Flames fans. They were saying the same thing back in the 80s. “The Oilers would suck if not for Gretzky.” Then they won a cup without him in 1990.

  • 2centz

    Jason,I asked this question in the Monday Mailbag,but I wanted to ask you directly as well. Would you trade RNH to Florida,for Nick Bjugstad?

    Bjugstad shoots right,is $1.9m cheaper,plays a David Backes style game,and could move up or down the lineup,and even play the wing.

    I feel both players could use a change,and a pair of Huberdeau and RNH intrigues me too.

    • Jason Gregor

      He has had a terrible year offensively, but his three previous are likely what a you get. A 38-40 point player. He is paid more like a 3rd line C, which I eventually see RNH having to be if he stays here. The reality is the Oilers will have to shed some salary before Oct 2018 when McDavid deal kicks in. RNH or Eberle might both have to go at that point. I don’t mind Bjugstad, but Oilers could wait another year before making that deal to see if he bounces back.

      • 2centz

        I’m not sure he would be available,if he has a bounce back season,especially with RNH carrying an additional $1.9m in salary.

        In my opinion,with the size Bjugstad brings,and a $4m cap hit,he would be worth the risk,to get out of the Nuge contract. I love the thought of our second line being Lucic-Bjugstad-Puljujarvi. That’s a lot of beef on one line,and I think their skill sets would compliment each other well.

  • McDynasty97

    As always Jason… great article! Always look forward to reading your stuff! I especially like how you articulated how the nhl “punishes” the elite with how they choose to call the game. As long as I have been a hockey fan it has been a real bone of contention when I see the refs making a spectacle of themselves more than I see the speed and skill as the spectacle I pay to see!

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Dr. Drai makes the most amazing subtle plays sometimes go unnoticed. His patience and vision is ridiculous. The way he delays for that split second so the play can develop is super fun to watch.

  • Averagewhitebread

    I think if the league honestly wants to increase scoring they have got to tighten up the rules on hooking and interference. That would create more space for good players and more power plays for the league

  • Panda

    Think about Crosby and Malkin, they were great together at first too, then they split up to make the team even better to win championships. Many more exciting years to come for the oilers

  • QuitForRealThisTime

    I’ve begun using the term Game Manager vs Referee….The league wants parody in the standing and on the ice. Is it right, nope but that is in my conspiracy theory the mandate.

  • FlamesFan27

    I totally agree with the complaint of the refs not calling the stick infractions. Anaheim did it both nights in Alberta. Why are they letting them get away with these obvious slashes?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i still remember the howls of protest by know it all fans that thought we should have stuck with the BPA crap and picked Sam Bennett. the only reason these people wanted Bennett it seemed was because he was ranked #1 on some lists or earlier in the season perhaps and Leon wasn’t. Leon was also supposed to be slow but we have all seen how well he skates now haven’t we? this is one time i am glad the Oilers didn’t listen and took a player with likely the same talent in the long run but much bigger and a guy who doesn’t get bounced around physically very easy. i am forever gratefull they took the guy i wanted, Leon, over Bennett.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i still remember the howls of protest by know it all fans that thought we should have stuck with the BPA crap and picked Sam Bennett. the only reason these people wanted Bennett it seemed was because he was ranked #1 on some lists or earlier in the season perhaps and Leon wasn’t. Leon was also supposed to be slow but we have all seen how well he skates now haven’t we? this is one time i am glad the Oilers didn’t listen and took a player with likely the same talent in the long run but much bigger and a guy who doesn’t get bounced around physically very easy. i am forever grateful they took the guy i wanted, Leon, over the smallish Bennett.

    • 24% body fat

      i was on the record for saying I wasnt sure about Draisaitl. But that wasnt because of him. It was because he had skating issues and the oilers and their endless pursuit for size always ended up in a getting a coke machine with cement skates

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        problem with Bennett is that his size gave us more of the same as far as what we had up front at the time. Leon’s issues seemed to be his acceleration, which i understand he had worked on, but when he was moving he was actually pretty fast as we’ve seen. plus i just wanted a big center for once instead of average size.

    • O.C.

      Big stars and big superstars who can hold the puck in traffic are often perceived as slow when they aren’t. Thornton, Malkin, Lemieux, (under 35) Jagr, (over 35) Jagr, and Getzlaf all come to mind.

      I think it’s an illusion.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      i often wondered which i’d pick too but i’d have to say that despite his down season this year that Ekblad is still the guy i’d take #1. the reason is that big talented right shooting d-men are harder to find than big left shooting centers.

  • JimmyV1965

    Totally agree about the reffing. It’s brutally awful now and it’s only going to get worse. The last two Ducks games say it all. Endless slashes, whacks and cross checks. It was the same in Edmonton and Calgary. The Ducks are the dirtiest team in the league and the NHL turns a blind eye. Someone good is going to get hurt. I just hope it’s not one of our guys.