I recently found out that our All-Star duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were just a CHL draft pick away from becoming teammates with the Erie Otters. Could this single pick back in 2012 have changed Draisaitl’s future and the outlook of the Edmonton Oilers? Take my hand, let’s take a trip down memory lane together.
I was recently listening to Elliotte Friedman on Oilers Now Radio when the topic of Leon Draisaitl came up. They briefly touched on how Draisaitl almost became teammates with Connor back in Junior and it got me really curious. After thinking about it, I figured that probably not a lot of people know about the story, so I did some digging to find out how.
Each team in the CHL is permitted to carry two European players each season, drafted out of the yearly Import Draft. The order of the draft is based on the inverse order of points each team earned when combined between all three leagues. Each pick is then alternated between the leagues. Here’s a quick recap of the top picks in the 2012 CHL Import Draft.
- 1st pick – Moncton Wildcats – Chose centre Ivan Barbashev who went 18-44-62 pts in his first season in the QMJHL. Barbashev played 30 games with the St. Louis Blues this year tallying 12 points.
- 2nd pick – Prince Albert Raiders – Chose centre Leon Draisaitl who went 21-37-58 pts in his first season in the WHL. We all know how successful Leon has been since then, waiting to sign his first major contract in the NHL.
- 3rd pick – Erie Otters – Chose goaltender Oscar Danske who had a 4.11GAA & .888 save% in 43 games during his first season in the OHL. Danske ended up being drafted by Columbus and now plays in the Swedish Hockey League.
The fourth pick of the draft, Martin Reway was a smaller forward who put up 50 points in his first year with Gatineau. He was also a solid pick in the fourth slot and was a big asset to Gatineau that year. The NHL Draft is a big enough crapshoot as it is, I couldn’t imagine how difficult it can be trying to draft 16-year olds from Europe. CHL international scouting isn’t nearly as established as the NHL which makes the Import draft essentially a lottery. With that said, Leon Draisaitl could have easily gone first overall, third overall, OR fourth overall. If Prince Albert ended up picking Martin Reway at second, would Erie have jumped on Draisaitl at 3rd? Maybe.
Wouldn’t you know it, a couple weeks later the Erie Otters also picked up Connor McDavid in the 2012 OHL draft after he was granted exceptional player status into the league. What if things played out differently and Erie drafted Leon AND Connor? Would the OHL implode with incredible future Oiler talent? Would Erie have gone on to win consecutive championships? Would Leon and Connor have developed an ultimate bond, making them an even more unstoppable duo than they are now? We’ll never know.
The thing that I can’t figure out, is whether or not Leon Draisaitl still would have went 3rd overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft if he WAS Connor McDavid’s teammate. Since they’re both centres, they wouldn’t be able to get too many points off each other by playing on different lines (unless Leon played on the wing, obviously). The Prince Albert Raiders were arguable a better team in 2012-13 when both Connor and Leon joined the league which means Draisaitl likely got more exposure and credibility on his winning team. If Draisaitl played on Erie in the OHL, I wonder if his draft rank would have dropped out of the top five. Wherever Draisaitl should have fallen, nothing will ever excuse the Buffalo Sabres for choosing Sam Reinhart second overall, and that’s the only thing I think of whenever I look back on the 2014 draft.
There are many alternate scenarios that could have played out beginning at the 2012 CHL Import Draft, but all that matters is that Draisaitl is ours, and hopefully will always be ours.