Nikita Kucherov accomplished an incredible feat last year by setting a new single-season high for points in the post-lockout era. It doesn’t look like that record is going to stand for very long.
Through a bit more than three quarters of the season, Leon Draisaitl has blown everybody out of the water. After dominating the Nashville Predators with a five-point showing on Monday night, he has 107 points through 66 games, which is 13 points more than the next highest scorer, teammate Connor McDavid. He has a 16-point lead on the next highest non-Oiler, David Pastrnak.
Draisaitl has 16 more games to reach and surpass Kucherov’s 128-point total from last season to become the new single-season points record holder from the post-lockout era. Over the entirety of the season, Draisaitl is operating at a 1.62 point-per-game pace. If he continues that pace for the rest of the year, he’ll finish with 133 points.
But digging a little deeper, Draisaitl has been scoring at a 1.84 point-per-game pace since being removed from Connor McDavid’s wing and placed alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto. That’s really, really good for a player who was supposedly nothing more than the byproduct of McDavid’s talents. Carrying on at that pace for the final 16 games of the season would get Draisaitl to 136 points.
It’s fair to say that, barring injury, Draisaitl will end up setting a new standard for offensive success in a season in the post-lockout era. Kucherov putting up 128 points last season — and besting the production of Joe Thornton and Jaromir Jagr’s 2005-06 seasons of 125 and 123 points respectively, and Sidney Crosby’s 2006-07 season of 120 points — is impressive because of how potent offence was immediately after the lockout.
The league cracked down hard on clutching and grabbing in order to increase offence in the game, which played a key role in these massive individual point totals. In 2005-06, teams got an average of 5.85 power-play opportunities per game. That figure has steadily dipped over time and now teams are getting an average of 2.98 power-play opportunities per game. The Oilers themselves are below league average in terms of power-play opportunities, averaging 2.9 chances with the man advantage per game.
So if Kucherov passing the power-play-boosted Thornton, Jagr, and Crosby was impressive, Draisaitl being on pace to jump him by a fair margin is a whole other animal. Draisaitl’s season has been so good, we can look back to the league’s high-flying days to find some incredibly lofty comparables. If Draisaitl continues at the pace he’s at now, he can become the first player to hit the 130-point plateau since the mid-1990s. The last time the league saw a 130-point scorer was 1995-96 when Mario Lemieux put up 161 points in 69 games. His teammate Jaromir Jagr also had 149 points that year (more on this in a minute).
Scoring 130 points in a single season is a feat that, a few years ago I don’t think anybody expected we would ever see again barring some kind of rule change. Only 49 times and by 23 players in league history has a player hit the 130-point plateau. Wayne Gretzky did it 13 times, Lemieux did it six times, Phil Esposito did it four times, Marcel Dionne did it three times, and nobody else has done it more than twice.
Other names on the 130-point-season list include Steve Yzerman, Bobby Orr, Guy Lafleur, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Bernie Nicholls, Jaromir Jagr, Pat LaFontaine, Mike Bossy, Adam Oates, Peter Stastny, Dennis Maruk, Bryan Trottier, Pierre Turgeon, Teemu Selanne, Brett Hull, Denis Savard, Kent Nilsson, and Dale Hawerchuk. Again, this isn’t something that’s happened in a quarter of a century. Draisaitl hitting this plateau in an era with substantially less scoring than the 1980s and 1990s is nothing short of incredible.
Another thing we need to mention here is the potential history McDavid and Draisaitl can make as teammates this year. It’s ironic that Draisaitl has been described as simply the wingman to McDavid and now it’s McDavid who seems to be hidden in Draisaitl’s shadow.
Given how dominant Draisaitl has been, it’s easy to forget how good of a season McDavid is having himself. He has 94 points in 60 games, good for second in the league in scoring. That’s a 1.57 point-per-game pace, which would have him on his way to setting a new career-high of 128 points had it not have been for that injury.
McDavid scoring 36 points in 16 games is a pretty insane ask, so it’s doubtful that he also hits the 130-point plateau. But Draisaitl and McDavid could become the first pair of teammates to finish first and second in league scoring since the aforementioned 1995-96 season when Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr had 161 and 149 points respectively. McDavid and Draisaitl would join legendary duos like Lemieux and Jagr, Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri, Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr, and Howie Morenz and Aurel Joliat as teammates to finish first and second in league scoring.
What we’re witnessing this season is truly a sight to behold. Draisaitl’s 2019-20 season is one that will go down as an all-time great in league history. What he’s doing is something that just a few years back I don’t think many ever expected to see in this league again.