With nothing going on in the world of sports for the last month and a half, we all have a lot of time to sit around and think about things that we’re missing out on, that could have happened, or what may never happen again. Needless to say, these thoughts can lead one down a negative road and that’s why I wanted to refocus on something much more positive. Something like Leon Draisaitl.
On June 27th, 2014, the NHL held the first round of its annual entry draft and the Oilers were slotted in the third spot with an opportunity to add another important piece to the puzzle, but at the time, none of us really knew which way they were thinking. As I was putting this article together, I went back and looked through a bunch of our pre-draft items leading up to the big night, and it was really interesting to re-read how many different ideas were going on in the comments section, including some very passionate arguments about who the team should take with a sizeable chunk of citizens even wanting to trade the pick entirely. Up until the moment MacT walked up to the podium and called out Draisaitl’s name, there were still plenty of folks talking about using the pick on Sam Bennett with a much smaller segment even suggesting that Michael Dal Colle had an outside chance of being a better bet (the ISS had Dal Colle at #3 and Draisaitl at #6) — could you imagine? As always, some of us were right and plenty of us for wrong.
Fortunately for everybody that cheers for Edmonton, the Oilers were not on the same page with any of our terrible ideas and absolutely crushed this selection, landing arguably the best player in the entire draft with an honourable mention going to David Pastrnak at 25th overall. At the time, Aaron Ekblad was, more or less, the consensus first overall pick (he finished 1st in Bob McKenzie’s year-end rankings) and it was no surprise that the Panthers chose him, meaning Sam Reinhart was the most likely suspect to go second overall. But if you remember, both Draisaitl and Reinhart finished their pre-draft seasons with 105 points on their respective WHL junior teams, causing some folks to hope that Buffalo might actually take Draisaitl or even Bennett at #2 with the thinking being that the Oil would be better off with the smaller, speedier Reinhart since the biggest knock on Leon was his foot speed. You see, the league was changing and smaller guys with wheels were a lot more valuable than they had been for quite some time, so maybe Reinhart was the answer? Do you remember the “Draisaitl is too slow” crowd? I do.
As we all know, the Sabres put their chips on the table and made their bet on the Kootenay Ice’s leading scorer at number two, leaving Draisaitl on the board for the Oilers in the third overall slot which is where things really got interesting. With the Flames picking at #4, the Oilers had to get it right when deciding between our now-beloved L50N and Sam Bennett who was ranked third on Bob McKenzie’s year-end rankings. In the weeks leading up to the draft, Bennett was touted as a leader and a fierce competitor, which are the exact characteristics that this franchise seems to love talking about more than anything other than the glory days. Despite being unable to do a pull-up and inferior point production in the same junior league, those ‘good in the room’ type of intangibles made it really feel like Bennett had a solid chance of being the Oilers’ guy. Thankfully, there was a different story told on that day. Thankfully, outside of the Chiarelli-led attempt at sabotage that was yet to come, things played out differently.
Outside of winning the McLottery the following year, has there been a luckier moment for the Oilers in recent memory?
Now, six years later, I look back at the stats from the 2014 class and laugh at how fortunate we were to get Leon Draisaitl at third. Outside of Pastrnak who is currently 43 points behind, Draisaitl is running away with the scoring race from his draft year and only getting better. In 422 games played, Draisaitl has already put up 422 points (168G, 254A), is currently on a run of back-to-back 100-point seasons, and he’s playing like he’s got some of the same cheat codes McDavid has in his Game Genie. I’m not comparing the two, they’re obviously very different and Connor McDavid is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, I’m just saying that Draisaitl is starting to have a few of those same tricks in his tickle trunk, ya know? I mean, if you had to re-do that whole draft right now, would you bet against Leon Draisaitl going first overall? And yeah, I know how drafting 18 year olds can be a crapshoot, the Oilers have had more than their share of whiffs to say the least, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still spend an afternoon in isolation being grateful for what happened back in 2014 anyway.
I was looking for ways to keep my brain busy and this is what I came up with, alright?
I guess I just miss hockey and rather than focusing only on how we probably won’t be able to watch it for quite a while, I wanted to talk about something I’m thankful about. And in the spirit of being thankful, I feel like we all need to spend more time remembering the great sacrifice that the Panthers and Sabres made in allowing a future warlord to slide through their fingertips and into our greedy little mitts. They’re the unsung heroes in this story and I wanted to start my Sunday by saying thank you. Since we got so lucky, we need to take more moments like I am now to show our gratitude to the Hockey Gords for their generosity and giving us a Mercedes when those around us received only pick up the keys to a Honda Civic. Don’t get me wrong, Civics are a fine automobile, I used to have one myself and loved it, but even the folks at Honda know that their car isn’t in the same league as an S-Class Mercedes. Wouldn’t you be thankful for that free upgrade? I know I am and think we should say it more often.
So thank you, Florida and Buffalo. You guys got Pogs and we got a PlayStation. Sometimes it be like that.
DRAISAITL’S OILERS CAREER SO FAR