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Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Five questions on Leon Draisaitl’s 25th birthday

It’s Leon Draisaitl’s 25th birthday and after a season that saw him bring home the hardware, there’s still an abundance of questions about his game.

Draisaitl had an incredible season scoring 43 goals and 110 points in 71 games this year bringing home the Art Ross, Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay award.

And while he had a great year, there’s still a number of questions about him as a player. I’d be curious to see your answers to these questions in the comments below.

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Can Leon Draisaitl continue his scoring ways?

Over his career, he has scored at exactly a point-per-game pace and that can largely be thanked due to back-to-back 100-point seasons. This was a question that arose after his 50-goal, 2018-19 season and what did Draisaitl do?

Score more points in 10 less games.

At this point, it’s hard to imagine him taking a step back from the 1.4 points-per-game pace that he’s set over the last two seasons. He’s just turning 25 and has at least four-to-five years in his absolute prime, and more solid seasons will likely come for him following that, too. Draisaitl has turned into the superstar the Oilers hoped for when they drafted him 3rd overall in 2014.

Will his defensive numbers improve?

We all know what Draisaitl can do with the puck on his stick, but when he doesn’t have it there’s some struggles. Despite his offensive prowess, Draisaitl still gets outshot and outshot, but not outscored on the ice at 5v5. While he does what matters in scoring goals, the Oilers still struggle with Draisaitl on the ice.

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He does do things well in the defensive zone with solid positioning and good stick work. Draisaitl knows how to use his body well and his active stick helps to break up plays and create turnovers.

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But according to hockeyviz.com, Draisaitl’s isolated impact at even-strength in the defensive zone is six percent worse than league average. I’m not here to try and run Draisaitl out of town, but there’s no denying his ability as a two-way player needs to take a step forward.

Is he able to continue to drive his own line?

Draisaitl’s season hit the overdrive just after the Oilers recalled Kailer Yamamoto to the NHL and put him, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. It showed that, for the first time, Draisaitl could drive his own line as a centre. He posted a 52.1 FO%, the second best of his career, as his time on ice and point production all climbed.

In 27 games at 5v5, what was dubbed “The Dynamite Line” posted a 52.13 CF%, a 77.78 GF% and an xGF% of 55.26 percent. While they overachieved with a 110 PDO in thanks to a high on-ice shooting percentage, they were highly effective on the ice not only in the offensive zone, but the defensive zone too.

For some reason Dave Tippett went away from this line in the playoffs, but I would expect nothing less than a big year from the three of them together again.

What is his point ceiling?

The sky is truly the limit for Leon. If he continues at the pace he’s scoring at over the last two years, he should score 115 points next season, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to score more.

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Looking at his 2019-20 season post-Christmas, he scored at a 1.65 PPG rate which would’ve paced him at 135 points over an 82-game season. Even if he played a full season next year, he was pacing to score 127 points.

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Since the 2004-05 lockout, the highest point total was 128 points by Nikita Kucherov in 2018-19. Dating back to 1994-95 the only two players who scored more than Kucherov in that year were Jaromir Jagr and and Mario Lemeuix, who scored 149 and 161 points in 1995-96 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Could Draisaitl be the first player to score 150 points in 25 years? Time will tell.

How many points will he score in his career?

Much like the question above, Draisaitl’s long-term projection is good for his ability to produce points. If we take the last three years, Draisaitl has scored at a 1.23 PPG pace and that’s likely a good average for his production long-term. Having already scored 422 points in as many games, Draisaitl is off to a great start.

For the sake of the conversation, let’s say he plays 12 more years in the NHL taking him to 37 years old. Given his solid track record of staying healthy, we’ll project on average that he’s able to play 79 games every season for the next decade.¬†That means he would play 948 more games scoring 1166 points.

In total, a safe projection for games played would be 1370, but it’s unlikely Draisaitl can score at a 1.23 points per game pace over the course of his entire career. Even if he scores, on average, a point per game over his entire career a conservative estimate would place him in the top-25 on the all-time scoring list.

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Only time will tell, I suppose.

On Twitter: @zjlaing