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Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft provides insight on what it’s like to coach Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid

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Photo credit:Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
Woz
By Woz
8 months ago
Throughout the offseason, we’ve heard from many members of the Edmonton Oilers. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse, and members of the management, included. But one person we haven’t heard from much is head coach Jay Woodcroft. 
That is until this week when he made a brief appearance on the NHL Network and spoke about McDavid, Draisaitl, and how he manages to use both superstars for the Edmonton Oilers to have success.
On what Connor McDavid is most impressive at:
“As you said he’s all world in so many categories. For me what I’m privileged to see but most people do not get to see is the work ethic, the work that gets put in behind the scenes. I think everyone always gravitates towards the highlight reel play but I’m fortunate to bear witness to the amount of work that he puts in on a daily basis not only is it amazing but it’s truly inspiring”
On if it’s difficult managing how much he can play McDavid and Draisaitl:
“I feel that in Edmonton we’re blessed with two number-one centres and that’s part of who we are, it’s part of our organizational DNA. I think for the coach that is responsible for opening the gate and making sure you’re putting people out and getting what they need but at the same time the team getting what it needs. That’s something that I think a lot about.”
On how he felt about the opportunity to coach players of that calibre when hired on as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers:
“As a young coach coming into the situation I came into a year and a half ago, I used the same phrasing which was I do feel blessed but I do know that top players in my experience, top players want to be led and that’s what I try and do as their coach.”
He was also asked who is the center when McDavid and Draisaitl play together and how he handles them on the ice at the same time:
“What happens in most systems is, in the offensive zone there’s freedom to move around the rink, I think in the neutral zone sometimes there’s certain patterns you want, certain positions to play. I would say most teams have a system where whoever the first forward back plays low. I think when you’re dealing with players of the caliber of McDavid and Draisaitl, what they’re blessed with is elite hockey sense and so when they play together they read off of each other. They read off of each other in all three zones and I think that’s what makes them so dangerous when they are together is that they know what the other person is thinking”
And what makes the Oilers so dangerous having the ability to play them together or apart:
“Now I do believe that having the flexibility of playing them together or playing them apart makes us a dangerous team when you move the pieces around the chessboard so to speak, it can keep the other team on the back foot and we’ve had some success with that but like I said with both of those players in our lineup that makes me a better coach and certainly our organization a better team.”
It was a short interview that he provided to the NHL Network when they were discussing the best centers in the league. Draisaitl was ranked third just behind Nathan MacKinnon with Connor McDavid landing the number one spot on the network’s top 20 centers.

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