Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
6 months ago
Nobody knew Leon Draisaitl would be this ridiculously good when the Edmonton Oilers were gifted the big forward from the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders by the Buffalo Sabres with the third overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. The Sabres took Sam Reinhart second. The Oilers snapped up Draisaitl third.
Draft day for the 27-year-old from Cologne, Germany was 624 games and 716 points ago. After watching Draisaitl reach 100 points for the fourth time in an already brilliant career with two goals in a 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators Tuesday, the Oilers’ good fortune just keeps growing. That it happened with a group of fans from back home, Oilersnation Germany, looking on from the stands at Rogers Place was perfect.
What strikes me about Draisaitl, the best player produced in the 2014 draft, is he seems to be as driven today as he was when he first arrived in Edmonton as a full-time player — before the 100-point seasons, his two 50-goal campaigns and a gaudy haul of silverware including the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award.
Playing alongside the best player on the planet in teammate Connor McDavid, Draisaitl is the best second-banana the NHL has seen in a long time, but he’s not the type to blow his own horn and be satisfied with that. We got yet another example of that last night when Gene Principe of Sportsnet asked Draisaitl how he felt about his fourth season reaching triple-digits.
WHAT HE SAID
Mar 14, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal scored by forward Leon Draisaitl (29) during the second period against Ottawa Senators at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
“It’s been all right,” Draisaitl said. “Believe it or not, actually, I haven’t been too happy with the way I’ve been playing, but it’s coming, it’s getting better and that’s what matters most to me. That’s what’s most important.”
All right? Like McDavid, who had a goal and an assist against the Sens and sits at 56-73-129, Draisaitl is far more comfortable talking about team accomplishments than his own. Their focus remains on winning a Stanley Cup, not collecting more individual awards. The numbers are the numbers. They speak for themselves.
“I feel very fortunate and, obviously, very happy about it,” said Draisaitl. “But this is my job. This is what I get paid to do, right? I couldn’t do it without any of these guys in here. I’m well aware of that and very appreciative of them finding me and putting me in the right spots, so very happy about that.”
McDavid and Draisaitl became just the second set of teammates in NHL history to be the first two players to 100 points in consecutive seasons – Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito did it twice with the Boston Bruins in the 1970’s. They are the first two teammates to combine for 100 goals in a single season since 1995-96.
THE BOTTOM LINE
“I think he’s hockey sense personified, Oilers’ coach Jay Woodcroft said of Draisaitl. “I think he’s the definition of what the modern-day power forward looks like or should look like . . . he’s a big man, and I think he’s ultra-competitive, but what stands out for me with Leon Draisaitl is his hockey sense.”
Some of that competitive nature and hockey sense has been handed down by father Peter, who was a national team player and coach in Germany. The old man would no doubt get a kick out of hearing countryman Tim Stutzle of the Sens, who had two goals of his own Tuesday, calling his son the face of German hockey.
Right now, Draisaitl and McDavid are the faces of hockey and of Stanley Cup hopes here in Edmonton, which has already had more than its fair share of great players during a history that’s produced five Cup parades. McDavid? Sure. Draisaitl? Who knew?
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