Leon Draisaitl: The NHL’s Best Combination of Passer and Shooter

Photo credit:© Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
26 days ago
Leon Draisaitl is the most underappreciated superstar in the NHL.
Playing on the same team as the best player in the world, Connor McDavid, is part of the reason, but often naysayers try to downplay his accomplishments due to playing with McDavid.
It is an odd complaint, considering most of the best players in the NHL play with other elite players. Nathan MacKinnon plays mainly with Mikko Rantanen. Nikita Kucherov skates with Brayden Point, while Auston Matthews plays with Mitch Marner or William Nylander.
But Draisaitl plays fewer minutes with McDavid than any of those combinations above.
At 5×5 this season, MacKinnon has skated 1,117 minutes with Rantanen and 205 without him.
Kucherov has played 993 with Point and 235 without.
Matthews has skated 863 with Marner or Nylander and 240 without either of them.
Draisaitl has played 459 minutes with McDavid and 745 without him.
The gap becomes larger when you look at the past two seasons.
Kucherov has played 2,028 with Point and 427 without his him.
MacKinnon has skated 1,913 with Rantanen and 599 without.
Matthews has skated 1,825 with Marner or Nylander and 378 without.
Draisaitl has played 928 with McDavid and 1,515 minutes without.
Of course, McDavid and Draisaitl benefit when they play together, just like the others listed do, but Draisaitl isn’t among the elite of the elite just because of McDavid.
I’d argue Draisaitl is the most unique elite player in the NHL, due to his ability to score goals and produce points. On Saturday he became the 14th player in NHL history to have five seasons with 100 points and also five seasons with 40 goals. The others on the list include: Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Marcel Dionne, Mike Bossy, Peter Stastny, Phil Esposito, Jari Kurri, Guy Lafleur, Dale Hawerchuk, Bryan Trottier, Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman and Jaromir Jagr.
He is one of only 20 players in NHL history with five 100-point seasons.
He is one of 21 players with at least three 50-goal seasons.
He is one of only 14 players in NHL history with at least three seasons with 50 goals and 100 points.
He is elite offensively. He’s also very good in the face off dot. He is the centre on the ice for a key defensive zone draw late in a period or in the game, as well as in the offensive zone.
I asked McDavid what impresses him the most about Draisaitl.
“I respect that he is always trying to get better,” said McDavid. “Guys who are always working at their game and finding different ways to be successful, I have a great respect for that. He came into the league as a pass-first guy. I think he enjoys the passing aspect of the game more than the scoring aspect (laughs), but he’s a great goal scorer. He understands where to go and where to be. He’s scores goals more with his mind than anything else. He’s always in the right spot, getting open and being available.”
Draisaitl wasn’t drafted as a scorer, but he’s emerged as one of the best finishers in the game. Only Matthews has more goals over the past five seasons, and over the past three Draisaitl ranks third with 147 behind David Pastrnak (148) and Matthews (164). Draisaitl is the best finisher on the power play, though. And it isn’t really close. In the last three seasons he leads the NHL with 76 power play goals. Sam Reinhart is second with 59, followed by Chris Kreider with 51. They have 92 and 71 points respectively, while Draisaitl has 141. His unique ability to score and pass equally well is very apparent on the power play.
He leads in goals, but also is well ahead in goals/60. Mikko Rantanen, for instance, has had 100 more PP minutes, but has 33 fewer goals. Draisaitl is the only player who is top 10 in PP goals and PP assists over the past three seasons. I’ve never understood those who try to downplay power play goals and points. All of the elite players have similar PP time on ice, yet Draisaitl scores way more goals than any of them, including Matthews, Steven Stamkos and David Pastrnak, who are excellent goal scorers. They all play with the same man advantage, yet they don’t finish nearly as often as Draisaitl.
Draisaitl picked up his 500th career assist last week. He ranks 172nd all time. He ranks 166th in goals with 346. He is already 154th in points with 846. His 1.18 points/game is 13th most all time among players who’ve played 700 games. He is tracking to be among the best point producers, and goal scorers, the NHL has seen.
And right now he is the most unique player in the NHL with his combination of shooting and passing.


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