During training camp fall 2014, Edmonton Oilers’ management were clearly thrilled with the size of their young centers: Leon Draisaitl, Bogdan Yakimov, Jujhar Khaira. The idea of triple towers with skill and speed has to appeal to Edmonton when projecting the team for next season. The development spike for both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Anton Lander is a major item for the 2015-16 team and of course there’s big Dylan Strome hovering in the distance as a possibility for seasons later this decade.
The general consensus among Oilers fans has the club signing Derek Roy (or perhaps a more capable, complete veteran) and that makes a lot of sense. It would allow the team to bring Leon along at pace, send him down to the AHL with Bogdan and Jujhar and hammer away on the sisters of the poor in the minor leagues.
I don’t see it happening. As much sense as bringing in an experienced C like Roy makes, when we get back to training camp (with a possible C depth chart of Nuge-Roy-Lander-Gordon) Leon’s big shoulders, puck protection and general bigness is going to impress again. I’m not saying he won’t spend one day in the minors next season but am willing to bet he plays more NHL games in 2015-16 than he did this year.
LEON DRAISAITL, BY THE NUMBERS
- Boxcars: 37GP, 2-7-9
- Corsi for 5×5%: 52.1
- OZone Start: 79.2
- 5×5/60: 1.05
- 5×4/60: 1.76
Dallas Eakins put him in a position to succeed, I don’t think we can argue it. Leon’s Corsi number is solid but the offense didn’t come, leading many Oilers fans to consider our German a failed lottery pick. Balderdash! He wasn’t ready and everyone but the GM knew it! Given a long audition in junior (where he’s dominating) this winter, I expect Draisaitl will be ready to push for NHL employment this fall. If he earns it, the Oilers can’t be stubborn on it and must give it to him.
Draisaitl is dominant in junior, which is reflected in the work of Todd Cordell:
- Cordell: Draisaitl played a very strong game in all aspects. He was dominant through the neutral zone, and he drove possession at an elite rate despite a decent chunk of defensive zone starts. He also showed up everywhere on the scoresheet, factoring in on all four Kelowna goals (1G, 3A) in the win. Source
There’s a lot of chatter about Leon’s scoring rates this season being equal to a year ago (they are) in junior. In fact, the EV numbers (32GP, 10-18-28 .875) this year are lower (64GP, 22-37-59 .922) than a year ago. However, when you factor in game state usage (as per Cordell) Leon’s season in 2014-15 is splendid. He’s pushing the river folks, and starts (often) from the defensive position. If he merely develops along a normal line of progress, Draisaitl may one day be helping the Nuge handle big, tough minutes on the big club.
Edmonton may in fact turn over a new leaf and send Leon/Darnell to the AHL for a full year of seasoning. I’m not betting on it, in fact in both cases I don’t think it’s wise to make sweeping statements about these players. If they can help you win? Play them.