Draisaitl’s growth raises questions for Oilers
It’s easy to forget about Leon Draisaitl.
Mostly because he’s not Connor McDavid, and that’s who everyone thinks of when they think of the present-day Edmonton Oilers.
They also think about the other first overall draft picks: Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, only the latter of whom is still with the team.
But back to Draisaitl -- imagine if (insert your favorite team) had a 21-year-old forward with 11 goals and 11 assists in 28 games. You’d be pretty excited about that guy, right?
That’s the season Draisaitl’s currently enjoying. The third overall draft pick in 2014 (yeah, it’s about time the Oilers started to win), he’s scored four goals in his last four games -- and no, he doesn’t always get to play with McDavid.
But the two youngsters have looked good together on special teams, and there have been times when coach Todd McLellan has decided to load up the top line.
“Leon has no trouble playing the wing. He’s done it before,” McLellan said, per the Edmonton Journal. “Sometimes you have a little security there too because Connor and Leon both understand how to play low in the D-zone and the first guy back can assume that position. You also have two centers who can take face-offs as long as you’re not exposed on other lines.”
Long term, the Oilers would probably like Draisaitl to center his own line. Where he ends up may depend on what they do with Nugent-Hopkins, the 23-year-old center who heard his name plenty in trade rumors as the Oilers tried to shore up their blue line over the summer.
Though scoring isn’t a huge problem for the Oilers, they could still use an offensive defenseman to help the power play. So far this season, they’ve been making do with Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera, but adding a real specialist could take their power play from good to great.
The Oilers may also need to shed some salary at some point. It’s nothing urgent right now, but Draisaitl is a pending restricted free agent and McDavid’s entry-level deal ends after the 2017-18 season. You can imagine what the captain’s second contract might look like.
Remember that Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli has never shied away from making trades, and that June’s expansion draft could be preceded by a number of deals.
Yes, Chiarelli would have to think long and hard about trading an all-situations player like Nugent-Hopkins, but depending on the return, it might be something he’d consider.