In a season, once again filled with mediocrity there have been a few feel good stories for fans to rally behind. I would argue the biggest surprise was the emergence of Brandon Davidson as a legitimate defenseman but closely following that would have to be Leon Draisaitl.
When the Oilers drafted Leon in the summer of 2014, fans thought they were finally getting the skilled, big, top 6 centre the team had coveted for so many years. Then management decided the best way to develop him was to provide no veteran support, throw him into the top 6 immediately and see what happened. What resulted was a paltry 2-7-9 in 37 games. They burned a year of his ELC and then sent him back to the minors, where we watched him start to look like the player they drafted and regain his confidence.
Jump ahead to pre-season, the general consensus seemed to be that Leon was looking much sharper. He had some time on the wing and developed some chemistry with McDavid and many expected him to start the season on the opening roster. But then the Oilers did the most unOilers thing ever.
They sent him down.
In his interviews after this, Draisaitl was visibly dissapointed, maybe even angry. He felt he deserved to be on the team. One month into the season he was called back up... and proceeded to do everything in his power to never be sent down again.
Draisaitl was scoring at an incredible rate, at one point he was boasting the best PPG ratio of any player in the NHL. In his first 35 games, Draisaitl was sitting at 10-24-34. In his last 36 games he is 9-8-17.
For those not great at math, that's half the production. So, what's happened? For starters let's look at Taylor Halls production, starting from Oct 29th with Draisaitl's first game. Hall had 12-21-33 in 35 games (Hall went 4-4-8 in his first 10 games) and has gone 10-13-23 since.
So what we have is two players who's production ebs and flow have almost mimicked each other identically. Between February 6-13 both players went 5 games pointless. From March 8-22 Draisaitl had 1G and 1A and Hall had only 1G.
This brings up a couple of thoughts from me. The first is this is why I would be hesitant to trade Ryan Nugent Hopkins right away. Good teams have more than two players, skilled enough to play centre on one of the top two lines. In a perfect world, I would love to keep Draisaitl, McDavid, and RNH and when all three all healthy, have one playing the wing. I would be hesitant to go into next season with two players as young as McDavid and Draisaitl anchoring the top two lines.
The second point is how integral Taylor Hall is to this team. Hall is still one of the most dynamic players to watch in the league. There are very few players in the league with the ability to elevate the game of those they play with. When Hall struggles, his linemates struggle. Simply put, we have seen Hall produce without Draisaitl. We have not yet seen Draisaitl produce without Hall.
So what can we expect for next year? My guess? Draisaitl should fall somewhere in the .75PPG pace, let's say a 26-37-63 over a full season. He might not be a PPG player, but if he can post those numbers and be a strong body that's tough to shake off the puck, he will be a huge part of this team going forward.
Thanks for reading.