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Happy birthday: Draisaitl staying put with Oilers

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers rookie center Leon Draisaitl had a memorable 19th birthday Monday.

The Oilers extended their winning streak to four games with a 3-0 victory against the Montreal Canadiens and Draisaitl was informed he would not be returned to his junior team.

Draisaitl will play his 10th game with the Oilers on Wednesday against the Nashville Predators, which activates the first year of his entry-level contract.

"He's part of our hockey team, he's earned his right to be here at practice [Tuesday] and be in the lineup [Wednesday]," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "It shouldn't be a distraction for our team. It's part of the process of us getting better. It's not a big topic at all in our room. All we are concerned with is practice [Tuesday] and the Nashville Predators [on Wednesday]."

The Oilers selected Draisaitl with the third pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

The product of Cologne, Germany, had 38 goals and 67 assists in 64 games for the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League last season.

"I've said it before many times, my goal and my dream is to be here in the NHL, and I think for the most part I've done a pretty good job so far," Draisaitl said. "But I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me for sure. You never know what's going to happen, so I couldn't say that I was confident or that I knew I was going to stick around. I think during the nine games I was trying to improve, and for the most part I improved pretty well."

The Oilers can still return Draisaitl to his junior team after he plays his 10th NHL game, but the first year of his entry-level contract will have been burned. If Draisaitl plays 40 games for the Oilers this season, it will count as a year toward unrestricted free agency.

"They just basically told me that I'm staying in Edmonton for now, but I'm well aware of the rule with the 39 or 40 games," Draisaitl said. "I'm just trying to get better every day and focus day by day, game by game. That's what I'm trying to do, just get up every morning and try to get better every day. I was obviously hoping to stick around a little longer and stay here. I was really happy to get that information that I can stick around for a little bit."

In nine games for the Oilers, Draisaitl has a goal and two assists. He scored his first NHL goal in a 6-3 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 24.

"He continues to improve," Eakins said. "Had he fallen off a cliff along the way, that would have been the easy decision [to send him back]. It's been a very easy discussion. He's earned his right, he continues to get better and those are positive signs for us."

With the news he's staying in Edmonton, Draisaitl has made arrangements to move in with Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Draisaitl had been billeted by a prominent Edmonton businessman, Bruce Saville, during training camp and into the early part of the season. Saville was a member of the Edmonton Investors Group that owned the Oilers before selling the team to Daryl Katz.

"I'm going to move in with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; he's going to take me under his wing, I guess." Draisaitl said. "I'm really thankful for that, he's a really great guy. He's a great centerman and someone I look up to, for sure."

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