Leon Draisaitl Game 3 TONIGHT bug

EDMONTON -- Leon Draisaitl topped Stu MacGregor’s wish list for the Edmonton Oilers with the third pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, but the Oilers needed to wait to see if the Buffalo Sabres passed on him at No. 2.

The Oilers director of scouting at the time, MacGregor had seen Draisaitl up close during his junior days with Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League and, along with general manager Craig MacTavish, decided the native of Cologne, Germany was the most talented forward available that year.

“For us, ‘Mac’ wanted a forward; we had taken (defenseman) Darnell Nurse the year before in the first round and we wanted to get a good forward that year,” MacGregor said. “He was just a big, powerful guy with great hands that could really handle the puck and control the puck and hold the puck. I don’t know if I’d ever seen a guy make plays on his backhand and receive pucks on his backhand the way he did. He made amazing plays with the puck on his backhand.”

Draisaitl had 105 points (38 goals, 67 assists) in 64 games for Prince Albert in his 2013-2014 draft season. The previous season, as a 17-year-old, Draisaitl had 58 points (21 goals, 37 assists) in 64 games for Prince Albert.

“His shot was good, but I think it’s really developed since his draft year,” MacGregor said. “He shot it well, but in my mind, he was more of a set-up guy in those days when he was coming through the junior ranks. We wanted a forward and it was between him or Sam Reinhart. We had Leon ranked ahead of Reinhart, but we were picking No. 3 and had to see what Buffalo was going to do.”

Buffalo took Reinhart, who is now with the Florida Panthers and making a strong contribution to their 2024 Stanley Cup Playoff run.

Draisaitl, however, reached another level. He has more points than any other player chosen in the 2014 draft with 850 (347 goals, 503 assists) in 719 regular-season games ahead of Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak who was selected No. 25 and has 727 points (348 goals, 379 assists) in 674 games.

“I met with him (MacGregor) a couple of times and had the usual pre-draft conversations,” Draisaitl said. “I got a sense I was pretty high up on their list and as it moved along it got more serious and you could tell they liked me as a player, and I had a lot conversations with him.”

Draisaitl has five 100-plus point seasons and scored at least 50 goals three times with the Oilers. He won the Art Ross Trophy as the League’s leading scorer in 2020 with 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists) in 71 games and won the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player and the Ted Lindsay Award as most outstanding players as voted on by his peers that season.

LAK@EDM R1, Gm1: Draisaitl wires McDavid's pass in for a PPG

This season, Draisaitl had 106 points (41 goals, 65 assists) in 81 games and has 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 14 playoff games. His 13-game point streak from the start of the playoffs ended in a 3-1 loss in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars here Saturday. Game 3 of the best-of-7 series is at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET; CBC, TVAS, SN, TNT, truTV, MAX).

“I think what he’s doing is awesome and it makes you feel proud you made that selection,” MacGregor said. “You see a player that is performing at the ultimate level in the toughest league and in difficult scenarios, and it’s not the first year he’s done this. This is an ongoing thing; in playoffs he takes it to another level and watching it does make you very happy, we did a good job that day.”

Draisaitl has helped Edmonton get to the Western Conference Final for the second time in the past three seasons and win a game at that stage for the first time since 2006. He scored in a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 against the Stars on Thursday.

“Throughout the years you’ve seen him grown in a lot of ways,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “When playoffs come he kind of does everything. We know his offensive side is at an elite level, one of the best in the entire League, and then come playoffs, he’s one of the smartest defensive players too. He knows the right spots to be in, he’s got a great stick and he’s hard on the puck. He’s a big body and he’s hard to beat. He raises it to another level and obviously that’s huge for our team.”

Draisaitl seems to play his best hockey when it means the most. He has 102 points (40 goals, 62 assists) in 62 playoff games and was the third fastest player in history to 100 playoff points, reaching the milestone in 60 games. Only Wayne Gretzky (46 games) and Mario Lemieux (50) have gotten there faster than Draisaitl.

MacGregor, who is working with Moose Jaw of the WHL and Lugano of the Swiss League, is enjoying watching Draisaitl and Edmonton's playoff run from his home in British Columbia. Edmonton defeated the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the Western Conference First Round and the Vancouver Canucks in seven games in the second round.

“I think they really learned a lot in the Vancouver series, that was a tough grind and had to learn a lot as a group and they are starting to believe in each other and do whatever is required to win,” MacGregor said. “I'm really happy for the guys like Leon and Darnell and Nugent-Hopkins. Those guys are all important to me and Craig MacTavish, they were a big part for me as a scout and I'm glad to see them take their game to another level.”