“I thought he was really close.”
Leon Draisaitl, the third-overall pick in 2014, nearly made the Oilers roster out of camp this season, according to his general manager.
“What we told Leon this morning is that he did everything we asked him to do,” said Peter Chiarelli.
Head Coach Todd McLellan also believed the centre was right in the discussion.
“He had a really good camp,” said McLellan. “He did a lot of the things we asked him to do at the beginning of the summer with conditioning, moving his big body around, coming to camp prepared to play and compete. He played well in the exhibition season.”
While Draisaitl had a chance to stick with Edmonton to begin the 2015-16 season, the organization felt it was in the player and the team’s best interest to have him go to Bakersfield and work on some things.
“What we told him was ‘you have to look at the big picture, we have to look at the big picture. You had a good camp. You outplayed some people, there’s no question there. Play ramps up, things change, dynamics of the game change as games progress into the regular season. We want you, when we call you up, to stay here for good. So you’ve got to work on your 200-foot game. Offensively, you can play in the NHL right now. You’ve got to work on the 200-foot game, the little stuff on the defensive side of the puck, whether it’s at wing or centre.’” said Chiarelli.
The Oilers GM says Draisaitl will predominantly play centre in Bakersfield, but is pleased he now has the ability to play either wing.
“We tried to send him with a good message,” said Chiarelli.
By sending Draisaitl to the AHL, the organization is giving him a chance to play more minutes, higher up the depth chart right from opening night.
“We want to build a long career for him and we want long-term success for our team and we just feel right now, for both, it’s best that Leon spend a little bit of time in the AHL to start the season,” said McLellan. “It gives our group here an opportunity to get to know each other better… they’re still trying to figure me and us as a staff out and we’re trying to figure them out. I’d rather do that with Leon playing a lot and playing centre down there, having success on the power play, than being in the midst of all that here right now.”