The Oilers centre position isn’t so much a log jam, but spots are limited. With rookie Connor McDavid and fellow first-overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins likely to man the top two lines, free-agent acquisition Mark Letestu is likely the fourth middle man. That leaves the third-line spot up for grabs, but considering his performance at the NHL level last season, veteran Anton Lander will not give it up lightly. This has led most to believe second-year player Leon Draisaitl’s best path to the roster out of training camp is on the wing.
“I’ve played the wing before. I know what it takes to play on the wing,” said Draisaitl. “I think it shouldn’t be too big of an adjustment for me.”
Draisaitl, 19, says he hasn’t begun practicing on the wing but is ready to make the shift if that’s what it takes to begin the season with the Oilers. That’s his ultimate goal, whatever it takes.
“I think you have to be decent around the boards,” Draisaitl said of the differences between centre and wing. “You have to know what your options are on the breakout or if there’s a scrum on the half-wall or wherever it is. The timing is a little bit different from wing to centre, and obviously in the d-zone, I would say you almost don’t work as much as the centre down low with the defencemen. I think those are the biggest adjustments.”
Draisaitl, taken third overall in the 2014 Draft, saw his offensive confidence skyrocket with Kelowna in the second half of the season. He finished his WHL season with 53 points in 32 games. That came after 37 games with the Oilers to start the year.