Leon Draisaitl has grown a lot in a year. 365 days ago, Draisaitl was a rookie first-round pick finding his way in the NHL. His first stint in the League lasted just 37 games. Flash forward to the 2015-16 season, and Draisaitl has returned to the NHL on call-up with the Oilers, finding a new level of production in his first three games.
In three games this season, Draisaitl has three goals and four assists for seven points. He had just two goals and seven assists in all 37 games last season.
Draisaitl has seized his opportunity to play with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and the 2014 third-overall pick has made the most of it so far.
Nugent-Hopkins says Draisaitl looks different than last season.
“Just the way he’s always moving his feet,” said the Oilers centre. “I think when you first come into the league you can kind of stand around a little bit. I was a culprit of that when I first came in. You kind of watch the play a little too much and try to let it develop. Now, he’s always moving, he’s always getting to the loose pucks and stuff. He’s creating offence for our whole line and obviously he has that touch, he can make things happen, so it’s paying off.”
Hall and Nugent-Hopkins have both benefited from having Draisaitl on their right side. Both extended their point streaks to six games on Tuesday, while Hall has eight points (2-6-8) and Nugent-Hopkins has five points (2-3-5) in the last three games with Draisaitl on their line.
With Connor McDavid going down with a long-term upper body injury on Tuesday night, Draisaitl could be relied upon more heavily in the coming weeks. The natural centre has been playing on the wing, but could be asked to move back to the middle now that the Oilers are down a man. Jordan Eberle (shoulder) has been skating with the team and his return could be sooner rather than later, which would give the Oilers more options in their top six.
Head Coach Todd McLellan was non-committal after Tuesday’s win over Philadelphia on whether or not he’d move Draisaitl to centre saying he has played well on the wing. McLellan said the line combinations would become more clear Wednesday at practice.