With Jordan Eberle sidelined for 4-6 weeks due to a shoulder injury, it is time for players to step up to fill the void. Second-year forward Leon Draisaitl is one of those expected to get more opportunities in Eberle’s absence.
“First of all, obviously, it’s very sad,” said Draisaitl. “Every time you lose a player of that calibre, it hurts your team. Guys are going to have to step up and fill his role. He’s one of our leaders, he’s a tremendous player and we’re all going to have to step up and make sure that we cover for him.”
Teddy Purcell moved to the right wing on Eberle’s line with Benoit Pouliot and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at Wednesday’s practice. Draisaitl moved up to skate on a line with Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall.
“Now it’s my job and other guys’ jobs to step in and prove that I can play or we all are ready to play. That’s what I’m here for. Like I said before camp, I’m here to make the team and I’m trying to improve every night,” said Draisaitl.
Draisaitl is positioned on the right wing, a spot his head coach likes him in and one the player feels comfortable in, despite being a natural centre.
“I really like using my backhand a lot,” said Draisaitl. “I always think it gives me a little more options and I think I can handle my backhand pretty well. I like using it.”
The 2014 third-overall pick continues to push forward in his bid to be a full-time NHL player this season. Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan says he won’t get a job by default because of Eberle’s injury. Draisaitl has earned more opportunities in his coach’s eyes. Thursday and Saturday against Vancouver are good tests for the young forward.
“I think Leon was in good position to keep pushing even before Jordan’s injury,” said McLellan. “That’s not going to get handed off just because of the injury. He’s had a good camp. He’s shown the ability to play in different positions. Now when we play against this Vancouver team, which I think will be closer to an NHL calibre full-time team, we’ll get a better indication of how he handles that.”