The player the Oilers have this year in Leon Draisaitl is different than the wide-eyed rookie they drafted third overall in 2014.
Now Draisaitl has Oilers fans opening their eyes wide with some of the plays he has been making on the ice in his second season. Draisaitl has 22 points in 19 games when he had only nine in 37 last season.
A lot of his on-ice improvements this season boil down to his training this summer and what he did to ready himself for NHL competition.
“I think we’re seeing more of (his playmaking and speed) as the year goes on because he’s more confident,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “I remember coming to the summer camp and watching some of the scrimmages. I think Connor (McDavid) has six or seven points in a summer scrimmage and Leon was doing this or that, and I remember making the comment ‘Leon spent a lot of time bent over, resting.’ I don’t see that anymore. I don’t see it in practice, I don’t see it in games, but I did see it in the summer. I did send him a couple texts throughout the summer and told him to think about the end of a shift. Not just the beginning of a shift, but what are you doing at the 35-45 second mark. Train like that. I think he’s done a good job of that.”
Draisaitl took his coach’s advice and challenge to heart and attacked it, making him into a much more dynamic player this season.
“I think it’s a reflection of his character, his passion for the game,” McLellan said of Draisaitl’s path for self-improvement. “They do it for themselves, first of all. They want to play in the NHL, they want to excel as individuals, but it’s also important for the team and he’s done it. I think he would have done it the year before too but he didn’t know. He came to training camp and he didn’t know how fast you have to be or how strong. He was junior strong. Now he knows.”