With the third overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers hold a key piece to their future. They will also have a few options with that pick, depending on how the first two picks fall with Florida and Buffalo ahead of the Oilers in the line to the draft podium.
We took a look at Sam Bennett on Tuesday and today we’ll examine another top centre prospect in Prince Albert’s Leon Draisaitl. The Cologne, Germany native finished fourth in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings.
Where Bennett is a smaller centre who plays bigger, Draisaitl is physically a bigger presence in the middle. At 6’1.5’’ and close to 210 pounds, Draisaitl is an enticing option to a team, like the Oilers, that is looking to add size to their centre group.
“He’s a good-sized kid,” Draisaitl’s head coach in Prince Albert Cory Clouston said in an interview on Oilers Now this month. “He might not be quite 210. By the end of the year he might have been 207, 208 but he’s a big kid. He’s got a thick chest, he’s got big legs, a very wide back, he’s a big kid. He’s all of that. I know when sometimes you look at stats you go, there’s no way that that kid is that big but that size is legitimate. He’s for sure that size.”
|Photo by Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oilers |
Draisaitl, 18, doesn’t only have a big frame but he can move and make plays on the ice. In 64 games in the WHL this season, Draisaitl finished with 38 goals and 67 assists for 105 points. He finished tied for fourth in the league in scoring with fellow top draft eligible centre Sam Reinhart (Kootenay). During the regular season he scored at a 1.64 point-per-game pace, this compared to Bennett’s 1.60 scoring rate.
Draisaitl has said he feels he resembles San Jose’s Joe Thornton but he has also been compared to Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar. Seeing as both of those players are key components on playoff teams and both are coming off of 70-plus point seasons, that’s not a bad thing.
“I think I have a little bit of a mix of both in me,” Draisaitl said. “They’re two unbelievable players, it’s pretty hard to say who I can compare myself to.”
When we compare Bennett to Draisaitl again, the latter claims himself to be more offensive. Bennett said he focuses more on the defensive side of his game.
“I think I’m more of an offensive player, skilled player, a playmaker who sees the ice very well and who is able to make good plays,” Draisaitl told NHL.com.
He does bring that offensive presence. Where Draisaitl could help a team like the Oilers is on the power play. He finished the season with 12 power play goals. In the 2012-13 season, Prince Albert finished dead last in the WHL in power play percentage (15.4). They leapt to third in the league this season, converting at a 24.9% clip. Draisaitl’s head coach said the young forward was a big part of that improvement, driving the team forward on the man advantage.
“He was obviously a big part of that,” Clouston said. “They were last, they were 22nd last year and third overall this year. Huge improvement and a lot of that has to do with Leon. We obviously had a top-end defenceman in Josh Morrissey which definitely helps but Leon up front was very key. He’s got great vision. He’s able to sometimes make plays where you don’t think there’s a play to be made. He’s very poised with the puck.”
The Oilers finished the season 21st in the NHL on the power play (17%). They will most certainly be looking to provide some help in that part of the game.
Clouston says Draisaitl is not a one-trick pony and helped push the team into the playoffs.
|Photo by Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oilers |
“He’s a guy that is very dangerous, not only on the power play but on 5-on-5 as well. He’s a special player and to me, he played his best hockey down the stretch the last while for us. He’s a big reason we got into the playoffs. We had a stretch there in the regular season where we lost him and Morrissey to world juniors, we had a couple more key injuries and a horrible flu bug go through our team at the same time. I think we lost eight or nine of 10 games and that really put us in a tough spot but Leon’s play really helped us get back on track.”
As for work ethic and character, Draisaitl is backed by his head coach and TSN’s Director of Scouting Craig Button.
“The guy came over from Germany to play in Prince Albert,” Button told Oilers Colour Analyst Bob Stauffer. “He’s done it for two years. What more do you need to know? He’s a top player, he’s a good kid. What are we talking about? When people want to say ‘good character’, what are they talking about?”
“I don’t sugar coat things,” Clouston said. “Leon is a great kid, he’s fun to coach, he’s a guy who shows up at the rink, he’s focused, he’s like any other 18 year-old. There’s obviously areas he has to improve on but that’s kind of the fun thing about it. We saw him at the start of the year where he was, I’m not going to say he was one-dimensional but he was not as multi-dimensional as he sure ended up at the end of the season. That to me has a lot to do with his attitude.
“The guys really liked him, he loves doing extra work after practice and often he’d come in and instead of the coaches going to him, he’d show a lot of initiative coming to us and saying, he brought up the power play, can I look at power play video, can I look at 5-on-5 stuff? We utilized him on the penalty kill so he had quite a bit to learn, a big learning curve on the penalty kill so I would have no idea where those rumours (of character issues) would start and that’s the furthest thing from the truth.”
Draisaitl has been called an intelligent playmaker with good instincts and player with ‘off the charts vision’ by International Scouting Services. With good hockey intelligence, vision and reaction time, he also has the frame to shield the puck from defenders.
As for whether or not he would be happy if Edmonton called his name at the draft, just see what he had to say when Prince Albert visited to face the Oil Kings in the WHL playoffs.
“It would be a huge honour for me,” Draisaitl said. “The Oilers are a great organization and they’ve had tons of superstars so, it would be huge for me. It would definitely be the greatest thing ever for me.”
Bennett has the attitude, drive and defensive game that the Oilers covet. Draisaitl has the size, the power play ability and the offensive skills to add to the centre position in Edmonton as well. Or are you a fan of Reinhart (who we will profile before the draft)? Or maybe you are an Aaron Ekblad fan. Any of these players could be gone by the third pick and there are still more options and a lot more research and discussion left to be done before the Oilers make their choice.
What do you think?
Stay tuned for another prospect profile.