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GENE'S BLOG: The Real Deals

In his latest blog, Gene Principe writes about Draisaitl and Neal leading the Oilers to victory in Columbus while finding some elite company in the franchise record books

by Gene Principe / Special to

For one, it's his nickname. For the other, it's his type of game. For different but yet similar reasons, James Neal is "The Real Deal" and Leon Draisaitl is also the real deal. The two of them proved it versus Columbus on Wednesday night. In fact, they have been proving it all season long.

Neal is showing what happened during the 2018-19 season was really a one-off, while Draisaitl is clearly stating his 2018-19 season was no accident. The two have gone about taking care of a lot of the goal-scoring business for Edmonton.

Let's start with Neal. By now you know the story of his one season with the Calgary Flames. It was a down year in a career that built Neal into a consistent and reliable goal scorer, as well as a two-time Stanley Cup finalist. He arrived in Edmonton saying he had something to prove. Well, with 11 goals in 14 games, consider his point made and proven. Let's throw in the fact eight of those goals have come on the power play and this has been a franchise record beginning for Neal. His latest feat is becoming the first player to score eight power-play goals in October since Jaromir Jagr in 2005.

Video: EDM@CBJ: Neal scores PPG after alert play by Smith

The 11 goals he scored in October also put Neal amongst some big names - in fact, Great Ones. On two occasions, Wayne Gretzky had 13 goals in the first full month of the season. Wayne accomplished it twice in 1981 and 1983. The record is safe from the two most recent challengers who are teamates. Draisaitl one-upped Neal by hitting 12 goals in October. He scored his final two against the Jackets and it capped off an epic month.

The German superstar's dozen markers has him tied for the NHL lead with Boston's David Pastrnak. He also has 13 assists and his 25 points are tops in the NHL. It's hard to imagine that Draisaitl is underrated or under-appreciated, but there might be a sliver of possibility in the theory.

Video: EDM@CBJ: Draisaitl one-times puck past Korpisalo

When you play on a team with Connor McDavid, that's just the way it is. No complaining from Leon. He's happy to talk about Connor. In fact, I think each of the Oilers superstars prefers to talk about the other rather than himself.

However, everyone is talking about Leon. The NHL issued an update that he is the only German-born player to lead the NHL in scoring at this point in the season. Not a shocker but a neat note about "The German Gretzky". Right now, Draisaitl is the leading scorer of all nationalities that play in the NHL. Amazing. He's on pace for 146 points and 70 of those would be goals. Incredible projections and keeping up this meteoric pace might seem unattainable.

Still, the numbers are fun to play around with and it just proves that his 50 goals and 55 assists from one season prior were maybe just the starting point and not ending point to his production plan.

Video: EDM@CBJ: Kassian feeds Draisaitl on odd-man rush

With what Neal and Draisaitl have provided, the Oilers have been able to hold down top spot in the Pacific Division, first place in the Western Conference and fourth overall in the NHL. Edmonton has burst out of the gate to start the season, and just like a couple of their players they are proving to be "The Real Deal".

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