Every Monday, Oilers radio colour analyst Bob Stauffer will answer fans submitted by fans about the team. This week is the first edition of the season.
- What are your thoughts on the play of Leon Draisaitl so far this season?
-- Mike in St. Albert
First of all, as many of you know who listen to Oilers Now
on 630 CHED, I wanted the Oilers to draft Leon Draisaitl.
In my opinion, the organization needed a bigger presence down the middle and I liked what I saw from Draisaitl starting with the 2013 World Juniors. During the course of the 2013-14 season I spoke on numerous occasions to Leon’s coach in Prince Albert, Cory Clouston, and I also had a chance to see him play six or seven times.
It was clear Draisaitl was physically dominant at the WHL level in his ability to protect the puck and I think he would have put up more than 105 points last season had the Raiders had more skill on the wings.
Once you meet Leon you soon realize he is mature beyond on his years, there is a quiet confidence about him and according to several of his teammates, he understands the dynamics of a dressing room as well.
To me so far this season Leon has had a few ups and downs typical of any rookie breaking into the NHL. He can really pass and makes quick decisions with the puck that at times has surprised his teammates to the point that they haven’t been ready for the “look” that they are getting.
Draisaitl tends to be on the right side of the puck in the defensive zone and though he is below 50% on face-offs I don’t think he has been a liability in the circle.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins has done a good job insulating Leon in D-Zone starts and I think the offence will start to come 5v5. The Oilers PP has dropped a bit over the last couple of games but Draisaitl’s ability to make plays on his backhand will continue to create opportunities that eventually will be cashed in. Hey Bob, now that Nurse has been sent back to junior how do you project the Oilers defence with their three pairings seemingly set?
-- James in Edmonton
I kind of feel a little bad for Brad Hunt because right now he is on the outside looking in and he did give the Oilers a legitimate shot from the point on the PP, but I think we saw improved play Friday night against Vancouver in the D-Zone in large part because the Oilers put together three pairings that can play 5v5.
After a rocky opening game, Mark Fayne has settled down and probably been the Oilers best D-man over the last four games. Fayne was paired with Martin Marincin and I liked the two of them together. For about 30 games last season, Marincin was probably the Oilers best D 5v5. Both guys are big, mobile and can move the puck. Marincin added some much-needed weight in the off-season and seems more capable of engaging one-on-one in the D-zone.
|EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 6: Justin Schultz #19 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates after scoring against the Anaheim Ducks during an NHL game at Rexall Place on April 6, 2014 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) |
The Nikita Nikitin-Justin Schultz pairing will get minutes as well with both guys seeing action on the PP, albeit on different units. Nikitin has gotten up to NHL pace after struggling in the first game in my opinion. He is better when he moves the puck quicker. Schultz has a done a better job of deciding when to activate but has to get more shots through on the PP.
The key for the Andrew Ference-Jeff Petry pairing is that they are difficult to play against. This is something that comes fairly natural to the under-sized but competitive Ference, and something that Petry needs to be reminded of. Petry has tremendous tools and when he steps up and plays the man he looks like a top four NHL D-man.
I also like that all three pairings are lefty-righty and that each pairing has a guy that can move the puck.
Bob I saw that Mitch Moroz was a healthy scratch on Friday in Oklahoma City. Why is that?
-- Mark in Norman, OK
I asked the same question to some people in the Oilers organization because to me Moroz, Bogdan Yakimov, and Jujhar Khaira are three of the prospects that the Oilers really need to see develop over the next couple of seasons in the AHL. As we all know the Oilers need more size down the middle and toughness on the wings. Right now, Todd Nelson has 14 healthy forwards in OKC so each night two forwards will draw the short straw and the plan is to rotate through those forwards.Bob Stauffer is Colour Analyst on the Oilers Radio Network and Hosts “Oilers Now” each day Noon to 2:00 PM Monday thru Friday on 630 CHED and you can follow him on Twitter at @Bob_Stauffer