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Letestu joins in on Draisaitl's Ducks dominance

Leon Draisaitl is torching the Ducks, while Mark Letestu quietly climbs scoring ranks

by Chris Wescott / EdmontonOilers.com Head Writer

It's unlikely an old western "wanted" poster hangs in the Anaheim Ducks' dressing room, but if it did it would likely depict the mug shot of a 21-year-old German hockey player.

Leon Draisaitl is Anaheim's enemy number one.

Focus too much on Connor McDavid, and Draisaitl will burn you to a Peking Duck crisp.

Video: RAW | Mark Letestu

On Sunday evening, in front of a packed crowd of ravenous Oilers faithful, Draisaitl set an NHL record for the most points against the Ducks in a single season - including playoffs - with 21 in 11 games. His five points in Game 6 were the most in a single playoff game for an Oilers player since Jari Kurri in 1990, and he recorded the Oilers first playoff hat trick since Bill Guerin in 2000.

Of course, the Ducks' focus right now is more team-oriented: don't lose in a Game 7 for the fifth straight season after leading the series 3-2. Stopping Draisaitl is yet another worry.

"For him, he's got a lot of freedom on the ice right now," Ducks Head Coach Randy Carlyle said following Edmonton's 7-1 victory in Game 6. "We have to take time and space away, it's as simple as that. The best way to play against elite-level players is to put time and effort into playing in their zone."

Draisaitl is, rightfully, gaining a lot of attention for his dominance of the Ducks. There's another name on the Oilers depth chart rising to the occasion in this series - without the same fanfare.

Mark Letestu potted two goals and added two helpers in Game 6, continuing to show his value on the team's top power-play unit. Draisaitl had the five-point night, while Letestu was right behind him with four.

Letestu has been on the top power-play unit for much of the season, and he's repaid Edmonton for the trust - stepping up big in the playoffs.

"I wanted to prove I belong there," said Letestu. "It probably didn't come with a lot of fanfare that I was put there, so I wanted to prove that I could contribute in that spot. For me, I knew I could shoot the puck well. Those guys are great passers and it's turned into something. I've kind of carved out a bit of a role on this team with that and it's worked out well for the power play and me."

After potting 11 power-play goals in the regular season, Letestu has four in these playoffs. His wheelhouse is the side of the net to the goalie's right, where he serves as a triggerman, firing pucks on opposing netminders with accuracy. His hockey smarts and the talent surrounding him allows him to find space and get in position, setting himself up for red-lamp lighting success.

Video: POST-GAME RAW | Letestu Walk-Off

Seen as a fourth-line or third-line centre alone, Letestu is often overlooked - buried among the droves of talented forwards on the roster.

The fact remains, however, Letestu is second on the team in playoff scoring behind - you guessed it - Draisaitl. And he has two more points than McDavid - the NHL's regular season scoring leader.

"His skill level is way underestimated," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "Just because we play him in the four-hole, or the three-hole sometimes, his skill level is way, way underestimated - certainly not by us, but by a number of other people. It's interesting, when your top players want to play with a certain player it's telling you volumes of what they think of him as well."

Depth helps teams go deep in the post-season, and the Oilers have it. With Draisaitl pushing the pace with six goals and 10 assists in the team's first 12 games, Letestu is behind him with five goals and six helpers. This series against the Ducks, Letestu has two multi-goal games and eight points (4-4-8) total.

As long as he keeps burying the biscuit on the power play, he will continue to impact the team's fortunes.

"He's a smart fella, and he gets it," said McLellan. "He anticipates well, he reads plays, he puts himself in a position. I think if he was a 21 year-old or 20 year-old he would defer to others but he's played enough to know that if he does certain things he'll have success no matter who he plays with."

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