Thursday night was a victory for German hockey. Seeing Tobias Reider for Arizona and Leon Draisaitl for Edmonton on the ice had to make Franz Reindl, the President of the German Ice Hockey Federation, beam with pride. 28 players were born in the country known for soccer and have made it to the NHL. These two are the most recent. Draisaitl looks like he has the chance to be the best player to ever come out of the German hockey system. I know Dany Heatley, who has 791 points and had back-to-back 50 goal seasons, was born there but his game was raised in North America, while Leon grew up in Cologne and crafted his skill on European ice before coming to Canada.
This kid is on fire. In the opening of the game between Arizona and Edmonton we (I guess I) joked that in the desert it's a dry heat but on Wednesday in Anaheim it was a Drai-saitl heat. I thought Leon was going to be this player I just didn't think it would be so soon. I mean, I'm watching him and thinking where did this all come from? Again, to reiterate I expected that the 20 year old would be an impactful player for Edmonton. He is that and then some. What a force he has been for the Oilers ever since injuries necessitated an earlier than expected call up to the big club.
I was far from shocked but I did feel a small hint of surprise when I found out that Leon was being sent to the AHL. The first cut is the deepest but the last cut is the most painful. It had to be for the third overall pick from the 2014 draft. He was so close to making the team and then just like that he was gone to Bakersfield. I remember Peter Chiarelli explaining that it was a tough decision but the Oilers GM said when Leon comes back we want him to be here for good. Peter, I think you got your wish even earlier than maybe anyone quite expected.
December might have been a safe guess for when Draisaitl would have been recalled but instead let's try October. Only six games and the 'A' became an 'N' and the winger/centreman was back in the show, proving he was willing to play either position as it suited the Oilers best. He's now becoming proficient at two roles allowing Todd McLellan to use him at both in the same game and on different lines. Versatility a catch phrase that Draisaitl has often used. He has it and has shown it. A great tool in the Oilers tool box and right now Leon is the sharpest one in the box.
11 points in seven games in 2015-16. Nine points in 37 games in 2014-15. Talk about growth in his game and production to go with it. He currently leads the Oilers in points-per-game average. 'Horse' was the word that came to mind for coach McLellan when he was asked about Draisaitl. Big, strong, talented and a skating stride that is NHL approved. All the things expected of Leon Draisaitl and maybe why he's been called the German Gretzky.