Minnesota on Tuesday and Buffalo on Thursday. That is how the schedule maker has put the Edmonton Oilers back to work after the All-Star break. Two games for the Oilers to continue to build off what they did prior to the break. While it was a difficult loss to the Wild, the Oilers again continue to show a fight, a commitment and a spark that appears to be growing on a game-to-game basis. However, on Wednesday night it's junior hockey that takes over Rexall Place. It's always an enjoyable evening to watch Steve Hamilton and the Oil Kings but Wednesday an extra special treat because of who is on the other team: it's Leon Draisaitl and the Kelowna Rockets.
|Leon Draisaitl has four goals and 12 points in eight games with Kelowna (photo by Getty Images) |
It seems like much, much longer than just a few weeks ago that Leon Draisaitl was first assigned back to the CHL and then had his rights traded to Kelowna. It seemed inevitable that it was the route Edmonton would take with its third-overall selection. In regards to his Oilers experience he came, he played, he grew and now it was time to take a step back. A temporary one so that he could then push a few steps forward upon his return to the NHL. The morning he spoke of his move to the WHL, Draisaitl was asked if he was the boss what would he do? A loaded question but Draisaitl was quick to disarm the grenade launching reporter. His answer was a simple I'm not the boss.
With that, he left for greener (guessing the grass is greener in Kelowna) pastures; armed with more knowledge and understanding of what he needed to do and what the Oilers wanted him to do. This has really turned into a win/win situation for the organization. They went out and acquired Derek Roy who has comfortably slid in to the second-line centre role. It also has given Anton Lander a chance to play. More and more, he's shown himself to be a reliable, sound and developing player with a future in Edmonton while Draisaitl has slid into his role with the Rockets. Draisaitl has played eight games and has 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists). Mission accomplished. He's getting points and opportunities to play. He's on a top-ranked team and he's having fun.
When you're 19, that's what life is all about. Have some fun and carve out a career path. It's the same whether you are in college, university, at a job or in the NHL and now CHL. There are many years where the stress of work and life continues to grow so enjoy your youth while you can. In Draisaitl's case, it's the best of both worlds. He's getting a chance to once again be a high-end player whose confidence builds with every game and point. Yet it's also about understanding what it will take for him to transform his junior success to the next level.
Think about it: this kid just over three years ago was playing in relative obscurity in a country known for soccer and not hockey. Since then he's been fast tracked, thanks to his abilities, to a second-line centre role in the NHL. That's a head-spinning leap. Instead now he can take a deep breath, continue his development, enjoy the game and be ready, willing and able to tackle the NHL next season. Sounds like a plan to me. Wednesday night is your chance to see a slice of the future as I think this Rocket Man's growth will take off.