Leon Draisaitl (in photo by Mark Williams) will be counted on to center a line that will no doubt feature a substantially lesser wingman than Taylor Hall. If Todd McLellan can find the soft minutes for his young center, who might we see playing wing with Leon?
Leon was recalled in time to help the Oilers beat Montreal with two goals on October 29 a year ago, and will no doubt play the entire season in the brand new building here in Edmonton 2016-17. Question: Who will be the wingman? Taylor Hall is gone, Teddy Purcell, too. Here are Leon’s wingers from last season, their minutes together 5×5 and boxcars:
- L Taylor Hall 878 minutes (Leon was 13-21-34)
- R Teddy Purcell 509 minutes (Leon was 9-14-23)
- R Jordan Eberle 128 minutes (Leon was 1-0-1)
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 100 minutes (Leon was 2-5-7)
- R Zack Kassian 93 minutes (Leon was 1-2-3)
- R Nail Yakupov 78 minutes (Leon was 0-1-1)
- R Iiro Pakarinen 72 minutes (Leon was 0-1-1)
First things first: 34 points in 880 minutes with Hall, that is very, very good—Hall scored
36 points with Leon. The slump in the second half hurt both men and the exit of Hall from the organization places huge pressure on the young German center. Teddy Purcell’s exit also has an impact, and it is unlikely Draisaitl will see Jordan Eberle often on his line.
- Todd McLellan: ”Leon
was tremendous at times at centre and other times he got worn out. That
was part of being 21 years old in a men’s league.” Source
LD will play some wing, but when he is the pivot, who would be best suited to play on the wing with him? Let’s assume that Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle play with Connor McDavid, and that the wingers below will be shared by the Nuge and Leon.
- L Benoit Pouliot, A perfect-fit winger. Veteran who can be a complementary offensive player while also delivering solid two-way play. Nuge needs him too, of course, but he would be music on a soft minutes line.
- L Patrick Maroon, in a way the most logical fit, but I worry about speed. Leon is no crazy train on skates, and Maroon is not fast either. There may be some temptation to stick him with Nuge to spread out the slow men.
- R Jesse Puljujarvi is a dynamic talent with size and big time speed. It is so tempting to write him in pen with Leon on a soft minutes third line, but the problem may come in getting that line those soft minutes.
- L Drake Caggiula. High profile signing, likely to see some NHL time. He is a bit of a wild card, but we shouldn’t count out some chemistry with one of the three centers.
- R Nail Yakupov, absence of a reasonable trade offer may buy him another season. Nail does not play well with Nuge, so a Leon-Yak duo might receive a long look in TC.
- R Zack Kassian, tough winger who is effective with the puck in the offensive zone and plays a rugged style. I think he could make Leon’s line if they get a fast train on the port side.
- R Iiro Pakarinen, he is fast and can make some plays, seems a little shy offensively for a line that will need to produce.
- R Taylor Beck, a quiet signing, he has NHL experience and some skills. Easy to overlook, but a strong training camp gets him in the conversation.
- R Tyler Pitlick, enters this training camp so far down the list he is close to an afterthought. That said, this organization needs inexpensive options. Can he stay healthy?
- R Anton Slepyshev, who had a poor first season in North America but has a nice range of skills, including size and speed.
- R Patrick Russell, PF from college, can score goals and speed a concern based on scouting report.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
What about this?
- Milan Lucic—Connor McDavid—Nail Yakupov
- Benoit Pouliot—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Jordan Eberle
- Patrick Maroon—Leon Draisaitl—Jesse Puljujarvi
Look, I know this isn’t what many of you want, but Zack Kassian is not a fast player and the Oilers have some speed issues here. Yakupov gets the cherry minutes, but Eberle can be moved up if things are not working.
Leon? He gets two big wingers, one with speed to spare and another who has NHL experience and could (possibly) play a mentor role.
What does your top 9F look like?