With Leon Draisaitl, there’s plenty to be excited about. He’s had a tremendous 2016/17 season, posting 77 points in 82 regular season games, 40 of which were at even-strength. And his 2.03 points per hour was third among Oiler forwards. In 12 playoff games, Draisaitl has a total of 16 points, 9 of which have come at even-strength, and a team leading rate of 3.09 points per hour.
This is obviously an asset that the team needs to have if they intend on building a championship. Draisaitl has posted 128 points now in 154 regular season games over the past two regular seasons. Regardless if you think he’s a driver or a complementary winger, it’s clear he has NHL talent, which is incredibly encouraging considering he’s only 21 years old.
The issue for me is that the Oilers need to be careful not to overvalue him, or any other player for that matter. Managing the cap and allocating dollars efficiently is going to be critical. The last thing the Oilers want to do is limit their options when managing their roster, especially when a championship window is opening up for them. Flexibility is going to be critical if the team wants to annually contend for a championship.
When it comes to Draisaitl, it’ll be important that the Oilers sign him long-term, but they should be trying to bring down his asking price. A few things worth noting when it’s negotiation time.
In the 2015/16 season, Draisaitl’s most common winger was Taylor Hall. In 878 minutes together at 5v5, the Oilers posted a Corsi For% of 51.6% (+3.88 rel), and more importantly a goal-share of 51.2% (+9.32 rel), as the Oilers outscored opponents 42-39. In the 159 minutes without Hall but with Draisaitl, the Oilers posted a Corsi For% of 53.55% (+4.43 rel) and a goal-share of 50% (+4.76 rel). Those are all well and good, but the fact is Draisaitl’s own offence disappeared without Hall as his winger. With Hall, Draisaitl put up 2.32 points per hour, but without him that scoring rate plummeted to 1.13. Worth noting that Draisaitl’s on-ice PDO was between 99 and 100 with and without Hall, so there weren’t any real percentages influencing the numbers. This was also Draisaitl’s first full season in the NHL, so it’s expected that this numbers would be influenced to some degree by other factors.
In the 2016/17 regular season, Draisaitl spent 670 minutes at even-strength with McDavid and absolutely killed it, as the Oilers posted a Corsi For% of 53.7% and a goal-share of 59.4%. But in over 500 minutes away from McDavid, the Oilers with Draisaitl on the ice posted a pretty weak Corsi For% of 47.9% and a goal-share of 44.2%, both numbers well below where the team needs to be. Draisaitl’s own rate of point production also took a hit going from 2.23 points per hour with McDavid on the ice with him to 1.80. That rate of point production without McDavid with him isn’t bad, but it’s worth noting that the team’s PDO was also at 105 in this scenario, meaning the Oilers may have been getting a little lucky.
The post-season has also been great for Draisaitl as he has continued playing the bulk of his minutes with McDavid. With Draisaitl on the ice, the Oilers have posted a 49.0% Corsi For%, and a goal-share of 70.6%, outscoring their opponents 12-5. What’s worth noting here is that Draisaitl’s on-ice shooting percentage is sitting at 14.0%, which is well above his regular season on-ice shooting percentage of 9.72%, and one of the highest among all forwards. The beauty of the playoffs is that there really isn’t enough time for a player’s on-ice percentages to regress towards their career averages, so I don’t expect Draisaitl’s numbers to crash. But when the team evaluates the player and the sustainability of offensive contributions, it’s important to look at things like PDO and confirm if a player’s numbers were real or not.
Signing Draisaitl to a long-term deal will be important for the Oilers as they build a championship contender. The concern should be whether or not Draisaitl can drive the secondary offence, and how the Oilers will build a roster around their young core.