Oilers not sending Draisaitl back to junior

Beating the Montreal Canadiens is something the Oilers feel they can build on while the Canadiens themselves are a little disappointed they didn't capitalize on their chances.

Leon Draisaitl’s belated 19th birthday present has arrived.

The Edmonton Oilers centre will be remaining in the National Hockey League past the nine-game threshold, the club has decided, thus burning a year of his entry-level contract.

The rookie is scheduled to play in his 10th big-league game Wednesday, versus the Nashville Predators, meaning he will not be sent down to junior this month, as first reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Through his first nine games, the six-foot-one German has notched one goal, two assists and has steered clear of the penalty box. The big pivot has won 47.9 per cent of his face-offs and has averaged 13:14 of ice time per game, fourth among Oilers centres.

Draisaitl became the highest-selected German player ever when he was selected third overall by the Oilers in the 2014 NHL Draft. He signed a three-year, $10.2-million entry-level contract with the club in August.

By keeping Draisaitl in the NHL, the Oilers will burn the first year of that cap-friendly ($925,000 cap hit) deal.

“I want to make this team this year,” Draisaitl told reporters before the season began. “I think I know what it takes to be an NHL player.”

Although Draisaitl can still be sent down to junior after his 10th NHL game, the first year of his contract will be used up.

If he plays 40 games in the NHL as an under-ager, Draisaitl will be seven and not eight years away from unrestricted free agency. So the Oilers’ next decision on the youngster will come after Game 39.

After stumbling out of the gate, the Oilers will bring a four-game winning streak into Wednesday’s home game against Central Division-leading Nashville.

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