EDMONTON — Different, but the same.
The Davies’ arrived in Edmonton 15 years ago with next to nothing, Alphonso and his brother receiving their first bikes and soccer balls from an Edmonton charity called Sport Central. Draisaitl, meanwhile was the son of German hockey royalty, though he admits, “Germany just isn’t a big hockey country. That’s how it is.”
Today, Draisaitl is the Art Ross Trophy winner, the first German to become a scoring champion in an international league. Meanwhile Davies is in Deutchland, playing for Bayern Munich and fast becoming the best left back in the Bundesliga, if not the world.
“It’s funny,” Draisaitl said on a Friday Zoom call. “I actually talked to him today over the phone.”
The African kid with dazzling feet met the Cologne kid with 100-point hands when Davies dropped a puck at an Oilers game over the winter. He rolled in for the morning skate, and the two exchanged numbers.
“We stay in touch,” said Draisaitl, bedecked in a ball cap sporting the ‘K’ of his hometown soccer team (Koln). “I guess I kind of know what he’s going through right now, with soccer being so big back home, and hockey being so big in Canada. Coming over and trying to adjust. Find your rhythm, find your game… find your life a little bit, I guess.
“He’s becoming a very, very good player, he’s fun to watch and it’s fun to see.”
It will be fascinating to watch these two ascend in their sports, as both appear destined for a place not just near the top. But at the top, where only the very best players reside.
You’re rolling your eyes? Read on:
Draisaitl was the only 100-point player in the NHL this season, and as such, the only NHL player to have back-to-back 100-point seasons. Only Alex Ovechkin (99 goals) has more than Draisaitl’s 93 goals in the past two seasons.
Draisaitl is still 24, remember, with two 100-point seasons and one 50-goal season under his belt. He is in his fifth full NHL season.
Jarome Iginla played 21 seasons — more than 1,500 games — and is a walk-in, first ballot Hall of Famer in these eyes. He had two 50-goal seasons, but never scored 100 points.
Mats Sundin, a lanky, smooth centreman like Draisaitl: Never scored 50, had one 100-point season.
The Sedins brothers: One 100-point season each — neither scored 50.
Same for Daniel Alfredsson.
The great Saku Koivu? A career-high 75 points in 2006-07.
Young Mark Scheifele, a Team Canada shoe-in at the next international tournament, hasn’t had a 90-point season yet.
Draisaitl will turn 25 on Oct. 27, maybe later this season, perhaps early next. He’s is just now entering his prime, with an early scoring resume that many Hall of Famers already can’t touch.
“You know, when you come to numbers like this, there are always people who help you get there,” he said. “You dream of these things, no question. But until you do it, it seems so far away. I’m proud, in a way, but I still have lots of things to work on. It’s the cliché: There are many things in my game I can improve.”
We’ve said many times that Draisaitl has become what Evgeni Malkin is to Sidney Crosby for Connor McDavid. And as the Oilers furnish their two superstar centremen with enough wingers to consistently deploy them on separate lines, Draisaitl has found a way to be the power play shooter that McDavid needs him to be, and the puck-trading centreman Ryan Nugent-Hopkins requires. He was en route to a career year before the pause.
Along the way, Draisaitl has helped to solve a riddle that has puzzled this organization since they drafted Taylor Hall a decade ago. He has grown into a leader, a quality the Oilers no longer need to import from outside.
“When you’re young there’s not much for you to say,” Draisaitl said. “First of all, your play on the ice doesn’t have as big of an impact as it does now, at 24 years old and being in the league for a while. You change as a player, you change as a person a little bit… It’s been great to stick around the same group of guys for so many years now. Watching them grow, watching the team, the organization grow.”
McDavid is growing into his captaincy, the way his role on the Return to Play Committee helps him mature in his role as one of the faces of the game. Darnell Nurse is a leader here, a kid who grew up around athletes and has the DNA that it may take to finally resurrect this franchise as a winner.
If the NHL is the best league in the world, then the Oilers have two of the Top 10 players in the world in Draisaitl and McDavid. There is no reason, no excuse, why the Stanley Cup should not return to Edmonton in the near future.
“It’s definitely a lot of fun to be a part of,” Draisaitl said. “We still have a lot of upside as a team, and it’s fun to go through that, essentially with the same guys you started with.”