With great subtlety, Leon Draisaitl is ripping up the National Hockey League this season.
“He’s an interesting player,” began Oilers head coach Dave Tippett, after yet another three-point night for Draisaitl. “When he plays centre, as a power forward he’s a strong defender and strong on the faceoffs. But then when him and Connor play together, he becomes more of a shooter. It’s amazing that he has all those abilities (and uses them) to play different roles in the game.
“It makes a very versatile player, and a top, top player.”
“A” top player?
These days, Draisaitl is THE top player, leading the NHL with an obscene 31 points in 14 games, the latest a lovely set-up for Kailer Yamamoto, who blasted home the game-winner with 28 seconds remaining in a 5-4 Oilers win in St. Louis.
How good has the big German been this seasons? Check out these stats:
- On Sunday, Draisaitl had a power-play goal from his favorite spot to the goalie’s left and two primary assists, the eighth time in 14 games this season where he has notched three or more points.
- He leads the league in points (31) and goals (15), is one back of the lead in assists with 16. He is tied for third in the NHL at plus-12, and sits 15th in the league among regular faceoff men in faceoff percentage (55.1%). It takes four Arizona Coyotes to match his points and six ‘Yotes to get to 15 goals.
- In his last seven games, Draisaitl has had three points in five games and two points in another, for 18 points.
“He’s been on an absolute tear,” marvelled Connor McDavid, who had a measly two points to cling to second in the scoring race at 10-17-27, despite dropping a point behind his sometimes linemate.
“If you find that soft ice, he’s going to find you. You always have to be ready,” said Yamamoto. “It’s unbelievable. His eyesight on the ice, and McDavid’s. … They’re unbelievable, the way they make plays at critical times.”
Edmonton won a thriller in St. Louis, coughing up a 4-2 second-intermission lead before Draisaitl hooked up Yamamoto for the late winner. It was a win that had many contributors, and we’d observe that we’ve perhaps never seen a goalie play so well as Miko Koskinen did, and still allow four goals.
Here are the highlights:
Getting On The Board
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wasn’t sure whether he was on a skein or on the schneid. There he was, leading the NHL with 17 assists, but with zero goals.
On Sunday, he played like a man possessed, with a game-high eight shots on goal. He didn’t manage an assist, but did sift a one-timer past Jordan Binnington for his first goal of the year.
Then, just eight seconds later in the second period, Ryan McLeod banged in his first ever NHL goal. It had the Oilers bench celebrating.
“Our bench was excited for him,” McDavid said. “He works hard, and doesn’t get a ton of opportunity offensively, in terms of power play and whatnot. For him to score a big goal for us, it’s massive.”
“That was the most hyped I’ve seen our bench in a while,” Yamamoto said. “Really excited for him’”
Strive for Five on Five
The Oilers are the only team in the NHL that is averaging more than four goals scored per game (4.14), and their goals against per game of 3.00 put them right in the middle of the pack.
It’s their five-on-five defensive play that needs work, and Tippett knows it. Only five teams in the NHL have allowed more goals at five-on-five than Edmonton, a team that has often been too soft in front of its own net — particularly young Evan Bouchard.
So, does beating a very good Blues club in regulation make the four goals against (three at even strength) a little easier to take? Do you walk out of the rink with a different evaluation than if you’d given up four goals in Arizona?
“You walk out of it feeling good about a win. We found a way to win,” allowed Tippett. “But whether we won or lost, there are things we have to continue to work at in our game. We’re giving up too many chances, and we’re giving up too many goals — especially at five-on-five.
“We’re happy to win. You’re happy for McLeod getting a goal, Nuge getting a goal, Yamo getting a big goal and an assist — he doubles his points output for the year. There is lots to be happy about, but we want to be a team that continues to get better. When there are spots in your game that need improvement, that’s what we’ve got to concentrate on.”
600 of the Finest
McDavid’s goal off a lovely Zach Hyman feed — with 0.8 seconds remaining in the opening period — was point No. 600 for the Oilers captain. McDavid is the sixth-fastest player to score his 600th point, notching the marker in game No. 421.
How lucky have Oilers fans been? Three of those players — including leader Wayne Gretzky (274), Jari Kurri (419) and McDavid — accomplished the feat in an Edmonton uniform.
“That’s pretty good,” Tippett said of McDavid’s feat. “I’m glad I get to watch a lot of them.”