Like a runaway train, Leon Draisaitl is on an incredible tear. With five points in Monday’s game against the Nashville Predators (four of which were goals) and now firmly in the Rocket Richard conversation for most goals in an NHL season, his pace has him set for around 133 points for the season. It would be the most points in one year since Mario Lemieux had 161 and Jaromir Jagr had 149 for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96.
And, while Draisaitl will tell you that he’d rather the team keep winning than see his individual stats climb, it’s a season to behold and something he should be proud of.
How Good Draisaitl Has Been for the Oilers
Draisaitl has easily become the best German-born player in hockey, he’s a candidate for a variety of NHL awards and while his team isn’t a lock for the post-season, they’re becoming a good bet sitting second in the Pacific Division and with a game at hand.
His 43 goals are now fourth-most in the NHL, behind Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (47), Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (45) and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (45). But, while most of those players are scoring at an incredible clip, few of them are also in the conversation for the Hart Trophy and Leon is. In fact, it’s starting to become hard to argue he’s not the favorite to win if things stay status quo.
Draisaitl has played eveywhere for the Oilers. First line, second line, power player, penalty kill and in almost any other situation one can think of. He’s stayed healthy in a season full of injuries and he’s not had any real blips or dips in production over the course of more than 60 games. He’s even taken pressure off McDavid (not that McDavid necessarily needs it). There’s not much more anyone can ask for.
Related: The NHL 500-Goal Club
A Huge Value Contract
It wasn’t long ago, Oilers fans had concerns about the long-term $8.5 million deal Draisaitl signed with the team in the summer of 2017. In short, while he was going to be a good player, at that time, he was considered a risk.
He’d not had consistent offensive seasons where he was a shoe-in to exceed his value, and at that time, $8.5 million was a lot of money, especially knowing the cost of Connor McDavid was going to go through the roof.
Today, Draisaitl has made the contract look like a bargain. Now with two-consecutive 100-point seasons, this tandem of McDavid and Draisaitl might be the best tandem in hockey since Lemieux and Jagr, maybe since Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri. And that’s saying a lot.
Draisaitl is proving to be worth every penny of that deal and then some.
What’s crazy to think is that Edmonton has him locked in at that number until 2025. Five more seasons of he and McDavid as potentially the strongest one-two punch in hockey is a scary thought for opposing teams. And, that he’s proven this season he can do damage running his own line makes the Oilers even more dangerous.
The Hart Trophy Conversation
There are going to be doubters and naysayers. That comes with the territory when anyone has the type of season Draisaitl is having. But, for those arguing that Draisaitl isn’t a strong candidate because he plays with McDavid, just remember, this is a guy that got 12 points in the 6 games without McDavid and the team didn’t fall apart like everyone said they would. That screams the definition of Hart Trophy which is “most valuable to the team.”
Can Leon keep up this pace? You wouldn’t think so, but insiders have been saying that all season and it’s now March.
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”