There is no doubt that Leon Draisaitl is doing something incredibly special as part of the Edmonton Oilers this season. Often overshadowed by the electrifying brilliance that is Connor McDavid and McDavid’s ability to pull out a highlight-reel play on any given shift, Draisaitl might have the quietest 40 points in 20 games in NHL history.
It’s a sight to behold and with the way the Oilers’ power play is clicking and with how much the Oilers rely on Draisaitl and McDavid to produce offense, there’s a better-than-good chance the German-born star reaches milestones that haven’t been reached in decades. He might not do it, but he’s certainly on his way and has given himself a good chance out of the gates.
How Rare is What Draisaitl Is Doing?
Not only does Draisaitl lead the NHL in scoring with 40 points, but he’s also got 20 goals, 10 power-play markers, six game-winning tallies, and nine three-plus point games. The last player to record 20 goals in fewer contests was Mario Lemieux back in 1995-96 who did so in 18 games played (Jaromir Jagr also got 40- points in 19 games that season).
Draisaitl had a four-point night on Wednesday when the Oilers defeated the Arizona Coyotes and he’s continued to step up in ways even the biggest of his supporters has to be surprised by. Head coach Dave Tippett said of his player’s performance so far this season and the 40 points in 20 games: “That’s pretty good… I know because the other guy was really, really good.”
Or our own THW’s Brian Swane pointed out on Twitter, “Oilers who have got to 20 goals faster: Wayne Gretzky in 16 games in 1983-84. That’s it.” Considering this Oilers franchise has included some of the greatest names to ever play the game offensively, it’s an amazing statistic when you think about it.
It’s Not Just Goals He’s Scoring
Fans are marveling at how easy it looks for Draisaitl to score goals, but he’s not just scoring, he’s setting up players too. He’s got 20 assists to go along with his 20 goals and only a handful of players have had as many or more assists than goals at this level in the NHL’s history: Lemieux (22-28 in ’92-93 along with 21-30 in ’88-89), Bernie Nicholls (21-22 in ’88-89), Mike Bossy (22-24 in ’84-85), Gretzky (24-30 in ’84-85), and Phil Esposito (21-22 in ’73-74).
What’s so amazing about all of this is that Draisaitl wasn’t even known to be a goal scorer when he entered the NHL. He was highly touted as a tremendous passer and he’s picked up and learned how to score in the NHL as time has gone along. When he scored his 50-goal season in 2018-19, many people deemed it somewhat of a fluke. He followed it up with 43 goals in 71 games in 2019-20. He scored 31 goals in a shortened NHL season in 2020-21 and he did all of this while being regarded as one of the best passers in the game, especially on his backhand.
His ability to make passes no one else can make hasn’t diminished, it’s simply often overshadowed by his own ability to shoot. Frankly, there might not be a better passer in today’s game.
Can Draisaitl Hit 50-in-50?
The question about 50 goals in 50 games is out there now, as it should be. Draisaitl is at the point where he barely even celebrates a goal he’s scoring them so frequently.
There are five players who have reached the 50-goal mark in 50 games: Maurice Richard, Mike Bossy, Gretzky, Lemieux, and Brett Hull. That’s an impressive list. But, it’s hard to do and even Draisaitl shrugs off people who think he can potentially keep up this pace.
He was asked about it and said, “I think it is a little crazy to think I will score 50 goals in 50 games.” He added, ‘Right now pucks are going in for me. This is a tough league to score in. I don’t expect to hit that stat at all, but obviously, I’m going to keep shooting, and if they go in, great. I know there’s going to come a time when they probably won’t go in.” When asked about the idea of a goal per game, he sarcastically laughed off any idea he could score 82 goals in an 82-game season.
Some of the best goal-scorers in the league haven’t been able to reach 50-in-50. Alex Ovechkin — who has a legitimate shot at breaking Gretzky’s all-time goal-scoring record — had a 65-goal season in 2007-08 and didn’t get there with 39 goals by the time he reached the 50-game mark that year. Steven Stamkos had a 60-goal campaign in 2011-12, but only 33 goals in 50 games.
None Of It Matters If the Oilers Lose
Draisaitl will be the first person to say the individual numbers don’t matter, only the wins do. He credits his teammates for helping him reach some insane levels of production in a time where goal-scoring is harder but also notes that the only thing this Oilers team is trying to do is win. With a 14-5 record and some key players out with injuries, they’ve been doing a decent job in that department too.
If the Oilers win a Stanley Cup on the back of whatever crazy numbers Draisaitl puts up when the season is over, so be it. He’d easily trade all those points to be a teammate skating around with the league’s biggest prize and taking part in a parade.
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.”