Leon Draisaitl’s Incredible Regular Season Flew Under the Radar

The Edmonton Oilers qualified for the playoffs due to a number of factors, but one man that doesn’t get enough praise is Leon Draisaitl. He may get the recognition from Oilers fans and teammates, but when it comes to league-wide recognition, he seems to be an afterthought.

This seems outrageous, but many people chalk his offensive output up to being a product of playing on the same team as Connor McDavid. Don’t get me wrong, McDavid and Draisaitl play great together, but they also play on separate lines and only come together on the power play or later in games when the Oilers need a goal.

That being said, Draisaitl is great at both ends of the ice, is easily a top-10 player in the NHL, on a great contract, but is getting no Hart Trophy recognition and is often called overrated. Those are the critics talking, so I will present you with all of the positives to counter the hate.

Stellar Season at Both Ends of the Ice

Draisaitl and McDavid played together about 1/3 of the time last season at 5-on-5 in 56 games. In 2021-22, during the first full season since 2018-19, they played even less together and this could be considered the first season they fully manned their own lines.

Since it’s more difficult to see who’s better defensively, we’ll start with that. Draisaitl is the go-to player for the Oilers when they are trying to kill off a 5-on-3. No other superstar in the NHL is doing that. Not only is he out there, but he also gets his big paddle on pucks and helps kill the penalties efficiently.

Leon Draisaitl Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Corsi is a stat that measures which team is controlling the puck while a player is out there. 50 percent is average and in Draisaitl’s case, he sports a 56.7 percent which is very good for playing nearly 1800 minutes this season. Per Hockey Reference, he also contributed 2.4 points to the team based on his defensive play which ranks second on the team and is the second-best mark of his career to the 2.5 he had last season.

As for offence, Draisaitl broke a franchise record for the most power-play goals scored by an Oilers player with 24, passing the previous record that was held by Wayne Gretzky and Ryan Smyth of 20. Draisaitl set career highs in goals (55) and shots (278) while tying his career-high in points (110) since he rested the final two games of the season.

Draisaitl Not Getting Hart Trophy Recognition

Nobody is even mentioning Draisaitl in this season’s Hart Trophy conversation. But to be fair, many are even leaving McDavid out of their top three. Oilers fatigue is a real thing and people like change. Unfortunately, these offensively stellar seasons are just the norm for Draisaitl and McDavid and if they are to continue to get nominations, they will have to go above and beyond and really stand out from the rest of the pack.

Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Draisaitl finished the season with the second-most goals behind Auston Matthews, but Draisaitl was the only player to record 55-plus goals and 55-plus assists in the same season since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in 1995-96. This speaks to how dangerous of a threat he is shooting or passing the puck while he is one of the best in the game at protecting the puck.

Not only is Draisaitl the only player to score 55-plus in both goals and assists in a single season in 26 years, but he is also the only player to score 50 goals and 50 assists in a season since Evgeni Malkin in 2011-12. Draisaitl also accomplished this in 2018-19, but this time adding five more goals.

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He also finished fourth in the league in points (110), trailing only McDavid (123), Jonathan Huberdeau (115), and Johnny Gaudreau (115). In my books, there are seven candidates for the Hart Trophy that should at least get consideration from the seasons they had: McDavid, Draisaitl, Matthews, Huberdeau, Gaudreau, Roman Josi, and Igor Shesterkin. There are cases for all of them and many fans aren’t going to be happy either way if their player(s) don’t get nominated (from ‘McDavid and Draisaitl not getting same Hart trophy love as others for MVP’, Edmonton Sun, April 25, 2022).

The competitive field doesn’t help, but neither does the fact that an Oiler has won the Hart Trophy the past two seasons and three of the past five. That may be the downfall this season for the Oilers getting their third in a row.

Oilers Have to Get Use Out of Draisaitl on This Cheap Contract

The Oilers got an absolute steal on Draisaitl’s contract. During his entry-level deal, he recorded 50 goals and 137 points in 191 games. That kind of production for a young player just growing accustomed to the league is good and warranted of his contract. But the former third overall pick has far exceeded his contract through his fifth season.

The season after signing the eight-year, $68 million contract at $8.5 million AAV (average annual value), Draisaitl regressed a bit and many people were all over him for it. But in reality, he only went from 0.94 points per game to 0.9, a reasonable fluctuation in seasons from being a playoff team to a non-playoff team. In no way was his drop in a few points the reason the Oilers didn’t qualify for the playoffs.

Leon Draisaitl Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

But Draisaitl came back even stronger and posted well over a point per game in four consecutive seasons, reaching 100 points in three of them and 50 goals in two. Over the course of his contract, he has scored 204 goals and 479 points in 367 games. That ranks second in the NHL to only teammate McDavid over that span and Draisaitl leads the third-highest scorer by 37 points.

In terms of money, he makes the 31st-most annually in the NHL and 21st-most among forwards. Considering he is consistently in the top-five in goals and points every season over his current contract, the Oilers need to make good use of the final three seasons after this one and hopefully make and do damage in four postseasons. When Draisaitl’s contract ends at the finale of the 2023-24 season, he will without a doubt be getting a big pay bump and that will force the Oilers to allocate money to keep him around from somewhere else in their lineup.

Draisaitl Can Draw Eyes in Playoffs Again

Draisaitl was first given recognition for his outstanding playoff performance in the 2016-17 playoffs when he led the Oilers to Game 7 of the second round. It was the first time the Oilers reached the postseason in 10 seasons and they didn’t disappoint. Goals and points were led by Draisaitl with six and 16 in 13 games while the next closest on the team had 11.

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Draisaitl hadn’t played at a point per game in his career to this point and it definitely contributed to his contract that summer. Since growing a ton and becoming much more of a complete player, we can expect an even better performance this season as he looks to build on his five goals and 11 points in eight games over the past two postseason appearances the previous two seasons.