No one ever said this was going to be easy. While the Edmonton Oilers have their issues, most notably their defence, inconsistent netminding and no Connor McDavid for the foreseeable future, it looks as though this group will be able to at least give itself a fighting chance on most nights and much of that can be attributed to the play of Leon Draisaitl and Taylor Hall.
As impressive as the trio of Draisaitl, Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was leading up to Edmonton’s four-game road trip, they were even better over the last seven days and continued to carry this team on their shoulders. The chemistry which the Oilers No. 4 and No. 29 have formed since the talented German forward was recalled from the AHL has easily been the most important development of the opening six weeks of the season.
Lord Hall from Baron Draisaitl.
— Copper & Blue (@CopperandBlue) November 13, 2015
While some may want to argue the play of McDavid as being the highlight of the year, that was never really in question. Anyone who had ever watched the kid play knew it was a just a matter of when, not if, he would become a dominant force in this league. Granted, the fact he started to deliver on all that promise less than a month into his rookie season was a rather pleasant surprise, but again, absolutely no one should have been taken aback with what we have seen from the first overall selection of the 2015 Entry Draft.
Leon Appears to be the Real Deal
However, the same cannot be said about what we have seen from the Draisaitl/Hall combination. Let’s not forget that the plan heading into the season was for Draisaitl to get some seasoning in Bakersfield before claiming a spot inside the Oilers’ top-six forwards later in the year and for Hall to become the perfect complement to McDavid. The latter never came to fruition and Edmonton’s inability to consistently create any sort of balanced offensive attack opened the door for the former Prince Albert Raiders’ standout to make his mark.
[Relate Article: Oilers Would Be Wise to Turn to Draisaitl, Eberle and Hall]
What has ensued has been pure brilliance. The Draisaitl-Hall tandem has not only been scoring at ridiculous clip since been put together, but has been doing so against some rather impressive competition. Surprisingly enough, their most dominating performance of all came against the Kings and with Nugent-Hopkins out of action due to illness. With no McDavid or RNH in the lineup, Edmonton appeared to be headed for yet another ugly showing in Los Angeles but instead saw the duo raise their play to a different level.
Leon Draisaitl has been playing some of the best hockey I’ve seen from any Oiler over the last five-plus years. — Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) November 15, 2015
After another two-point effort on Saturday night, Draisaitl has now scored five goals and picked up 13 points in just eight games and appears to be getting better with each and every game. While far from a perfect player, the kid has shown signs of improvement in all facets of this game and looks to have added a much-needed step to his skating. Add that to his already impressive skill-set, a ton of confidence and you suddenly have a force to be reckoned with …especially when paired with a “bull” like Hall.
Yes … Taylor Hall Really is This Good
When it comes to the 2010 first overall pick, what else needs to be said? In my mind, he has been one of the best young players in the league since his rookie campaign and among the best wingers in the game for some time now. While injury played a big part in his uneven performance during 2014-15, he has reverted back to the force we had seen in the two seasons prior.
Add to that the recognition of needing to make some necessary adjustments to his game, both to help him stay healthy and become more responsible on the ice, and you now have the driving force we see on a nightly basis. Just take a look at the NHL scoring leaders, where Hall sits in a tie for fourth with 20 points and just six points off the league lead and you will see that the 24-year old has certainly returned to form.
[Relate Article: Taylor Hall Continues to Quiet His Critics]
With certain key contributors struggling and injuries to others starting to pile up, a schedule that consisted of a four-game/ seven-day road trip against the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings was always going to be a tall order for the Oilers. Expecting this group to come have come away from the trek with anything other than few points would not have been realistic.
Following what had to have been a disheartening 4-3 loss to the Kings on Saturday night, Todd McLellan’s crew made their way home with a grand total of two points for their troubles. Not exactly the outcome anyone was hoping for, but despite their 1-3 record, there were surprisingly still some positives to take away from what was a rather difficult situation. The play of Draisaitl and Hall is at the very top of that list.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.