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For Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers eye Europe, not WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, as fallback — report

Neate Sager
Buzzing The Net

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Draisaitl had a 100-point season for Prince Albert during his draft year (Matt Slocum, Associated Press)

Evidently, P.A. is not part of Plan B for Leon Draisaitl. The Edmonton Oilers, according to a report from Global TV Edmonton's Dean Millard, have not so indirectly tossed another log on the fire that is the debate over what is best for a 19-year-old with sky-high potential, as indications are that the NHL's No. 3 overall choice will not be back with the Prince Albert Raiders under any circumstances.

Normally, for a draft pick from the Canadian Hockey League, it's either make the big club or return to junior until his age-20 season. It is hardly unheard of, though, for an import who came over when he was 17 to play two seasons in the CHL and then sign to play for pay in a men's league in Europe. Nail Yakupov did the same in 2012-13 after being drafted by the Oilers (not without complications), and it appears Draisaitl, who had 105 points in just 64 games, could do the same if the NHL learning curve proves too steep.

Here's Millard:

The juxtaposition in the circumstances of Draisaitl and the Oilers' other 19-year-old first-rounder, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds captain Darnell Nurse, are fairly obvious. Nurse, thanks to the CHL-NHL agreement, can only play in the big league or in the OHL. North American players typically also have a contractual commitment that extends from the time they sign until they turn 20. That, along with import restrictions in the myriad European leagues, to say nothing of the attendant culture shock, is why we do not see a born-and-raised Canadian skip his final year of junior to sign in the Swedish Elite League.

It doesn't seem fair, but distinctions are distinctions. There is always something to learn from another year of junior, though.

In Draisaitl's case, the general consensus is that the Cologne, Germany, native mostly needs to work on his skating and speeding up his decision making. Playing against experienced pros surely poses more challenge on those fronts than another year in the WHL.

It might seem like thin gruel, but should this come to pass, at least Prince Albert isn't kept on the hook the way other major junior teams when their erstwhile star is given every opportunity to stay in the NHL at age 18 or 19. The Raiders have one incumbent import, 19-year-old defenceman Tomas Andrlik. The Eastern Division club also selected forward Simon Stransky, a late-birthday 16-year-old, in July. This alleviates a potential logjam.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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