Oilers' Leon Draisaitl deserves his own flowers amid yet another monster season

Connor McDavid is getting all the headlines this season, but Leon Draisaitl is proving once again he's arguably the NHL's second-best dual threat.

Oilers superstar Leon Draisaitl has been the second-best offensive player in the NHL since 2018-19. (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Throughout NHL history, superstars have been overshadowed by megastar teammates. It’s unclear if Leon Draisaitl’s incredible success will ever be mentioned without also addressing Connor McDavid’s singular supernova status, but the Edmonton Oilers’ other sensational talent is worthy of special attention.

Saturday night hammered that point home. By generating a hat trick in Edmonton’s 6-0 annihilation of the Anaheim Ducks, Draisaitl reached the 50-goal mark for the second season in a row and the third time in his NHL career. In 75 games, the 27-year-old’s already set a lofty new career high of 120 points.

Why doesn't Draisaitl get the respect he deserves?

If there’s one lingering thing about Draisaitl’s career beyond inevitable, unavoidable mentions of McDavid, it’s nitpicking about his defense. When it comes to splitting hairs in naming the absolute best players in the NHL, then sure, you can definitely swipe at those flaws. Evolving Hockey’s Player Cards grasp at the give-and-take of his game in the most glaring ways.

But if you can get some fresh air from barroom-style debates about his two-way weaknesses, you can bask in the glow of an incredible offensive threat. While Draisaitl isn’t often a “fancy stats darling,” there are underlying numbers that shine, too. Note that he’s a boon for Edmonton’s zone entry game, too, as you can see in microstats from All Three Zone’s Corey Sznajder.

When you melt things down to their purest state, the dual-threat potential is what makes Draisaitl such an irresistible offensive force. Simply put, few players shoot more accurately or pass more brilliantly than the big German star. Let’s marvel at his scoring accomplishments as a passer, shooter and all-around power play phenom.

The ‘German Gretzky’

Heading into the NHL, some referred to Draisaitl as “The German Gretzky.” While Alex Ovechkin hasn’t caught Wayne Gretzky as the NHL’s all-time goal king yet, most would agree that while “The Great One” could obviously beat goalies with his shot, his playmaking was his supreme skill. You could see that with Draisaitl stemming back to his junior days, including a 2013-14 WHL season where 67 of his 105 points were assists.

For the past two seasons, Draisaitl was named the absolute best passer in the NHL in the NHLPA’s player polls.

In fact, his peers only seem more resolute about his passing over time. In 2021-22, Draisaitl won the player vote with 17.7 percent, while he took a quarter of the 600 player votes this season.

Is Draisaitl truly the best passer in the NHL? That answer may come down to taste. However, the most important point is that he mixes the dual-threat capabilities of someone like Nikita Kucherov with the power and vision combination of a generational playmaker like Joe Thornton.

Since 2018-19, two NHL players have amassed at least 300 assists: Connor McDavid (373) and Leon Draisaitl (300).

No doubt about it, Draisaitl muscling through an agonizing high-ankle sprain to produce in last year's playoffs, including a memorable four-assist night “on one leg,” will be a big part of his legacy and future Hall of Fame highlight reel.

Draisaitl told Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman that the experience helped him grow as a player and a person.

As he’s progressed as a star NHL player, Draisaitl has indeed evolved as a multidimensional threat, which takes us to his impressive goal-scoring feats.

An ‘executioner’s shot’

If Draisaitl was ever one-dimensional, he changed that in a big way a long time ago.

Despite being such a renowned passer that he won multiple NHLPA polls, the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples labeled Draisaitl’s one-timer as not just his best weapon, but the most lethal one in the entire NHL.

Personally, there’s room to debate where Draisaitl’s one-timer ranks among the absolute best in the NHL right now, just as it’s uncertain if he’s truly the best passer in the NHL. Those are debates that really don’t matter much on the ice, though, because his elite deadliness in both areas make defending him feel so hopeless.

Normally, when you see a player hover around the 20-percent mark for shooting percentage, you reasonably assume there’s some luck that will cool off. For a select few snipers, they can live in that area more often than not. Draisaitl’s career shooting percentage is a remarkable 18.1 percent, and he’s reached 50 goals this season by firing in 21 percent of his shots on goal.

Watch all 50 goals from his 2022-23 season and you’ll note how quickly he can pounce on chances, particularly from his office in the right side of the zone.

By recently reaching 300 goals in just 630 games played, Draisaitl joined elite company.

Whichever way you slice it, the two have put up mind-blowing numbers.

Since 2018-19, Leon Draisaitl leads all NHL players with an exceptional 229 goals in 364 games. While Auston Matthews scores at a more rapid rate (222 goals in 331 GP), Draisaitl deserves credit for being an elevated passing threat and simply managing to stay on the ice. That five-season window really hammers home how McDavid and Draisaitl live on a different plane of existence than everyone else, scoring-wise.

Most points in the NHL since 2018-19:

  1. Connor McDavid: 587 points in 355 games played (1.65 points per game)

  2. Leon Draisaitl: 529 points in 364 GP (1.45 ppg)

  3. Nathan MacKinnon: 442 points in 328 GP (1.35 ppg)

  4. Artemi Panarin: 423 points in 342 GP (1.24 ppg)

  5. Mitch Marner: 420 points in 343 GP (1.22 ppg)

Truly, you can throw remarkable durability in the stew of Draisaitl praise, too. If staying healthy is a “skill,” then that’s another one of his elite traits.

Power-play omnipotence

It’s silly to dismiss Draisaitl as just a “power play merchant.” Consider, for instance, his place (318) alongside McDavid (352) as the only two players with more than 300 even-strength points since 2018-19.

But Draisaitl’s contributions to the Oilers’ outstanding power play warrant an additional mention. With 30 power-play goals so far this season, Draisaitl already ranks among the most prolific power-play scorers in NHL history with an outside chance to set the all-time mark before the season concludes:

Go back to those 2018-19 numbers and Draisaitl’s special teams scoring shines. Goals-wise, no one’s even close in those situations.

Most power-play goals since 2018-19

  1. Leon Draisaitl: 101 PPG in 364 GP

  2. David Pastrnak: 76 PPG in 332 GP

  3. Mika Zibanejad: 71 PPG in 353 GP

  4. Alex Ovechkin: 70 PPG in 342 GP

Most power-play points since 2018-19

  1. Connor McDavid: 225 PPP in 355 GP

  2. Leon Draisaitl: 204 PPP in 364 GP

  3. Nathan MacKinnon: 151 PPP in 328 GP

  4. Nikita Kucherov: 148 PPP in 274 GP

Seeing Kucherov so highly ranked despite missing serious time brings back that point again: when defenders and goalies must respect your shot and your passing skills, it really opens up the floodgates.

Overall, you can poke and prod at Draisaitl’s game if you’re weighing his value compared to the cream of the crop, such as McDavid, MacKinnon and Matthews. Here’s some advice: instead of spending so much time picking him apart, try to enjoy Draisaitl for the incredible talent he is.