TSN just released a mid-season ranking of the top 50 players in 2019-20. Naturally, the Edmonton Oilers’ god-like, all-mighty Connor McDavid ranks as number one, while Leon Draisaitl takes the fourth spot. No. 29’s ranking prompted naysayers to complain that he is only good because he plays with McDavid.
McDavid’s on-ice magic has never been a secret—he produces neverending highlight-reel plays and makes the best defencemen (staring at you Morgan Rielly) look like they belong in the American Hockey League. The Oilers’ superstar can also heal from knee injuries without the help of surgery or the tear of a phoenix. Magical. He deserves the number one ranking for many obvious reasons.
Then there’s Draisaitl. To Oilers fans, he’s the German Gretzky. To hockey fans outside of Edmonton, he’s McDavid’s wingman.
Draisaitl is clearly more than McDavid’s sidekick, and he’s good because he’s good. With 75 points on the season so far, it’s obvious that the 24-year-old deserves the fourth spot on that list.
Draisaitl Was the Oilers’ Best Player at the Start of the Season
At the start of the season, Draisaitl proved—yet again—that he’s a good player with or without McDavid. No. 29 dominated in October. You could tell that he was driving the plays on the ice. Meanwhile, the Oilers’ captain became the second-best player in Edmonton (he still had a phenomenal opening month).
Bruce Mccurdy from The Edmonton Journal wrote, “But even the wondrous McDavid has to take a back seat, at least for now, to the spectacular feats of Leon Draisaitl, who became the first NHLer to score 25-plus points in October since Gretzky scored 29 for the Kings way back in 1993. The first in a quarter century!” (from ‘Leon Draisaitl’s dominant October takes its place among the best in Edmonton Oilers’ history’, The Edmonton Journal – 2/11/19)
Was Draisaitl good because of McDavid at the start of the season? Nope. The Edmonton Journal shared that the talented German was on the ice for 20 of the Oilers’ 29 even-strength goals through the first 14 games, and he was the only player to tally 12 even-strength points in the first month. He was involved in 61% of the Oilers’ goals at this point. And No. 97? A “measly” 56%.
When you look at stats now, 49 games into the season, McDavid has 76 points, and Draisaitl has 75 points. Meanwhile, Zack Kassian, a turtle-destroying god in his own right, has played with McDavid on a consistent basis in the 2019-20 season. Does he have 75 points? The scary (according to Matthew Tkachuk) six-foot-three winger has 28 points in 44 games. He’s having an amazing season, but his totals don’t compare to No. 29.
My point? Draisaitl’s good because he’s Draisaitl.
Why Don’t We Say Marchand Is Only Good Because of Pastrnak or Marner Because of Matthews?
It’s basically the same thing, isn’t it? Just because McDavid is the best player in the world, doesn’t mean that Draisaitl collects secondhand points like a younger sibling collects secondhand clothes. Over the last two seasons, McDavid and Draisaitl have been twins—they both dominate. (Although, McDavid is definitely the first-born twin.)
Who are some other metaphorical twins spanning the NHL? Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Let’s bring out some stats, shall we?
Marner, of his 38 games played, has 24 points with Matthews, amounting to 51% of his totals. Meanwhile, 61% of Draisaitl’s points have been with McDavid. You think that’s high? Oh, just you wait.
70% of Marchand’s points have been with Pastrnak. Why isn’t anyone saying that these two pairings aren’t good without the other? My, oh my.
Draisaitl Can Do It All
You want someone to kill penalties? Score goals? Create scoring chances? Command the ice in overtime? Unleash lethal shots on the power play? Just call on Draisaitl. He can do it all!
In the 2019-20 season, he has not only been a key part to both even-strength and power play chances, but he can help out on the penalty kill (PK), too. So far, the versatile superstar has logged 48:01 on the PK and has won 44.62% of faceoffs.
On the other hand, McDavid has totalled just 9:31 on the PK. It doesn’t look like Draisaitl needs the captain holding his hand while he kills penalties, does it?
Watch out for the Oilers’ Second Line
Ever since Kailer Yamamoto graced Edmonton with his presence, Draisaitl has found himself on a spectacular second line without McDavid. From Dec. 31 to now, Draisaitl has notched 14 points. And get this: McDavid has only been a part of five of those points.
It’s obvious that Draisaitl can play on his own line, and he can survive the NHL without the best player in the world. He deserves the mid-season ranking as the fourth-best player in the league right now!