Oilers GM expects Leon Draisaitl to make a 'strong case' to make the team

Aug 30, 10:37 AM

The Edmonton Oilers are no strangers to having high-level prospects in attendance at training camp, with a plethora of top, young draft picks joining the organization in recent years.

The latest to join the mix is 2014 third overall pick Leon Draisaitl, who general manager Craig MacTavish believes will present the club with a difficult decision in regards to whether the he's ready for the NHL, or if he needs additional seasoning back in the Western Hockey League (or elsewhere).

“Anybody, whether fan, coach, manager, media, anybody that says that they can tell you definitively whether Leon Draisaitl is ready or is not ready before getting the information at training camp is naive,” MacTavish said, as per the Edmonton Sun. “That would reveal a very superficial understanding of the game of hockey. Fortunately, we don’t have to make that decision right now.

“In my mind, I feel he’s going to make a strong case," MacTavish added. "I’ve seen him play, he’s going to make a strong case, I’ll be shocked if he’s not going to make a strong case.”

Draisaitl scored 28 goals and added 67 assists in 64 games for the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders this past season, and could be in line to further develop his game in a European professional league if he fails to crack the Oilers' lineup out of training camp.

Sep 17, 11:53 AM

MacTavish says Oilers will do 'what's best' for Leon Draisaitl, not organization's need

Sep 17, 11:53 AM

Leon Draisaitl fits the bill. 

A 6-foot-1, 208-pound centerman with a scoring touch and play-making pedigree, Draisaitl is everything the Edmonton Oilers have lacked at forward over the last few seasons.

That said, the 18-year-old is not a sure-fire choice to slot at No. 2 behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Edmonton's center-ice depth.

"It’s a league not all that friendly to youth," general manager Craig MacTavish told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun. "He’s going to have to prove that he’s capable of handling it. All signs point to him being given a great opportunity. 

"Having said all that, we’ll make the decision based on what’s best for Leon and not our organization's need."

MacTavish might be trying to temper expectations, but he's undoubtedly wary of the trap that bit his predecessor. 

When Nugent-Hopkins was drafted first overall three seasons ago, the under-developed 18-year-old was thrust into the Oilers' top six and forced to match up against hulking centerman in the Western Conference gauntlet night in, night out. 

The result was a shoulder injury, an ailment that has persisted since his rookie season and undermined his development across three NHL seasons. 

Feature photo courtesy of USA TODAY /Bill Streicher

Aug 14, 11:56 PM

Report: Leon Draisaitl to play in Europe if he fails to make Oilers

Aug 14, 11:56 PM

Leon Draisaitl's junior hockey career appears to be over, but that doesn't mean his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers is certain to begin. 

TSN 1260's Dean Millard suggested Thursday that Edmonton will send the 18-year-old back to Europe - not to the Western Hockey League's Prince Albert Raiders - if he fails to make Dallas Eakins' opening-night roster.

Here are Millard's comments via Jonathan Willis of the Edmonton Journal:

"I’ll tell you what I've heard from a couple of people: that the Oilers have basically given Leon Draisaitl a roster spot. If for some reason Leon Draisaitl isn't good enough to play on the Oilers, I have been told by a couple of sources that he’s not going back to Prince Albert, that if for some reason he doesn't make the Oilers he’ll be going to Europe."

The 18-year-old German national scored 38 goals and 105 points in 64 games with Prince Albert last season, and could certainly benefit from the stiffer competition the European ranks would provide.