Traditionally the Edmonton Oilers treat the years of entry-level contracts like the ships that carried Hernan Cortes to the New World. They love nothing more than to watch them burn.
Within Edmonton's stable of recent top picks, almost none of the players have been sent back to junior (Jordan Eberle being the lone exception, and he was a late first-round pick). This season they're at it again with center Leon Draisaitl, the No. 3 overall pick at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Draisaitl's performance through the first couple of weeks has been decidedly mixed. His body is NHL-ready and his overall hockey awareness is high-end. That much is evident, but it's also clear his skating isn't NHL-caliber yet.
In terms of his actual results, Draisaitl has been decent for an 18-year-old. The big German-born center has managed two assists through seven games and come out slightly better than even by shot attempt differential at five-on-five.
On the negative side of the ledger, though, the Oilers are being outscored by a better than two-to-one margin, with Draisaitl on the ice at evens. Also it's clear they're protecting him - both in terms of his territorial deployment, and in terms of their systems play.
Though Draisaitl has taken his lumps, which is to be expected since the NHL eats their young, the Oilers are reportedly considering keeping him past the nine-game threshold.
What's the nine-game threshold? Well, after a player under the age of 20 and signed to an entry-level deal appears in their tenth game, the first year of their deal is tolled. If the player is re-assigned to their CHL team before appearing in their tenth game, their deal "slides" and begins the next season.
According to TSN's Darren Dreger, the Oilers are not too concerned about burning the first year of Draisaitl's entry-level deal.
"The Oilers aren't overly concerned with (burning a year of Draisaitl's ELC),"
Dreger said during an Insider Trading segment Thursday night. "That doesn't mean that if they were to land a center they wouldn't reevaluate his status.... We know that MacTavish is scouring the NHL looking for a bit more depth up the middle of the ice, so there could be (an) impact on Draisaitl in the near future."
Barring a trade to bolster their center depth, though, it doesn't appear the Oilers are in any rush to send Draisaitl back to the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL.
In the same Insider Trading segment, TSN's Bob McKenzie suggested the Oilers are more concerned about Draisaitl appearing in fewer than 40 games this season.
While a year of a player's entry-level deal is burned once that player appears in 10 games, at 40 games the player accrues a year of restricted free agent service, which impacts how quickly they can proceed to their more expensive unrestricted free agent years.
McKenzie suggested more and more teams around the league are wary of that threshold, rather than worrying about the "10-game" pressure point.
That may be true - and if McKenzie says it, it surely is - but it's also worth mentioning the Oilers have never been too concerned about burning entry-level years for top prospects anyway. So why would Draisaitl be any different?