Fitting that on Edmonton Oilers day, an interesting report surfaced about their 2014 first-round pick, Leon Draisaitl.
According to TSN 1260 radio’s Dean Millard, there are rumbling that should Draisaitl — the third overall selection at the draft — not make the NHL club, he’ll possibly be sent to play in Europe, rather than return to Canadian junior hockey with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders.
More, per 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,” Millard said on Wednesday while guest-hosting the Dave Jamieson show. “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.”
Draisaitl, 18, was born and raised in Germany and played for Jungadler Mannheim in the German Development League. He’s since spent the last two seasons with Prince Albert and while most CHL draftees that don’t make the NHL go back to their respective junior clubs, going to Europe is not unheard of. Edmonton’s 2012 first-rounder, Nail Yakupov, played with KHL club Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk during the lockout rather than re-join his OHL club in Sarnia.
As you can guess, the Draisaitl situation is multi-faceted. He’s stated on numerous occasions his focus is to make the Oilers and, at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, has the size to play at the NHL level. But the Oilers have been burned by rushing prospects before, and reversed course last year by sending first-rounder Darnell Nurse back for another year with OHL Sault Ste. Marie.
If they choose the same path with Draisaitl, the question becomes: Where’s the best place for him to play?
In Europe, he’d be playing against professionals and (theoretically) bigger, stronger and more experienced individuals. But with Prince Albert, Draisaitl would be working under a former NHL head coach (ex-Ottawa bench boss Cory Clouston) and be subjected to a longer season (Draisaitl played 64 games last year for the Raiders; the typical European league regular season is around 55.)
It’s an interesting decision but if Draisaitl has his way, there won’t be any conversation when the season opens in October.
“I want to make this team this year. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I think I know what it takes to be an NHL player. I’ve been working extremely hard this summer,” Draisaitl said after signing his entry-level deal, per NHL.com. “It’s nice to be around people who are working with this organization, the athletic trainers and all these people. It definitely makes you feel that you’re part of this organization.”