Leon Draisaitl

Report: Oilers could send 1st-rounder Draisaitl to Europe


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.”

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”