Draisaitl shrugs off pressure of new deal, starts on different line than McDavid

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If nothing else, Leon Draisaitl is saying all the right things about how he’ll handle the contract he received from the Edmonton Oilers.

Deep down, he might be nervous about justifying an $8.5 million cap hit over eight years, but as Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Sun reports, the German forward insists that he won’t change the way he plays.

“I think that’s the worst thing I could do right now, try and do too much,” Draisaitl said on Friday. “I’m going to try and be myself, play the same way, do the same things I did last year, but still try and improve my game.

“For me (the contract) doesn’t change much.”

More: Under Pressure – Leon Draisaitl

Todd McLellan discussed that situation in the same story, making a fair point: sometimes people assume that a player struggles because of contract pressures, when it could be something else.

In Draisaitl’s case, the “something else” could be fairly obvious: carrying his own line rather than being on Connor McDavid‘s wing.

You can go blue in the face debating nature vs. nurture regarding Draisaitl, but it’s undeniable that he spent about half of his even-strength minutes with McDavid in 2016-17, his breakthrough season.

So far, it looks like Draisaitl will line up with a relative unknown (Drake Caggiula) and a guy with an equally polarizing contract (Milan Lucic), at least early on in training camp. As you might expect, Draisaitl’s saying the right things about that, and he’s impressed Lucic.

“He has showed he can help take this team to another level and we’re going to need him to be the same type of player he was last year,” Lucic said, via the Oilers site. “He’s a lot of fun to play with. He uses his linemates, he uses his size, he uses his speed and I’m excited to see what kind of player he’s going to be for us this season.”

Edmonton noted that McDavid and Draisaitl could pair up again, but if you look at teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, they often manage their rosters by having their high-priced players bring along younger, cheaper players and veterans alike.

The comparisons will be there for years when it comes to Draisaitl, and some might not be so flattering.

Give him credit for having a good attitude, though.