The player the Oilers have this year in Leon Draisaitl is different than the wide-eyed rookie they drafted third overall in 2014.
Now Draisaitl has Oilers fans opening their eyes wide with some of the plays he has been making on the ice in his second season. Draisaitl has 22 points in 19 games when he had only nine in 37 last season.
A lot of his on-ice improvements this season boil down to his training this summer and what he did to ready himself for NHL competition.
“I think we’re seeing more of (his playmaking and speed) as the year goes on because he’s more confident,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “I remember coming to the summer camp and watching some of the scrimmages. I think Connor (McDavid) has six or seven points in a summer scrimmage and Leon was doing this or that, and I remember making the comment ‘Leon spent a lot of time bent over, resting.’ I don’t see that anymore. I don’t see it in practice, I don’t see it in games, but I did see it in the summer. I did send him a couple texts throughout the summer and told him to think about the end of a shift. Not just the beginning of a shift, but what are you doing at the 35-45 second mark. Train like that. I think he’s done a good job of that.”
Draisaitl took his coach’s advice and challenge to heart and attacked it, making him into a much more dynamic player this season.
“I think it’s a reflection of his character, his passion for the game,” McLellan said of Draisaitl’s path for self-improvement. “They do it for themselves, first of all. They want to play in the NHL, they want to excel as individuals, but it’s also important for the team and he’s done it. I think he would have done it the year before too but he didn’t know. He came to training camp and he didn’t know how fast you have to be or how strong. He was junior strong. Now he knows.”
Jordan Eberle went through a six-game stretch without a point, but since then the Oilers winger has goals in three straight games, helping the Oilers to four straight wins.
“I feel good out there,” said Eberle. “I feel confident. I think, obviously, if you put the puck in the net, you feel a lot better. Just the little plays, I feel like I’m starting to make a lot more. It’s been fun here the last little bit of homestand, contributing and helping the guys win.”
Eberle began the season a bit behind his teammates as he sat out until November 6, with a shoulder injury. Now, Eberle feels like he’s finally getting up to speed.
“It was frustrating, and not something I’ve really been through,” said Eberle. “The experience I learned there will hopefully help me down the road. Hopefully, I don’t have to go through an injury again. I know the kind of player I can be. I can try to help the team win. It’s nice that it’s finally starting to come.”
Oilers winger Benoit Pouliot has been out of commission since the Oilers game in Toronto on November 30. He’s missed four games, but he is back on the ice with the team as Thursday was his first practice since the lower body injury occurred.
“Feeling pretty good,” said Pouliot. “Some days weren’t as good, but now the past two days have been very positive. That’s two days in a row I’ve been on the ice. I went on my own yesterday and I went today with the team and I felt very good. There’s still some stuff that I didn’t work on, on the ice, physical-wise, but I feel better.”
The injury happened when Pouliot was hit and fell awkwardly. He experienced some swelling and pain. Now he is cleared to practice and is working to get back some conditioning.
“You can do as much bike or things in the gym as much as you want, but once you get on the ice you feel way different than in the gym,” said Pouliot. “Conditioning wise, it’s not the same at all. You get hit out there, you stop and start and different stuff like that. I think I still need to work on that. I haven’t been on the ice as much… It’s a process. It’s a thing I need to work on. We go on the road, which is a pretty long road trip and I’ll have time to work on that for sure.”
The Oilers are on the ice for practice this morning at Rexall Place. Teddy Purcell is absent. Benoit Pouliot is back skating with the team, as is Andrew Ference. Nikita Nikitin, who was recalled this morning from Bakersfield, is not out there yet.
Stay tuned for more coverage later this morning, including video interviews.
Nikitin, 29, has appeared in 14 games with the Condors this season, posting nine points (1G, 8A).
The Omsk, Russia native has accumulated 75 points (17G, 58A) and 77 penalty minutes in 248 career National Hockey League games. He has also appeared in five playoff games.
Jujhar Khaira continues to get his chance to show the coaching staff what he’s all about. On Thursday night against San Jose, the 21-year-old forward recorded his second career NHL assist and displayed his toughness with his first NHL fight.
Khaira crushes Justin Braun with a clean, hard hit behind the net and then answered the bell by dropping the gloves with Brenden Dillon.
“I was just trying to be hard to play against,” said Khaira. “Behind the net, I had the opportunity to hit someone and I did. Like any good teammate, he’s going to stick up for his guy 100 percent of the time. I feel that anybody on our team would do the same. I thought the fight went well, it was fun. A couple bumps and bruises, but it was good.”
Khaira is just six games into his NHL career, but he has shown off size and physicality and has been able to play in a top-six role the last few contests. What the Oilers want now is to see just a little bit more and they want the young forward to believe in his own abilities, because the club believes in him.
“I like his physicality, his size, and I think there’s more there,” said Head Coach Todd McLellan. “I think he has to get his confidence up. We’re playing him like we really believe in him and he’s got to believe in himself a little bit more because I think there’s more there. He’ll learn situations a little bit better, but his size offset a little bit of their size tonight.”
Khaira’s assist was a nice pass out in front on Jordan Eberle’s game-tying goal at 8:21 of the third.
The Oilers 4-3 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday marked their fourth straight victory and fifth straight at home. They didn’t get the win “the easy way,” as their head coach admitted after the game.
Thursday night was a game full of momentum swings. There were fights, there was pushback, and if one team scored the other answered.
“I liked our pushback,” said Oilers forward Jordan Eberle. “I think that’s number one. The best part of our game tonight was our pushback. We found a way to get another one. When they scored, we found a way to tie it. I thought when we needed to, we were there and we found a way to get two points. That’s all that matters.”
Some of the Oilers players in the locker room were left wanting more after the game, given the excitement and the wild changes and turns of the night.
“It was a fun game to be in, to be honest with you,” said Leon Draisaitl. “The crowd was in it, obviously, and it went up and down. We had momentum, then they did. I think it’s huge for us to get another win and finish off the homestand here.”
Iiro Pakarinen conceited that the team didn’t play its best game of the season, but was happy they could ride out the momentum shifts and get another victory.
“If we can win maybe a little bit worse game than usual and if we can beat a team like that, that’s a good sign from our team,” said Pakarinen.
|Taylor Hall celebrates scoring the overtime game-winning goal as the Oilers take the 4-3 win over the Sharks. Photo by Andy Devlin.|
Coming off a loss last night in Cowtown, the San Jose Sharks were bound and determined for a win tonight, but the Oilers refused to give, sealing a 4-3 overtime win.
“I was real happy with our effort,” said Sharks Head Coach Peter DeBoer.
“I thought we could have had two or three in the first — we came ready to play. Their goalie was good and it was a good hockey game but for us, playing back-to-back…I thought we gave a hell of an effort and probably deserve better.”
Though the Oilers held a 1-0 lead for the first two periods, the Sharks finally started to connect with the net, eventually taking a 3-2 lead with less than eight minutes remaining.
“We got moving, we stayed with the plan, I think we started getting more pucks on the net, that was the big thing,” said Sharks centre Joe Pavelski.
“And Brauny gets a good goal for us in the slot and kind of got things going, gave us a little confidence, a little boost there and just went back and forth there at the end.”
An overtime goal from Taylor Hall at the 1:01-mark secured the Sharks fate.
“We felt we didn’t give them a whole lot there really but they’re still going to come…we had the power play there in the end and a few chances — we definitely wanted the two points though,” said Pavelski.
Four former Oilers captains gathered at Rexall Place on Wednesday to share their thoughts on Glen Sather and his banner-raising ceremony, which will take place on Friday night when the Oilers host the New York Rangers.
Al Hamilton, Craig MacTavish, Kelly Buchberger and Kevin Lowe spoke with the media and answered questions about Sather and what made the former coach and manager a valuable piece to the franchise’s success.
“One of the true strengths of Glen was his ability to let people do their job,” said MacTavish. “I think that’s maybe one of his most defining qualities. Glen also cared very deeply about the players. We always knew that he cared about us. Glen had a little bit of a rule that we all tried to abide by in that if you ever got into any situation at all, any questionable situation, make sure he was the first guy you called. And if you did that, you had an ally and if you didn’t do that and he found out about something, then you had a real enemy. He was very loyal to the players.”
Sather showed his caring of the players by holding them accountable and insisting that if they ever needed anything to come to him first.
“With Glen, he always wanted to make our team a family. You’re always accountable for yourself. Like Mac said before, if you got in trouble, you’d have to contact him first. But unfortunately sometimes, I didn’t contact him and I’d get scolded. Maybe that’s why he left me unprotected in the ’99 expansion draft and never told me,” Buchberger laughed.
On Friday night, Oil Country celebrates one of their legends. Sather will join Hamilton, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Rod Phillips in the Rexall Place rafters.
“If you ask any or all of the banner guys, they’ll conclude or agree that Glen is an equal part to the success of the team, regardless of the lofty status of the banner guys and what they were able to achieve on the ice. I’m not sure any of this happens without Glen,” said Lowe.
The Edmonton Oilers announced today, they have placed defenceman Mark Fayne on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the American Hockey League's (AHL) Bakersfield Condors