Leon Darisaitl (L)

Making A Case for Leon Draisaitl

There is a great debate, over whether 1st Round Draft Pick Leon Draisaitl should spend this N.H.L. season with the Edmonton Oilers. Me? Well, I firmly beleive that if Leon Draisaitl goes to camp and makes the team, based on merit, he should stay. Period.

Some of the arguments I have read made against my notion have been well thought out and their conclusions arrived at with reason. Other accounts have been head-shaking in their shallowness.

Now, I have no doubt that some of you can out-analytic me on this argument, without breaking a sweat. Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for your craft, in fact it is to the point where I immediately capitulate. While I understand your science, I’m
not nearly as good at it as you, and don’t pretend to be. But perhaps I can offer another perspective?

In the autumn of 1986, I was the property of the W.H.L.’s Moose Jaw Warriors. I’ll always be grateful to Greg Kvisle for giving me that opportunity. It offered me a great many things, although one of those did not turn out to be a pro hockey career. But it did give me a window into what’s required, in order to have one.

One of my teammates at the time was a very young Kelly Buchberger. He had already been drafted by the Oilers, the previous Spring, and was in camp with us that September. It was a talented bunch: Theoren Fleury, Mike Keane, Lyle Odelein, Kevin Herom and others.

But Kelly Buchberger stood out.

Buchberger already had big-league poise, nothing rattled him. He had man strength, the strongest guy I ever played with or against. He was not the fastest guy on the ice (I could skate with him), but he was so solid on his feet while protecting the puck, defending against him was bloody hard (I should know, he played Right Wing, I played Left Defence).

Kelly had a terrific attitude. He played the game with boundless enthusiasm, an admirable trait he carried throughout his playing career and into the coaching ranks. And he was in superb condition, I recall him using those long legs of his to absolutely trounce me at wind sprints.

After one session, while sitting there with him in the dressing room, I wondered “how the hell is this guy not at Oilers camp?’. In short, he was a man (with all due respect to the other talented guys on that team at the time) playing with boys. What on earth did he have left to gain in Tier I?

Up until this point, I have been describing Kelly Buchberger. But change the name to Draisaitl, and the draft position from #188 to #3, and you have a remarkably similar story: Their size, maturity, strength, attitude, conditioning, the stages they were (and are) at in their respective careers.

I realize my illustration of parallel’s here is imperfect. Yes, they are different player types, at different positions, although Daisaitl’s pedigree should enable him to arrive sooner than Bucky did. And the paths they took to the NHL are not exactly the same.

Neither Kelly nor I played a regular season game with the Warriors that Fall. I was farmed out to Tier II camp, and Kelly? Shipped to the Nova Scotia Oilers, but only until the Spring of that year, when he helped the Edmonton Oilers win a Stanley Cup.

The moral of the story: When a player is ripe & pro-ready, don’t hold him back for any reason other than that he did not perform.

Otherwise, you are standing in the way of careers like Kelly Buchberger’s…

…and, perhaps, Leon Draisaitl’s.

Tags: Edmonton Oilers Kelly Buchberger Leon Draisaitl Moose Jaw Warriors

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