Edmonton Oilers: The difference between Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl

Here’s the difference between Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers are very blessed to have the two biggest superstars in the game today on their roster.  With all due respect to all the other great duos in the game – Landeskog-Mckinnon, Crosby-Malkin, Seguin-Benn, Kane-Toews, Schiefele-Connor, Horvat-Boeser, and perhaps others – McDavid -Draisaitl still trumps them all.

After all, when was the last time two teammates finished 1-2 in league scoring?  Maybe Gretzky-Messier in the 80s, but I don’t know for sure.  At any rate, it’s rare. There isn’t a whole lot of difference between them, but there are subtle differences in their games.  Let’s go through those now.

Connor McDavid

Connor McDavid was the next generational player that came on the scene when he was drafted in 2015.  He’s lived up to the hype and there’s very little that he’s failed at thus far in his career.  At 23 years old, he’s got many years left in him and we can look forward to seeing his highlights on TV for a long time to come.  In his rookie season, McDavid was one of those rare players who successfully went from junior straight to the NHL, skipping the minors altogether.  That’s a hard leap to make, and usually, only the top 2-4 picks in any given draft can do it.

McDavid is widely acknowledged as the fastest player in the game today, and his game is based on speed for sure.  It’s not just that he’s fast, it’s that he possesses an extra gear that nobody else seems to have, so in the blink of an eye once he’s got space he speeds up and more often than not will put the puck home in the back of the net.

From what we hear from other players in the dressing room, Captain Connor isn’t the most vocal guy in the room, but he’s a hard worker and the team takes their cues from him.  He leads by example.  He’s so good he’s never finished at less than point per game pace – even in his rookie season, 48 points in 45 games.

There’s really only 2 things he could improve upon at this point – 1 is his faceoffs as he has yet to crack the 50% mark.  That’s 1 skill that a good center should be able to master is a 50% rate at winning faceoffs.  I have no doubt he’ll get there.

The 2nd is his play without the puck in the playoffs.  We’re going to be back in the playoffs again next season, no doubt about it, and I’m sure he’s taken lessons from his experience in the playin series this past season and will tweak his approach.

Leon Draisaitl

Dr. Drai, on the other hand, is more of a complete player than Connor McDavid.  Draisaitl is the bigger of the 2 – he’s 6’2″ and 208 lbs as opposed to McDavid’s 6’1″ and 193 lbs.

Draisaitl uses more of his bigger frame to play the game.  He still has speed in his game, but not quite as much as Connor, and he doesn’t have that extra gear Connor has.  He’ll typically use his stick for being aggressive on things like poke checks and forechecks, things that don’t really show up on a stat line.

From a purely statistical standpoint, though, neither player is really all that physical, as surprisingly McDavid outhit Draisaitl last year but only 37-27, and Draisaitl won in the area of blocked shots, but only 19-18.

This is a pretty typical strategy of coaches.  When you have two guys who are as good at scoring as the McDrai duo, why get them involved in the more physical parts of the game?  Doesn’t make sense, and increases the chance of injury.

Draisaitl is also better than McDavid at faceoffs.  Last season Draisaitl took more faceoffs than any Oiler with 1,269 – the only player on the roster to take over 1,000 faceoffs.  He also finished tops on the team in % as well, finishing at 52.1%.  McDavid will likely catch up eventually, but right now Draisaitl is the superior player in this regard.

As you would expect, both players spend over 20 minutes a night on the ice on average.  As you would expect, both players spend a lot of time on the PP, and both players are on the 1st unit PP.  This is a big reason why the Oilers had the #1 PP in the league last year, and with Tyson Barrie in the fold on the point expect it to only get better.  Early on in his career when depth on the team wasn’t nearly as good as it was now, McDavid played a lot on the PK, too, but nowadays that’s been clawed back and McDavid only plays about 6 seconds a night killing penalties.  Draisaitl plays 52 seconds a night, so although he doesn’t get a lot of time there either he does get more than McDavid.

Draisaitl was long thought of as an overpaid star player who rode McDavid’s coattails playing on his wing.  But that all changed when Yamamoto was called up halfway through last season and Mcdavid and Draisaitl could be separated from each other.  Draisaitl proved he could drive the bus on his own line, and then when Mcdavid got injured for a couple of weeks he took the team on his back and went on a tear, a big reason why he bested Mcdavid in points this year.

Like McDavid, his play without the puck in the playoffs could be better.  Again, I’m sure he’s taken lessons from this past season and will be better next year.

Who is better? 

Does it really matter?  I don’t think of the two players in terms of better or worse, just different.  And regardless of who’s better, we are incredibly blessed to see both of them in the lineup.  Personally, I can’t wait to see what it looks like when both of these players raise the Stanley Cup.