2) Leon Draisaitl
Draisaitl has received a lot of criticism for his perceived attitude this season, including his moodiness and snappy comments when dealing with the media. In fairness to him though, it’s tough to be happy when your team is playing well below expectations.
In any event, the four-time All-Star was still doing his part by leading the Oilers in assists and overall points. The only area where he was lacking — at least relatively speaking — was goals scored.
However, Draisaitl rectified this on Friday afternoon in Washington, D.C. He scored two goals for the first time since the third game of the season, to finish off the five-goal blitz by the Oilers.
Of importance, the 28-year-old’s two goals came on the power play, with the unit finally looking like the version which set an NHL record last season for efficiency. For the game, the Oilers went 3-for-4 with the man advantage.
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Despite the two goals, Draisaitl’s biggest — and most important — moment came as a playmaker early on. With the game tied at 0-0, he had a nice spin move and then held off his marker to set up Evander Kane, who fired home after a save.
It was an inspired moment, which helped open the floodgates for a team in desperate need of something positive. Moody or not, Draisaitl is key to the Oilers’ ability to produce on offence, with Friday afternoon’s game offered as exhibit A.
Afterwards, the 2020 Hart Trophy winner was asked about how much he and the rest of the leadership core put on themselves to get out of their slump. Speaking to the media, he said:
"“We’ve got a lot of guys in here who care a lot, and I think sometimes that’s a little bit misunderstood to the outside, which is obviously unfortunate. But we care a lot, we want to win in here. Have there been times in games when it hasn’t gone our way as a leadership group, yes of course. Have we been at our best all year, absolutely not, but we have a lot of pride in this room and (today) was a good start.”"