Leon Draisaitl is scoring goals in the NHL playoffs at a rate not seen in four decades.
The big German has 13 goals through Edmonton’s first 10 games, the most since Mark Messier scored 14 in 1983 and the third-highest total through 10 games in more than a century. Newsy Lalonde had 17 in 1919.
If the Oilers — now tied at two games apiece with Vegas in the second round — reach the Stanley Cup Final, Draisaitl could blow past the record of 19 goals set by Philadelphia’s Reggie Leach in 1976 and matched by Edmonton’s Jarri Kurri in 1985.
“There’s almost nothing that Draisaitl does anymore that surprises me,” retired player-turned-analyst Ray Ferraro said. “He’s an amazing player.”
How amazing? Oilers teammate Connor McDavid recently called Draisaitl “the best player in the world a lot of nights,” high praise from the player on the verge of being named league MVP for the third time.
“Obviously he’s playing on another level,” McDavid said.
Draisaitl’s success hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere. The 27-year-old from Cologne led all scorers with 110 points in 71 games in 2019-20 before the season was cut short because of the pandemic and then won the Hart Trophy as MVP.
Doing this in the playoffs is just showing what Draisaitl can do on a bigger stage.
“I just think he raises his game, elevates his game at this time of year,” coach Jay Woodcroft told reporters after Draisaitl’s four-goal game in the second-round series opener.
Draisaitl led all players with 25 assists in the playoffs last year (and with 32 points was just one behind McDavid in the scoring race) despite playing through a high-ankle sprain and Edmonton losing to eventual champion Colorado in a sweep in the Western Conference final.
During the first round this spring, Draisaitl told reporters with a smile and soft laugh he feels a lot better, “especially my leg.”
“It’s nice to feel this way,” he said. “I’m feeling good, feeling healthy and, knock on wood, hopefully it stays that way.”
Draisaitl may have spoken too soon. He was on the receiving end of a slash late in Edmonton’s 4-1 victory Wednesday night from Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who was ejected and could be suspended.
Draisaitl seemed to brush it off and left the ice smiling. His teammates who used to be tasked with defending him are, too, now that it’s no longer their job. Watching from afar, former Edmonton winger Jesse Puljujarvi isn’t surprised.
“He’s been really good this playoffs to make those plays: His stuff is unreal,” said Puljujarvi, who’s now with Carolina. “The power play’s working and he’s got a couple 5-on-5s, too. He’s getting all those goals.”
How he’s getting them is impressive, too. Seven of Draisaitl’s goals are at even strength, with six coming on the power play.
Ferraro, who scored four goals in a playoff game his team lost back in 1993, has noticed Draisaitl picking up a quickness to his stride that has helped evade defenders and get open.
“Now he loses guys on the cycle way better than he ever did, and he doesn’t need more than a couple of feet,” Ferraro said. “As soon as he loses the guy, he’s now a danger to shoot from anywhere and he’s just got an amazing, amazing shot.”
It’s a shot that could carry the Oilers on their deepest playoff run since 2006 and could deliver the franchise’s sixth championship. Draisaitl downplays his own accolades with a focus on the next goal and one after that.
“Just get ready for the next one,” he said at a postgame news conference last week. “You do your part and try to do it as good as you can every night and you move on.”
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow contributed.
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