Close to the end of last season we saw Nugent Hopkins and McDavid click as an effective duo. Over the last 13 games of the season #93 and #97 were the Oilers most effective duo. It is likely we will see these two start together once again to start the season which means Leon Draisaitl will be counted on to centre his own line.
There is some concern over Leon's ability to drive his own production. A large amount of his time spent as an Oiler has been as McDavid's winger. It is true Draisaitl has produced the most when paired with Connor. Draisaitl produced at 2.65 5x5/60 with McDavid and that number dipped to 2.01 without him. While that is a significant drop, it is still a strong posting which shows Draisaitl is capable of posting crooked numbers without #97.
In 2016/2017, Draisaitl spent 972:37 minutes with McDavid and 575:52 without him. That year Draisaitl posted 29-48-77 in 82 games. This past year Draisaitl posted 25-45-70 in 77 games but played 780:34 with Connor, almost 200 minutes fewer. Without McDavid, Draisaitl played 726:03. We are witnessing a progression of Leon's game. To say that Draisaitl has merely piggybacked off Connor is quite simply not true.
I took a look at the final 13 games last season in which Draisaitl centred his own line while RNH and McDavid played the top line. Draisaitl posted 10 points in those final 13 games going 4-6-10. His most common line-mates over this period were Drake Caggiula and Pontus Aberg. My feelings on Caggiula should be clear by now; Caggiula is a black hole of offense and the play dies frequently on his stick. Aberg is currently set to be the Oilers 13th forward. Oilers fans have gotten used to McDavid dragging forwards along with him that I believe they forget that isn't something that should be expected out of most players.
Draisaitl can only drive a line if he has line-mates of at least some quality playing with him. I've covered this in previous posts but Rieder should be considered a lock on one of Draisaitl's wings with Puljujarvi or Lucic likely being the other. In 2016/2017 Lucic and Draisaitl played very effective together posting a 53.09 CF% together. In a perfect world, a bounceback season from Lucic and a breakout year from Puljujarvi would give the Oilers a true scoring line that would force teams to split their lines in order to deal with Connor and Leon.
Draisaitl is the second best forward on the Oilers and has the ability to produce without Connor McDavid. In order for the team to have success this season, the team desperately needs players who can produce next to him.