With the 2019/20 NHL season heading into the stretch run it looks like the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer is Leon Draisaitl’s to lose. The 24-year-old native of Cologne, Germany had posted 34 goals and 61 assists for 95 points for the Edmonton Oilers after 60 games and had an 11-point lead over his closest rivals, David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins and Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche.
Draisaitl has also proved he has the flare for the dramatic and is a clutch performer as he was leading the league with 10 game-winning goals and had assisted on 12 game-winners by his teammates. There’s an outside chance that he reaches 50 goals this season and he’s currently leading the league in assists. The forward, who was drafted by Edmonton with the third overall pick in 2014, has already set a new career high in assists this year after notching 50 goals and 55 helpers for 105 points last season. He’s on pace for a career best 130 points this season.
Draisaitl had accumulated 125 goals and 187 assists for 312 points in 351 regular-season games after his first five seasons with the Oilers and came in second in team scoring to Connor McDavid over the past three campaigns. He also has 16 points in 13 playoff games. However, McDavid is currently injured and his reign as the team’s top scorer is likely to come to and end this year. With Draisaitl enjoying such a fine season there’s also a good chance he’ll be nominated for the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
The young forward was scoring at a pace of 1.58 points-per-game after 60 outings this season to lead the NHL. He was also leading the league in ice time for forwards at at 22:33 per night as well as power-play points at 38. Draisaitl has proven he doesn’t have to depend on McDavid to produce points for the Oilers since he has posted 14 goals and 32 assists for 46 points in 45 games without his superstar teammate in the lineup. In the first four games without McDavid this season he notched three goals and seven assists.
If Draisaitl happens to win the Hart Trophy this season he’ll become the first German-born player to do so. However, his chances might fall if the Oilers fail to make the playoffs. Edmonton is in a dogfight in the Pacific Division with the the Vegas Golden Knights, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes. With a quarter of the season to go any one of those teams could realistically finish the season as division champions or as low as fifth place in the eight-team division.
The San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks occupy the bottom three spots in the Pacific and would need to catch fire down the stretch to have any hope of making the postseason. Draisaitl inked an eight-year deal with Edmonton in the summer of 2017 which sees him paid an average of $8.5 million a season. With five more years to go on the deal it looks like the Oilers have definitely signed themselves a bargain. But if Edmonton fails to make the playoffs this year it will be such a waste of a fantastic offensive season by Draisaitl.