Draisaitl criticism justified? No.

Draisaitl criticism justified? No.

Leon Draisaitl has taken some heat early this season for his on-ice results, or lack thereof. If you’re a fan of Corsi you’re probably not a fan of Draisaitl who has been on the wrong side of the shot attempts to the tune of 61 percent going against him at even-strength. Plus / minus, he’s a -7 in 6 games. Expected goal differential – of all lines that have played at least 30 minutes together, the Lucic – Draisaitl – Yamamoto line has been the worst in the league at 16.4%. Yes, those numbers are an indictment of Draisaitl’s play, to a point, but to suggest that he’s been the problem on the line he’s spent the most time on is to ignore his individual contributions on the ice, which continue to be well above average.

Draisaitl makes a lot of money and plays behind Connor McDavid so, while unfair, it’s convenient for some to expect him to drag whichever wingers he plays with up and down the ice to positive results in a way similar to McDavid. McDavid is in a league of his own but when you look at the metrics that are key performance indicators to individual success, you’ll see that Draisaitl is impacting the game on his own line at a similar rate this season.

This is not to say Draisaitl is outperforming McDavid or even performing at McDavid’s level. Obviously, a scoring chance generated by McDavid is not necessarily equal to a chance created by another player. Same with a zone entry etc. But, Draisiatl has been involved moving the puck up ice, possessing it in the attacking end and creating chances at a similar rate as arguably the best player in the world. 

Since moving to a line with Tobias Rieder and Jesse Puljujarvi a couple of games ago, Draisaitl’s most significant ’while on ice’ number has improved. In the last 2 games, the trio has an expected goal percentage of 54%. Draisaitl’s individual metrics, driving possession, creating chances etc. are similar to what they were in the first 4 games – now, he’s got wingers who are a better fit for him. 

If you want to evaluate Leon Draisaitl by looking at his contract and saying he should be able to play with anyone and drive positive goal and scoring chance results, then sure, by that measure his play this season has been underwhelming. However, his individual performance metrics are in line with what a top, 2nd line center should be. Has Draisaitl played his best hockey so far this season? No, but if all you look at is a players ‘while on ice’ results you’ll only get part of the story. Draisaitl impacts the game at a well above average rate in a number of meaningful areas regardless of who he’s playing with. Like any center, the better his wingers, the better his on ice results will be.

(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)