Leon Draisaitl
Leon Draisaitl leads the NHL in goals and points though the first 14 games of the ’21-’22 season. Is it time we start debating whether or not he is better than Connor McDavid? (image from Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Is Leon Draisaitl Better Than Connor McDavid?

About 10 days ago, ESPN’s John Tortorella valiantly claimed that Connor McDavid was not the best player in the National Hockey League. This, of course, came as the intermission report of the Devils-Kings game as a clip of McDavid weaving through four New York Rangers and scoring a fantastic goal – arguably the best goal I have ever witnessed – was played on loop about 20 times. In case you missed it, just watch it:

Tortorella did not want to take anything away from the jaw-dropping play, but he took exception when others on the show effortlessly dubbed McDavid as the best hockey player in the world. Surprisingly, Torts said that Aleksander was the best player in the league, mainly due to his leadership and defensive prowess, all while being a great faceoff taker and elite goal scorer. Barkov id an excellent player, but should he really be considered as the best in the game?

What about Leon Draisaitl? McDavid’s teammate has emerged as a clear-cut top-2 player in the world. Over the last five seasons and the 14 games to start ’21-‘22, nobody besides McDavid, himself, has more points than the German. Over those six years, her has 477 points in 383 games. He also won a Hart Memorial Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, and Art Ross Trophy in ’19-’20 with his 43 goals and 67 assists in 71 games.

Leon Draisaitl is off to a blistering start in ’21-’22. He leads the league in goals and points through his first 14 games, with 15 and 31, respectively. McDavid currently sits at 27 points and is second in the NHL.

Who Offers What?

McDavid’s speed is the one thing that no one in the NHL can match. Number 97 will take over games just because defenders cannot catch up to him. He also has terrific hockey IQ, and he can make a highlight reel play out of absolutely nothing. McDavid can make everyone around him better even if they aren’t even possessing the puck. If you want the player that is going to make the most incredible plays, McDavid is your guy.

What Leon Draisaitl does is a tad different. Leon’s game does not rely so much on speed, but all-round ability. His hockey IQ is right up there with McDavid, and he demonstrates it by make passes that leave defenders saying, “How did he make that pass?” But Draisaitl also plays a great defensive game. He has been steadier with takeaways over the past few seasons and is just bigger. McDavid is listed as 6’1” 190, while Draisaitl is 6’2”, 210. The extra size allows Draisaitl to win key puck battles along the boards, and it makes it extremely hard for defenders to get him off the puck. In terms of intangibles, Leon Draisaitl is the best in the world.

But is Leon Draisaitl Better than Connor McDavid?

It’s tough to say, and it depends on who you ask. I’m surprised Tortorella, an old-fashioned hockey head, went with Barkov because Draisaitl can do everything that Barkov can do, all while producing more on offense. If you ask hockey fans around my age and younger, McDavid is going to be the answer most of the time, but Leon definitely deserves some time in the spotlight, because some nights he is the better player.

He will never get the credit he deserves because for at least half of every game, he plays beside McDavid. Draisaitl can win more faceoffs, have a better +/- rating, and even shoot at a higher percentage, but #97 will continue to get oodles of love because of his game breaking talent. McDavid is already up to 600 points for his career, too, and he became the sixth youngest NHLer to do so. Draisaitl is at 537, but what makes McDavid so impressive is that he’s done it in 71 fewer games.

Therefore, I would say McDavid is still top dog, but Draisaitl is not far behind him. I also would say confidently that the gap between two and three is larger than you think. I don’t even know who I would put at three right now, maybe Auston Matthews? Maybe Nathan MacKinnon? Nikita Kucherov? I don’t think we should really even care about stuff like this, and instead we should appreciate how unfair these two are and how great of a place the league is at today. The two best players on the planet play for the same team. It’s like if you had to pitch to Barry Bonds but Babe Ruth was on deck. They complement each other so well, and the two of them can be enough to win games. All that is left for Draisaitl and McDavid to do is win a Stanley Cup.

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