Special to Sports News Highlights

(SNH) — Connor McDavid currently might be the greatest hockey player on the planet. And without hesitation, his Edmonton Oilers’ teammate Leon Draisaitl is not far behind.


What about Sidney Crosby? Or Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov? Or even David Pastrnak from Boston, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Auston Matthews in Toronto?

All worthy, but as the Oilers prepare to play in their first Stanley Cup Final since 2006, Draisaitl is obviously a big reason why his team is in that position. And it’s about time one of the game’s current greats, who still seems to remain underrated when it comes to overall, undisputed superstar quality, is getting the opportunity to shine on his sport’s grandest stage.

“It means a lot,” Draisaitl told NHL.com following Edmonton’s Western Conference final-series clinching 2-1 Game 6 victory over Dallas on Sunday. “There were a lot of painful years that we’ve gone through and lots of learning on the way.”

The No. 3 overall pick by the Oilers in 2014, Draisaitl registered just nine points in 37 games during his first season of 2014-15. Then McDavid came along one year later as the league’s overall No. 1 selection, who was already crowned the NHL’s next superstar before ever playing a game.

Since the start of 2015-16 season, McDavid’s 982 points are the most in the NHL during that span. Sitting second is Draisaitl with 841. Digging deeper, Draisaitl’s 345 goals during that span ranks third – ahead of McDavid – and his 496 assists sit fifth-most during that time frame.  

And who is No. 1 in power-play goals since 2015-16? That would be Draisaitl with a whopping 145.

When it comes to the playoffs, again since the 2015-16 campaign, and entering the Oilers’ Game 1 Stanley Cup matchup with Florida on Saturday, McDavid ranks second with 106 points. Right behind is Draisaitl at 104.

Perhaps what’s most impressive about the German point-producing machine is that he seems okay with playing second fiddle to teammate McDavid. Draisaitl, the first German-born player to win the Art Ross and Hart Trophies, is fine without all the international glitz that goes with being a bona fide superstar and rarely basks in his own success.

During this year’s postseason, McDavid and Draisaitl are again Nos. 1 and 2 for the entire league in points with 31 and 28, respectively. However, what seems to excite Draisaitl the most is the success longtime Oiler Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has enjoyed (six goals, 14 assists) while finally getting his chance to play for the Cup.

“He’s had so many tough years here and so many disappointments, you never hear him complain,” Draisaitl said. “He’s just a great guy and a fantastic hockey player.”

The same can be said about Draisaitl, who at 28-years old still seemingly has plenty of good years ahead to what’s a sure Hall-of-Fame career.

  “Individual awards are always great,” Draisaitl said years back. “You know, they show you that your hard work has paid off. 

“But I’m in a team sport, right? So, winning the ultimate trophy as a team is more important at the end of the day.”

And now, Draisaitl finally has a chance to accomplish what’s most important.

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