Is Leon Draisaitl’s « Spin Goal » inspiring imitators in the NHL?
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After scoring similar goals last weekend, I can’t help but wonder what might be said between Clayton Keller and Leon Draisaitl when the Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes face off Monday night. .
I was watching Edmonton play Vegas on Saturday night, and Draisaitl’s goal immediately caught my attention. He caught the pass on the backhand as he faced the Golden Knights cage, turned and fired it past Vegas goaltender Laurent Brossoit. It was a power play count, and I knew I had seen Draisaitl do it before.
It’s easy for me, a former goalkeeper, to remember a goal like that. Shooters turn and shoot so rarely after turning their number towards us. But with Draisaitl, it’s a play the Oilers can run. Catching the puck on the backhand, then spinning it towards the net, has an element of surprise. And Draisaitl is able to open a passing lane using the technique.
The key is that Draisaitl hides the output incredibly well. The puck is on and off his blade so quickly that Brossoit has trouble pinpointing the exact location of the release. As a result, the Golden Knights goalie moves to his right and falls into the butterfly, exposing the short side just enough for Draisaitl’s shot to go through.
Goaltending is tough enough when an NHL player is racing towards the net with the puck. But at least the keeper can read the shot. Draisaitl throws that out the window with his spin game. And he can do it because he’s so comfortable with his backhand. Draisaitl doesn’t even need to see the net – his muscle memory knows where it is.
I think he’s one of the few players in the NHL who can do it. But I’m also sure the players in the league have taken notice.
Walk into any NHL locker room and you’ll find a TV showing highlights from the previous night. And players are absolutely watching. The NHL is a copycat league and players are always looking to add a new dimension to their own game. Watching highlights is a way to crowdsource information.
When I saw Keller’s goal on Sunday, I immediately thought of Draisaitl. Did Keller see the highlights of the day before? Maybe. Maybe not. But the lenses – while not identical – shared enough DNA that I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a lineage.
Keller’s goal could have been a simple case of a confident player tossing the puck over the net. The pass was behind him. Keller had to adapt to catch the puck on his backhand. So unlike Draisaitl’s goal, it wasn’t a set play.
But they look alike, don’t they? Keller knew exactly what he was doing: He shot intently to surprise Colorado goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. And that’s exactly what happened. The Avalanche goaltender only reacts when the puck goes past him.
It was Keller’s 36th goal and 80th point of the season. The Coyotes forward has points in 12 straight games. He is doing a career year. And I think a lot of Keller’s success can be attributed to the studious nature of today’s players.
They crave instant feedback and watch endless highlights. iPads are available on all NHL benches. The best players watch YouTube daily to find new drills and shooting techniques. The goalkeepers do the same with the technical instructions. The world of hockey has truly become open-source.
That’s why I think Draisaitl’s unique approach to the power play is something that will resonate throughout the NHL. The Oilers won’t be the only franchise to use the technique for a long time.
Sometimes all it takes is a spark – a game that grabs a player’s attention. Whether this game is replicated is almost irrelevant: it often serves more as an inspiration than an archetype.
Oilers highlights are low-hanging fruit for NHL players. They all want to see what Connor McDavid does next. But Draisaitl is right there with him. And I would say that Edmonton is the most watched highlights pack – by far – among players. Simply put: when blue and orange jerseys are on the TV screen, eyes are on them.
Hockey players are visual learners. And in today’s world, secret games don’t exist. Everything is available in an instant.
With the success of Draisaitl’s spinning move and Keller’s goal being similarly scored, don’t be surprised if it happens more often in the future. After all, it’s a hearty league.