Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (2024)

At long last, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s Edmonton Oilers have made it to the Stanley Cup Final.

It’s a deserved honor when looking at the duo’s playoff numbers to date, a monumental resume that manages to stack up with some of the greatest players this game has ever seen. Anytime a player is next in line after Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, it’s special. That the Oilers have two such players is already legendary; we are witnessing all-time greatness.

They tend to save their best hockey for last, an impressive feat given how otherworldly they already are during the regular season. Their career postseason numbers are awe-inspiring.

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (1)

With all that in mind, and to celebrate the occasion, we’ve decided to rank the duo’s best series performances on their way to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance. Consider it a timeline of greatness, a trip down memory lane that shows just how dominant they’ve been on their way to this moment.

Using each player’s combined Net Rating (adjusted for teammates and competition) while factoring for each series’ importance, here’s how each of McDavid and Draisaitl’s 12 series performances so far stack up.

Series importance is measured by percentage of teams left vying for the Stanley Cup during the series, with winning series being treated as the next round up. For example, in Round 1, there are 16 teams, which, if treated equally, means a 6.25 percent chance at the Stanley Cup. A win moves the team up to 12.5 percent (100 percent divided by eight teams). That number is then multiplied by the player’s combined Net Rating.

12. San Jose Sharks, Round 1, 2017

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (2)

You never forget your first — even if it wasn’t very good. Seven points? Over six games? That’s it? These guys have managed that in a single playoff game on five separate occasions. They were one point off six other times. That’s an average of one per series.

For all the talk about the Oilers being a two-man team in the early days, it took a true team effort for Edmonton’s first series win in the McDavid-Draisaitl era. Both players offered relatively timid performances by their standards.

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They may have controlled play well, but they didn’t really put on much of an individual show in their first taste of playoff action.

Signature Moment: McDavid scores his first career playoff goal.

It didn’t take long for McDavid to make his playoff mark, doing so with a routinely vintage effort off the rush.

11. Anaheim Ducks, Round 2, 2017

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (3)

The Oilers made it to the second round in their first taste of the playoffs and gave it everything they had in a seven-game battle. While McDavid was still getting used to the vigor of hard matchups in a playoff setting, Draisaitl exploded for 13 points in seven games, including a dominant effort in Game 6. This series was his coming out party as one of the greatest playoff performers of his generation.

Well, offensively, anyway.

The Oilers’ defensive shortcomings were one of the reasons they couldn’t get past the Ducks. The team’s two superstars were no exception, giving a lot of their offense back the other way. Both players were on the ice for over 3.5 expected goals against per 60, a very weak number that emphasized some of Edmonton’s playoff inexperience. McDavid and Draisaitl weren’t complete enough players yet and they wouldn’t find playoff success until they were.

Signature Moment: Draisaitl nets a hat trick (and two assists) to force Game 7.

Facing elimination, Draisaitl puts the Oilers on his back with a performance that quickly cemented him as a big-game performer.

10. Chicago Blackhawks, Qualifying Round, 2020

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (4)

Edmonton’s qualifying round loss is a true dark point of this era — through no fault of the team’s two superstars. The team’s first “playoff” series in three years was a bitter showcase of just how far the franchise still had to go to set up a playoff-worthy team around McDavid and Draisaitl. Many forget how phenomenal the duo was against the Blackhawks and how much the rest of the team let them down.

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McDavid’s offense finally showed some postseason shine as he earned five goals and nine points in just four games. The Oilers dominated with him on the ice, earning 64 percent of the expected goals and allowing the team to score 5.2 goals per 60. Draisaitl’s on-ice numbers were similar with six points of his own.

By combined Net Rating alone, this was one of their best combined performances and only ranks this low because of how early it was (and the quality of competition) — and because the team didn’t get it done.

McDavid and Draisaitl’s performances should’ve been enough to win a playoff series, especially against a team as weak as the Blackhawks. But the team’s goaltending had other plans to the tune of an .855 save percentage with McDavid on the ice and .812 with Draisaitl. They deserved better.

Signature Moment: McDavid scores his first career playoff hat trick.

McDavid finally delivers up to his extremely high standards in the postseason with his first of many singularly dominant playoff efforts.

9. Winnipeg Jets, Round 1, 2021

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (5)

There’s a balance to be struck between taking risks and playing it safe, between playing to score and playing to not allow a goal. After losing to Chicago the year prior playing run-and-gun hockey, the Oilers swung too far back the other way against the Jets in 2021. Under the guidance of Dave Tippett, the Oilers put a real emphasis on “playoff-style” hockey. They unfortunately went Leafs Mode.

That’s what you get when a team’s superstars have sick expected goals numbers, especially defensively. It also means barely scraping by point-per-game hockey when the expectations are far higher for two guys routinely putting up over 100 points. McDavid put up 105 in 56 games that year for crying out loud, repeatedly dominating this very team. Four points in four games? Not good enough!

This was without a doubt the duo’s best defensive series with a combined Defensive Rating of plus-34 per 82. They allowed roughly 1.5 expected goals against per 60 at five-on-five and had the results to back it up, too.

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That’s worth something and suggests the duo was better than given credit for in this series. Without their legendary offense, though, all it got them was a first round with zero wins on the board.

Signature Moment: McDavid and Draisaitl have three-point nights in Game 3.

After being unusually held off the scoresheet in the first two games against the Jets, McDavid and Draisaitl finally show up with a massive, albeit futile multi-point effort.

8. Vegas Golden Knights, Round 2, 2023

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (6)

After arriving as a legitimate contender in 2022 with an impressive run to the conference finals, the Oilers entered the 2023 playoffs with big expectations. They looked like one of the teams to beat in the West, especially after adding Mattias Ekholm to the blue line. Finally, the Oilers’ supporting cast looked Cup caliber.

And they looked as much against Vegas — especially McDavid and Draisaitl, who played the part of the best players on the ice well. They scored a lot and dominated the run of play, with both right around a 60 percent expected goal share.

That doesn’t always dictate victory, though, especially against another elite team executing at a very high level. Vegas was hellbent on going the distance that season, offering the Oilers and their dynamic duo another lesson on just how much it’ll take to do the same themselves. Driven by the play of McDavid and Draisaitl, the Oilers were good enough to win that series. The Golden Knights were simply a little better with a bit more fortune on their side.

Signature Moment: Draisaitl scores four in Game 1.

Draisaitl shows he’s not done after a seven-goal first round with an outrageous four-goal game to open the series.

7. Los Angeles Kings, Round 1, 2022

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (7)

At long last, a series victory. The Oilers went five years between them and it almost didn’t come to fruition with the team staring down a 3-2 series deficit. McDavid wasn’t going to lose this one, though. He put this series in his hands with one of his best individual playoff performances ever. There were only two other series in which he had a better Net Rating per 82.

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Scoring 14 points over seven games will certainly have that effect, as will earning 70 percent of the expected and actual goals at five-on-five. McDavid was simply an unstoppable force in Edmonton’s first of three series against the Kings; he was the true difference for the first time in his career. That’s supposed to be Edmonton’s biggest advantage and since figuring it out, McDavid hasn’t looked back. The Oilers haven’t been outchanced in McDavid’s minutes in a series since.

Draisaitl, on the other hand, was a different story.

On the surface he had five goals and nine points; he did his part offensively. But the defensive deficiencies he was criticized often for at the time were readily apparent. He may have generated a lot of chances, but the Kings generated the exact same back — and capitalized more. The Oilers losing the Draisaitl minutes is one reason this series needed seven and is why it doesn’t rank higher despite McDavid’s magnificence.

Signature Moment: McDavid scores the dagger goal in Game 7.

It wasn’t always easy against the Kings, but it was never in doubt. This was a defining goal showing McDavid’s clutch gene — a mark that let everyone know this year’s Oilers were different.

6. Los Angeles Kings, Round 1, 2023

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (8)

One year later, the Oilers beat the Kings again, this time in six games. And this time, Draisaitl was the difference. A huge difference.

He was a goal-scoring machine that summer and it all started against the Kings when he potted seven. That’s the most he’s ever had in a series.

A lot of that was because of his five-on-five brilliance, making up for last season. Having a working ankle certainly helps. To wit, the Oilers generated the same amount of chances with Draisaitl on the ice as the year prior but didn’t allow as many against. The execution level was also very high, enough for the Oilers to earn 67 percent of the goals. That was much needed, with McDavid’s minutes essentially a draw this time around.

That’s the beauty of having two superstars anchoring their own line and it showed against the Kings in back-to-back season. They may have been able to stop or slow down one of them, but stopping both is nearly impossible. By Net Rating, this ended up being one of Draisaitl’s best series.

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This series was also the start of the Oilers’ power play really feeling unstoppable, as they scored around 25 goals per 60. McDavid played a big role there and had 10 points in six games. That almost feels ho-hum for him, which speaks to his greatness. That’s tied with three other series as his sixth most prolific.

Add Draisaitl at practically his best and it was one of the duo’s most dominant efforts.

Signature Moment: Draisaitl sets the tone with the series’ first goal and his first of seven.

There was no stopping Draisaitl’s epic goal-scoring onslaught during the 2023 playoffs and that was evident just seven minutes into the opening round.

5. Colorado Avalanche, Round 3, 2022

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (9)

It’s hard to label a sweep as particularly impressive, but the weight of the moment — Edmonton’s first conference final appearance with McDavid and Draisaitl — obviously helps. It’s a loss that had a lot more to do with everyone else on the ice. The dynamic duo’s supporting cast simply couldn’t come close to comparing to Colorado’s, the massive Stanley Cup favourite that season that ultimately made due on that promise. This was a measuring stick series for the franchise.

The Avalanche represented what the Oilers needed to be to get over the hump. They had superstars who elevated their games to immense levels too, but they also had a lot of help around them.

That made for the toughest challenge the duo has ever faced and accounting for that helps improve their numbers. Before accounting for usage, the duo’s combined Net Rating is plus-22 — half of what they ended up with. That’s what happens when playing tough minutes exclusively against one of the best teams ever assembled, without the supporting cast to make up for it.

It really showed in McDavid and Draisaitl getting outscored at five-on-five. They played the scoring chance game to a draw and generated a lot of offense; they just gave up a lot defensively. That the duo had seven and six points between them is impressive and often forgotten given the result.

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A lot of that falls on the context surrounding McDavid and Draisaitl. They played well given the circ*mstances, but because those circ*mstances were so overwhelming, the Oilers couldn’t scrounge up even one win. The last two rounds to win are the hardest and the duo definitely learned that here.

Signature Moment: McDavid and Draisaitl put up multi-point nights facing elimination.

Staring down a long summer, Edmonton’s dynamic duo have their strongest showing yet, highlighted by four primary assists from Draisaitl.

4. Los Angeles Kings, Round 1, 2024

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (10)

We’re into the top five and this is the first of three series from 2024, a testament to this year featuring some of the best playoff hockey we’ve seen from both McDavid and Draisaitl. That’s high praise and speaks to why this version of the Oilers finally made it to the Stanley Cup Final.

This was Edmonton’s third go against Los Angeles in as many years, and with each passing year, the gap between the two franchises only grew larger. This time it only took five games, with McDavid and Draisaitl averaging two points or more each per game. It’s the second time both players accomplished that in the same series.

A red-hot power play has a lot to do with it, but it also stems from both players dominating at five-on-five, mostly steering their own lines. McDavid annihilated his minutes with an excellent combination of elite offense and strong defense, earning two-thirds of the goals and expected goals. Draisaitl was outchanced, but that didn’t remotely matter given the regularity with which his line put pucks in the net, scoring 6.3 goals per 60. The fact that’s not his highest mark for a series would be preposterous for anyone but Playoff Draisaitl.

In previous seasons, the Kings felt like a legitimate challenge. This year, they were a warmup. McDavid and Draisaitl were why. They had a combined Net Rating per 82 of plus-100. That’s their second-most dominant series.

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Signature Moment: McDavid opens the playoffs with a five-assist night.

After becoming the first player to reach 100 assists in a season in over 30 years, McDavid shows his play-making prowess is far from over with a legendary opening salvo.

3. Vancouver Canucks, Round 2, 2024

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (11)

By sheer value, this was not McDavid and Draisaitl’s best series. Combined, the duo comes in with a plus-53 Net Rating, their eighth best. They delivered. They were dominant. They were the difference. But they’ve had other series in which they were more other-worldly, significantly so. This felt par for the course for the duo, as they simply won their minutes and scored well above a point-per-game rate.

But the importance of the moment can’t be understated. Getting to the conference finals is a huge deal, with this being only Edmonton’s second time doing so. Doing that against a strong team takes precedence over another shellacking against a fake good team.

Racking up a lot of points against a run-of-the-mill playoff team is great and certainly pads McDavid and Draisaitl’s legacies as playoff performers. But it’s a close series like this — in which they earn every inch and come out victorious to reach the final four — that cements it. The duo was arguably just as good against Vegas, but a series win should make this feel a lot more impressive.

That said, Draisaitl deserves a lot of credit here for his production levels. It was his third time scoring two points or more per game over an entire series. With McDavid being neutralized at five-on-five a bit more frequently than usual, Draisaitl had to be the difference. And he was.

Signature Moment: McDavid scores a game-tying breakaway goal in Game 2.

The Oilers blew it in Game 1, but McDavid and Draisaitl weren’t going home down 2-0. They both put up four points in a comeback win, highlighted by McDavid’s breakaway beauty in the third.

2. Dallas Stars, Round 3, 2024

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (12)

Heading into this series, several people felt Dallas would come out ahead. Easily. The Stars were the league’s most complete team and had the tools to shut down Edmonton’s star power.

Then the series played out and we got to see just how vital Edmonton’s star power is. They were the difference — this time in a more traditional sense. That meant a more unique role for Draisaitl than he was used to, one he performed admirably in.

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Draisaitl is best known for his immense ability to influence offense and on the surface, this series may feel like a dud in that regard. He had just four points in six games, his second-lowest pace ever in a series. It’s only the third time he’s even scored below a 100-point pace.

But in a tightly contested series against a defensively strong team with a lot of firepower, Draisaitl might just have been Edmonton’s unsung hero … as a shutdown center. With Draisaitl on the ice, the Oilers allowed just 1.1 goals against per 60 and 1.92 expected goals against per 60. Both were among the lowest marks he’s ever had in a series, leading to a Defensive Rating per 82 of plus-11. That’s more than Selke caliber.

Why is that praised here but mocked against Winnipeg? The difference is this was the conference final against the next-best team in the West. It was the Oilers showing they can win playoff-style hockey while not abandoning what makes them great. Series importance matters not just because a Round 3 win gets a team closer to the Stanley Cup than a Round 1 win, but also because the games get harder and tighter as they get closer.

But it also helps that while Draisaitl was doing his best Aleksander Barkov impression, McDavid was simply being McDavid. That’s the other difference from the Winnipeg series: The Oilers were still getting needed offense from McDavid. That gave them a unique one-two punch that proved difficult for Dallas to figure out.

While Draisaitl was off defending better than he ever has, McDavid was out there performing against one of the league’s best teams as if they were an average group. A 137-point pace while earning 64 percent of the goals feels like a typical McDavid season.

To do that exclusively while playing Dallas is impressive. To do that to make the Stanley Cup Final only adds to the lore. As a team, this was Edmonton’s most successful series and its top duo were a big reason why.

Signature Moment: McDavid opens the scoring in Game 6 with a highlight-reel goal.

McDavid has a knack for scoring jaw-dropping goals that seemingly no one else can pull off. To score in this manner in a series-clinching game against one of the best defensive defensem*n in the world? Instantly iconic. Without a doubt, it’s his best playoff goal.

1. Calgary Flames, Round 2, 2022

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (13)

We all knew which series was going to end up in first. It doesn’t matter that the win against the Stars was more important and perhaps even more complete. There is simply nothing that compares to what McDavid and Draisaitl did against the Flames in 2022.

It was a playoff series so devastating that it was a genuine catalyst for a rival franchise imploding into a rebuild over the next two seasons. “They destroyed that team” often feels apt whenever McDavid and Draisaitl go off for a few points; a hyperbolic statement meant to sum up how impressive their games were on a given night. In this sense, it was five nights and no hyperbole. McDavid and Draisaitl destroyed the Calgary Flames in five games.

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The numbers themselves are simply astounding. In just five games, McDavid had 12 points, a 197-point pace. It’s an incredible amount that was still five points less than that of Draisaitl, whose 17 points represented a 297-point pace. Over three points per game! And he did that on one leg!

It was the greatest playoff performance of the salary-cap era, so good that it overshadowed McDavid putting up 12 in five, which might’ve been second.

The truly wild part was that almost all of that dismantling was done at five-on-five … against one of the league’s best five-on-five teams that season. The chances may have been relatively tight, but the execution level was clearly on Edmonton’s side as both McDavid and Draisaitl scored almost 10 goals per 60. Ten! That is unheard of. Calgary simply had no answer for them.

That it was a second-round series win against a tough opponent seals it as McDavid and Draisaitl’s best series. It was so good that it might’ve still been in the running if it was a first-round series.

Combined, the duo had a Net Rating per 82 of plus-124. That’s basically saying the duo was more than twice as strong as usual. Their playoff average otherwise is plus-53 and they only have one other series above plus-70 (their 2024 series against Los Angeles at plus-100).

It was an extremely special series from two extremely special players.

Signature Moment: McDavid clinches the series with an overtime winner.

We’ve got 29 points to choose from in this series, but there were obviously none bigger than the goal that sent the Oilers to their first conference final. Who else but McDavid to score it?

— Data via Evolving Hockey

(Photo: Curtis Comeau / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Ranking Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl's best playoff rounds (2024)

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