The highest a German prospect has ever been picked in the NHL Draft is 20th overall, when the San Jose Sharks called Marcel Goc’s name in 2001.
Leon Draisaitl will, in all likelihood, make history this year.
The Cologne, Germany, native is ranked fourth among North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service and figures to be one of the top picks come draft day.
“He’s a big, strong man,” said Tony MacDonald, the Canes chief of amateur scouting. “He likes to take the puck to gain the zone, gain the line and turn to set up the play.”
Draisaitl, 18, assembled a banner sophomore season with the Prince Albert Raiders, nearly doubling his point total from a year prior in an equal number of games. In 2013-14, he ranked tied for fourth in the Western Hockey League in points (105) and third in assists (67). He added a goal and two assists in four postseason games.
|HOMETOWN: COLOGNE, GERMANY |
|HEIGHT: 6'2" |
|WEIGHT: 204 |
|BIRTHDAY: OCT. 27, 1995 (AGE 18) |
“He’s a tremendous playmaker. He’s got great vision and can get the puck to his wingers,” MacDonald said. “He’s good at finding the open man, and he can score.”
Prior to coming to North America, Draisaitl dropped 97 goals and 192 points in just 29 games with Mannheimer’s U-16 team in 2010-11 and 56 points (21g, 35a) in 35 games with U-18 Jungadler Mannheim in 2011-12.
As arguably the best young hockey talent Germany has produced in years, Draisaitl has an extensive resume of international play. As a 17-year-old, he represented his country in the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, recording six points (2g, 4a) in as many games. He posted the exact same stat line as he captained the Germans in the 2014 World Junior Championship.
Most recently, and perhaps most impressively considering his comparative age, he competed on the German national team in the 2014 IIHF World Championship, posting a goal and three assists in seven tournament games.
“That’s playing with and against NHL players, and he fared very well there,” MacDonald said.
Draisaitl’s already-imposing frame certainly has helped him hold his own against men much older than him. At 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds, the power centerman is one of the more NHL-ready prospects from a size perspective.
“He’s a very difficult guy to defend. He’s almost like [Jaromir] Jagr. He can defend that puck, and he’s got the reach and size. It’s tough to get the puck away from him,” MacDonald said. “Physically, he’s well-equipped to enter the NHL now and play against men.”
His bloodlines are pretty strong, too. Leon’s father, Peter, played professional hockey in Germany for 18 seasons, occasionally skating with Mark Messier in Cologne during his offseason time with the Cologne Sharks. Peter, who is Czech-born, represented the German national team at the 1988, 1992 and 1998 Winter Olympics and now serves as the head coach for Mountfield HK in the Czech Extraliga.
Come June 27 in Philadelphia, Draisaitl is likely to become the highest-drafted German player in NHL history.