Will forward Leon Draisaitl of the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League become the highest-selected German player ever at the 2014 NHL Draft?
Not only was the 6-foot-1.75, 208-pound left-shot center No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 draft, he's gaining plenty of praise down the stretch.
"You want to talk about a miniature Jaromir Jagr with a Doug Gilmour-type intensity, you've got him right here," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan told NHL.com.
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Marcel Goc, selected by the San Jose Sharks in the first round (No. 20) of 2001 draft, still holds the distinction as the highest German drafted by an NHL team.
"It would be a huge honor for me [to be the highest German drafted]," Draisaitl said. "We've had some really good hockey players coming out of Germany and being the highest drafted would be a huge honor. I'm really looking forward to that and hopefully I could get it done."
Minnesota Wild forward Dany Heatley, selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the first round (No. 2) of the 2000 draft, was born in Germany but holds dual citizenship in Germany and Canada.
Draisaitl said he is very familiar with Goc and the success he's had as an NHL player. The 30-year-old Goc has also played for the Sharks, Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators in his nine seasons.
"I looked up his stats and they are very impressive; I really do look up to those guys," he said.
Draisaitl is fourth in the WHL in scoring with 99 points in 61 games, and his 63 assists are tied for second.
He also was the captain for Germany at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. He had two goals, six points and a tournament-high 52 penalty minutes (he has 24 penalty minutes with Prince Albert this season). He also served a one-game suspension for a hit from behind during a game against the United States.
Draisaitl called the WJC a learning experience.
"I don't feel I was pressuring too much at the tournament; it didn't have anything to do with me wearing the C," he said. "I would have played the exact same way without a letter on my chest. Looking back I probably should have just kept it easy and played my game. I faced some adversity there for sure, but it was helpful and opened my eyes.
"If I'm going to face some adversity now I'll understand what's going on and how to handle it better."
Fellow 2014 draft-eligible prospect Parker Tuomie of the Wenatchee Wild of the North American Hockey League was a teammate of Draisaitl's at the 2014 WJC.
"Leon is a great hockey player but also a great teammate," Tuomie said. "His skill level is unbelievable. He thinks the game very well and makes players around him look better."
Draisaitl also played for Germany at the 2013 WJC, totaling two goals and six points in six games.
It might come as a surprise to some that Draisaitl was ranked ahead of top prospects Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League and Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice of the WHL on Central Scouting's midterm list of the top North American skaters. Like Draisaitl, Ekblad and Reinhart played in the WJC, for their native Canada.
"It's a big honor [to be ranked No. 2] and I'm really excited about it, but it's just one ranking and doesn't really tell a lot," Draisaitl said. "There's so much time until the draft so there's a lot of things that can happen."
Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau said Draisaitl could be the most surprising player of this year's draft class.
"That kid works so hard every shift," Bordeleau said. "I don't see how this kid doesn't go early. There's no one in this draft class who can protect the puck like him."
NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said a good comparison for Draisaitl might be James van Riemsdyk of the Toronto Maple Leafs or Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings.
"All season long he's continued to develop as a prospect," Marr said. "You noticed him all the time last year and he's gone out there and become a dominant player for Prince Albert this year. We like him as a top-five pick."
In his second WHL season, Draisaitl has 57 goals and 100 assists in 125 games.
"Draisaitl does it all for his team; he's displayed a willingness to compete and be a difference maker game in and game out," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald said. "He's got good power and size. I feel he's also had to overcome more and work harder than most players."
Prior to coming to North America, Draisaitl had 97 goals and 192 points in 29 games for Under-16 Mannheimer in 2010-11, and 21 goals and 56 points in 35 games for U-18 Jungadler Mannheim in 2011-12.
He said it was a bit of an adjustment coming to Prince Albert from Koln, Germany.
"I was used to a lot of traffic and people in Germany," Draisaitl said. "Prince Albert is small and everything is tight together, so it was an adjustment for me. But I've gotten used to it and am really happy here."
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Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer