Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl is playing for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. The 20-year-old has agreed to keep a diary throughout the tournament, which begins in Toronto on Sept. 17 and runs through Oct. 1.
In his first installment, Draisaitl talks about being a part of the combined team and getting a chance to spend some time with one of his hockey idols.
QUEBEC CITY -- I think everyone is really, really excited to be here. After all, this is as big of a hockey stage as there is in the hockey world. So far it's been great, obviously meeting all the other players, that's always a lot of fun, getting to know the coaching staff today, this morning, and meeting all the staff around it. So, so far it's been a good day.
Being part of this team is very special, especially as a young guy from Germany. It's never easy to, first of all, get to the NHL because it's not such a traditional hockey country and, for me personally, being around Anze Kopitar is very special. He's always been one of my favorite players. I really look up to him and try and model myself and my game after him. Being able to see him practice and being able to see him as a guy and be around him, play on the same team, is really cool. I met him once in New York, Game 3 for the Stanley Cup Final, 2014; the top five NHL Draft picks always get to do that. So we went in the dressing room and we got to meet him. But that was really quick.
There's so many guys on this team that have done so many great things. I guess most of those guys are, or have been, in the same situation as I am now, so it's great to have guys like Kopitar, Zdeno Chara, and I think I could go through the whole team that have been through what I'm going through right now. It's great to learn from them and be able to see how they practice, how they give themselves as people, so it's a cool opportunity for me.
I think, just in general, that there is a team like Team Europe, I think that's already a great sign for kids from nontraditional countries. There's always a chance to get to the NHL and there's always a chance to be able to play in a big hockey stage like this. Hopefully this will get kids in those countries that we all are from, that'll get them to maybe put in more work and maybe chase their dreams a little harder.
If I was a kid and there would have been a tournament like this, I would have watched every game. I probably would have gotten up at 2 in the morning and watched every game.