On a team with a recent history of No. 1 draft picks, Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl said he doesn't feel any less pressure being a No. 3 selection.
"Obviously there is a little bit of pressure as people expect quite a bit from a third overall pick or any first-round pick," Draisaitl told the Oilers website Saturday at development camp. "I think there is a little bit of pressure, but I think for me personally the most important thing is that I just do what I am doing best and just doing what I can control. That is basically just going out there and working as hard as I can and being the best player I can be."
Draisaitl was taken third at the 2014 NHL Draft on June 27 in Philadelphia, behind defenseman Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers) and center Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres).
Draisaitl is looking to join an Oilers roster that includes recent No. 1 picks Taylor Hall (2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011) and Nail Yakupov (2012). All three debuted in the NHL the season they were drafted; it is unknown if Draisaitl will do the same.
"I think it is a learning process for any 18-year-old kid," Draisaitl said. "But at the same time, I think if a player is ready to play and step in and make an impact, then why wouldn't you let him play and give him a chance? I think there's a lot of players who aren't ready and come in to training camp, they're young, and that's usually every 18-year-old kid is not as strong as an NHL player. I think it's a learning process, but if a player is ready and he wants to make an impact, then there is no way you can get around letting him play."
Draisaitl, 19 on Oct. 27, knows there is an opening at center after Edmonton traded Sam Gagner last week. Draisaitl's size (6-foot-2, 204 pounds) bodes well for his immediate and long-term future.
"The one thing I will say about center is that Leon Draisaitl is an element that we did add in the draft that we think is going to fill that position for a long time," Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish said. "We do have some depth there, but they are young, developing players, and any decision regarding Leon or any of those young players will be made strictly based on what the best situation is for the player and not what's best for the team."
If Draisaitl does not start his season in the NHL, he could wind up with the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League.
"It's going to be a competitive training camp, it's going to be very exciting, it's going to be a competitive camp and Leon is going to try and get a spot with the Oilers," Barons coach Todd Nelson said. "I like his vision. He sees the ice so well, he finds guys in open areas, and he has a high skill set. You couple that with a big body and it's pretty intriguing to see a guy like that play up the middle."
Draisaitl is confident in what he can do no matter where he plays.
"I think it always makes it a little bit easier when you're big, when you're strong," he said. "I think that might give me a little more advantage than maybe some other guys. But you never know. I think it's good for me personally that I am big and strong now. I just need to add the little things like the speed. I think I'm close to playing."